In his book Crucified: The Christian Invention of the Jewish Executioners of Jesus (Fortress Press, 2023), J. Christopher Edwards explores the early Christian teachings regarding who actually killed Jesus. Historians of early Christianity unanimously agree that Jesus was executed by Roman soldiers. This consensus extends to members of the general population who have seen a Jesus movie or an Easter play and remember Roman soldiers hammering the nails. However, for early Christians, the detail that Jesus was crucified by Roman soldiers under the direction of a Roman governor threatened their desire for a stable existence in the Roman world. Beginning with the writings found in the New Testament, early Christians sought to rewrite their history and shift the blame for Jesus's crucifixion away from Pilate and his soldiers and onto Jews. During the second century, a narrative of the crucifixion with Jewish executioners predominated. During the fourth century, this narrative functioned to encourage anti-Judaism within the newly established Christian empire. Yet, in the modern world, there exists a significant degree of ignorance regarding the pervasiveness--or sometimes even the existence!--of the claim among ancient Christians that Jesus was executed by Jews.
J. Christopher Edwards is professor of religious studies at St. Francis College, Brooklyn.
Schneur Zalman Newfield is an Associate Professor of Sociology and Jewish Studies at Hunter College, City University of New York, and the author of Degrees of Separation: Identity Formation While Leaving Ultra-Orthodox Judaism (Temple University Press, 2020). Visit him online at ZalmanNewfield.com.