THE PURSUIT OF HISTORICAL OBJECTIVITY IN THE CLAIM THAT THE JEWS KILLED JESUS CHRIST.

AuthorOkonkwo, Uche Uwaezuoke
  1. Introduction

    The search and pursuit of the historical Jesus are continuing. This is because every era must be capable of interpreting its history. The idea behind historical Jesus began with the eighteenth-century liberal protestants who wanted to separate the earthly Jesus from the Christ of faith (Harrington 2009:14). Historical objectivity is the heartbeat of the historian's craft. The historian must pursue the truth, unearth it and present it in the light of new evidence even if it undermines the historian's personality or ideology. Harrington (2009:15) noted that "historical methods can help us to see the basic reliability of the tradition about Jesus and to encounter Jesus as the strong personality behind the Gospels and the traditions and truths contained in them." In this study, Jesus's personality, public ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection are subjected to serious scrutiny in a way to differentiate between faith and historical reality of what actually transpired.

    The synoptic gospel writers, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John reported the same events about Jesus Christ differently. Harrington (2009) reveals that: "Synoptic Gospels viewed issues with one eye or vision." Ezeogu, for example, notes that Matthew knew that Jesus was from Egypt, born in Israel but grew up in Galilee (Ezeogu 2009:83). The book of Luke recorded that Jesus grew up in Nazareth (Ezeogu, 83). However, Matthew wanted to invent Jesus as the son of David to satisfy his fellow Jews that Jesus was their own (Ezeogu,83). The same did not apply in the book of Mark as he saw and referred to Jesus as the son of Virgin Mary (Ezeogu, 66). Referring to Jesus as the son of David in the words of Ezeogu was an exercise of faith, but not a fact of history (Ezeogu,68). The need to investigate Jesus's personality cannot be overemphasized. This is because each new inquiry about Jesus provides new evidence. Scholars and historians have examined the spoken words of Jesus (Akin-Olugbade and Ogbeidi 2012), but the politics of crucifixion need to be explored further. Justices Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas declared that the case and trial of Jesus Christ were not judicable. Yet, highly placed bourgeoisie and temple priests organized mobs against Jesus. Oded Heilbronner has studied anti-Semitism employed by the Roman Catholic Church even up to the era of Nazism in Germany which took over six million lives. According to him: "the Catholic Church, by contrast, rejected radical and volkisch anti-Semitism, but on the one hand, priests continued to employ anti-Semitic images and express prejudices in their sermons and festive rituals and services" (Heilbronner 2019). The history of Jewish dispersal is clear in that by 58 B.C. they had already settled in Rome under the reign of Pompey (Lazare 1894:50). At the height of the Roman civilization, efforts were put in place to "relegate the Jews on the accusation that they have driven Christ away, and therefore they are capable of evil only" (Lohfink 2011:50). In line with the blueprint established by Fredrick Engels, that all history must be studied anew, there is a need to borrow a leaf from the expression of Gerhard Lohfink as follows:

    Historical criticism is indispensable to research on Jesus. It illuminates the world in which Jesus lived, and still more, it works out the relationships among the sources of the gospels, illuminates the various layers of tradition, and thus sharpens our perception of what the evangelists wanted to say about Jesus in their "final text." Historical criticism inquires persistently about what happened, and thus it demonstrates that Christianity is about real history and not about myths or ideologies (Lohfink 2011:xi). Sometime in 2013, a Kenyan lawyer Dola Indidis sued Israel, Italy, King Herod, Pontius Pilate, various Jewish Wise Men and the Roman Emperor Tiberius for illegal trial which violated "Jesus's human rights" (Kenyan Lawyer 2013:70). When the Kenyan High Court declared lack of jurisdiction for the trial, he went to the International Court at Hague. Dola insists that Jesus of Nazareth was accused of blasphemy against the Jewish religion and sedition, according to the Roman law. He was tried on the first court by Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest while the second court was heard by Pontius Pilate when Judea was an autonomous region within the Roman Empire (Kenyan Lawyer, 70).

    Unfortunately, the existing scholarship before Diola's hypothesis did not see any reason to include the role of the Roman Empire, Sadducees, and Pharisees in the annihilation of Jesus Christ. In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI Joseph Ratzinger's interesting book titled Jesus of Nazareth attempted to challenge the Jewish role in the verdict passed on Jesus Christ. His work like the present article points to the direction of the role of non-Jews in what took the life of Jesus Christ.

    The continuous blame of the crucifixion of Jesus on the Jews was designed to promote anti-Semitism that showed Jews in a bad light. As far back as 1965, the Vatican issued a document known as Nostra Aetate where the collective Jewish guilt is denied ("Pope Exonerated Jews for Death of Jesus'' (2016)). This paper insists that the mob was the only valid group who had a hand in the killing of Jesus Christ and not the Jews. Sub-theme to be examined include:

    * Historical insensitivity in the Jewish role in crucifying Jesus

    * The politics of the mob in Jewish role in crucifying Jesus

    * The enigmatic Jesus Christ and his ministry and;

    * Gender dimension of Jesus's public ministry

    At the end of this paper, the claim that the Jews killed Jesus Christ would have been addressed in the light of new and genuine scholarship.

  2. Historical insensitivity in the Jewish role in crucifying Jesus

    The earlier Biblical scholars' account about the death of Jesus was anti-Jewish in their reportage. As a result, many Jews until date are not Christian-friendly because of the way the Bible records presented their involvement in the killing of Jesus Christ. Kelvin J. Fernlund (2008:228) captured the development as follows:

    The money-grasping Jew, who has no use for the Christ of Calvary, does all in his power to bring discredit on Christianity, and would be pleased to see the whole structure...

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