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The Jews did not reject Jesus:
An alternative reading of the gospels
Christian hermeneutics of the Bible
 As Christians standing within the light of New
Testament revelation and looking back on the Old
Testament, Christ himself acts as a hermeneutical
prism. Looking back through him, we see the white light
of the unity of the truth of Jesus Christ broken down into
its constituent colours in the pages of the Old
Testament. Sinclair Ferguson, ‘Preaching Christ from
the Old Testament’
 All the fathers read Scripture through the prism of
Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and
ascension. Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with
the Church Fathers

Melito of Sardis (d.180)
 Bishop of Sardis
 Most influential Asian bishop
 Jerome says Tertulian saw him as prophet due
to his work on 1st OT canon
 Polycrates, “Melito whose whole walk was in
the Holy Spirit”
 Jewish by birth
 Author of Peri Pascha - On The Passover
Peri Pascha - On The Passover
 69. This one [Christ] is the passover of our salvation. This
is the one who patiently endured many things in many
people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and
bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold
in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the
lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonoured in the
prophets.
 70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who
was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who
was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised
mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of
heaven.
Jews blamed for murder of Jesus
 72. This one was murdered. And where was he murdered?
In the very centre of Jerusalem! Why? Because he had
healed their lame, and had cleansed their lepers, and had
guided their blind with light, and had raised up their dead.
 73. Why, O Israel did you do this strange injustice? You
dishonoured the one who had honoured you. You held in
contempt the one who held you in esteem. You denied the
one who publicly acknowledged you. You renounced the
one who proclaimed you his own. You killed the one who
made you to live. Why did you do this, O Israel?
Accusation of deicide
 96. The one who hung the earth in space, is
himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens
in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly
fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the
tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been
murdered, the King of Israel has been
destroyed by the right hand of Israel.
Did the Jews reject Jesus?
 Seems to be a universally held belief
– Jews, Christians, Muslims, others
 Explains and justifies
the rejection of Jesus
by Jews in his time
and ever since.
 Teaching not in
accordance with
Mosaic law
 Didn’t accomplish
messianic task
 Sympathetically
examines Jesus’
teaching recognizing
the good aspects but
deciding not in line with
Mosaic law and so he
wouldn’t have followed
him
Did the Jews reject Jesus?
 Seems to be a universally held belief
 One source of anti-Jewish sentiment
 Justifies ‘teaching of contempt’
 Justifies ‘punishing the Jews’
What do the gospels say?
Galilean Spring
Jesus went throughout
Galilee, teaching in their
synagogues and
proclaiming the good
news of the kingdom and
curing every disease and
every sickness among
the people. So his fame
spread throughout all
Syria . . .
Matthew 4:23-24
The people accept Jesus
And great crowds
followed him from
Galilee and the
Decapolis and
Jerusalem and Judea
and from beyond the
Jordan.
Matthew 4: 25
Wanted to make Jesus ‘king’
When the people saw the sign [feeding of the
5000] which he had done, they said, “This is
indeed the prophet who is to come into the
world.” Perceiving that they were about to
come and take him by force to make him king,
Jesus withdrew.
John 6:14-15
What kind of kingdom?
“He will be great, and will
be called the Son of the
Most High; and the Lord
God will give him the
throne of his father David,
and he will reign over the
house of Jacob forever;
and of his kingdom there
will be no end.”
Luke 1:32-33
Why didn’t Jesus want to be made
king?
 Roman occupation
 The Romans were the
king makers
 Many anti-Roman
uprisings crushed
 Huge tension
 Jesus was politically
very astute
– Sought to solve the real
problems
What was his political program?
And when Jesus
finished these sayings,
the crowds were
astonished at his
teaching, for he taught
them as one who had
authority, and not as
their scribes.
Matthew 7:28-29
Sermon on the Mount
 Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes
you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and
if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the
second mile.
 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall
love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But
I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for
those who persecute you,
The messianic secret
Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I
am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah."
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about
him.
Mark 8:30
Why did Jesus say this to his disciples?
What was the messianic mission?
 God’s ‘anointed one’
 Called God’s son
 Bring blessings from God
 Establish God’s kingdom on earth
 Destroy Israel’s enemies
 Rule the whole world
The Romans executed many ‘messiahs’
How are the Romans presented in
the gospels?
