Thursday, January 22, 2009

Irish Scholar John Dominic Crossan Investigates Who Killed Jesus

Dr. John Dominic Crossan

Excerpted from John Dominic Crossan's website:

The death of Jesus is one of the most hotly debated questions in Christianity today. In his massive and highly publicized The Death of the Messiah, Raymond Brown - while clearly rejecting anti-Semitism - never questions the essential historicity of the passion stories. Yet it is these stories, in which the Jews decide Jesus' execution, that have fueled centuries of Christian anti-Semitism.

Now, in his most controversial book, John Dominic Crossan shows that this traditional understanding of the Gospels as historical fact is not only wrong but dangerous. Drawing on the best of biblical, anthropological, sociological and historical research, he demonstrates definitively that it was the Roman government that tried and executed Jesus as a social agitator. Crossan also candidly addresses such key theological questions as "Did Jesus die for our sins?" and "Is our faith in vain if there was no bodily resurrection?"

Ultimately, however, Crossan's radical reexamination shows that the belief that the Jews killed Jesus is an early Christian myth (directed against rival Jewish groups) that must be eradicated from authentic Christian faith. [Blurb from John Crossan’s website]

Link to PDF of first chapter:


  1. Hello jack,
    its antoine from switzerland. Florent told me about your blog which i find really interesting. I'm following ''the scenic route'' for some time now but i never had the moment to comment in an appropriate way. With the exams past it's now or never.

    I'm wondering why do we have to answer in such a stupid accusation. Someone being anti-semit (is that the english version of the term?)based on the belief that jews killed Jesus, is really, thoroughly, completely stupid and i wouldn't spend time answering to him. I really admire it that you do.

    Therefore, i would like to pose a thought that i had, concerning your posts on the gaza war.

    First, an introduction. I'm convinced that Hamas (and Fatah and hesbollah) is a partially terrorist organization. I have relatives in Israel and i know the quantity of rocketfire that was threatening the south of Israel every day for 8 months before the invasion. I also know relatively well the history of the palestinian problem, from its' ''official'' outburst in 1949, a thing that we can't say for most of the people that now blame israel. I really get cross with the anti-semitism that this whole situation has been provoking and the unbearably cruel reactions of fascists around the world. Finally, i have also a view of the political past and present in Israel.

    Nevertheless, i don't support this war, just because i'm partially Jewish and i know why Israel has the right to exist there. As past has shown us, this kind of reactions only support the terrorists, because they produce people full of hatred in both sides. The existence of Hamas or Fatah in the palestinian region has nothing to do with the need of coexistence in Israel and a military invasion is leading to the opposite direction. You may tell me that palestinians, and many other parts of muslim world are completely fanatic anti-semits and anti-Zionists which is completely true. The thing is though that decreasing them to dust will only increase that and that's why i'm against the war. With every child that dies in gaza, a kamikaze is born. And that IS the fault of Israel. Why are we ok with the bombing of a school because a missile was next to it? Is that the fault of the kids inside or maybe will the bombing of ALL missile launching sites will stop Hamas from acting against israel? I believe in other ways of acting. A mature state like Israel mustn't respond in a such immature way. Many Israelis know that, and there have been some anti-invasion manifests in Tel-Aviv. There is a new-found political organization called ''peace-now'' that is held principally by the writer Amos Oz (that in my opinion is going for a nobel) that is saying something that many israelis seem to approve and i share: ''in this war there are three sides, israeli, palestinian and peace''. I believe peace is the best option for the other 2.

    Many greetings and sorry for the length.

  2. As ridiculous as the charge might seem to us today, some would argue that the historical roots of anti-Semitism are a direct outgrowth of the canonical redactions of the Christian Gospels.

    Anti-Jewish prejudice may be traced and rationalized against the backdrop of how the Gospel narratives are presented. Thus the frequent allegation over the last two millennia that it was “the Jews, who crucified Our Saviour nineteen hundred years ago, and who are crucifying us every day in the week.” [Oliver Flanagan, Dail Speech 1943].

    Part of the exercise in examining this issue stems from our Irish discussion. Ireland desires to hold itself out as a neutral moral party holding forth on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yet upon close examination of primary source documents, one finds that Irish foreign policy during the years just prior to, and immediately succeeding, the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948, Ireland’s leaders were instilled with a Catholic world view that placed Irish policy so close to Vatican policy on the subject of Israel as to be virtually identical.

    Because the De Valera government was infused with an elite body of leaders graduated, for the most part, from Catholic centers of learning, it is arguable that the adherence of Irish foreign policy during this period and afterward was influenced, if not grounded, in anti-Semitic viewpoints.

    Ireland can not, in good faith, claim to be an altogether neutral and impartial party when it comes to the subject of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    Kind Regards

  3. Christy2:39 PM

    I knew you had a massive agenda when you were talking about Ireland. I'm sorry, but I find your historical 'findings' deeply flawed because in every single essay you brought up there was nothing that couldn't have been explained without providing a little context and comparisons with other countries in Europe. I'm sorry, but your thesis is essentially flawed in that you select your evidence according to the conclusion you wish to draw - complete anathema to the historian.

  4. Well Christy,

    Thank you for the perspective; however, in every case where I have presented an essay I have also presented a primary source to document the point of view.

    I do not always like what I find in these documents; but there they are.

    One might wish to argue that Ireland took the position it did not because of anti-Semitism, but because of anit-British attitudes; however, it does look like the two walk hand-in-hand at times.

    I am proud to say that much recent Irish scholarship confronts these issues head-on and does not shy away from what appears in the primary source documents.

