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"In its effect upon the life of the Jewish people," declares Jerusalem rabbi Eliezar Berkovits, "Christianity's New Testament has been the most dangerous anti-Semitic tract in history." His opinion is shared by a growing number of Christian theologians, many of whom are calling for editorial exclusion of all "anti-Jewish" sections of the New Testament, particularly in John's gospel. The publicity-conscious group of scholars known as the Jesus Seminar now declares that all passages in the Gospels that claim the Jews were at least partly responsible for the Crucifixion are not authentic and should be removed from the New Testament.

Such revisionism reached a new extreme at a conference held at Oxford in September 1989, when A. Roy Eckardt, emeritus professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, suggested that Christians ought to abandon the resurrection of Jesus, since it "remains a primordial and unceasing source of the Christian world's anti-Judaism."

Strangely, too many Christian theologians seem silent in the face of such broadsides against the faith. It is high time to return to the historical record.

The question of Jewish involvement in the arrest and judicial process against Jesus of Nazareth in that first "Holy Week" continues to percolate through many strata in the debate between Christians, Jews, and New Testament scholars. Probably no issue in the history of religion has elicited more blind partisanship, misinterpretation, faulty logic, hostility, or fad following. Whenever the discussion seems shelved for the moment, it reappears each decade with the Oberammergau Passion play. Once again, charges of anti-Semitism have been raised against the script of the 1990 production.

The nature of the prosecution before Pontius ...

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August 2000

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