 Roman centurion, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in
Israel have I found such faith.’
 Centurion at the foot of the cross who testified
to Jesus
 Pilate – didn’t want to execute Jesus
 Backdrop in the gospels – taxation, debt,
injustice – caused by Roman occupation but
not attributed to it
How was the Roman occupation?
 Violated the Temple and other offences
 Controlled High Priest
 Very heavy and arbitrary taxation
– Resistance - 4 towns sold into slavery
 “The bulk of the money collected was sent to
Rome and paid into the Emperor Augustus’s
personal account”
 Ruthless suppression of uprisings
– 2000 crucified in 6 AD
 Treated Jews with contempt
Jesus came into conflict with some
religious leaders
“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees,
hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of
heaven against men; for you neither enter
yourselves, nor allow those who would to go
in.”
Matthew 23: 27
What is going on here?
 Is the conflict between Jesus and the Jews?
 Jesus born, lived and died a practising Jew
 All Jesus’ followers were Jews
 The early church were Jews who believed in
Jesus
 Conflicts in the gospels are conflicts between
Jews
 The Pharisees were liberal reforming Jews who
became the leaders of Judaism after 70 AD
 Jesus was probably a Pharisee
Why does the New Testament
appear to be anti-Jewish?
 The gospels were written by Jews who
believed in Jesus at a time when there was a
lot of conflict between the early church and
early Judaism
 Early Judaism descended from Pharisees
 Conflicts projected back into Jesus time and
Pharisees given a ’black press’ and blamed for
opposition
Entry into Jerusalem
 “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he
who comes in the name of
the Lord!” “Blessed is the
King of Israel!”
 “Look how the whole world
has gone after him!”
 Yet at the same time many
even among the leaders
believed in him.
John 12: 13,19,42
Which leaders?
 Joseph of Arimathea
– Member of Sanhedrin
– Rich man
 Nicodemus
– Member of Sanhedrin
– Pharisee
 Gamaliel
– Leader of Pharisees
 Jairus
– Leader of synagogue
Nicodemus and Joseph of A.
mourning St Stephen
What effect did this have?
 ‘King of Israel’ and
Messiah are political
titles
– Jesus rejected attempt to
make him king
– Jesus told disciples not to
say he was messiah
 Threat to Roman
authority and rule
 High Priest responsible
for reporting rebels
Roman fortress next to the Temple
Cleansing the Temple
And he was teaching daily
in the temple. The chief
priests and the scribes
sought to destroy him; but
they did not find anything
they could do, for all the
people hung upon his
words.
Luke 19:47-48 Jesus driving the money
changers from the Temple
Chief priests plot against Jesus
Then the chief priests
and elders gathered and
took counsel to arrest
Jesus by stealth and kill
him. But they said, “Not
during the feast, lest
there be a tumult among
the people.”
Matthew 26:3-5
Why did they do this?
“If we let him go on like
this, every one will believe
in him, and the Romans
will come and destroy our
holy place and our
nation.” Caiaphas said, “It
is expedient that one man
should die for the people,
and that the whole nation
should not perish.”
John 11:48-51
Ossuary of the high priest
Joseph Caiaphas
A very real and present danger
 First Jewish revolt against
Roman rule
 Destruction of Jerusalem and
the Temple 70 CE
 Second Jewish revolt 132-135
CE
 500,000 Jews killed, 985
villages destroyed
 Jews forbidden to live in
Jerusalem
 Judea renamed Palaestina
Arch of Titus in Rome
Who was the High Priest?
As an appointee of the Romans, the High Priest
was not just a ceremonial official with jurisdiction
over the Temple; he was, in effect, a chief of
police with his own armed force, his own police
tribunal and prisons for political offences. In the
case of serious insurrection against the power of
Rome, he would hand over the offender to the
occupying Roman power.
Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker
Judas sets up a meeting
Judas Iscariot, went to
the chief priests and
said, “What will you
give me if I deliver him
to you?” And they paid
him thirty pieces of
silver.
Matthew 26:14
Judas getting paid
Jesus taken to the High Priest
So Judas came to the
grove, guiding a
detachment of soldiers
and some officials from
the chief priests and
Pharisees.
