Several recent studies have called into question the traditional accounts of the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. On the one hand, a revulsion against anti-Semitism has led Jewish scholars in particular to re-examine and reject the gospel accounts that they believe to be the source of anti-Semitism. A poignant expression of the depth of such feeling is the dedication of Paul Winter’s book, On the Trial of Jesus (1961):

To the Dead in Auschwitz, Izbica, Majdanek, Treblinka. Among whom are those who were Dearest to me.

Medieval Christians did misuse Scriptures to justify anti-Semitism. Let us hope we have all come to the point where we can agree with Paul Maier that “to be anti-Semitic because of Good Friday would be as ridiculous as to hate Italians because a few of their forebears once threw Christians to the lions!” Some Christians still misuse the Scriptures to reinforce discrimination against Negroes. But this proves nothing against the Scriptures themselves; it only reflects an ill-informed and prejudiced interpretation.

On the other hand, an interest in a more positive image of the Zealots, aroused by, for example, the Israeli excavation of Masada (the last Zealot stronghold against the Romans in A.D. 73), and a sympathy for zealous religious revolutionaries like the Berrigan brothers have meant that for some the image of Christ as a Zealot is more credible and attractive than the traditional portrait of a pacific Christ.

The Zealots were those Jews who in their zeal for God’s theocratic kingdom refused to acknowledge the rule of Rome, considering it unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar. The radical “Weathermen” faction among them were called sicarii, from their habit of concealing daggers ...

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