Pope John XXIII and the “crucifixion” of the Jew

PORTRAIT OF JOHN XXIII Español: IMAGEN DE JUAN...

JOHN XXIII

Rabbi Moshe Weiss writes: “During the years of my business life and before returning to a spiritual life, I was very impressed by the statements of John XXIII particularly his asking forgiveness of Jesus for crucifying him twice the second time being the persecution of his Jewish co-religionists.”

For most religious Jews, the crucifixion of Jesus was a non-event: it didn’t happen (because they regard the Jesus of the New Testament a figment), or if he was crucified, it is of no religious/spiritual import. (Rabbi Weiss is not one of these Jews).

A “traditional” Catholic website relates: Just before his death, John XXIII composed the following prayer for the Jews. This prayer was confirmed by the Vatican as being the work of John XXIII.(73) “We realize today how blind we have been throughout the centuries and how we did not appreciate the beauty of the Chosen People nor the features of our favored brothers. We are aware of the divine mark of Cain placed upon our forehead. In the course of centuries our brother, Abel, has been lying bleeding and in tears on the ground through our fault, only because we had forgotten thy love. Forgive us our unjustified condemnation of the Jews. Forgive us that by crucifying them we have crucified You for the second time. Forgive us. We did not know what we were doing.” Catholic magazine The Reign of Mary, “John XXIII and the Jews,” Spring, 1986, p. 11.

Besides the fact that the crucifixion of Jesus is a unique unrepeatable event, it is wrong for the pope to identify Jesus, in any way, with those who rejected him and continue to do so to this day, even when Jesus was also a Jew. Although it is right that not every Jew should be blamed for the crucifixion, it would not be right to say that some Jews were not responsible for it. And it would also be wrong for a Christian to call the Jew – or any one who does not believe that the Son of God came in the flesh to die for sinners – his spiritual brother. Would a Jew, a religious Jew call a Christian his spiritual brother? Of course not, for the reason that it is the crucifixion of Jesus and its implications that divide the Jew from the Christian (and from a Hebrew Christian like me).

With regard to Christ’s sacrifice, this time unrelated to the Jewish Holocaust, is it ever possible that Jesus could be crucified again. The ESV translation of the Greek in Hebrews 6:6 seems to indicate so.

[4]… it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, [5] and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, [6] and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV).

The problem lies with the ESV (English Standard Version translation). Here are two other translations that do a slightly better job.

(King James Version)

6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh (King James Version)

Young’s literal translation (also has “to themselves”)

6 and having fallen away, again to renew [them] to reformation, having crucified again to themselves the Son of God.

The two above translations are literal renditions of the Greek ἑαυτοῦ heautou “to themselves.” Surely, “to themselves” could only mean “it is as if they were crucifying the Son of God afresh,” for it is certain that Christ cannot really be crucified a second time, although Pope John XXIII seems to think so in his strange apology to the Jews. Yet it is not only popes who go astray. Here is Barnes (from his notes on the Bible)

“They crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh – Our translators have rendered this as if the Greek were – ἀνασταυροῦντας πάλιν anastaurountas palin – “crucify again,” and so it is rendered by Chrysostom, by Tyndale, Coverdale, Beza, Luther, and others. But this is not properly the meaning of the Greek. The word ἀνασταυρόω anastauroō – is an “intensive” word, and is employed instead of the usual word “to crucify” only to denote “emphasis.” It means that such an act of apostasy would be equivalent to crucifying him in an aggravated manner. Of course this is to be taken “figuratively.” It could not be literally true that they would thus crucify the Redeemer. The meaning is, that their conduct would be “as if” they had crucified him; it would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outpeers any other deed of human guilt. Yet the apostle says that should they who had been true Christians fall away and reject him, they would be guilty of a similar crime. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there they would have joined in the cry “crucify him, crucify him.”

I say something, briefly, about the Roman Catholic sacrifice of the Mass. If the Mass is a  sacrifice then surely there must be a death, the death of Christ every time a priest says “ For this is my body…” (Hoc est corpus enim meum), for the Roman Catholic Church clearly states that the Mass is a real sacrifice, and not a mere representation. The Catholic response will be that I don’t understand – the relationship between time and eternity. I have discussed this whopper elsewhere.