Synopses & Reviews
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.
"Cohen offers readers a lucid and sophisticated understanding of the age-old phenomenon of anti-Semitism. From its earliest history to Mel Gibson, Cohen explores the issues which have allowed this hateful notion to persist. It is a book which is fascinating, frightening, and important. It will be of interest to both the specialist and the lay reader." -- Deborah E. Lipstadt, author of History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving
"Jeremy Cohen shows exactly how the Christ-killer charge lodged, like a killer-virus, in the imagination of the West. Alas, he shows, also, how it remains a mortal problem for Christians, a threat to Jews -- a germ of further hatred. Meticulous truth-telling like Cohen's is the only antidote to this ancient plague." -- James Carroll, author of Constantine's Sword and House of War
"It would be hard to think of a more consequential myth in western history than that of the Jews as killers of Christ. Jeremy Cohen offers a highly readable examination of the myth from its inception almost two thousand years ago to its continued potent effects today. Replete with dozens of dramatic pictorial representations and making use of the latest scholarly research, Christ Killers offers absorbing, if chilling, reading." David I. Kertzer, author of The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and The Popes Against the Jews
"Christ Killers is a gripping account of a myth that has profoundly shaped Christian-Jewish relations for two thousand years. Jeremy Cohen's command of the subject--from the Gospels to Mel's Gibson's Passion--is magisterial." --James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare and the Jews and Oberammergau
"Even-handedly and with remarkable erudition, Cohen focuses on successive versions of the story in a great variety of literary and artistic forms, contemplating their effects on believers as well as on the Jews adn Judaism demonized in the Passion narrative. ...An important book, accessible to general readers."--Choice
"An intriguing and succinct introduction to the tragic and sobering history of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism from its beginnings to the present. ...a lively and accessible account, fascinating to a general audience and highly useful to specialists. ...Cohen reminds the reader throughout his book of other ways to read Christian texts, of biblical, theological, and historical approaches that ultimately clear the Jewish people of the Christ-killer accusation. This multitude of voices, made audible by Cohen, is one great contribution of his work." --Church History
Traces the evolution of the image of the Jews as the murderers of the messiah, from its origins to the most recent expressions, drawing on sources that range from the gospel accounts of the crucifixion to film versions of the life of Christ, and assesses the influence of that myth on every aspect of Western culture.
In this first book to focus on the myth that the Jews were responsible, directly and indirectly, for the death of Jesus Christ, Cohen explores the fascinating career of this myth, as he tracks the image of the Jew as the murderer of the messiah and God from its origins to its most recent expressions. 30 halftones.
About the Author
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.