Vasu Murti

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During 1989-1990, in a series of theological discussions with my friend Rankin Fisher, a former Missionary Baptist minister, I told him I'd read an interview with a Catholic priest in the Los Angeles Times. The priest was saying the Romans, not the Jews, were responsible for the crucifixion. I told Rankin statements like these could help end anti-semitism.

One of the first books I ever read on the subject of biblical vegetarianism in 1986 was The Essene Christ by Dr. Upton Clary Ewing. (1961) According to Josephus, the Jewish historian who lived during the time of Jesus, there were only three Jewish sects: the Pharisees, the Sadduccees, and the Essenes. Dr. Ewing makes the case that Jesus was an Essene, the Essenes were vegetarian, therefore, Jesus was a vegetarian.

Dr. Ewing then proceeds to document vegetarianism in Christianity: the earliest Christians, the writings of the early church fathers (who wrote extensively on the subject), the lives of the saints (Catholicism) and religious reformers (Protestantism)...including Schweitzer, whom he quotes at length. In drawing an analogy to the way 19th century Southern churches upheld human slavery on biblical grounds with the way we treat animals today, Dr. Ewing foreshadowed the contemporary animal rights movement.

According to Dr. Ewing, the Romans were responsible for the crucifixion, and not the Jews.

Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes:

"The wrongful blaming of the Jews for the death of Jesus has been one of the most effective roadblocks ever placed in the highway leading to the brotherhood of man. It is not only shameful, but completely illogical, for one to continue to hold that the Jews were responsible for the death of Jesus. As all the evidences of comparative beliefs seem to verify, Jesus and the Pharisees were more in agreement on religious issues than they were in disagreement.

"As for Jesus' declaring himself to be the Messiah, the Jewish hierarchy would have been more amused than hostile at the audacity of anyone from Galilee making such a claim. The Jews, with very few exceptions, were far from being averse to the principles of Jesus. Even those who were annoyed by his jibes and his admonitions would not have felt justified in taking severe measures against him. There were great multitudes of Jews who, although they dared not protest to the Romans, wept deeply as they followed Jesus to crucifixion. Even the gospel of Luke openly admits the sincere affection the Jews had for Jesus. 'And there followed him a great company of people and of women who also bewailed and lamented him.' (Luke 23:27)

"The trial and execution of Jesus was strictly a Roman responsibility. It was prompted by and carried out in accord with strict Roman ordinances which extended little leniency to a Jew. The Jews under Roman authority were tolerated only when they conformed to all the articles of strict obedience. To be involved in the slightest misdemeanor, even among themselves, could mean the lash or other harsh, humiliating punishment.

"During the Roman occupation of Judea, it was the custom of the time to mete out severe punishment for a Jew for an offense that would hardly warrant the arrest of a Roman citizen. One does not need other historical evidence to confirm this; verification is found where Paul is charged with disturbing the peace: 'Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman?' (Acts 22:24-29)

"The crucifixion of Jesus is explicable on one ground only: that he was sentenced to death and executed by Roman authority as a sower of sedition against Roman rule. A sentence by the Sanhedrin was imagined, and condemnation pronounced on the grounds that Jesus laid claim to be the Son of God. Jesus, as all four evangelists are compelled to admit, was condemned to death by Pilate on political grounds as 'King of the Jews,' that is, as a Messianic agitator who laid claim to some kind of royalty in Israel, which automatically made him subversive of the imperial government. Historically, the case of Jesus is intelligible only if we admit from the outset that he was sentenced to death by Pilate alone, acting as a representative of Roman authority.

"Crucifixion was strictly a Roman means of execution. Death by stoning was the method used by the Jews, and this was ordered by the Sanhedrin only upon conviction of blasphemy; i.e., for cursing or denying the existence of God, which Jesus did not do. Up to the time of Jesus the Sanhedrin had not imposed a death sentence in over 200 years. In fact even if they had desired to do so they could not, for capital punishment was administered solely by Roman authority for crimes against imperial law...they nailed a sign on the cross to show their contempt for the Messianic claims of Jesus: 'Behold Him the king of the Jews.' These words which appear in all four gospels spell out examples of Roman vituperation, not Jewish judgment."

The New Testament says Pilate unwillingly sentenced Jesus to death, but Josephus says Pontius Pilate was so brutal he was recalled to Rome because of too many executions! Luke 13:1-5 reveals the real Pilate of history: "...the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices..."

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