3 debates surrounding the crucifixion

by Brandon Showalter, CP Reporter |
A silhouette of the image of the crucified Christ against a sunset in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons/AntanO

The crux of the Christian faith is the cross.

This is the moment in history where Jesus Christ, the Son of God, voluntarily laid down His life so that humanity might be set free from sin and restored to life, Christians have believed through the ages.

Yet this pivotal moment that has so much meaning to believers in Jesus worldwide, God incarnate crucified, is fraught with vigorous debate about what exactly Jesus accomplished.

Theologians have for centuries gone back and forth about the nature of the atonement — how Jesus paid for sin and reconciled mankind to God — and the particularities of what unfolded during the Jewish Passover more than 2,000 years ago, where Jesus, the Paschal Lamb, was sacrificed.

Here are three misconceptions, historical errors or seemingly biblical but not specifically scriptural inferences about the crucifixion and the events surrounding the death of Jesus.

1. "The Jews" killed Jesus

For centuries in church history, the notion that "the Jews," broadly speaking, were the ones who crucified the Lord has been a recurring anti-Semitic theme among professing Christians. It's also a myth.

"It was the Temple establishment, not the Jews generally, who conspired with the Romans. Bad translations of John's gospel have contributed to this fake news," Gerald McDermott, Anglican Chair at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, clarified in an email to The Christian Post Wednesday.

McDermott is the author of Why Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently About the People and the Land. His most recent work is Everyday Glory: The Revelation of God in All of Reality.

"The same word in Greek is used there for both 'Jews' and 'Judean leaders'—Iudaioi," he said, noting that most English translations read "the Jews" when they ought to distinguish in most places in John's gospel and specifically say "the Judean leaders."

Moreover, it is unlikely that the same crowd that shouted "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday cried "Crucify him!" later in the week, McDermott noted, adding that "the crowds who hailed him on Palm Sunday probably never switched their allegiance."

"It was members of the Sadducean party and political hacks in the Temple establishment who were in the crowds that cried for crucifixion." The Sadducees and Temple establishment political hacks of that era are comparable to the party activists in Washington, D.C., whereas the Jewish populace is the regular residents of the U.S. capital, he explained, drawing an analogy.

2. Jesus went to Heaven or Hell on the day He died

The hours between the moment of Jesus' death and the moment of His resurrection, known as Holy Saturday, have been subject to intense scrutiny over the centuries.

In liturgical churches where congregants regularly say the Nicene or Apostles' creeds, Christians confess that after He was crucified Jesus "descended into hell." This phrase first appeared in the creed in the middle of the 3rd century.

And yet, when Jesus is dying on the cross, one of the men who was hung next to Him appeals to Him to remember him when he comes into His Kingdom. Jesus then replies: "Today you will be with me in paradise."

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