The Corner

Anti-Semitic Christian Theology

So I’m reading about the whole Mel Gibson Vs. “The Jews” thing again. I stopped for a while because, without seeing the movie, and having heard all sides, it just didn’t seem worth it to follow which version of the film was being screened where.

But here’s the thing which I still don’t get. Let’s say “The Jews” were responsible for the crucifixion to some significant extent. Obviously, even if you want to blame “The Jews” you can’t blame them 100% since it was the Romans who gustily did the actual torturing and killing. But let’s say “The Jews” do in fact deserve a fair share of the blame.

(I’m posing this all as a hypothetical, by the way, precisely because I don’t want to get into the weeds on the debate on what the Gospels say or don’t say about who should get the blame. It’s interesting, but irrelevant to my confusion.)

So let’s just say “The Jews” of 2,000 years ago were indicted co-conspirators in the death of Jesus.

So what? I’m not being disrespectful. I’m actually curious: Where in Christian theology does it say that guilt should be carried on for dozens of generations? It seems to me that inheriting the sins of your forefathers runs quite contrary to my understanding of Christianity. Under Jewish theology, on the other hand, I can see where such tribal notions could endure. But where does the doctrine of intergenerational guilt come from in Christianity?

Please note: I don’t mean to say that Christians today believe in intergenerational guilt. But some clearly did in the past, right? And some in all likelihood do today. I mean that’s why so many Jewish groups are concerned about “The Passion” in the first place — because they fear it will reignite notions of collective guilt.

And if, say, my daughter can be held responsible for Jesus’ plight, why can’t Italians? I suppose it’s because Italians are now Christians. But the point remains.

Anyway, I’m actually just curious to know on what grounds Christian theologians in the past justified blaming people who were born a thousand or more years after the Crucifixion for the crimes of their forefathers, especially when even in the Dark Ages it should have been clear that not every single Jewish contemporary of Jesus supported the Crucifixion or had even heard of Jesus. So presumably blaming their descendents would be a bit unfair.

Because I suspect that this post will elicit a lot of email, I’d really like to ask that only people with some significant expertise on the subject send me email. It’s very hard for me to handle the flow on these sorts of discussions (remember the whole brouhaha on the alleged power of group prayer?), but I would hate to stop doing these things simply to avoid the on-rush of email.