Then the detachment of
soldiers with its
commander and the
Jewish officials arrested
Jesus.
John 18:3,12
Jesus before Pontius Pilate
Pilate asked him, “Are you
the King of the Jews?”
Jesus said to him, “You
have said so.”
Now at the festival the
governor was accustomed
to release a prisoner for
the crowd, anyone whom
they wanted. Matthew
27:11, 15
Pilate asks “What is truth?”
Who was Pilate?
 Roman governor of
Judaea 26-36 AD
 Disrespected Jewish
traditions
– Chastised by Emperor
 Took Temple money
 Slaughtered Samaritans
– Withdrawn by Rome
Pilate Stone (1961)
Pilate's tenure was associated with "briberies, insults, robberies, outrages,
wanton injustices, constantly repeated executions without trial, and
ceaseless and grievous cruelty.” Philo of Alexandria
Jesus or Barabbas?
 No record of such a
custom
 While he was sitting on the
judgement seat, his wife
sent word to him, ‘Have
nothing to do with that
innocent man, for today I
have suffered a great deal
because of a dream about
him’.
Matthew 27:19
The blood curse
So when Pilate saw that he
could do nothing, but rather
that a riot was beginning, he
took some water and washed
his hands before the crowd,
saying, "I am innocent of this
man's blood; see to it
yourselves." Then the people
as a whole answered, "His
blood be on us and on our
children!”
Matthew 27: 24-26
What just happened?
 Pilate, Rome and the Empire were absolved of
responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus
 Responsibility was transferred to the Jewish
people as a whole and their descendants
 Creation of the ‘culture of contempt’
 Christians didn’t feel guilty but justified in
mistreating Jews
Why?
 Christians witnessing in the Roman Empire
 Christians being persecuted
 Jewish revolts 70, 132
 Didn’t want Jesus to come across as a political
subversive and rebel against Roman authority
 Transferred blame for the crucifixion from the
Romans onto the Jews
 Accused the Jews of rejecting and murdering
Jesus
Parting of the ways
 Jews-who-believed-in-Jesus vs. Jews-who-didn’t-
believe-in-Jesus
– How could Jesus be the messiah if he was killed?
 Jewish-Roman Wars 66-73AD; 132-135 AD
– Christian Jews fled Jerusalem for Pella
– Bar-Kokhba proclaimed messiah by Rabbi Akiva
 To Christians he was a false messiah, anti-Christ
 Changing identity of next generations
– Children of Jews-who-believed-in-Jesus didn’t think of
themselves as Jews but as Christians and inherited anti-Jewish
sentiments of their parents
 Church becomes Gentile
– Dispensational/Replacement theology
– Judaism rejected/failed. Church the New Israel
– Blame for crucifixion put on the Jews
Conclusion
 If Jesus had been rejected by his Jewish
contemporaries he would have faded into
obscurity
 The reason he was killed was because he was so
well received that he was perceived to be a threat
to the establishment and so he was executed by
the Romans on a political charge
 If things had gone differently he would have
mediated a peaceful resolution of the relationship
and fulfilled the messianic task

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The Jews did not reject Jesus

  • 1. The Jews did not reject Jesus: An alternative reading of the gospels
  • 2. Christian hermeneutics of the Bible  As Christians standing within the light of New Testament revelation and looking back on the Old Testament, Christ himself acts as a hermeneutical prism. Looking back through him, we see the white light of the unity of the truth of Jesus Christ broken down into its constituent colours in the pages of the Old Testament. Sinclair Ferguson, ‘Preaching Christ from the Old Testament’  All the fathers read Scripture through the prism of Christ’s incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Christopher A. Hall, Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers 
  • 3. Melito of Sardis (d.180)  Bishop of Sardis  Most influential Asian bishop  Jerome says Tertulian saw him as prophet due to his work on 1st OT canon  Polycrates, “Melito whose whole walk was in the Holy Spirit”  Jewish by birth  Author of Peri Pascha - On The Passover
  • 4. Peri Pascha - On The Passover  69. This one [Christ] is the passover of our salvation. This is the one who patiently endured many things in many people: This is the one who was murdered in Abel, and bound as a sacrifice in Isaac, and exiled in Jacob, and sold in Joseph, and exposed in Moses, and sacrificed in the lamb, and hunted down in David, and dishonoured in the prophets.  70. This is the one who became human in a virgin, who was hanged on the tree, who was buried in the earth, who was resurrected from among the dead, and who raised mankind up out of the grave below to the heights of heaven.
