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Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen [Hardcover]

By Jeremy Cohen (Author)
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Item Number 160101  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   337
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.25" Width: 6.47" Height: 1.13"
Weight:   1.34 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2007
Publisher   Oxford University Press
ISBN  0195178416  
EAN  9780195178418  

Availability  105 units.
Availability accurate as of Jan 17, 2018 05:15.
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Item Description...
Christians believe that Christ's death redeems and forgives. Yet the same blood shed on the cross has been used to stain Jews with lasting, incomparable guilt. The gospel narratives of the Passion cast the Jews as responsible, directly and indirectly, for the death of the Son of God. The stigma of "Christ killer"-the notion that all Jews, at all times and in all places, share in the collective responsibility for the Crucifixion-has plagued Jews ever since and is the source of much Christian anti-Semitism.
Jeremy Cohen traces the Christ-killer myth from ancient times to the present day, touching on the Gospels and their roots in Hebrew Scripture, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, and much in between. The greatest of the church fathers, the Crusades, the notorious blood libels of the Middle Ages, the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, Christian mysticism, art, and popular piety, Passion plays, and modern film all have a place in this well-documented, richly illustrated volume.
Cohen seeks neither to explain Jesus' death nor to pass judgment on anyone for it, but rather to understand how the identification of Jews as Christ killers has functioned as an edifying "myth" for the Christian community. His insightful analysis reveals the deep spiritual truth believers find in this aspect of the Passion story while simultaneously uncovering the remarkably far-reaching impact it has exercised on the Western world.
Cohen combines religious, historical, and political perspectives to understand how the Christ-killer myth has become a dominant factor in the way Christians and Jews perceive each other. While a great deal has been written about Christian anti-Semitism, its roots, and its horrific consequences, this is the first volume to provide an in-depth examination of the powerful story that has fueled the fires behind the hatred.

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More About Jeremy Cohen

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Three-time winner of the National Jewish Book Award, Jeremy Cohen has written extensively on the encounter between Jews and Christians, among his books are The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism and Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity. He has taught Jewish history at Cornell University, The Ohio State University, and, most recently, at Tel Aviv University.

Jeremy Cohen has an academic affiliation as follows - Stanford University, Center for the Study of Families and Youth Tel Av.

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Excellent Exploration of a Difficult Topic  Jan 25, 2008
Jeremy Cohen has performed a great service in writing "Christ Killers." It's an exploration of the cultural history of the Jew-as-Christ-Killer myth, from the New Testament to the recently-released "Passion of the Christ."

Cohen begins with the texts of the Gospels. He follows John Dominic Crossan's scholarship in maintaining that the references to "the Jews" in Matthew and John's gospels were intra-Jewish polemics. At the time, the Christian community was still largely a Jewish sect. At the same time, after the destruction of Jerusalem, when the Romans were persecuting the new sect, the writers probably felt the need to downplay Roman culpability in the death of Jesus. Cohen notes that the first one to explicitly articulate the Christ Killer myth was Melito of Sardis, who lived in the middle of the 2nd century. In his "On the Pascha," he writes: "Hast it not been written for your benefit: 'Do not shed innocent blood lest you die a terrible death'? Nevertheless, Israel admits, I killed the Lord! Why? Because it was necessary for him to die. You have deceived yourself, O Israel, rationalizing thus about the death of the Lord." Whatever the reasons for this, Melito set a dangerous precedent.

The next major development came with St. Augustine, who wrote that the Jews collectively killed Jesus. Nonetheless, he felt that they did so in ignorance, and that Jews still had a useful role to play- through their blindness and adherence to the Old Law, they implicitly show the truth of the Gospel. Unfortunately, this took an even more sinister turn in the Middle Ages. Once the Talmud developed and became the theological norm of Judaism, then Christians began to believe that not only were Jews at the time of Jesus responsible for his death, but all Jews were, including those contemporaneous to them. Specifically, since they believed in the Talmud, and no longer in the Torah, they were rejecting the very basis for Christ, and so were willfully complicit in his death. Thomas Aquinas taught that the Jews were willfully ignorant of the identity of Christ; that is, though they did not kill him out of malice, they did not want to know that he was the Son of God. So in all but the most technical terms, the Jews killed him willfully.

This line of thought had disastrous consequences. For example, the blood libel and ritual murder charge entered the popular imagination, and encouraged everyone to view the Jew as "the other." Second, in the First Crusade, Pope Urban encouraged the Crusaders to take revenge on the enemies of the Cross. Though he did not mention Jews, many of the Crusaders thought, "Why travel all the way to the Middle East when there are the true enemies of the Cross, the Jews, right here in our midst." And so, thousands of Jews were killed in the Rhineland.

Especially interesting is Cohen's discussion of how the Jews responded to the Christ Killer charge. First, they noted that if it was God's will that Christ suffer and die, then how could they be accused of deicide when they fulfilled God's will? Second, they pointed out that Jesus cried out "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Either his prayer was heard, or it was not. If it was not heard, and the Jews were not forgiven, then Jesus could hardly be the Son of God. In addition, Jews began to appropriate the cross as something properly belonging to them. We see this in the writings of the martyrs of the Rhineland, and in the work of Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall in "White Crucifixion."

