Crucified: The Christian Invention of the Jewish Executioners of Jesus
Historians of early Christianity unanimously agree that Jesus was executed by Roman soldiers. This consensus extends to members of the general population who have seen a Jesus movie or an Easter play and remember Roman soldiers hammering the nails. However, for early Christians, the detail that Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers under the direction of a Roman governor threatened their desire for a stable existence in the Roman world. Beginning with the writings found in the New Testament, early Christians sought to rewrite their history and shift the blame for Jesus's crucifixion away from Pilate and his soldiers and onto Jews. During the second century, a narrative of the crucifixion with Jewish executioners predominated. During the fourth century, this narrative functioned to encourage anti-Judaism within the newly established Christian empire. Yet, in the modern world, there exists a significant degree of ignorance regarding the pervasiveness--or sometimes even the existence!--of the claim among ancient Christians that Jesus was executed by Jews. This ignorance is deeply problematic, because it leaves a gaping hole in our understanding of what for so long was the direct underpinning of Christian persecution of Jews. Moreover, it excuses from blame the venerated ancient Christian authors who constructed and perpetuated the claim that the Jews executed Jesus. And on an unconscious level, it may still influence Christians' understanding of Jews and Judaism.