Last week's cover story of U.S. News & World Report asks the question "Why did Jesus die?" But most of the article is concerned with a more specific question: "Who killed Jesus?" The answer, from Jeff Sheler (who recently won a Christianity Today book award for Is the Bible True?) won't surprise CT readers: "On the most basic level, most scholars today agree that the official responsibility for Jesus's death rests with Pilate, who had the final say at the time in capital-punishment cases. Yet few doubt that Pilate would or could have condemned Jesus without some involvement of the leading Jewish authority in Jerusalem-Caiaphas, the chief Temple priest." But Sheler treads lightly on this latter clause, noting that Christians have historically taken the Jewish involvement in Christ's death to antisemitic, often murderous lengths. As to why Jesus died, Sheler's answer is better suited to the question "Why was Jesus killed?" (He challenged political and religious authorities and was considered an insurrectionist). But the reason Jesus diedat least in Christian theologyis to save the world.
Why Jesus died also comes up in a New York Times Magazine conversation between Jeremy Sisto, who plays Jesus in a CBS miniseries next month, and Glenn Carter, who's currently starring in Jesus Christ Superstar on Broadway. It's a pretty outrageous discussion, though it demonstrates just how little some people know about Christ. "I think so much was edited out of the Bible," says Carter. "I can't imagine that Jesus was crucified for telling people to love thy neighbor. There was more to it than that." Adds Sisto, "We're just trying to make the story more accessible to people, ...1
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