“His blood is on us and on our children!”
VIII. The Gospel of Matthew
The following quote is from a Church source that dates the gospels according to level of emotionalism, a suspicious departure from generally accepted criteria such as radio-carbon analysis and textual consistency. Certainly “Matthew” is more strident in blaming “the Jews.” Does that justify assuming its rage inspired by its author’s proximity to the date attributed to Jesus crucifixion? And what might motivate those who depart so from the generally accepted chronological order for gospel appearance?
“Matthew wrote soon after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, so reflected this background. Mark wrote many years later in Rome, where the population and civil authority was Gentile. In Rome, Jewish antagonism towards Christians was not so intense. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark echo these two periods.”*
And so “the Jews” emerge almost coincident with the crucifixion which testifies to Jewish antagonism to “their” messiah and the veracity of Matthew’s description regarding Jewish responsibility for Jesus’ death, and acceptance of the curse of eternal which would justify punishment through the ages (“his blood on ourselves and our children”) and eventually inspire the Holocaust. Also, although any of the four canonicals could as well have served the purpose, asserting by providing even a single gospel contemporary to the events described then the problem of literary over historical is overcome. According to the current universally accepted dating of the gospels, from +/- 70 CE(“Mark”) to the early decades of the second century, “John,” there exists no contemporary evidence regarding Jesus’ life, mission, death and resurrection. Not even Paul, described as the “father” of the new religion only encountered Jesus more than a decade after the crucifixion and that encounter itself was in the form of a vision. A threat to Christian claims regarding Jesus living and missionizing among people, two hundred years after Paul Augustine would struggle with his own uncertainty in his book, City of God, would be one source for the Jewish Problem and his Witness Doctrine as explanation. I will return to “Christian Insecurity” as source and energizer driving Christian anti-Judaism and, in the modern secular future, antisemitism in future chapters.
If “Matthews” passionate anti-Judaism is not a response to the direct experience of the trial and crucifixion what might explain this “most Jewish” of the gospels anti-Jewish polemic? Several suggested answers have been advanced including “competition” between the new and comparatively weak sect and normative Judaism for converts. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians (6:12-13) suggests this as explanation. Several requirements for conversion to Judaism existed including circumcision for men, and dietary laws all but demanding pagan converts abandon their birth families. Paul eliminated both requirements while continuing to represent himself and his “converts” Jews. While these “reforms” would have made the “new” Judaism more attractive to potential converts it still does not explain scriptural anti-Judaism. Demonizing “the Jews” would not necessarily have represented an advantage regarding pagan converts but considering the Jewish-Roman War spanned the described mission of Jesus, and that the gospels were written during and after the destruction of Jerusalem, identifying with Rome sharing with the victor the same adversary would make sense. And so “Matthew” took “Mark” to the next level: Pilate (Rome) is innocent; “the Jews” condemned Jesus to the cross!
For emergent Christianity siding with Rome soon after the defeat of Judea would provided the sect a measure of security. And from among the dozens of extant gospel narratives available the evangelists of the early centuries would naturally have chosen from among those gospels that best reflected a pro-Rome bias. The four selected as “canonical” by the Vatican in the fourth century would naturally have represented, or been harmonized to reflect the marriage of Catholic Christianity and the Roman Empire. Beyond being the most “dramatic” of the four, Matthew 27: 24-25 not only agrees with the other three in describing “the Jews” full and intentional responsibility in the murder of Jesus, the gospel clearly stamps them with the Mark of Cain justifying eternal punishment by God and Christian:
24 “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
25 “All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!””
And so the existential problem represented by Jewish survival, the “Jewish Problem” demanding “solution” would justify, in Luther’s words a thousand years in the future, “severe” punishment for the Christ-killers.