Although the New Testament represents only 22 percent of the Christian Bible, its teachings and influence are the cornerstone of a great compassionate and principled religion.
Regrettably, the poetry and reasoning that describe first-century events in the New Testament are diminished by inaccurate interpretations and translations that blame Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus two thousand years ago. It is this historical untruth, repeated in almost every edition of the New Testament since its inception, that is the foundation for most of the anti-Semitism that has led to the murder of Jews throughout Europe. It is time to stop teaching each new generation to distrust and hate Jews, based on misinterpretations of events of the first century.
This bigotry is as absurd as teaching hatred of all Germans because of Hitler’s atrocities, or hatred of all Japanese because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, or hatred of all Muslims because of 9/11, or hatred of all descendants of Romans for nailing Jesus to the cross.
The chapters in this book represent an update to the work of the American Interfaith Institute, which was founded in 1982 to rebuild broken bridges between Christians and Jews by removing anti-Jewish references from the New Testament.
There are basic historical facts, well researched and acknowledged worldwide, that are catalysts for editions of the New Testament being developed by Bible scholars:
1. The Romans employed citizens of their conquered nations to administer the government, just as the Nazis did in Europe. Religious leaders, including the Sanhedrin, tax collectors, and others, had power, but it was limited. If the instructions of the Roman overlords were not adhered to, their lackeys were either removed from their position, imprisoned, or even crucified.
2. Crucifixion was an exclusively Roman form of execution.
3. Because Jesus had a significant and devoted following, Pontius Pilate believed Jesus was a threat who had to be removed. When Pilate’s troops crucified him, they ridiculed him publicly as “King of the Jews.” The Romans wanted no competition: Caesar was the one and only king.
4. The first Christians were of Jewish background. Jesus and his earliest followers never heard the words “Christian” or “New Testament.”
5. The inaccurate references to Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death in the New Testament texts are the principal foundation for Christian anti-Semitism.
Today, Christians and Jews find themselves allies in a struggle for the soul and survival of our civilization. It is time to bury old suspicions and fears, time for people of the book to unite in a new movement of solidarity. Our connections are revealed as never before: the ethical teachings of Jews and Christians are grounded in respect for the sanctity of life, the pursuit of justice, and the call for peace.
Clearly, this is the moment to explore and celebrate the bridges that connect. That is why, now, more than ever before, it is vital that Bible publishers remove misinformation from their publications and publish new editions that are sensitive to the issues that divide.
It is appropriate, in light of contemporary research and truth, to re-examine the scriptures. The American Bible Society, the largest Bible society in the world, has taken the lead by publishing a historically more accurate translation of the New Testament, the Contemporary English Version (CEV), which the Vatican has approved. The research and production of this vast project extended over a ten-year period, and I was privileged to be involved in the process. The CEV has set the stage by translating the virulent references to Jews in light of the sociolinguistic setting of various New Testament writings. It is vital that anti-Jewish references in all other New Testament editions be critically examined within the sociological context of first-century events and the realities of current research.
Note John 7:1 and John 19:14–15 in the CEV as compared to three other editions:
|Contemporary English Version
||Jesus decided to leave Judea and to start going through Galilee because the leaders of the people wanted to kill him.
|King James Version
||After these things Jesus walked in Galilee, for he would not walk in Jewry, because the Jews sought to kill him.
|New International Version
||After this Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.
|New Revised Standard Version
||After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He did not wish to go about in Judea because the Jews were looking for an opportunity to kill him.
|Contemporary English Version
||Pilate said to the crowd, “Look at your king!” “Kill him! Kill him!” They yelled. “Nail him to a cross!”
|King James Version
||He [Pilate] saith unto the Jews, “Behold your king!” But they cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him.”
|New International Version
||“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”
|New Revised Standard Version
||He [Pilate] said to the Jews, “Here is your king!” They cried out, “Away with him! Away with him! Crucify him!”
The CEV, KJV, NIV, and NRSV represent about 90 percent of all Bibles sold in America. There are no translations that are identical. Bible scholars have taken many liberties in translating the ancient Greek. It is unacceptable that their translations continue to indict the Jews when editors know the historical truth.
Throughout the world, Catholic and Protestant scholars, professors of religion, ministers, priests, and other Christians who are working to rid Christianity of its anti-Jewish references are urging that Bible publishers remove these hateful references to Jews. It is now well understood at every level of church administration and education that these distorted references to Jewish involvement in Jesus’ death have been the principal foundation for Christian anti-Semitism. Reexamining historical texts in the light of new data is an accepted practice in every field of research.
Thoughtful Christians recognize that the Nazis could not have succeeded in the murder of six million Jews without assistance from Christian citizens. The Holocaust was a continuation of centuries of hostility toward Jews in Europe fed by inaccurate references to first-century events. The systematic teaching of contempt has led to expulsion or murder of Jews in every nation of Europe. The murder of six million innocent Jewish men, women, and children is an abomination.
