Pope Benedict XVI Points Fingers on Who Killed Jesus
Ultimately, Benedict affirms, the pouring out of Christ's blood brings salvation, and not a curse:
When in Matthew's account the "whole people" say: "his blood be on us and on our children" (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus' blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. … Read in the light of faith, [Matthew's reference to Jesus' blood] means that we all stand in the need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew's Gospel take on its correct meaning.
Benedict's reflections follow in the tradition of Nostra Aetate ("Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions"). In this Second Vatican Council document, Pope Paul VI declared that, while "the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ," the crucifixion "cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today." The Jews, Paul VI wrote, "should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures." The declaration "decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."
Like Benedict's book, Nostra Aetate firmly places Jesus' death in the context of his messianic mission, proclaiming that "Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation."
In a statement reacting to the Pope's repudiation of collective Jewish guilt, Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H. Foxman emphasized the continuity between Nostra Aetate and the Vatican's current stance, applauding Benedict for having "rejected the previous teachings and perversions that have helped to foster and reinforce anti-Semitism through the centuries."
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A 2004 poll from The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that 26 percent of Americans believe that Jews were responsible for Christ's death.
Earlier Christianity Today articles on who killed Jesus include:
Who Killed Jesus? | After centuries of censure, Jews have been relieved of general responsibility for the death of Jesus. Now who gets the blame? (Apr. 9, 1990)
'The Longest Hatred' | Evangelicals must fight the resurgence of anti-Semitism. A Christianity Today editorial (April 2004)
Weblog: U.S. News points fingers at Jesus' killers (April 2000)