Blood Libel

In writing on this subject, I do not wish to be seen as pandering to the sensitivities of the Jews. It is not that I am hostile to the Jews. They are neither greater nor lesser in the Kingdom of God in Christ (Col 3:11, Gal 3:28, Eph 2:11–22), nor are they intrinsically more virtuous nor more villainous among the nations of men. If on balance, they appear superior in virtue and accomplishments, it must be remembered that in the judicial economy of God, “everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48).

The rationale, in seeking to appear neutral as to their state and status, is so that any assertions and arguments made are seen as an outworking of an impartial and unprejudiced mind. I know that this will not be seen as the case. One is likely to be shot from both sides on contentious issues like these. However, I profess to the ever pursuit of intellectual integrity come what may.

His blood be upon us and on our children. (Matt 27:25)

This verse has become the lightning rod for Christian anti-Semitism, as reflected by Origen. In declaring “His blood be upon us, and on our children”[1] . . . “the blood of Jesus came not only upon those who existed at that time but also upon all generations of Jews who would follow afterwards until the endtime.”[2] Therefore, until now, their abandoned houses are in ruins.[3]

Although various churchmen held and expressed a somewhat more scripturally faithful and nuanced perspective, Jews as “Christ killers,” from mostly less sophisticated commoners, has been the frequent clamor throughout the history of Christendom, and with ensuing travesty and atrocity. The Jews have contrariwise sought to diminish the extent of their culpability for the rejection and/or death of Jesus of Nazareth to that of a negligibility or naught at all.

This whole paradigm, beyond being tedious, is quite alien to the scriptural/historical framework by which I conceive the Jewish element in the crucifixion of Christ or thereafter. However, there are few observations of this verse and response that warrant comment.Origen

Although Origen is not the sole member of Christendom to solicit virulent anti-Jewish views, the particulars of Origen’s own heritage is given little consideration in terms of origins of his perspective. Born in Alexandria (Egypt) in ca. 184 AD to Greek parents; a city, which had experienced ongoing Jewish–Greek tensions and clashes in the centuries prior, well before and independent of any Christian influence. In 38 AD, intramural riots broke out between Greek and Jewish communities while under the Egyptian prefect, Aulus Avilius Flaccus (Philo, Embassy to Caligula (Legatio ad Gaium), Against Flaccus (In Flaccum)). Upon Emperor Claudius ascension in 41 AD, Jews in Alexandria would avenge themselves upon the Greeks, which prompted a prescript from Claudius to soothe and threaten both sides into a hostile peace.

In 68–9 AD, encouraged by similar insurrections in neighbouring Judea, Alexandrian Jews would revolt. The philhellenic Jewish governor, Tiberius Julius Alexander, nephew to Philo, would dispatch two Roman legions plus another 5,000 soldiers from Libya (Cyrenaica) to crush the insurrection, which according to Josephus (Jewish War 2.487–498), resulted in the deaths of approximately 50,000 Jews. Neighbouring Cyrenaica would witness a slaughter of Jewish aristocrats in 73 AD (Jewish War 7.437-53 – Chap. 11).

There would be outbursts of violence in Alexandria in summer/fall of 115, which would help to instigate the Kitos War (116–7 CE), by which the Jews in Cyprus, Cyrenaica, and Egypt fell upon mostly Greek residents with huge massacres. “Up to 30% of the population of Cyrenaica slaughtered . . . losses among Roman troops in Egypt reached 30-40% in some units.”[4]

Meanwhile the Jews in the region of Cyrene had put a certain Andreas at their head, and were destroying both the Romans and the Greeks. They would eat the flesh of their victims, make belts for themselves of their entrails, anoint themselves with their blood and wear their skins for clothing; many they sawed in two, from the head downwards; others they gave to wild beasts, and still others they forced to fight as gladiators. In all two hundred and twenty thousand persons perished. In Egypt, too, they perpetrated many similar outrages, and in Cyprus, under the leadership of a certain Artemion. There, also, two hundred and forty thousand perished, 3 and for this reason no Jew may set foot on that island, but even if one of them is driven upon its shores by a storm he is put to death. Among others who subdued the Jews was Lusius, who was sent by Trajan. (Cassius Dio, Roman History 68.32.1–3)

Gentile civic and religious buildings were destroyed. Neighbouring farmlands were destroyed in Cyrenaica, disrupting grain shipments and threatening the stability of the Empire. This second Jewish insurrection would, in turn, result in Emperor Trajan dispatching Turbo with an apparent charge to exterminate “all Jews in the affected areas.”[5]

“From this point on, every sector of the population of Egypt considered it a duty to participate in the emerging anti-Jewish violence.”[6] There would be an annihilation of Jews in Cyprus, Cyrenaica, and much of Egypt, such that modern Jewish historians would describe the gradual re-emergence of Judaism in Egypt and Cyrenaica as a “rebirth,” with sporadic evidence of presence in Cyrenaica in the late 2nd century, and more incontrovertible evidence in Egypt by the late 3rd century.[7]

In consideration of these events, it is little wonder that Origen, the Greek in, rather than Origen, the Christian, might be hostile to the Jews. Furthermore, one wonders as to which locale Origen is speaking concerning abandoned houses [which] are in ruins by circa 250 AD.

Likewise, honest discernment must be applied in determining the extent those, who expressed anti-Semitic sentiments, used Scriptures as intellectual cover for their pre-existing antipathies, rather than those being honestly derived from Scriptures. On the other hand, I pour contempt upon timid Christian apologists who “soften” the unvarnished truth in order to ingratiate themselves to the Jews. I quite frankly do not see an inaccurate and unfair treatment of the Jew within Scriptures as a whole.

