Burned but Never Consumed

The first writer known to have made the outrageous accusation of ritual cannibalism against the Jews was a pagan Greek named Apion. But it was the Christians who established prejudice against and hatred for Jews as a fixture of Western civilization. The Christians' animus against the Jews derived from the idea that "the Jews" had rejected and betrayed Jesus of Nazareth, engineering the Crucifixion. This was a charge originating in the embittered early relations between what were essentially two closely-intertwined religious communities (indeed, for at least a generation and perhaps a bit more the Christians were seen—and saw themselves—as merely one sect within Judaism; the definitive break only occurred after A.D. 70). Litvinoff in fact does not do as much as he could in discussing the complicated issues surrounding the Trial of Jesus. He might have pointed out that the Sanhedrin were hated collaborators with the Roman provincial administration (which could appoint—and dismiss—its membership); that Pontius Pilate was only the first of a very long line of tough Roman officials who saw the representatives of Christianity (rightly!) as troublemakers; and that even in the Gospel of John it is merely the High Priests and their flacks, not the Jewish populace as a whole, who are violently opposed to Jesus (see John 19:6). But Litvinoff does vividly point out the paradox of Christians consistently persecuting...

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