Who is responsible for Christ's execution?

Sometime between 30 and 32 CE, Jesus Christ was put to death by crucifixion on Golgotha, outside Jerusalem. The men who carried out the execution were members of the occupying Roman legion, a body of men not without experience in this field. Crucifixion was a punishment reserved for rebels, insurgents, slaves and traitors.

'Let his blood be on us and on our children!'

According to Gospel, the execution was ordered by Pontius Pilate, Governer of the area. Historically, Christians have blamed the Jews for Jesus' death. Pilate, they say, did not want to have Jesus executed - but he was influenced by the local Jewish leaders and a mob of Jews which assembled to persuade him. The above quote is supposedly what the mob said when Pilate said he would refuse to have the blood of Jesus on his hands.

The concept of Bibilical inerrancy (which states that the authors of the Bible were inspired directly by God, and therefore incapable of error in their writings) meant that up until relatively modern times, all Christian groups believed the Jews were to blame for the death of Christ. To make it even worse, as well as blaming the Jewish contemporaries of Jesus for the death, they blamed all present-day Jews as well because the Jews at the time had wished Jesus' blood on their children (which meant all of their descendents). The Jews were seen as a people abandoned by God, and scripture was used to justify all sorts of abuses against their people.

More liberal theologians have an altogether different view. They believe the Bible was written by human and therefore falliable individuals, and that the story of Jesus' execution was a very smart piece of propaganda written by Christians as part of friction between the religions. It is noted that there are many historical inaccuracies in the Gospels with regard to Jewish practice. Furthermore, not only did the Gospel writers ascribe blame to the Jews, they removed it from the Romans (Pilate): a good trick to improve relations.

Today, no-one blames the Jews for Jesus' death but a few Christian radical groups. However, the damage has already been done: centuries of persecution of the Jews, culminating in the Holocaust. Although it is unlikely the Holocaust could have taken place without the centuries of anti-semitic precedent beforehand, it is fallacious to ascribe blame for the Holocaust to Christianity, and certainly to present-day Christians. Sons cannot by any moral standard be required to atone for the sins of their fathers, and it is the belief that they can which caused this trouble in the first place.

Blame for Jesus' execution must ultimately be placed with the Roman authorities of the day. Jesus' actions could easily have marked him as a rebel (for instance, the moneylenders in the temple incident), and his manner of execution corresponds to this.