- Both John the Baptist and Jesus had condemned their Jewish contemporaries for failing to heed their messages, following the tradition of OT prophets; but the gospels were compiled when relations between Christians and Jews, Church and Synagogue [[➝ synagogue]], had become strained, and the rebukes Jesus levelled at his fellow Jews (Matt. 12:34) were in due course thrown by Gentile Christians at the non-believing Jews. This mutual suspicion is reflected in the gospels. No doubt Jesus encountered opposition from scribes and Pharisees from the earliest days of his ministry (Mark 3:6), and in the Little Apocalypse [[➝ apocalypse]] in Mark 13:9 the disciples are warned to expect to be beaten in synagogues. This indeed became a threat in history. After the Fall of Jerusalem (70 CE) there was excommunication from the synagogue (John 9:22; 16:2) and in about 85–90 CE the rabbis at Javneh (or Jamnia) included in the Eighteen Benedictions as number Twelve a curse against the Nazareans and the Minim (heretics) which may have sealed the rupture, though it is uncertain whether this addition was accepted everywhere and by all Jews. It is possible to trace in the Passion Narratives a tendency to lay more of the blame for the Roman penalty of crucifixion on the insistence of the Jewish leaders and to diminish the responsibility of the Roman Pontius Pilate, who condemns Jesus with increasing reluctance. In Matt. 27:25 the crowd exclaim, ‘His blood be on us and on our children’, which has been used as a particular provocation for antisemitism down the ages: but Matt.'s implausible allegation that ‘the whole nation’ was present (an impossibility!) in the praetorium is a good reason for regarding the cry as unhistorical. Moreover in its context the cry does not amount to anti-semitism in the modern sense of an attack upon the Jewish race as such. Matthew's community perhaps suffered persecution from Jews who disputed the Christian claim (Matt. 10:17) to be faithful to its Jewish inheritance; in which case even the diatribe in Matt. 23 represents one side of an intra-Jewish dispute. Luke continued the trend to diminish the Roman responsibility by recording the centurion's confession when Jesus died that he was ‘innocent’ (Luke 23:47). At its extreme, antisemitism is represented by John 8:44, where the Jews are pilloried and demonized as children of Satan—an attitude of bitterness and hostility rarely acquiesced in by the ex-Jew Paul (Rom. 9–11)—and surely repudiated in John 4:22!
Dictionary of the Bible.
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