Cohen's look at how the Christ Killer myth has played out in the arts is equally fascinating. He explores artistic exploration of the crucifixion, which began to flourish in the middle ages. Many of these works depicted Jews according to contemporary medieval dress, with exaggerated facial features. Some even had Jews nailing Christ to the cross. Cohen then discusses the troubled history of the depiction of Jews in the Obregemmau Passion Play, and discusses 4 movies: The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Gospel According to John, Jesus of Montreal, and of course, Mel Gibon's Passion of the Christ.

I learned a great deal from Cohen's book. In particular, his book brought to light just how dangerous it is when you begin to look on one particular group as "the other." I didn't see this as an anti-Christian book. On the contrary, he notes how Judaism and Christianity have influenced each other through the ages in complicated ways, and how the complicated relationship continues today. Anyone who wishes to be informed about one of the most tragic aspects of Western history needs to read this.
Sober must read  May 15, 2007
I've read other books by Mr Cohen, he is a good writer but feels no need to make Christians feel somehow better about some of the awful history he's documented. The lessons of history still apply and today's world is ripe with manipulations and perceptions by so many special interest groups. Knowledge concerning accusations like "Christ killer" are essential if it will ever filter into public perceptions. Read his other books too especially Living Letters of the Law for an appreciation of history from the "other" side. Especially disturbing is how some Jewish people have been driven by despair to use the crucifixion image in their own experiences. This is a sad commentary on the good news of Jesus the Jew.

I'm more optimistic than him in that he regards the Christian gospel documents are un-redeemable. In large part this is due to the passion story and how Jews of the 1st century are described in those events. There clearly are some very strong statements made, but how literally we should read them is an open area for research. Whether they can be read in an Israelite prophetic mode is an open subject that hasn't generated enough study. More studies of the Gospel documents are needed. After reading related material concerning the apostle Paul and what's called the New Paul I hope there are students and scholars that will apply those same insights to this most critical of questions.

Of interest to Mr Cohen is how later generations of Christians have been led to regard these accounts as deserving of continuing, unrelenting vengeance by Christian society. This deserves much more attention by Christian scholars who will present their theological justification for the NT documents without accounting for the results of those justifications. Mr Cohen presents the results from a Jewish perspective and it's sobering for this Christian.
Does the author not know? or is he concealing???  Mar 29, 2007
A complete disconnect between cause and effect!

Does the author not know --or is he concealing???-- that that Talmud gloats at Sanhedrin 43a that the Sanhedrin overcame Roman "inclination towards acquittal" of Jesus of Nazareth to arrange His execution? (I will email a scan of the actual Talmud to any doubters.) With their own "holy" book corroborating the Gospel accounts, Jewish denial and blame-shifting to the Romans is a willful lie. The infamous Toldoth Jeschu (a sick pun on Jesus' actual Aramaic name, Jeschua), Maimonides' Hilkoth Akun V, 3 and Letter to Yemen), and the 1905 Jewish Encyclopedia (page 170), all boast of Jewish responsibility for Christ's death. The Talmud notes that Jesus deserved four more deaths. Sanhedrin 52a suggests Jesus should have been strangled while immersed in dung. There are other Talmudic passages that describe Jesus as an idolatrous sex freak, practicing black magic, and more.

Does the author not know --or is he concealing???-- the Talmudic teaching that Jesus was a bastard born of an adulterous relationship [Kallah 51a] of a whore [Sanhedrin 106a] and that He is now in Hell boiling in excrement [Gittin 57a]?

Does the author not know --or is he concealing???-- that according to the Talmud, we Gentiles, who only look human, but have the souls of animals [among many, Kerituth 6b, Yebamoth 98a, Sanhedrin 74b Tosephoth] are owed no debt of morality, decency, or kindness --not honesty [Baba Kamma 113a], not property [Baba Mezia 24a], not even life! "The best of the Gentiles should all be killed" [Soferim 15, rule 10]

Cohen's pose is one of either astounding ignorance or intentional deception. After all, Talmud Baba Kamma 113a commands Jews to deceive Gentiles.

Cause and effect, Mr. Cohen, cause and effect. Evil behaviors and attitudes cause evil effects.

If one must read an establishment author on the subject, try Peter Schäefer's "Jesus in the Talmud," ISBN 0691129266. Better, read the forthcoming expanded edition of Michael A. Hoffman II's now-out-of-print "Judaism's Strange Gods," ISBN 0970378408.
A Stunning Achievement   Mar 3, 2007
This book is a stunning achievement. In clear and elegant prose, Jeremy Cohen traces the the origins of the belief that Jews, at all times and in all places, share in the collective responsibility for the Crucifixion of Christ. Applying his own insights and interpretation of the sources, and making use of the latest scholarly research, he astutely shows how the Christ-killer myth originated with the Gospels and has become so embedded in the Western mind and Western culture that it persists till the present day. This book makes a significant contribution to understanding how Christians and Jews perceive each other and the way in which the Christ-killer myth fueled anti-Semitism and led to the horrors of the Holocaust.

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