"Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:" Acts 7:51,52 (Stephen addresses the Jewish Council)
Pope Benedict XVI, in his latest book, has exonerated the Jews as a nation for the crucifixion of Christ. The Pope is quoted in his book, which is due out next month, as saying that the crucifixion of Christ came at the hands of the Roman Empire, and at the behest of the Jewish aristocratic members, who chose Barrabas over Jesus. However, let us consider what the Bible says about the guilt of the Jewish nation.
In Acts 7, Stephen is brought before the council under false charges. When he is asked about his guilt regarding the charges, he does use this chance to defend himself, but rather addresses the guilt of the Jewish nation for Christ's death as a whole. In fact, he places blame of Christ's crucifixion at the feet of the Jewish nation when he says in verses 51 and 52, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it."
After this, the book of Acts tells us that the people, hearing this were cut to their hearts, and put Stephen to death. One man refused to bow to pressure and threats when it came to the truth about Christ's crucifixion. For all Stephen knew, these words would be the last he would ever speak, and he made them count. He reminded those guilty of Christ's death of their sin, and implored them to turn from their sin and accept Christ. Did he stand up and speak the truth for nothing? Was he put to death only to be contradicted by Benedict XVI 2,000 years later? I would think not!
The Disciple Stephen gave his life for the truth regarding Christ's crucifixion. The Pope is correct that the Romans did the actual deed of placing Jesus on the cross. But I ask you, who was it that delivered Jesus to the doorstep of Pontius Pilate to be put to death? According to John 18:31, it was the Jews, "Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death" They did not bring Jesus to Pilate for mere punishment, but rather to be put to death. They wanted one thing, the death of Jesus.
Stephen wasn't the only person who blamed the Jewish nation as a whole for the crucifixion of Christ. Pontius Pilate, the man whom the Jews delivered Jesus to be put to death blamed the Jews in John 18:35, "Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done?" (emphasis mine).
Pontius Pilate gave the Jews several chances to back out. He told them to judge Jesus according to their own laws; he stated he found no fault in Jesus; he even asked them who'd they rather have back, Jesus or the murderer Barrabas. However, the Jewish nation would not be swayed. They were out for the death of Jesus.
The opportunities for the Jews to repent did not stop there. After the crucifixion, the Apostles went to Jerusalem and began to preach of the life and crucifixion of Christ (Acts 2). This greatly troubled the Jewish nation who pulled the apostles in front of the council, who on three separate occasions ordered the apostles to stop speaking of them being to blame for Christ's death. They even resorted to beating and jailing the apostles for speaking the truth of Jesus. Rather than hearing the words of the apostles in the Book of Acts, the Jewish nation and it's leaders continued to be hard-hearted, and as Stephen called them, "stiff-necked".
So now we have to sincerely ask, who is right? On one hand, we have the apostles, the Disciple Stephen, even Pontius Pilate himself stating that the Jewish nation is to blame for Christ's crucifixion. Then on the other, we have Pope Benedict XVI stating they aren't. This is an obvious contradiction that must be reconciled. One must be wrong, and the other right. Both cannot be correct.
Either the Bible is the inspired Word of God, as it claims to be over 3,000 times, and not one jot nor tittle shall pass from it, or it isn't. If it is, then it presents a problem for the Jewish people of today. I am not in any way saying that the Jewish people today should be held accountable for their ancestors' actions. It would be hypocritical of me as an American, whose own nation has a dark side in the form of slavery, to expect to hold the modern Jew responsible for the sins of their ancestors, but expect immunity from the sins of mine.
Just as no American today should be held responsible for the sin of slavery, neither should a Jew today be blamed for the actual deliverance of Christ to His death. However, as a nation, America has accepted fault for their sin, repented, and turned from it. Slavery is no longer tolerated in our nation. Yet the rejection of Jesus as the Christ is still a core value held in the Jewish nation, as well as vehemently denying any responsibility of any Jew in Christ's death. This has been the practice of the Jews beginning days after putting Christ to death (Acts 4:17), and has continued for the past 2,000+ years. Put plainly, the Jewish nation has yet to repent, despite pleas from Christ Himself (Luke 9:23), the Apostles (Acts 4), and men like Stephen (Acts 7) and the Apostle Paul.
The discussion of Jewish responsibility for the crucifixion of Christ can be a touchy subject in today's politically charged world. However, history cannot be rewritten in order to spare one group of people's feelings. If this were the case, the guilt of slavery, wars, and anything else that reflects negatively on a group of people should also be erased from the text books. Please understand, antisemitism should be wholeheartedly rejected by every Christian, just as any other form of hate should be by all people. However, let's not rewrite the textbooks either.