  • 5. Jews blamed for murder of Jesus  72. This one was murdered. And where was he murdered? In the very centre of Jerusalem! Why? Because he had healed their lame, and had cleansed their lepers, and had guided their blind with light, and had raised up their dead.  73. Why, O Israel did you do this strange injustice? You dishonoured the one who had honoured you. You held in contempt the one who held you in esteem. You denied the one who publicly acknowledged you. You renounced the one who proclaimed you his own. You killed the one who made you to live. Why did you do this, O Israel?
  • 6. Accusation of deicide  96. The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged; the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled; the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree. The Lord is insulted, God has been murdered, the King of Israel has been destroyed by the right hand of Israel.
  • 7. Did the Jews reject Jesus?  Seems to be a universally held belief – Jews, Christians, Muslims, others
  • 8.  Explains and justifies the rejection of Jesus by Jews in his time and ever since.  Teaching not in accordance with Mosaic law  Didn’t accomplish messianic task
  • 9.  Sympathetically examines Jesus’ teaching recognizing the good aspects but deciding not in line with Mosaic law and so he wouldn’t have followed him
  • 10. Did the Jews reject Jesus?  Seems to be a universally held belief  One source of anti-Jewish sentiment  Justifies ‘teaching of contempt’  Justifies ‘punishing the Jews’
  • 11. What do the gospels say?
  • 12. Galilean Spring Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria . . . Matthew 4:23-24
  • 13. The people accept Jesus And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4: 25
  • 14. Wanted to make Jesus ‘king’ When the people saw the sign [feeding of the 5000] which he had done, they said, “This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world.” Perceiving that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew. John 6:14-15
  • 15. What kind of kingdom? “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:32-33
  • 16. Why didn’t Jesus want to be made king?  Roman occupation  The Romans were the king makers  Many anti-Roman uprisings crushed  Huge tension  Jesus was politically very astute – Sought to solve the real problems
  • 17. What was his political program? And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 7:28-29
  • 18. Sermon on the Mount  Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
  • 19. The messianic secret Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Messiah." Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. Mark 8:30 Why did Jesus say this to his disciples?
  • 20. What was the messianic mission?  God’s ‘anointed one’  Called God’s son  Bring blessings from God  Establish God’s kingdom on earth  Destroy Israel’s enemies  Rule the whole world The Romans executed many ‘messiahs’
  • 21.
  • 22.
  • 23. How are the Romans presented in the gospels?  Roman centurion, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.’  Centurion at the foot of the cross who testified to Jesus  Pilate – didn’t want to execute Jesus  Backdrop in the gospels – taxation, debt, injustice – caused by Roman occupation but not attributed to it
  • 24. How was the Roman occupation?  Violated the Temple and other offences  Controlled High Priest  Very heavy and arbitrary taxation – Resistance - 4 towns sold into slavery  “The bulk of the money collected was sent to Rome and paid into the Emperor Augustus’s personal account”  Ruthless suppression of uprisings – 2000 crucified in 6 AD  Treated Jews with contempt
  • 25. Jesus came into conflict with some religious leaders “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would to go in.” Matthew 23: 27
  • 26. What is going on here?  Is the conflict between Jesus and the Jews?  Jesus born, lived and died a practising Jew  All Jesus’ followers were Jews  The early church were Jews who believed in Jesus  Conflicts in the gospels are conflicts between Jews  The Pharisees were liberal reforming Jews who became the leaders of Judaism after 70 AD  Jesus was probably a Pharisee
  • 27. Why does the New Testament appear to be anti-Jewish?  The gospels were written by Jews who believed in Jesus at a time when there was a lot of conflict between the early church and early Judaism  Early Judaism descended from Pharisees  Conflicts projected back into Jesus time and Pharisees given a ’black press’ and blamed for opposition
  • 28. Entry into Jerusalem  “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!”  “Look how the whole world has gone after him!”  Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. John 12: 13,19,42
  • 29. Which leaders?  Joseph of Arimathea – Member of Sanhedrin – Rich man  Nicodemus – Member of Sanhedrin – Pharisee  Gamaliel – Leader of Pharisees  Jairus – Leader of synagogue Nicodemus and Joseph of A. mourning St Stephen
