Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen/Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen/Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust

Article excerpt

Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen. By Jeremy Cohen. (New York: Oxford University Press. 2007. Pp. x, 313. $29.95.)

Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust. By Robert Michael. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 2006. Pp. x, 254. $24.95.)

Jeremy Cohen has contributed significantly to our understanding of the relationship between Christians and Jews over the centuries. Cohen traces the origins of the Christ killer charge in the New Testament, through the Fathers of the Church, especially Augustine, whose reasoning provided the basis for the religio licita status of Judaism within Christendom, and medieval thinkers such as Abelard and Aquinas, to the second Vatican Council, which rejected it. The final section of the book (pp. 185-261) deals with the passion in religious art, Oberammergau and the changes made in the text of the 2000 version to ameliorate its traditionally negative portrayal of Jews and Judaism, and the Crucifixion as depicted in the movies.

I highly recommend this book for the insightful survey it provides of Christian history over the centuries, but I do have a problem that goes to the understanding of Nostra Aetate, no. 4 (hereinafter NA). Cohen summarizes modern Catholic New Testament scholarship by contrasting Father Raymond Brown (who was a Sulpician, not a Jesuit as Cohen states on p. 181), opting for John Dominic Crossan's approach over that of Brown. In the process, however, he misreads Brown, claiming that Brown did not take into account the fact that the text of a given New Testament book reflects the time in which it was "written as much as the time it is writing about. This is not true, of course, and it skews the discussion into further misunderstandings. For example, on the same page he states that Brown holds to "the official 'party line' of the Catholic Church . . . holding Jews, not Romans primarily responsible for Jesus' death." No, that is not the official line of the Church NA holds that some, not necessarily all, Jewish leaders were involved. It does not exonerate or hint at exonerating Pilate, whose decision it was. Caiphas is considered in Jewish tradition to be the quisling puppet of Pilate, as indeed he was. …

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