Pope Benedict’s retake of “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25)

Pope Benedict writes in his latest book (2011) “Jesus of Nazareth II”:

When in Matthew’s account the “whole people” say: “his blood be on us and on our children” (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all. … Read in the light of faith, [Matthew’s reference to Jesus’ blood] means that we all stand in the need of the purifying power of love which is his blood. These words are not a curse, but rather redemption, salvation. Only when understood in terms of the theology of the Last Supper and the Cross, drawn from the whole of the New Testament, does this verse from Matthew’s Gospel take on its correct meaning.

Benedict’s reflections, writes Matt Reynolds in “Christianity Today” follow in the tradition of Nostra Aetate (“Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”). In this Second Vatican Council document, Pope Paul VI declared that, while “the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ,” the crucifixion “cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.” The Jews, Paul VI wrote, “should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.” The declaration “decries hatred, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone.”

With regard to Benedict’s paragraph above, Reynold says: “Like Benedict’s book, Nostra Aetate firmly places Jesus’ death in the context of his messianic mission, proclaiming that ‘Christ underwent His passion and death freely, because of the sins of men and out of infinite love, in order that all may reach salvation.’”

Although it is true that “Christ underwent His passion freely” out of love, it does not follow that if God had ordained the “passion” that men were not responsible for it; as we read in Matthew:

[20] When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. [21] And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” [22] And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” [23] He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. [24] The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” [25] Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so” (Matthew 26:20-25 ESV).

There are several other texts that illustrate this point, for example, the incident with Joseph and his brothers:

“[15] When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” [16] So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died, [17] ‘Say to Joseph, Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. [18] His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” [19] But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? [20] As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:15-20 ESV).

To return to the pope’s commentary on “let his blood be on us and how children,” here is the text in context:

[21] The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” [22] Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” [23] And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” [24] So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” [25] And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” [26] Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified (Matthew 27:21-26 ESV).

The pope has totally distorted the meaning. His take has nothing to do with biblical truth, something to do with sophistry, and everything, in my view, to do with politics.

Rhetoric” teaches how to use language for persuasive effect. Persuasion is important, but back of it should not only be a sound knowledge of how language is used, but the integrity to not do a humpty dumpty.

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all” (Through the Looking Glass).

There is also the more serious issue of the Roman Catholic Church’s (RCC) claim to be the infallible interpreter of scripture. Not only has Benedict dumped on to his sheep a distorted interpretation of Matthew 27:25 above, but he has contradicted the traditional interpretation held by the popes before Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate. What other reinterpretations are on the cards?

Related posts

 Psalm 25 – Judge me, O Lady, for I have departed from my innocence: What have they done to the mother of my Lord?

 Buddhism, Judaism and Catholic Nostra Aetate).