Desire and Resistance

March 20, 2016




A regrettable part of Christianity is the deplorable way we Christians have sometimes treated Jews. Even we in the Anabaptist tradition have been guilty of a certain amount of anti-Semitism. For instance, a few years before he turned Anabaptist, Balthasar Hubmaier preached vigorously against Jews in the city of Regensburg where he was then living. Hubmaier called Jews blasphemers and mockers. His preaching against Jews riled up local Christians so much that they drove all Jews out of town. Hubmaier then had the Jewish synagogue in town destroyed and a Christian chapel built in its place. Even though Hubmaier was several years away from becoming an Anabaptist when this happened, it reveals an unsavory side of his character which leaves me ashamed.

Christian hatred of Jews started in the first century, shortly after the death of Jesus, when Christians started to blame Jews for killing Jesus. “Christ killer” became an epithet that Christians slung into the faces of Jews, as if all Jews who ever lived were weirdly and inexplicably responsible for Jesus’ crucifixion. Today we want to say as clearly as we can that Jews as a people were not, and are not, responsible for the death of Jesus. The people who worked together to kill Jesus were instead a tiny group. This small, localized group included some Judeans in and around Jerusalem, plus the local Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate. When Jesus died, there were hundreds of thousands of Jews living in other parts of the Mediterranean world. There were Jews up north in Galilee, Jews down in Alexandria, Egypt, and Jews over in Rome. None of them had anything to do with killing Jesus, and many of them had never even heard of Jesus. Even most Jews in Judea were not involved in killing Jesus. The people who collaborated to have Jesus killed consisted of a few religious leaders and a few political leaders. Yes, these leaders managed in the heat of the moment to manipulate what the gospel writers call “the crowd,” but New Testament scholars often say the crowd was probably more like several dozen or perhaps several hundred people, not thousands of people.

Bible References

  • Mark 11:1 - 10
  • Mark 15:6 - 15