The Anti-Missionary’s Charge:
A common objection voiced by the anti-missionary runs along these lines:
I do not want to be associated with Christians who have persecuted Jews under the accusation that we are “Christ killers.” Christians hate Jews and blame us, even today, for the death of Jesus.
In this study, I want to turn to a perennial issue that we face in Jewish outreach. The issue I want to explore is the accusation, “The Jews killed Christ.” Speaking theologically, we call this the charge of “Deicide – The Murder of God.” This charge blames the death of Yeshua (Jesus) solely, universally, and permanently on the Jewish people. In other words:
- The Jewish people alone (solely) are responsible for the death of Yeshua;
- Every Jewish person (universally) is guilty; and
- The Jewish community will forever (permanently) be guilty of this crime.
Do I need to say that many Jewish people reject the Gospel, even without hearing it, as a reaction to the charge that they alone are responsible and continue to be held responsible for the death of Yeshua? Unfortunately, the charge has been cultivated for centuries. This charge is still taught as biblical truth today. One statistic I came across indicates that 75% of conservative Protestants believe that the Jews are permanently guilty for killing Yeshua. The result has been two fold:
- The anti-Semitism that has plagued Jewish-Christian relations for centuries, and
- The Jewish rejection of the Gospel.
Two theologians, Augustine and John Chrysostom, have had an indelible impact on theology. Augustine (354-340 AD) stated that the Jews were marked by God when they murdered Christ and so they cannot be destroyed. Their dispersion and misery serves as a witness against them regarding their evil act. John Chrysostom (344-407 AD) made these statements:
“[The Jews] are the perfidious murderers of Christ … The Jews are the odious assassins of Christ… It is incumbent upon all Christians to hate the Jews.”
Even Martin Luther wrote the fervently anti-Semitic essay, “On the Jews and Their Lies.” He blamed Jewish suffering on “their sin of crucifying Jesus.” Some modern Bible teachers and pastors continue to champion this teaching. Is this charge biblical? Is your Jewish doctor, neighbor, relative, co-worker, etc., guilty of murdering your Savior?
I want to examine a number of lines of evidence, from the Bible, that expose this charge for what it is – a destructive error that has hindered Jewish outreach for 2,000 years. “Is every Jewish person personally and permanently responsible for the death of Yeshua?” The answer to the question is a simple and emphatic “Absolutely not!” If this is the answer to the question, then who is responsible for the death of the Son of God? Is there no consequence for the Jewish rejection of Yeshua?
What the Bible has to say about this issue has to be the foundation of our thinking. If it is not, then we will be ordering our lives on subjective human emotions or ideas that could be absolutely wrong and deceive us, with disastrous consequences, as history has revealed. As I develop this topic, I will discuss:
- The seven parties responsible for the Messiah’s death;
- The consequences for the Jewish rejection of the Messiahship of Yeshua, and
- The source of Jewish suffering over the centuries.
Let me begin discussing the seven parties involved by moving from a broad overview down to specifics.
The First Party: God
From the broadest perspective, the first party responsible is God Himself. This may come as a shock to some people. However, the Bible teaches that God is all-knowing and all-powerful. Nothing, absolutely nothing, catches Him by surprise. Nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever been, is now, or ever will be out of His control for a moment, from the largest galaxy in the heavens to the smallest sub-atomic particle.
Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite-Psalm 147:5. (See also Isa. 40:28, 46:10 and Rom. 11:33-34)
Consistent with this Biblical teaching, we learn from Acts 2:23 that Yeshua was “delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” and put to death. Furthermore, Acts 4:27 tells us that the death of the Messiah was “whatever Your (God’s) hand and Your (God’s) purpose predestined to occur.” His death was planned by God from the beginning. For this reason, the sufferings of the Messiah could be predicted through the writings of the prophets. Yeshua affirmed the prediction factor when He stated, “…all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled-Luke 24:44.” This included His suffering and death. (Also see Isa. 52:13-53:12 and Jn. 3:16) Thus, God bears responsibility for the death of Yeshua.
The Second Party: Satan
Party number two responsible for the death of Yeshua is Satan. The origin of sin and rebellion is found in the mind of God’s most beautiful and intelligent creature. Satan is described in Ezekiel 28 with these magnificent words:
You had the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. …You were the anointed cherub who covers,… You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created until unrighteousness was found in you.
The unrighteousness found in Satan is revealed in Isaiah 14:13-14:
But you said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
Satan desired a position greater than he already possessed. He wanted to rule the angels in place of Michael, the archangel. Satan wanted to rule Israel as the Messiah/King. He wanted the glory that belongs only to God, and finally, he wanted to usurp God Himself. Satan spread his nefarious selfishness to mankind in Genesis 3. There, God promised that he would be judged by the coming Messiah in Genesis 3:15:
He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.