  • 30. What effect did this have?  ‘King of Israel’ and Messiah are political titles – Jesus rejected attempt to make him king – Jesus told disciples not to say he was messiah  Threat to Roman authority and rule  High Priest responsible for reporting rebels Roman fortress next to the Temple
  • 31. Cleansing the Temple And he was teaching daily in the temple. The chief priests and the scribes sought to destroy him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people hung upon his words. Luke 19:47-48 Jesus driving the money changers from the Temple
  • 32. Chief priests plot against Jesus Then the chief priests and elders gathered and took counsel to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among the people.” Matthew 26:3-5
  • 33. Why did they do this? “If we let him go on like this, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy our holy place and our nation.” Caiaphas said, “It is expedient that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” John 11:48-51 Ossuary of the high priest Joseph Caiaphas
  • 34. A very real and present danger  First Jewish revolt against Roman rule  Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple 70 CE  Second Jewish revolt 132-135 CE  500,000 Jews killed, 985 villages destroyed  Jews forbidden to live in Jerusalem  Judea renamed Palaestina Arch of Titus in Rome
  • 35. Who was the High Priest? As an appointee of the Romans, the High Priest was not just a ceremonial official with jurisdiction over the Temple; he was, in effect, a chief of police with his own armed force, his own police tribunal and prisons for political offences. In the case of serious insurrection against the power of Rome, he would hand over the offender to the occupying Roman power. Hyam Maccoby, The Mythmaker
  • 36. Judas sets up a meeting Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” And they paid him thirty pieces of silver. Matthew 26:14 Judas getting paid
  • 37. Jesus taken to the High Priest So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. John 18:3,12
  • 38. Jesus before Pontius Pilate Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said to him, “You have said so.” Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. Matthew 27:11, 15 Pilate asks “What is truth?”
  • 39. Who was Pilate?  Roman governor of Judaea 26-36 AD  Disrespected Jewish traditions – Chastised by Emperor  Took Temple money  Slaughtered Samaritans – Withdrawn by Rome Pilate Stone (1961) Pilate's tenure was associated with "briberies, insults, robberies, outrages, wanton injustices, constantly repeated executions without trial, and ceaseless and grievous cruelty.” Philo of Alexandria
  • 40. Jesus or Barabbas?  No record of such a custom  While he was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent word to him, ‘Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him’. Matthew 27:19
  • 41. The blood curse So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." Then the people as a whole answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!” Matthew 27: 24-26
  • 42. What just happened?  Pilate, Rome and the Empire were absolved of responsibility for the crucifixion of Jesus  Responsibility was transferred to the Jewish people as a whole and their descendants  Creation of the ‘culture of contempt’  Christians didn’t feel guilty but justified in mistreating Jews
  • 43. Why?  Christians witnessing in the Roman Empire  Christians being persecuted  Jewish revolts 70, 132  Didn’t want Jesus to come across as a political subversive and rebel against Roman authority  Transferred blame for the crucifixion from the Romans onto the Jews  Accused the Jews of rejecting and murdering Jesus
  • 44.
  • 45. Parting of the ways  Jews-who-believed-in-Jesus vs. Jews-who-didn’t- believe-in-Jesus – How could Jesus be the messiah if he was killed?  Jewish-Roman Wars 66-73AD; 132-135 AD – Christian Jews fled Jerusalem for Pella – Bar-Kokhba proclaimed messiah by Rabbi Akiva  To Christians he was a false messiah, anti-Christ  Changing identity of next generations – Children of Jews-who-believed-in-Jesus didn’t think of themselves as Jews but as Christians and inherited anti-Jewish sentiments of their parents  Church becomes Gentile – Dispensational/Replacement theology – Judaism rejected/failed. Church the New Israel – Blame for crucifixion put on the Jews
  • 46. Conclusion  If Jesus had been rejected by his Jewish contemporaries he would have faded into obscurity  The reason he was killed was because he was so well received that he was perceived to be a threat to the establishment and so he was executed by the Romans on a political charge  If things had gone differently he would have mediated a peaceful resolution of the relationship and fulfilled the messianic task