April 29, 2002
volume 13, no. 76

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The Biblical Commission on the Jews: Changes in Doctrine and New Anathemas    Part V

By Atila Sinke Guimarães

Translated and edited by Marian Therese Horvat, Ph.D.

    Following is the FIFTH INSTALLMENT of a seven-part treatise and critique of the Pontifical Biblical Commission's document The Hebrew People and its Holy Scriptures in the Christian Bible. This is a comprehensive response by Atila Sinke Guimarães to the entire document. Atila reviewed the original Italian work by the PBC titled "Il populo ebraico e le sue Sacre Scritture nella Bibbia cristiana," Preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001, 213 pp. which we sent to him. He then wrote his review and translated the excerpts he used from Italian to Portuguese. Dr. Marian has worked closely with him in translating and editing his critique from Portuguese into English. Atila and Marian have graciously accepted our request to critique the book while all in the United States still wait for the English translation. The response is too important to delay because what is contained in the Vatican document will truly alarm you.
    For installments thus far, see Archive below

V. Denying the Objectivity of the Jewish Crimes Against Our Lord and the Nascent Church

    Part three, entitled The Hebrews in the New Testament, divides the topic under the following subtitles:

  • Different points of view in Judaism after the exile;
  • The Hebrews in the Gospels in the Acts of the Apostles;
  • The Hebrews in the Epistles of Paul and other writings of the New Testament.

    By completely relativizing the revealed texts, this whole third part tries to induce the reader to accept the two theses that the PBC supports:

    1. The passages that attack the Jews in the New Testament would have an explanation that removes any negative meaning from them.

    2. The crime of Deicide should not be attributed to the whole Synagogue from the time of Our Lord until today.

1. The passages that attack the Jews in the New Testament would have an explanation that removes any negative meaning from them.

    The following excerpts clearly prove this goal of the PBC:

        * "It must be admitted that very probably the way the Pharisees are presented in the Gospels is influenced in part by the past polemic between the Christians and the Hebrews. At the time of Jesus, there were certainly Pharisees who taught an ethics worthy of approval" (p. 157).

        * "[In the Gospel of Matthew] Jesus is opposed by the scribes and Pharisees on many occasions and responds to them, finally, with a vigorous counter-offensive (Mt 23: 2-7; 13: 36), in which He resorts seven times to the invective 'hypocritical scribes and Pharisees.' This presentation certainly reflects, in part, the situation of the community of Matthew. The editorial context is that of two groups who live in close contact with each other: the group of Hebrew Christians, who are convinced that they belong to the authentic Judaism, and the group of Hebrews who do not believe in Jesus Christ and were considered by the Christians to be unfaithful to their Hebrew vocation because of their docility to the blind and hypocritical leaders" (p. 164).

        * "Moreover, the anti-Pharisaic virulence of Mt 23 should be seen in the context of the apocalyptic discourse of Mt 24-25. Apocalyptic language is used in times of persecution to reinforce the capacity of resistance of the persecuted minority and to strengthen its hope in a liberating divine intervention. Seen from this perspective, the force of the polemic is less surprising" (p. 165).

        * "The Gospel of Matthew reflects a situation of tension and finally of opposition between the two communities (Christian and Hebrew). Jesus foretold that his disciples would be flogged in the synagogues and persecuted from city to city (23:34). Thus Matthew is concerned about defending the Christians. Since the situation changed radically later, the polemic of Matthew should no longer disrupt the relations between Christians and Hebrews (p. 168).

        * "Once again [in the Gospel of St. John] 'the Jews' are hostile to Jesus. Their opposition was unleashed on the occasion of the cure of a paralytic worked on Saturday (Jn 5:16); it grew after a statement in which Jesus called himself 'equal to God,' with the consequence that they [the Jews] sought to procure his death (Jn 5: 18). Later …. they accuse him of 'blasphemy' and try to carry out the corresponding punishment: stoning (Jn 10: 31-35). It was rightly observed that a large part of the fourth Gospel anticipates the trial of Jesus, where he is given the possibility to make his own defense and to accuse his accusers. The latter are frequently called 'the Jews' without any other precision, which has the result of linking this name with a negative judgment …. This way of speaking only reflects a situation of clear separation between the Christian and Hebrew communities" (p. 182).

        * "The most serious accusation made by Jesus against 'the Jews' is that they have the devil for their father (Jn 8:44). It is necessary to note that this accusation is not made against the Jews as Jews, but against those insofar as they are not true Jews, since they foster murderous intentions (Jn 8:37) inspired by the demon" (pp. 182-3).