From that point on, Satan knew that the only way to avoid God’s judgment was to destroy the coming Messiah. This relentless and futile goal is revealed graphically in Revelation 12:4b:
And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child.
In context, the dragon is Satan, the woman is Israel, and the child is Yeshua. When Yeshua died, Satan thought he had succeeded in devouring the Messiah. However, all Satan did was fulfill the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 and insure his own condemnation.
The Third Party: The World
Party number three responsible for the death of Yeshua is the World. I will let Scripture speak for itself since it is pretty clear.
John 7:7-The world cannot hate you; but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.
John 15:18-If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
The evil world system, controlled by the prince of this world, stands in opposition to God, His Messiah, and those who are “in Messiah.” As a result, the world persecuted Yeshua (Jn. 15:20). The highest form of that loathing, abuse, and cruelty was the murder of the Holy Son of God. However, Yeshua overcame and judged the world through His death on the cross (Jn. 12:31-33). Yeshua will execute judgment when He returns.
The Fourth Party: The Romans
Party number four responsible for the death of Yeshua are the Romans. In Acts 2:23, Peter is rehearsing the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah. As he does, he holds the Roman government culpable. The Roman government and its representatives are grouped under the label “godless men.” Acts 2:23 states:
This Man (Yeshua), delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
In Acts 4:27, Peter makes the association very specific by naming the key officials involved. In addition, it becomes clear that the Romans represent the entire Gentile world at large. Acts 4:27 says:
For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,…
Here we see the mystery of God’s omniscience and man’s free will. Acts 2:23 states that the death of Yeshua was the “predetermined plan” of God. God knew all about it. Because of his “foreknowledge” he was not taken by surprise. Moreover, at the same time, human beings are held accountable for their deliberate decisions, decisions that implemented the Divine plan. Both doctrines are taught in Scripture, and both doctrines must be equally affirmed. I think it is becoming apparent that the death of the Messiah is a very complex event in which the Jewish community cannot be made into the sole, convenient scapegoat.
The Fifth Party: The Jewish People
Party number five responsible for the death of Yeshua is the Jewish people. It is true that the Jewish community must accept a share of the responsibility for Yeshua‘s death. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, Peter is addressing the “men of Israel” (v. 22). The audience is described as a “crowd” (v. 6) of “devout men from every nation under heaven” (v. 5). He tells this crowd of devout men that “you nailed (Yeshua) to the cross” (v. 23). The responsibility is not limited to the religious leadership alone. The burden of responsibility is also seen in Acts 4:27. There, while praying, the assembly of Jewish Christians state that “the peoples of Israel” were “gathered against your holy servant Jesus.” Israel must accept a proper amount of fault in this heinous crime.
The Sixth Party: Yeshua
Party number six responsible for the death of Yeshua is, surprisingly to many people, Yeshua himself. In John 10:1-18, Yeshua identifies Himself as the “Good Shepherd” who “lays down His life for the sheep” (vv. 11 and 15). Moreover, this is totally under His control, power, and desire.
I lay down my life (crucifixion) that I might take it up again (resurrection).
I lay it down on my own initiative. I have authority to lay it down.
Yeshua takes upon Himself appropriate responsibility for the experience of the cross.
The Seventh Party: You
Party number seven responsible for the death of Yeshua is you. You might not have ever thought of it in these terms. However, the Bible says that Yeshua died for your personal sins and my personal sins. Each one of us is personally responsible for what happened to our Savior. You and I have fallen short God’s glory. You and I have transgressed. You and I were helplessly enslaved to sin. He died for us, in spite of the fact that you and I would put Him on that cross, because He loves us.
- Romans 3:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
- Romans 4:25 (NASB)
- Romans 5:6 (NASB)
- Romans 5:8 (NASB)
… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The reason I have spent the time going into this subject lies in the often repeated, anti-Semitic remark, “the Jews killed Christ.” Anti-Semites have crippled Jewish outreach for centuries by hurling that partially true insult at Jewish people. It is inaccurate to hold the entire community responsible for an event that is far more profound and complex. Satan has effectively built a stout barrier in the Jewish mind using this accusation.
If you are witnessing to a Jewish friend, be sure you have done your homework when this issue comes up. Explain to them the true breadth of the issue and acknowledge your responsibility as well. Then explain the depth of the love of God, through Yeshua, for them. As we have seen, it is inaccurate and destructive to hold the entire Jewish community solely responsible for an event that is far more profound and complex.
However, there is another question that will come up and needs to be answered.
“If the Jews are not solely responsible for the death of Yeshua, then what is the consequence they experience for the part they played in the rejection of His Messiahship?”
