Pope John XXIII and the “crucifixion” of the Jew



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.

9 thoughts on “Pope John XXIII and the “crucifixion” of the Jew

  1. Raf,

    You wrote that ” it would not be right to say that some Jews were not responsible for [deicide]”. That’s interesting, not only because it’s patently an anti-Semitic statement, and not just because it’s obviously impossible for man to slaughter their only Sustainer, and not even because believers in Christianity ought to be thanking, rather than blaming, the Jews for securing them atonement by shedding Jesus’ blood. It’s especially interesting because the only record we have of Jesus’ existence, and crucifixion, clearly identifies Jesus’ only crucifiers as Romans, and it clearly depicts the Jews as powerless subservients to Rome.

    Nonetheless, there was a certain irony that lent at least a hint of redeeming value to your characteristically dark blog entry: the statement penned by John XXIII was the exact sentiment we can well imagine the speechless gentile kings of Is. 52-3 will experience, may it come speedily in our day.

  2. Anonymous

    Being a noname, it’s no skin off your nose to say anything you like – if I allow it, of course; but it’s getting too silly now. You say Jesus didn’t exist and argue that the Romans were totally responsible for his crucifixion – the Jews had nothing to do with it. I’m waiting for a Roman now to give it to me in the neck.

    I think it sensible that if you wish to continue strolling on this site, you should no longer remain out of sight – nameless, which might make you more responsible and gentle in your communications.

    • Raf,

      Using your name, you frequently post irresponsible comments, including suggestions that I have masturbated–I’m “spilling seed”, you are wont to say. And yet I’ve restricted my comments to truthful and honest observations, despite using the nickname “Anonymous”.

      I think that your penchant to censor my comments derives exclusively from your inability to provide reasonable defenses to my challenges to Christianity, and that my nickname is a pretext. I think that your concern about my not using a proper name here is an excuse, and not a reason for your to censor me.

      Experience has taught us both that missionaries to the Jews are unable to ply their trade in the light of honest, rigorous intellectual investigation, and that, in the end, missionaries must silence those who point out the weaknesses in the Christian story line because they cannot answer their challenges. I’ve simply pointed out that there is no evidence of Jesus’ existence outside of a dubious religious tract, and rather than even attempt to show any proof that my statement was wrong, you’re circling around the censorship button. That should cause you consternation, deep down inside. Why are you clinging to the indefensible? Why are you pushing it on others?

      • Anon, at least your anagram is a name of someone whom (we both believe) existed – Onan. And now it’s a bit clearer why I said you spill your seed. “Seed” in Greek is SEMA, from which we get the word “semantics.” So you see I am not saying that you’re what you said I was saying you were (doing), I meant (semantics = meaning) that you were spilling language/meaning all over the place.

        Anon, the non-name anagram of spilled seed wants me to believe – I think – that he exists, while at the same time insisting that Jesus the seed of the woman did not exist.

        You’re like the Muslim who believes in his own idea of history, but at least he is better than you at history, for he believes that Jesus wasn’t crucified but you believe that he didn’t even exist. I wonder how many professional historians (like Shlomo Sand) there are who believe that Moses, Solomon, king David were figments, and how many believe that Jesus was one.

        The sine qua non for any meaningful discussion on my blog is that all these persons existed. There are many other blogs that are devoted to trashing their existence.

      • Raf,

        You and I both know that it doesn’t matter if there are 10, 100 or 1,000 professional historians who swear on a stack of “new testaments” that they truly believe that Jesus existed. What really matters is proof. I’m not moved by 2 billion Christians who all share the opinion that Jesus existed, but I would be impressed by one good reason to believe it. If you want to drag historians into this discussion, then please do so by presenting the proof that one of them has discovered attesting to Jesus’ existence.

        Outside of religious conviction, there is no basis to conclude Jesus existed. None of his supposed contemporaries wrote a thing about him–but I guess those historians are not so crucial to you. The only primary record of Jesus’ existence is the appearance of Jesus to Paul in a dream Paul documented only after thinking about it for several decades. As such, a presumption that Jesus actually existed cannot serve as a sine qua non for any meaningful discussion about Jesus. Rather, there is an obvious burden on you as the evangelical to produce a shred of evidence to substantiate the irrational leap to an axiomatic, dogmatic insistence that Jesus existed despite the incongruent lack of any credible support for that notion.

        Moses, Solomon and David, incidentally, are all part of the familial Jewish tradition. There is no Jewish family with an inherited record that those three leaders never existed and were at some point anachronistically invented. On the other hand, every Jewish family has such a recollection about the Jesus fantasy. I hope you’re not contorting with rage as you read this, Raf. I know it’s tough to answer, but it’s the truth. Where is your proof?

        • Anon

          The following question is plainly relevant to your latest response:

          I’m sure you believe that Rabban Gamaliel existed. What rules of historicity did you use to arrive at this belief?

      • That’s a great question, Raf, and in return for it, at the end of this comment, I’ll return the favor in kind.

        The answer to how we know that R’ Gamliel was a real sage is that he was recognized as such by all of his contemporaries, and all of his contemporaries passed that down to their children, and they in turn to their children, right down to me. In other words, I have an eyewitness report that I can match with the account of every other Jewish family that hasn’t lost its tradition from R’ Gamliel’s era. What we don’t find at all in the Jewish world is a familial tradition dating from R’ Gamliel’s time that R’ Gamliel didn’t really exist and was a made up figure. Contrast that unanimous testimony with the “proof” that Jesus existed–Paul’s redacted account of a dream in which he claims Jesus appeared to him and told him the contents of the “new testament”, which Paul only decades later wrote down. There are today no Jewish families with any recollection of Jesus. The only connection anyone has to Jesus is via the record of Paul’s dream. Nobody can point to anyone who actually saw this enigmatic character you worship even though G-d told us in Num. 23:19 “G-d is not a man”. In spite of the public miracles Paul dreampt that Jesus performed, the universal Jewish tradition on Jesus is that no such person lived in Jerusalem or did the things Paul dreamed about.

        But on to my question to you: how do you know that Josephus wasn’t the messiah?

        • Anon

          I’m trying very hard to accommodate you, but when you say that Paul wrote the Gospels I have to say “enough already.”

          You play by your own (Jewish; they might as well be Islamic) rules: only Jewish witnesses count.

      • Raf,

        I think we’re discovering the boundary that has kept us apart–this is exciting!

        At bottom, what separates us seems to be the credibility of the reports of the Jews who were witness to Jerusalem during the time Paul’s dream places Jesus there. I tend to believe the Jews’ reports, while you to reject them.

        I believe their reports, since the Irish, Germans and Chinese weren’t there at the time. In my estimation, that makes the Jews the best and only competent witnesses. On the other hand, since you agree with the religious beliefs of the Irish, Germans and some Chinese, it is incumbent on you to undercut the Jews’ testimony–and the least creative method of doing just that is to call into question the Jews’ integrity.

        I think we’re starting to get somewhere in terms of understanding where our differences stem from, and I have always held you in higher esteem than some of your less honest missionary cohort in that you, almost alone, are willing to admit that your entire religious outook is shaped by the “new testament” and that never in a million years could one derive the underlying principles of Christianity from the Jewish scriptures. So, let’s continue to discuss this issue of what happened in Jerusalem during the supposed time of Jesus honestly, in light of what we know from the only people who were there to tell us about it (and, who have no communal recollection of it in spite of their crystal clear communal recollection of the much earlier events of their miraculous divine rescue from Egypt and their miraculous receipt of the Bible at Sinai).

        I would like it if you would seriously engage with me in a discussion of the question I posed to you about Josephus.

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