In cities and towns throughout Europe in the 1930’s and 40’s Jewish parents kept their children indoors on Good Friday.  It was a frightening day because some loosely wrapped Christians were stirred by the reminder of an ancient Jewish “crime” to retaliatory violence.   They had been moved by a retelling of the Passion (i.e., condemnation, torture and execution) of their Lord by “the Jews.”

With that context in mind, consider these not-unrepresentative Gospel passages –

Matthew 27

{25} All the Jews answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’

Luke 23

{13} Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders and the people, and said to them, “You brought this man as one perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of the charges against him….  Indeed he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him”.  …  {18} Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow!”… “…they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!”  {22} A third time he said to them, “Why what evil has he done” … But they kept urgently demanding with loud shout that he should be crucified, and their voices prevailed.
In these and other Gospel passages there is a widely understood subtext that taken as the “Gospel truth” in places like Hitler’s Germany, in which phrases like “the people”, “they all” and “they” are really talking about “those murdering Jews.”

And Pilate is somehow exonerated.

I believe to the core of my being that this is slander. Some of my fellow Christians have become aware of the problem.  They and I wince with pain during a traditional reading of Jesus’ last hours, his “Passion” as told in one of the gospel accounts.  This should be a glorious chronicle of a holy hero, but for me it was poisoned by a falsehood, innocently repeated, that Jesus was murdered by a mob of his fellow Jews who forced a reluctant Pontius Pilate (that worldly and sophisticated humanist!) to kill an innocent Jewish teacher.

In effect, Pontius Pilate leers at us from history’s stage like some bloody Shakespearean figure, holding a dripping knife and shouting: “The Jews made me do it!”  I submit that Christians are still reading “The Passion According to Pilate”, an account with about the same credibility as a document called “Hitler’s liberation of France” written by the Vichy government.

During the Easter season Christian congregations hear about the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, including this passage from the gospel of John (John 20:19)

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you”.

What if we were to adjust that passage for its missing context?  Recall that Jesus was a popular Jewish spiritual leader who was executed by the Roman occupiers as a revolutionary threat.  Recall that the Temple authorities were much like the collaborationist Vichy government in Nazi-occupied France.

When the Nazi’s ruled Europe, not everyone was enthusiastic.  Most French citizens longed for the removal of their German overlords. Some of them undertook active resistance at great risk to their lives. One hero of the French resistance, Jean Moulin, met secretly with fellow freedom fighters in German occupied France for the last time on the 21st of June 1943. The meeting was behind closed doors for good reason.  But someone had betrayed them. The Gestapo raided the place and arrested Moulin. He died not long after while in Gestapo custody.

Now imagine how one might describe Moulin’s last meeting—

When Moulin met with his fellow resistance leaders the doors were shut because of fear of the (a) the French people, (b) German soldiers, (c) Nazi collaborators.

Only in the scenario where the Nazis won would the account read, “because of fear of the French people”.

As I hope to show in the following pages, the reason for the following proposed historical correction should become bright line clear —

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Roman authorities and their collaborators, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “Peace be unto you”.

I started this project several years ago when I first encountered the work of the growing number of Jewish scholars who are actively exploring the life of Jesus of Nazareth as part of the history of First Century Judaism. My project became more timely because of the impact of Mel Gibson’s widely viewed film, “The Passion of Jesus Christ”, and the concerns of the Jewish community about resurrecting the “Christ killer” war-cry of some loosely wrapped anti-Semites. As to any detail concerning Jesus’s execution, no one can claim to have finally “proved the case”. That would be unrealistic at this remove.  But the evidence is more than enough to prove Pilate’s scheming culpability and exonerate the Jewish people.

MY ENTIRE 16 PAGE ARTICLE IS AVAILABLE IN PDF FORMAT AT THIS LINK: http://jaygaskill.com/PilateGameExposed.pdf .

Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law


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