It was this factor that desensitized apparently normal human beings, that encouraged participation in heinous acts, that enabled people to assist in rounding up their Jewish neighbors to be sent to death camps. That is why Christian leadership is now insisting that the Bible be rendered without hatred toward the Jewish community.
Today, “the Jews” means the whole Jewish people. But as used in John’s Gospel, the term refers to a small group of Jewish leaders who were collaborating with the Roman invaders by serving on their ruling council. They were similar to the Quislings of Norway and the Vichy collaborators of France. It is imperative that Christian teachings acknowledge that Jesus was crucified by the Romans.
Many scholars believe that if the efforts of Vatican and Protestant leadership, plus those of the American Interfaith Institute and other like-minded organizations, had been started at the end of the nineteenth century rather than the end of the twentieth, the horrendous scope of the Holocaust would have been mitigated.
Had this initiative been implemented centuries ago, anti-Semitism would have been so diminished that Hitler and other purveyors of hate would not have succeeded. The Holocaust was a continuation of the atrocities that began with the First Crusade in the eleventh century. In just five short years from 1940 to 1945, more than 1,500,000 children were murdered because they had a Jewish mother.
Children’s Bibles are particularly susceptible to nefarious interpretations because they often paraphrase scripture. The fact that children
||Estimated Number of Jews prior to World War II
||Estimated Numbera Murdered
||Percentages of all Jews Murdered in Each Nation
|Protectorate (now Czech Republic)
a. Dr. Steven Hochberg and Dr. Peter Black, historians at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, graciously authenticated all information contained in the chart above.
b. While the Nazis were efficient in killing 91 percent of the Jews in Poland, twenty thousand or more were hidden by a Christian network and survived.
c. The combined total of the Soviet Union was 1,302,000, including Belarus and Ukraine.
d. Italy had one of the lowest percentages of its Jewish citizens killed. Prior to the German invasion of the nation, Italy refused to send any of its Jewish citizens to concentration camps. Thousands of Jews who escaped from adjoining nations also found safe harbor in Italy. They were hidden in convents and other religious buildings.
cannot easily comprehend the New Testament in terms of its own historical context makes this matter all the more urgent. These Bibles often do not make clear that Jesus himself was a Jew and that the ethical controversies in the Gospels are between Jesus’ early Jewish followers and other Jews, such as some members of the Pharisees and Sadducees sects.
Christian youth must be taught historical truth. The American Interfaith Institute has reviewed and consulted with the publishers of 110 Bibles written for young people five to ten years of age. We are pleased to report that all but six editions have removed the inaccurate passages we identified. What follows is a small sample of what can be found in these six children’s Bibles. Note how recently they were copyrighted.
Kids Study Bible
Edited by Jean E. Syswerda. Copyright 1996.
He knew that the Jews there were waiting to kill him (p. 1523).
Again the Jews picked up stones to kill him (p. 1530).
Youth Walk Devotional Bible
Edited by Jean E. Syswerda. Copyright 1992.
But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews (p. 1139).
Kids Study Bible and Youth Walk Devotional Bible are published by Zondervan
Publishing, a division of HarperCollins, a Rupert Murdoch Company.
5300 Patterson Avenue S.W., Grand Rapids, MI 49512
Phone: 616-698-6900; fax: 616-698-3439; Web: http://www.zondervan.com
The Bedtime Bible Story Book
Edited by Daniel Partner. Copyright 1995.
The Jews saw the crowds and became jealous (p. 331).
That’s why the Jews tried to kill me (p. 357).
Published by Paradise Press, Inc.
1575 N. Park Drive, Suite 100, Weston, FL 33326-3230
Telephone: 954-349-9474; fax: 954-349-7217
International Children’s Story Bible
Edited by Mary Hollingsworth. Copyright 1990.
Finally, Pilate turned Jesus over to the Jews to be killed (see John 18:28–19:16)
Published by Word Publishing, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc.
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
Phone: 615-902-1300; fax: 615-883-6353; Web: http://www.thomasnelson.com
The Treasure Study Bible
Edited by Daryl Lucas. Copyright 1997.
After this, Jesus went around Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life (p. 1471).
Published by Kirkbride Bible Company
335 W. 9th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46206
Phone: 800-428-4385; fax: 317-633-1444; Web: http://www.kirkbride.com
365 Read to Me Bedtime Bible Stories
Edited by Melanie M. Burnette. Copyright 1989.
Judas knew the Jewish people and Pharisees wanted to lay a trap for Jesus (p. 255).
Published by Broadman & Holman
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234
Phone: 800-448-8032; fax: 800-296-4036; Web: http://www.broadmanholman.com
To avoid teaching each new generation of Christians to distrust and hate Jewish people, why not recognize and use two editions of the Bible? Historians may wish to continue their studies of the Greek text and numerous translations. For church services, Christian education, and personal study, the CEV edition incorporates a clarified translation based on historical truth.
Defining New Christian/Jewish Dialogue Irvin J. Borowsky, editor
By: Irvin J. Borowsky