Crucified – The Christian Invention of the Jewish Execution of Jesus, J. Christopher Edwards

Reviewed by LJ Frank

Crucified. J. Christopher Edwards, professor of religious studies and philosophy at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY, has authored a remarkable and brilliant work on Jesus’s crucifixion and subsequent, complicated events. Dr. Edwards research is meticulous and comprehensive.

Given the context of world circumstances and Jewish history this thorough study is both a relevant and haunting examination of actual events during the first four centuries after the crucifixion. The chapter notes alone are impressive…. the Notes from pages 131 through 217 are a provocative read unto themselves and a much-needed reference resource. New Testament theology scholars have known much of this, but Edwards puts it together in a single approachable, accessible scholarly work.

The editing and rewriting of the crucifixion narrative during the second century places blame on the Jews and away from the Romans. The roots of the lead up is fully examined. Scholars for the past five decades suspected such insertions, e.g., non-Pauline edits/errors into the Gospels (voice of Paul) and for the researcher/reader that’s just the surface.

To blame gentiles for Jesus’s crucifixion would be to incorporate self-blame…. demonizing the other was less daunting…. it was politically and theologically motivated/advantageous. It was/is a religious and political decision. (E.g., the Council of Nicaea studies delineate the politics of getting Bishops on the same page…, as a sidebar, writings about Arius are indicative of the politics and the request for agreement on issues about the nature of Jesus and responsibility for the crucifixion ).

History is complex. Who are the characters and what is their intent? “Disinformation” has a lengthy history. Edward uses a phrase like Christianity’s “most sacred error”……

My read: Would have telling the truth about Jesus’s crucifixion in the very beginning affected both the ensuing antisemitism over the centuries but also checkmated the agenda of controlling the narrative? Does controlling the narrative sound familiar?

Jesus’s life and crucifixion speak to the human dilemma between aspiration and insecurity. Followers like Paul, but certainly not him alone, fed into interpolation of that narrative. Jews were deemed guilty. As noted, history is complex, there are few innocents, and this scholar offers a depth to understanding that complexity.

Crucified is theologically penetrating, intellectually stimulating, and very accessible, readable scholarship.

Recommended for public and academic libraries…. and a compliment to a balanced theological collection.