chapter  5
12 Pages

Misplaced Anger: The Growth of Anti-Semitism

According to the gospel of Matthew, after Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to be crucified, he washed his hands and said, “‘I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.’ And all the people answered, ‘His blood be on us and on our children!’” (Matt. 27:24-25). Through this account, the Jews-not the Romanswere given the responsibility for killing Jesus, and this narrative points to the growing split between Jews and the followers of the risen Jesus. In the second century, Bishop Melito of Sardis (in modern Turkey) first brought the explicit charge of deicide against Jews, and this charge was only lifted at the Second Vatican Council of 1965.1 What has happened here? How could followers of the same One God become such bitter enemies that many Christians today forget that Jesus was a Jew. Part of this story comes from the violent political environment of the Holy Land during the century that followed Jesus’ crucifixion, but the animosity was solidified in the accounts of the Christian martyrs.