Presenting the Passion ... without blaming "the Jews"
Every year in Holy Week and Easter, Christians hear again the Passion narratives of the gospels, the story of the last week in the life of Jesus, his suffering and death. On Palm Sunday, the Passion according to Mark, Matthew, or Luke is read, while Good Friday focuses on the Gospel of John.
In sharp contrast to the first three gospels, one striking feature of the Fourth Gospel is the writer’s use of the phrase ‘the Jews’ for Jesus’ opponents, despite the fact that Jesus and all his disciples are themselves Jews. Surfacing early in John’s gospel, the term is repeated frequently in his Passion narrative. The word ioudaios is an adjective (‘Jewish’), but with one exception it is routinely used by John as a noun, alerting us to the fact that John’s meaning is quite distinctive.
Long before the Passion narrative, it is obvious that John’s expression ‘the Jews’ is not to be taken literally. It does not refer to all the Jews of Jesus’ time, let alone all Jews throughout history, nor the Jews who are our neighbours and friends today. In John’s story, ‘the Jews’ is sometimes translated as ‘the Judeans’, because it refers only to particular priests and politicians who once upon a time opposed the historical Jesus.
The video series Presenting the Passion … without blaming “the Jews”, published by ICCJ in its 15 March 2022 Newsletter, provides insights into this truth among many others. Members of the Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations (CSG), together with two Jewish advisors, comment on four scenes in the Passion story, demonstrating how it can be presented in enlightened ways that repudiate anti-Jewish biases, while illuminating the gospel message.
The series constitutes a valuable resource for Christians and Jews alike, toward fostering interfaith relations during preparations for Holy Week and Pesach.
The Council’s Executive commends the videos to you, and invites you to listen to the presentation with ears of the heart.
Executive Committee, CCJWA