PM Netanyahu thanked the Pope Benedict XVI this week for his absolution of the Jews. The Pope concluded in his new book Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2 that that there is no basis in scripture for the claim that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. To put it a different way, the Pope declared that some Jews were responsible for Jesus’s death, but his death cannot be blamed on every Jew everywhere and every time. In other words, a Jew walking down the street in Rome today cannot be held culpable for Jesus’s death.
The events around Jesus’s life have always been a fascination to me. Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, and died as a Jew. More than this, Jesus was arrested by Roman soldiers, tried in a Roman-supervised court, sentenced by a Roman official, and crucified by Roman soldiers. At any step along the way, the Romans could have exonerated and released Jesus, but they did not. Instead the Romans killed him. And the Catholic Church which later became based in Rome successfully blamed the Jews for Jesus’s death for over 2000 years–a blame that Christian denominations throughout the world gleefully joined in proclaiming. We all know the horrific results of this Christian scapegoating of the Jews.
If there are any Catholics or Protestants out there who really believe that the Jews are responsible for Jesus’s death, I hope that the Pope’s “acquittal” of the Jews as a whole will have meaning. For me, however, his absolution is a day late and a dollar short.