accept the responsibility for

Responsibility for the death of Jesus

The responsibility for the death of Jesus has, in Christianity, both historical and theological aspects. In addition, the deicide charge against Jews is among the cornerstones of antisemitism.

The primary sources for both inquiries are the Gospel accounts of the events leading up to the Crucifixion of Jesus, commonly called The Passion.

The historical inquiry is aided by other sources from antiquity which explain the cultural and political environment in which Jesus lived. Historical analyses of Jesus' death generally assigned responsibility to either -

  1. The Roman-appointed government of the Roman province of Iudaea
  2. The Jewish leadership in Jerusalem at the time.

The theological question can be understood in the light of other New Testament writings such as the Letters of Paul.

There is no term meaning deicide used in the New Testament, either in the original Greek, or in the later Latin Vulgate translation. Similarly, New Testament texts which refer to responsibility for Jesus' death do not take special note of Jesus' divine identity, although explicit mention that he is the Messiah sent by God is found (Acts 2:36). The New Testament nowhere blames Jews who lived outside Judea for Jesus' death (cf. ), nor does it exonerate the Gentile rulers in Judea (cf. ). Jesus' disciple Judas Iscariot is blamed for disclosing his identity to the authorities.

Theological analyses of who is responsible for Jesus' death have included:

  1. All humanity through their sinfulness,
  2. Jews in particular through their manipulation of the Roman authorities
  3. God, for the benefit of people in general,
  4. God, for the benefit of the Elect in particular.
  5. The Roman authorities in Judea

The Jewish authorities and Roman government

According to the New Testament accounts, the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem charged Jesus with blasphemy, a capital crime under biblical law, and sought his execution, see Sanhedrin Trial of Jesus. However, the Jewish authorities lacked the authority to have Jesus put to death, according to yet records them ordering the stoning of Saint Stephen and also James the Just according to Antiquities of the Jews 20.9.1 The Jesus Seminar's Scholars Version translation notes for John 18:31: "it's illegal for us: The accuracy of this claim is doubtful." They brought Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman Governor of Iudaea Province, who "consented" to Jesus' execution.

Pilate is portrayed in the Gospel accounts as a reluctant accomplice to Jesus' death. Some modern scholars have questioned the historical accuracy of such a portrayal. These historians suggest that a Roman Governor such as Pilate would not have hesitated to execute any leader whose followers posed a potential threat to Roman rule. However, the Gospel accounts indicate that there could be hesitation on the part of both Jewish and Roman authorities to act immediately or needlessly in the face of potential popular opposition (Matt 26:4-5; Mk 15:12-15; Lk 22:1-2). These scholars also suggest that the Gospel accounts may have downplayed the role of the Romans in Jesus' death during a time when Christianity was struggling to gain acceptance in the Roman world. Yet the four Gospel accounts uniformly portray the Roman Governor Pilate as partly responsible for Jesus' execution, rather than completely exonerating him, and it is not clear that blaming Pilate completely, decades after his reign, would have diminished Christian acceptance.

Theological elements

Until the middle of the 20th century most Christian churches included references to deicide in their hymns and liturgy; some still do . The following, for example, is a verse from a hymn written in 1892 for use in the Church of England to call upon God to convert the Jews to Christianity:

Though the Blood betrayed and spilt, On the race entailed a doom, Let its virtue cleanse the guilt, Melt the hardness, chase the gloom; Lift the veil from off their heart, Make them Israelites indeed, Meet once more for lot and part With Thy household's genuine seed.

Other theological explanations

Several theological explanations have been offered. These explanations are not all mutually exclusive:

Various Christian denominations have taught that God is ultimately responsible for the death of Jesus, as part of the divine plan of salvation (cf. ).

The Catholic church and other protestants churches' dogma suggests that Jesus' death was necessary to take away the effects of sin, and in order for the process to work, see Substitutionary atonement, the human has to accept it that he was forgiven, so Christians believe that all of humanity bears some responsibility for Jesus' death. Thus, the crucifixion is seen as an example of Jesus' eternal love for mankind and his divine ability to forgive.

Alternatively, the Gnostic "gospel of Judas" discovered in the 1970s contends that Jesus commanded Judas Iscariot to set in motion the chain of events that would lead to his death. Similarly, has Jesus give Judas a dipped piece of bread which causes Satan to enter him.

Other Christian theologians argue that God cannot be killed. Thus, it would be inappropriate to apply charges of deicide to anyone. The following is a verse from the New Testament (18) used in some Protestant churches to support this position:

"No man taketh it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father" (John 10:18) Many Christians believe that Jesus' death was not the sole responsibility of any single person, but the collective responsibility of every human being. Because God has full knowledge of both the future and the past, and knew that no human would ever live a spotless life, He therefor sent his only begotten son who is spotless, so whoever loves him and accept his death will not perish, but have everlasting life (16).

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References

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