The Biblical Context

As to the aphorism itself; just because a person/people makes a statement in Scriptures, it doesn’t make that statement a gospel truth. God is not bound to act according to the hot-headed cries of the rabble, instigated by a hierarchy of venal Temple priests, whose compromised and corrupt leadership was hand-picked by Roman authorities in order to serve the latter’s political ends to eventually assimilate the Jewish nation as indistinguishable from the Roman pantheon.

♦                    ♦                    ♦

Furthermore and most importantly, the God of Scriptures, the Mosaic Law, and Jewish thought does not subscribe to collective guilt. When these Jews declared His blood be upon us and on our children, this was not to signify that the guilt of the killing of Christ was to be passed onto ensuing generations, but the consequences.

Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deut 24:16)

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezek 18:20)

He (God) will render to each one according to his works. (Rom 2:6)

Judicially, a person cannot be coercively impugned with the guilt of another according to the principles of a divine and universal justice in a God who claims that “Righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne” (Ps 97:2, 89:14). (The distinction in the Atonement is that Christ voluntarily consented to take the blame, not that God the Father imposed it upon Him – John 10:17–8). However, this does not prevent the consequences of a person’s sin and transgression to be visited upon the descendants of that person. The very definitional nature of sin and transgression includes the ontological and existential harms that it frequents upon innocents well beyond the perpetrator.

Collective guilt is a pagan principle of justice; whether that of Roman Traducianism; or that of Philistine and/or Greek Federal Headship and Representation.

Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us. (1 Sam 17:8–9)

Hear me, Trojans and Achaeans, that I may speak even as I am minded; Zeus on his high throne has brought our oaths and covenants to nothing, and foreshadows ill for both of us, till you either take the towers of Troy, or are yourselves vanquished at your ships. The princes of the Achaeans are here present in the midst of you; let him, then, that will fight me stand forward as your champion against Hektor. Thus I say, and may Zeus be witness between us. If your champion slay me, let him strip me of my armor and take it to your ships, but let him send my body home that the Trojans and their wives may give me my dues of fire when I am dead. In like manner, if Apollo grant me glory and I slay your champion, I will strip him of his armor and take it to the city of Ilion, where I will hang it in the temple of Apollo, but I will give up his body, that the Achaeans may bury him at their ships, and the build him a tomb by the wide waters of the Hellespont. Then will one say hereafter as he sails his ship over the sea, ‘This is the marker of one who died long since a champion who was slain by mighty Hektor.’ Thus will one say, and my fame shall not be lost.[8]

Looking round with eyes dark with menace upon the Etruscan chiefs, he challenged them to single combat, and reproached them all with being the slaves of tyrant kings, and whilst unmindful of their own liberty coming to attack that of others.[9]

It is a term of only recent invention in the German lexicon, kollektivschuld, namely from Carl Jung (1945).

This inner identity or participation mystique with the events in Germany has caused me to experience afresh how painfully wide is the scope of the psychological concept of collective guilt.[10]

But the psychiatrist and psychotherapist Jung has conflated guilt with shame; simply because both emit similar psychological sensations. They feel the same.

The psychological use of the word “guilt” should not be confused with guilt in the legal or moral sense. Psychologically, it connotes the irrational presence of a subjective felling (or conviction) of guilt, or an objective imputation of, or imputed share in, guilt. As an example of the latter, suppose a man belongs to a family which has the misfortune to be disgraced because one of its members has committed a crime. It is clear that he cannot be held responsible, either legally or morally. Yet the atmosphere of guilt makes itself felt in many ways. His family name appears to have been sullied, and it gives him a painful shock to hear it bandied about in the mouths of strangers. Guilt can be restricted to the lawbreaker only from the legal, moral, and intellectual point of view, but as a psychic phenomenon –it spreads itself over the whole neighbourhood.[11]

But I find the Hebrew point of view more coherent and reasonable, and less liable to grant intellectual cover to the judicial looters of the world.

Where all are guilty, no one is; confessions of collective guilt are the best possible safeguard against the discovery of culprits, and the very magnitude of the crime the best excuse for doing nothing.[12]

What is in a phrase? In this seemingly incongruous blurb, I have barely and only superficially pointed to all the tangents that this notorious aphorism in Matthew uncovers; by which attempts to censor from public discourse, in the name of Jewish sensitivities, would impoverish the life of the mind and soul.

 

 

 

[1] Latin – sanguis eius super nos, et super filios nostros

[2] Raymond E. Brown, The Death of the Messiah, Vol. 1, New Haven,CT: Yale University Press, 1994, p.384

[3] Personal translation of “Propterea usque nunc domus eorum derelicta est eis deserta” of GCS 38, Origenes Werke XI, 1933, p.258-60.

[4] Allen Kerkeslager, “The Jews in Egypt and Cyrenaica, 66–c. 235 CE,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Volume 4, The Late Roman-Rabbinic Period, Edited by William David Davies, Louis Finkelstein, Steven T. Katz, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, p. 60.

[5] Ibid., p. 61.

[6] Ibid., p. 62.

[7] Ibid., pp. 53, 63–66.

[8] Homer, The Iliad, ca. 750 BC., Trans. by Samuel Butler, (London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1898), 7.67 – 91. Also a challenge between Paris and Menelaus 3.85 – 94.

[9] Livy, Ab Urbe Condita (“History of Rome”), ca. 27 – 9 BC., Trans. by Canon Roberts, (New York: E. P. Dutton and Co., 1912), 2.10.8.

[10] Carl Jung, “After the Catastrophe,” in Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 10: Civilization in Transition, Translation by R.F.C. Hull from “Nach der Katastrophe,” Neue Schweizer Rundschau (Zurich), n.s., XIII (1945), Princeton University Press, 1970, p.195.

[11] Carl Jung, After the Catastrophe, p. 195.

[12] Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958, p. 147.
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