The consequence that fell upon the Jewish community for the rejection of the Messiahship of Yeshua was the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD by the Romans. This judgment was precipitated by the religious leadership of Israel. They rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua claiming that He was demon-possessed (Matt. 12:24). They blasphemed the Holy Spirit and brought upon the nation a judgment that was unpardonable (Matt. 12:31).
The judgment is stated to be unpardonable because it would not be rescinded or alleviated. This brings me to the definition of the “unpardonable sin” that is derived from the context of Matthew 12. The proper definition, concisely stated by Dr. Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries, and derived from the context of the chapter is this:
The unpardonable sin is the denial of Yeshua‘s Messiahship while He was physically present on this earth on the grounds that He was demon-possessed.
What exactly is the judgment that will not be rescinded or alleviated? For the answer, we need to go to the triumphal entry of Luke 19:37-44. As Yeshua begins His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, the multitudes greet Him joyfully with the traditional Messianic greeting of Psalm 118:26 saying, “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD.” The multitudes are hailing Him as the Messiah. If there ever was an appropriate time to rescind the judgment associated with rejecting Him, it is now. However, instead of canceling the punishment, Yeshua pronounces words of judgment (Lk. 19:41-44). The city of Jerusalem is doomed in spite of the cries of acclamation; the judgment was unpardonable, it could not be alleviated. Yeshua makes the same statement in Matthew 23:37-39 stating that the city and the Temple (your house) are destined for destruction.
In summary, let me make two assertions:
- The unpardonable sin cannot be committed today by anyone. It was limited to the generation of Yeshua‘s day, and
- The punishment for the rejection of the Messiahship of Yeshua is finished. It fell upon the Jewish community in the first century and will not fall again.
Please do not tell a Jewish person that the sufferings we have experienced over the last 2,000 years (especially the Holocaust) are a result of the rejection of Yeshua. The sufferings we have experienced for the last 2000 years have another source.
The Source of Jewish Suffering
The last question now needs answering. “If the source of Jewish suffering is not the rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, then what is the reason for 2,000 years of persecution and dispersion?”
The answer to that question is straightforward. The Jewish community is experiencing the curses of the Mosaic Covenant. Let me explain. The first covenant God entered into with the Jewish people is the unconditional and eternal Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1-3, 7, 13:14 17, 15, 17). Some 430 years later (Gal. 3:17), God added the Mosaic Covenant, a temporary and conditional covenant, to Israel’s responsibilities. Chapter 26 of Leviticus and Chapter 28 of Deuteronomy are the sections that contain the blessings and cursing of the covenant. Experiencing the blessings of the covenant will be the result of walking in faith with God. However, if Israel does not walk in faith, then discipline is promised.
It is a discipline that gets more and more severe as her unfaithfulness continues. The promised discipline begins with poverty and grows gradually more rigorous with the addition of disease, drought, defeat, cannibalism, and oppression. Finally, the harshest chastisement will be experienced-worldwide dispersion (Deut. 28:64-68 and Lev. 26:33-39). In that worldwide dispersion, Israel would become the most despised nation on earth. Israel would be talked about and ridiculed by her captors. The following verses from Deuteronomy 28: 64-66 accurately predicts Jewish suffering during the last 20 centuries:
Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. And among those nations you shall find no rest, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. So your life shall hang in doubt before you; and you shall be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life. (Also see Lev. 26:31-39)
Unfortunately, the Jewish people continue to live in unfaithfulness and disobedience today with ninety percent being atheist or agnostic. Nine percent of the Jewish community sincerely follows the religion of Rabbinic Judaism, which is a man-made religion that rejected the Messiahship of Yeshua. Less than one percent of the Jewish community, worldwide, trusts in Yeshua.
In summary: The worldwide Jewish community is living under the stipulations of the Mosaic Covenant and in unbelief. The result is the current experience of worldwide dispersion and discipline that has been the Jewish experience for the last 2,000 years.
How to Use This Information
I have shared all this with you to help you witness to your Jewish friends. The point of answering this current question is to help you communicate to your Jewish friends that Yeshua is NOT the source of suffering. Rather, communicate to your Jewish friends that Yeshua is the source of salvation. He is the way out of this cycle of disbelief, disobedience, and suffering in which we find ourselves ensnared. He offers to Israel spiritual salvation from sin, and He also offers physical salvation from the curses of the Mosaic Covenant. Most importantly, His offer of salvation is effective today for the individual.
Joel 2:32 says: “…everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” If this issue comes up between you and your Jewish friend, disavow any support for the charge of “Deicide.” Acknowledge that some Christians have, and do, teach that error but that your church does not and neither do you. Go on to explain that the death of the Messiah is a profound and complex issue that cannot be reduced to a simplistic accusation. If they are open, take them on a short Bible study (the article above) and show them what the New Testament actually states. Let the Word of God, the truth, and your love do its work in his or her heart.