The international media are abuzz over Pope Benedict XVI's forthcoming book, which contains a brief section affirming that the Jewish people bear no collective guilt for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth II, the second volume of Benedict's examination of Gospel accounts of the life of Christ, lays immediate blame upon two groups: the "Temple aristocracy" anxious to forestall a Roman crackdown on the Jewish people, and a crowd that massed in support of Barabbas, shouting for the convicted rebel's release. The Pope goes on to place ultimate culpability for Jesus' death upon the sins of mankind.
While the charge of collective Jewish guilt has been an important catalyst of anti-Semitic persecution throughout history, the Catholic Church has consistently repudiated this teaching since the Second Vatican Council.
In the book, which is due to be published March 10 but which its publishers released excerpts of today, Benedict addresses the allegation of Jewish guilt in a chapter analyzing Gospel accounts of Jesus' arrest, trial, and sentencing:
[W]e must ask: who exactly were Jesus' accusers? Who insisted that he be condemned to death? We must take note of the different answers that the Gospels give to this question. According to John it was simply "the Jews." But John's use of this expression does not in any way indicate—as the modern reader might suppose—the people of Israel in general, even less is it "racist" in character. After all, John himself was ethnically a Jew, as were Jesus and all his followers. The entire early Christian community was made up of Jews. In John's Gospel this word has a precise and clearly defined meaning: ...