Blood Curse
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Blood Curse

Pilate Washes His Hands by James Tissot - Brooklyn Museum

The blood curse refers to a New Testament passage from the Gospel of Matthew, which describes events taking place in Pilate's court before the crucifixion of Jesus and specifically the apparent willingness of the Jews to accept liability for Jesus' death.[1]

Matthew 27:24-25 reads:

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Greek: ? ' ? ?)


This passage has no counterpart in the other Gospels and is probably related to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 CE.[2] German Protestant theologian Ulrich Luz (b. 1938) describes it as "redactional fiction" invented by the author of the Matthew Gospel.[3] Some writers, viewing it as part of Matthew's anti-Jewish polemic, see in it the seeds of later Christian antisemitism. In the view of the late Graham Stanton, a British New Testament scholar in the Reformed tradition, "Matthew's anti-Jewish polemic should be seen as part of the self-definition of the Christian minority which is acutely aware of the rejection and hostility of its 'mother' Judaism." [4]Howard Clark Kee has written, "The bitter words he [Matthew] attributes to the Jews have caused endless harm in arrousing anti-Jewish emotions."[5]Donald A. Hagner, a Presbyterian New Testament scholar and theologian, has written, "It cannot be denied that this statement, unfortunately, has been used to promote anti-Semitism. The statement is formulaic, and the reference to 'our children' does not make them guilty of the death of Jesus, let alone children or Jews of later generations."[6]

Anglican views

N.T. Wright, an Anglican New Testament scholar and theologian, has stated, "The tragic and horrible later use of Mt. 27.25 ('his blood be on us, and on our children') as an excuse for soi-disant 'Christian' anti-semitism is a gross distortion of its original meaning, where the reference is surely to the fall of Jerusalem."[7]

Anglican theologian Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Wales, and who would soon become Archbishop of Canterbury, has written of Matthew's Gospel being made "the tool of the most corrupt and murderous misreading of the passion stories that has disfigured the Church's record."

"The evangelist's bitterness at the schism within God's people that continues in his own day, his impatience with the refusal of the Jewish majority to accept the preaching of Jesus, overflows into this symbolic self-denunciation by 'the people'. It is all too likely that his first readers heard it as a corporate acknowledgement of guilt by the Jewish nation, and that they connected it, as do other New Testament writers, with the devastation of the nation and its sacred place in the terrible disasters of AD 70, when the Romans destroyed the Temple and along with it the last vestiges of independent power for the people. Read at this level, it can only make the contemporary Christian think of all the centuries in which Jewish guilt formed so significant a part of Christian self-understanding, and of the nightmare which was made possible by this in the twentieth century."[8]

Catholic views

Pope Benedict XVI writes of this incident:

"When in Matthew's account the "whole people" say: "His blood be upon us and on our children" (27:25), the Christian will remember that Jesus' blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel : it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment; it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone; it is poured out for many, for all." [9]

St. John Chrysostom wrote of this incident:

"Observe here the infatuation of the Jews; their headlong haste, and destructive passions will not let them see what they ought to see, and they curse themselves, saying, "His blood be upon us," and even entail the curse upon their children. Yet a merciful God did not ratify this sentence, but accepted such of them and of their children as repented; for Paul was of them, and many thousands of those who in Jerusalem believed".[10]

See also


  1. ^ The Historical Jesus Through Catholic and Jewish Eyes. Bryan F. Le Beau, Leonard J. Greenspoon and Dennis Hamm, eds. Trinity Press International, 2000. pp. 105-106. ISBN 1563383225
  2. ^ Craig A. Evans, Matthew (Cambridge University Press, 2012) page 455.
  3. ^ Ulrich Luz, Studies in Matthew (William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005) page 58.
  4. ^ Graham N. Stanton, A Gospel for a New People: Studies in Matthew, T & T Clark, 1992; Westminster John Knox Press, 1993. p. 157. ISBN 9780664254995 On Matt. 27:25, in the note on p. 148, Stanton cites the work of German Protestant Karl Heinrich Rengstorf and American Jesuit J.A. Fitzmyer, among others.
  5. ^ Howard Clark Kee, "The Gospel According to Matthew," The Interpreter's One-Volume Commentary On the Bible, Abingdon Press, 1971. p. 642.
  6. ^ Donald A. Hagner, "Anti-Semitism", Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd ed., Joel B. Green et al., eds., IVP Academic, 2013. p. 20. ISBN 9780830824564
  7. ^ N.T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, London: SPCK; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. p. 546, n. 26. ISBN 9780800626822
  8. ^ Rowan Williams, Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles Our Judgement, London: HarperCollins, 2000. North American ed. co-published by Eerdmans and the Anglican Book Centre, 2003. p. 32. ISBN 9780802824967
  9. ^ Ratzinger, Joseph (Benedict XVI, Pope) (2011). Jesus of Nazareth. Part two, Holy week : from the entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. pp. 187. ISBN 9781586175009. OCLC 664668492.
  10. ^ Quoted in Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) on Matthew, translated by John Henry Parker, v. I, London: J.G.F. and J. Rivington, 1842, accessed 16 December 2015

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