    Kind Regards

  5. Christy5:40 AM

    Yet you ignore the countless newspaper reports up and down the country condeming nazism, catholic priests conferences condemning euthanasia and the violation of human life, TDs condemning the actions of the Nazi state, TDs calling for entering the war on the British side (Dillon is but one example)

    You concentrate on a very small minority and on very uninfluential morons who get elected in every political culture in Europe, regardless of the mainstream political culture. Documents from obscure civil service officials with no real executive power on policy making - the list goes on.

    Frankly, you've proven nothing decisive other than state the obvious - Ireland, like any other nation at any time in the history of the world has a certain stream of anti-semitism running through its culture.

  6. Christy,

    Of course reasonable minds are free to differ on certain points. I have noted a great deal of individual protest on the subject at hand.

    What is worthy of note are the numerous government related documents that espouse policies that can only arise out of anti-Semitic values.

    I am very pleased to note that not everyone in Ireland is an anit-Semite. However, Walshe, and the people controlling Irish policy toward Israel in 1948 arguably were anti-Semitic. This does not indict the entire spectrum of Irish society; however, it does indicate the inclinations of De Valera's foreign policy toward Israel.

    The influence of Walshe's original policy on Ireland's post-WWII approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, closely conforming to the Vatican's, has taken many years to play itself out.

    I did not, by the way, exhaust the trove of material within easy reach on this topic. Most of what has been cited comes from either Irish historians, Irish nationals, or those living in Ireland who reported what they observed.

    If you take issue with my conclusion, I of course invite you to make a documented counter arguement. I would be happy to revise my view.

    As it stands now, I find that Ireland's official policy toward Israel is mired in the De Valera-Walshe legacy, continues to shadow the Vatican's views, and tends to favor the Palestinian viewpoint.

    Kind Regards and Happy Chinese New Year.

  7. Christy11:06 AM


    I find the logic confusing and irrational. Because of the Vatican's historical anti-semitism, does that neccessarily follow that nations with little historical anti-semitism who happen to follow the Vatican's lead in foreign policy (Which isn't definitive either) issues adapt that same historical anti-semitism in their foreign policy plank? I'm finding real difficult to find any rational constancy in this thesis.

  8. Christy11:07 AM

    I've spent quite a bit of time in the national archives in my day, but am unsure as to what 'documentary' evidence I'd need to supply since the base of your argument doesn't really allow for a rebuttal of that kind. It seems a general knowledge of the survey of Irish history covers most of your findings.

  9. Hello Christy,

    Well, how about going about demonstrating that I have Walshe all wrong?

    Part of the problem from what I can see remains the odd fact that most of Walshe's private correspondence in the Irish Nat. Archives are restricted. Perhaps, they are not restricted to scholars such as yourself?

    You could, for example, attempt to show through some primary source why what I am describing should really be seen as an anti-british reaction.

    I have handled De Valera with kid gloves so far, there is much about his history that would make American readers wonder why he does not identify more with Israel.

    Kind Regards,

  10. Christy12:06 PM

    I don't deny what you say about Walsh. I just don't believe Walsh is a significant player in Irish history - diplomatic or otherwise - and even if he was, he is but one man. Several European governments of the time had anti-semitic, even fascist elements within them.

    This is what I am saying, your points are too narrow, and frankly irrelevant, to paint the larger picture you seem to be giving it.

  11. Hello Christy,

    Let me see if I can quickly address this point:

    "find the logic confusing and irrational. Because of the Vatican's historical anti-semitism, does that neccessarily follow that nations with little historical anti-semitism who happen to follow the Vatican's lead in foreign policy (Which isn't definitive either) issues adapt that same historical anti-semitism in their foreign policy plank? I'm finding real difficult to find any rational constancy in this thesis."

    The Vatican’s historic Palestine policy is anti-Judaic and anti-Israel; The Irish Republic, historically, adheres to the Vatican’s Palestine policy; therefore, the Irish Republic’s historic Palestine policy is anti-Judaic and anti-Israel.

    I am directing the scope of the primary sources against this narrow point of interest, and it is narrow. I do believe that individuals have played a very material influencing role in determining certain aspects of foreign policy. In the case of Ireland’s policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, particularly the origins of that policy, were very much influenced by a cadre of individuals, one of whom was Walshe. De Valera is a much more complicated question.

    De Valera was born in New York. His father was a citizen of the Spanish Empire (originally Cuban?). De Valera’s New York background tended to make him more tolerant of Jewish culture and more disposed to Zionism’s approach (not unlike his own). De Valera came out of Irish Diaspora and returned to his homeland (at least his mother’s historic homeland). De Valera’s enemies even accused him of ethnic-cleansing of Protestants – forcing them out of the Irish Free State. There were several Irish-Americans that exerted influence on the development of Ireland’s foreign policy; these Americans tended to be much more disposed to Zionism (most came from New York’s Irish community). That being said, native Irish politicians appear to have been much less tolerant of Jewish culture and Zionism.

    Of course you are correct that the inter-war period in Europe was rife with fascists and anti-Semitic government policies present throughout the continent; however, WWII largely discredited these elements. In post-Emergency Ireland, however, governmental attitudes toward Jews and toward Israel were slow to change (as evidenced by the wording of the Ireland’s immigration policy for Jews).

    The question is not whether or not Ireland’s foreign policy was anti-Judaic and anti-Israel, the question is how long this anti-Judaic and anti-Israel policy lingered in the Office of External Affairs?

    Kind Regards

  12. By the way Christy, you have not really remarked on Crossan's work. He is Irish, a former Catholic priest, and a very well-respected scholar.

  13. Christy12:45 PM

    We're going to have to agree to disagree. Goodluck.

  14. Good Luck to you as well.