Newsweek asks, "Who killed Jesus?"
Newsweek managing editor Jon Meacham is an award-winning reporter. But he's neither a theologian nor a historian, so one may wish that he "showed his work" a bit more in this week's cover story, "Who Really Killed Jesus?" (It's a subject U.S. News & World Report put on its cover four years ago.) It's clear that he did quite a bit of research, but some of his statements certainly raise the question, "Says who?" This especially comes into play when Meacham sets himself up as a better recorder of events than four well-known reporters: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
"The Bible can be a problematic source," he writes. "Though countless believers take it as the immutable word of God, Scripture is not always a faithful record of historical events; the Bible is the product of human authors who were writing in particular times and places with particular points to make and visions to advance. And the roots of Christian anti-Semitism lie in overly literal readings—which are, in fact, misreadings—of many New Testament texts."
The points to make and visions to advance depended on downplaying Pilate and emphasizing Caiaphas in the Passion narrative, according to Meacham (though this is common among many scholars today; this concept certainly doesn't originate with Newsweek). "The [Jewish Temple] elite looked down on Jesus' followers, so the New Testament authors portrayed the priests in a negative light," Meacham writes. "We can also see why the writers downplayed the role of the ruling Romans in Jesus' death. The advocates of Christianity—then a new, struggling faith—understandably chose to placate, not antagonize, the powers that were. Why remind the world that the earthly empire which still ran the ...1
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