A further consideration in discussing the roots of anti-Judaism/anti-Semitism is the reliability of scriptural accounts regarding the life, ministry and death of Jesus.
“The accounts of the four Gospels conflict about whether Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin and, if so, what the charges and verdict may have been. Yet we do know that if the Sanhedrin did indeed try Jesus for a capital crime, the various proceedings described in the Gospels violated virtually all the jurisprudential rules--e.g., no trials to be held at night or on the eve or day of a festival like Passover, unanimous agreement by witnesses, protection against self-incrimination, no charge of blasphemy except for pronouncing the divine name, stoning rather crucifixion as a punishment in the event of a conviction-later codified in Jewish law. If a Jewish court had sentenced Jesus to death, the punishment would have been execution by stoning--not crucifixion.”
A 2002 a Gallup poll concluded that "the Christ-killer charge remains pervasive"… that 37 percent of American young adults still hold Jews responsible for Jesus'' death. A 2014 Anti Defamation League (ADL) poll found that percentage virtually unchanged.
VI. The Trial of Jesus in the four gospels
Rev. Nicholls notes that successive gospel representation of “the Jews” grow increasingly strident as each grows increasingly supportive of Roman innocence.
Mark 15:1, 13-14: Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate… 13 “Crucify him!” they shouted.,14 “Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
Matthew 27:1-2, 24: Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor… 24 Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”
Luke 23:1-2, 13-15: 1 Then the whole assembly [the Sanhedrin] rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” 13 “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. 14 “[I] have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 …he has done nothing to deserve death.”
John 18:28, 38: 28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. 38 “I [Pontius] find no basis for a charge against him… 39 “Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”… 40 “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!”
VII. The Gospel of “Mark”
"while Mark sees the Jewish leaders as doing Satan''s work in trying to destroy Jesus, his own account is by no means anti-Jewish, much less anti-Semitic. After all, virtually everyone who appears in the account is Jewish, including, of course, the Messiah." (Elaine Pagels, The Gospel of Mark and the Jewish War, p.34)
Of the four canonical gospels “Mark,” is generally read as least anti-Jewish, a view reflected in Ms. Pagel’s description, who describes “Mark’s” audience as mostly Jewish. But even “Mark’s” least anti-Jewish (and it is, in tone) message is still consistent with the anti-Jewish pro-Rome message initiated by Paul and consistent also with the three later gospels. And certainly had “Mark’s” intended audience been “Jewish” would not the gospel have eliminated such obvious inconsistencies in Jewish law as appear in its representation of the trial and crucifixion? Jewish practice, for example, would not have allowed for the Sanhedrin to meet on Passover. Several Jewish rebel leaders considered themselves or were thought by others to be “messiah,” a claim that does not constitute blasphemy warranting capital punishment. Nothing Jesus was supposed to have been charged with, outside of insurrection, would have approached a sentence of death. And “Mark” represented as Jewish and native of Jerusalem in Acts of the Apostles would certainly have known these things. As would his audience of Jews!
The depiction of the “trial” before Pontius Pilate is similarly peppered with error and misrepresentation. Unlike his portrayal in all four gospels Rome’s governor as seen through the eyes of history is a cruel and hateful man who took pleasure in provoking Jews to riot. He was recalled to Rome, relieved of his post and ordered to stand trial by the emperor for instigating insurrection by his anti-Jewish provocations. Unlikely that such a person would have tolerated his wife’s dream of Jesus as savior! And Pilate portrayed as washing his hands after angrily turning over Jesus to “Jewish” judgment and punishment, then following Jewish custom and washing his hands? It is unthinkable that any Roman governor, and this one in particular, would turn over judicial authority to a subject people.
William Nicholls concludes that,
“Mark was the literary originator of the calumny that the Jews were really guilty of Jesus’ death, and that a religious court tried him, [persuaded] the Romans to execute him… as a threat to Roman power.” (Nicholls, Christian Antisemitism, pps. 162-3)
“Mark”: anti-Jewish or not? In general, the description of “Mark” as not anti-Jewish is relative, particularly compared to “Matthew” and “John.” From the above it should be clear that although not as strident as the remaining gospels “Mark” is not not anti-Jewish. The first gospel provides a model, a roadmap for those that follow for the overall narrative including a description of the trial and death of Jesus exculpatory of Rome. And this alone clearly describes “Mark” as anti-Jewish. However the later gospels each put their own stamp on the trial, including the pro-Roman, anti-Jewish formula they closely follow.
“Mark” is unaware of Pilate’s wife’s “dream,” does not include sympathetic references to Pilate’s despair at having to “turn Jesus over to the mob.” Instead the first gospel sparingly moves from Jesus choice not to defend against the “Jewish” charges and turn to the mob for judgment. “Mark’s” narrative is absent dramatic flourishes found in later gospels declaring Rome’s innocence: it is a simple portrayal of a Jewish plot from leadership to street mob intent on crucifying Christ Jesus.
Far from being less anti-Jewish the first gospel already fixes blame and represents “the Jews” as Christ-killers following Paul. Is the first gospel, as seen by many authorities as “least anti-Jewish”? even for Ms. Pagels the judgment is confused:
"[W]hile Mark sees the Jewish leaders as doing Satan''s work in trying to destroy Jesus, his own account is by no means anti-Jewish.”