    Therefore, according to the PBC, the Gospels were not written objectively and cannot be considered as being a part of Divine Revelation. They would be subjective documents that unfairly accused the Jews for private, superficial reasons…

2. The crime of Deicide should not be attributed to the whole Synagogue from Our Lord until today

    The crime of the Deicide is a juridical-moral concept that can be summarized in a few words. During the trial that resulted in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Pontius Pilate publicly proclaimed to the Jewish people that he was innocent of the blood of Our Lord and washed his hands before the multitude (Mt 27:24). Doing this, he was officially - in a juridical way - transferring the responsibility of that unjust crime to the Jewish people (the ecclesiastical authorities, the clergy and the lay people) assembled before him. All those who were present at the Pretorium of Pilate understood perfectly the responsibility they were taking on themselves, and they cried out in loud voices: "His blood be upon us and upon our children" (Mt 27:25). Therefore, they voluntarily assumed the moral-juridical consequences of that crime. It is Catholic teaching that the guilt and the penalty of certain crimes against God are, by their very nature, transferred to future generations, e.g., original sin and the sin of the Babel Tower. Such also was the sin of Deicide. Therefore, the guilt and the punishment demanded by justice for the murder of Jesus Christ, God and Man, were assumed voluntarily by the ensemble of the Jewish people and were laid upon their future generations. This was the constant interpretation of the Catholic Church, up until Vatican Council II. [23] The Church's interpretation was corroborated by the supernatural chastisement of the Jewish people, which began after the crime of Deicide. The historic facts speak for themselves: the destruction of the Temple by Titus (70 AD), the destruction of the Jewish State by Adrian (130 AD); the dispersion of the Jews throughout the Gentile world for more than 1,800 years without a capital, temple, or sacrifice. [24]

[ 23. Cornelius a Lapide, Commentaria in Scripturam Sacram (Paris: Vivès, 1877), vol. 15, p. 605.]
[ 24. Ibid. ]

    Now, the PBC is stating the very opposite of this perennial Catholic teaching. That is, it affirms that there would be no crime of Deicide, that no such crime would have been committed by the Jewish people as an ensemble, and that the guilt and punishment of that crime would not have fallen upon the future generations of the Jewish people.

    This thesis can be "proved" by the following comments of the PBC:

        * "At the end of the trial before Pilate, the high priests worked up the people who were present into a state of excitement and made them decide in favor of Barrabas (Mk 15:11) and, therefore, against Jesus (Mk 15:13). The final decision of Pilate, powerless to calm the multitude, was that of 'seconding it [the motion of the crowd],' which for Jesus signified crucifixion (Mk 15:15). Now, that occasional multitude cannot be confused with the Hebrew people of that time, and still less with the Hebrew people of all times. Instead of this, it must be said that this multitude would represent the sinner world (Mk 14:41), of which we all make up part.

        "The blame for having 'condemned' Jesus, according to Mark, falls to the Sanhedrin (10:33; 14:64) …. The reason for the condemnation of the Sanhedrin is this: When Jesus, in his response, affirmed and circumstantiated to the high priest who was questioning him that he was 'the Christ, the Son of the living God,' he 'blasphemed' (14:61-64). Thus Mark points to the most dramatic point of rupture between Hebrew authorities and the person of Christ, a point that continues to be the most serious discord between Judaism and Christianity. For Christians, the response of Jesus is not a blasphemy, but the pure truth, which was manifested as such after his Resurrection. To the eyes of all Hebrews, the Christians are wrong in affirming the divine sonship of Christ in a sense that gravely offends God. However painful it might be, this fundamental discord should not degenerate into reciprocal hostility, nor make [either party] forget the existence of a rich common patrimony, here understood as faith in the one God" (p. 171).

        * "To sustain that, according to Mark, the responsibility for Jesus' death should be attributed to the Hebrew people is the fruit of an erroneous interpretation of this Gospel. This type of interpretation, which had disastrous consequences throughout History, does not correspond in fact to the perspective of the Gospel …. which often sets the behavior of the people against that of the authority hostile to Jesus" (p. 171).

        * "The same should be said about the prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple [the symbol of the death of Our Lord]. This destruction is an event of the past, which today should only arouse profound compassion. Christians should absolutely avoid extending the responsibility to successive generations of the Hebrew people and should take care to remember that after the divine sanction, God always opens new positive perspectives" (p. 168).

        * "The formulations [of the Epistles] of Paul have the appearance of being globalizing and attributing the blame for the death of Jesus to all the Hebrews without distinction; anti-Judaism understands it in this sense. But, placed in its context, they speak exclusively to those who are opposed to preaching to the pagans and, therefore, to the salvation of the latter. This opposition becoming less, the accusation also ceases." (p. 192). In other words, St. Paul's strong words against the Jews no longer applied as the historical circumstances changed.

    Again, the PBC implicitly denies the Gospel as a source of Revelation, this time, however, in order to absolve the Jews of the crime of Deicide.

    THURSDAY, May 2: Part Six Anathemas

List of Members of the Pontifical Biblical Commission
Preface by Cardinal Ratzinger
Part One: Historical-Doctrinal Presuppositions
Part Two: An Extreme of Historicism
Part Three: Grave Errors and Tendentious Relativizations
Part Four: An Extreme of Historicism

Monday, April 29, 2002
volume 13, no. 81
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