News in Christian-Jewish Relations:  January 2004

This month:


US Catholic Bishops announce 

The Bible, the Jews, and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents 



The Bible, the Jews, and the Death of Jesus: A Collection of Catholic Documents

The Bible, the Jews, and the Death of Jesus brings together in one place excerpts from official documents of the Church pertaining to the presentation of the Passion and Death of Christ, whether in classrooms or from the pulpit, in Passion Plays or media dramatizations. Its intent is not only to end prejudices against Jews and Judaism, but also to better understand salvation in Christ by seeing the unique place of Jews and of the Jewish religion in the unfolding of salvation.


Introduction by Bishop Stephen Blaire, Chairman of the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs

A.  The Second Vatican Council and the Pontifical Biblical Commission

  1. Nostra Aetate, no. 4 (October 28, 1965)
  2. The Historical Truth of the Gospels (1964), Paras VI, 2 to X.
  3. The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church (1993).  Introduction, Methods and Approaches (IA, IA4, IF); Hermeneutical Questions (IIA2, IIBI), Characteristics of Catholic Interpretation (III, IIIA3), Interpretation in the Life of the Church (IVA, IVA1 to3), Conclusion.
  4. The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible (2002), Jews in the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles (B, 70-78) and concluding Pastoral Orientations (#s 86-87)

B. Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.

  1. Guidelines and Suggestions for Implementing Nostra Aetate, no. 4 (Dec. 1, 1974), Section II on Liturgy, and Section III on Teaching and Education.
  2. Notes on the Correct Way to Present the Jews and Judaism in Preaching and Catechesis in the Catholic Church (June 24, 1965), Section III on Jewish Roots of Christianity, and Section IV on The Jews in the New Testament
  3. We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah (March 12, 1998) Sections II & V.

C.  Statements of Pope John Paul II

  1. Allocution in the Great Roman Synagogue (April 13, 1986) no. 4.
  2. Address to Pontifical Biblical Commission (April 11, 1997).

D.  Statements of USCCB

  1. Guidelines for Catholic-Jewish Relations (1967).
  2. Statement on Catholic-Jewish Relations (1975).
  3. God's Mercy Endures Forever: Guidelines on the Presentation Jews and Judaism in Catholic Teaching (1988) Bishops Committee for the Liturgy.
  4. Criteria for the Evaluation of Dramatizations of the Passion (1988) Bishops Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs,. 


  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 595-598. 
  2. John Paul II, Good Friday Liturgy, April 10, 1998.
  3. Texts of the Four Gospel Passion Narratives.

Visit the bishops'  Internet site located at . To order, call toll-free (800) 235-8722 or FAX (202) 722-8709.
Para ordenar recursos en español, llame al 800-235-8722 y presione 4 para hablar con un representante del servicio al cliente, en español.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Publishing
3211 Fourth Street NE, Washington, DC 20017-1194

Click here for a printable order form.

Also Available:

Walking God's Paths: Christians and Jews in Candid Conversation
Six 15-minute discussion-starting segments are perfect for understanding how Christians and Jews can relate to one another in positive ways. This video is a great resource for adult education, ecumenical officers, and interfaith marriage counselors.
No. 5-596, 90 min. video, $49.00

Catholic Teaching on the Shoah: Implementing the Holy See's "We Remember"
The bishops offer ways to frame Holocaust issues properly and sensitively for Catholic students using historical and theological contexts. Additional included resources provide aid in developing curricula and furthering dialogue.
No. 5-406, 32 pp. $3.95


Council of Centers calls for Passion education

The Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations [CCJR] has issued a statement entitled, "Statement on the Controversies Surrounding Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ."

The CCJR is an association of twenty-five North American centers and institutes devoted in some way to the promotion of mutual understanding between Jews and Christians. It also has associate members in England, Germany, Israel, and Italy and liaison representatives from major U.S. Christian and Jewish agencies.

The Passion statement was proposed at the CCJR's annual meeting and has now received unanimous support from the regular members.

The statement notes that historically passion plays have regularly sparked violence toward Jews and notes that major Christian churches have repudiated the "deicide" charge that accompanied these dramatizations. It also calls "on Christian leaders, in the United States and throughout the world, publicly to affirm their churches' teachings on appropriate portrayals and interpretations of the Passion and to make these teachings readily available to the general public."

For the CCJR statement, click HERE.

For the webpages of the CCJR, click HERE



Lutheran Statement on The Passion of the Christ

"The Passion of the Christ"


Concerns and Recommendations in Anticipation of the Forthcoming Film


Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations

Department for Ecumenical Affairs

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

January 6, 2004


The portrayal of the Passion of Jesus is one of the most difficult subjects in the history of Jewish-Christian relations. Whenever and however it is told, the Passion sets the Jew Jesus, his Jewish disciples, other Jewish leaders, a larger Jewish community of considerable diversity, a Roman governor, Roman soldiers, and God in a complex web of relationships. Because Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism developed into separate faith communities, each claiming to be the authentic continuation of biblical Israel, the Passion story has also borne the weight of conveying Christian understandings of how such a separation came about.

Tragically, portrayals of the Passion over many generations have led to the virulent condemnation of Jewish communities, with Christians lashing out to punish those they had learned to call "Christ-killers." This doleful history demands a special vigilance from any who portray the Passion today. The Passion has the power of the gospel, God's power to bring life from death. We must not allow the libels of former ages to compromise it in our time.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has committed itself to "live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people" (1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community). Our Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations include reminders that "the New Testament . . . must not be used as justification for hostility towards present-day Jews," and that "blame for the death of Jesus should not be attributed to Judaism or the Jewish people." In keeping with these commitments, we view with concern recent public reports regarding the forthcoming film on the Passion by Mr. Mel Gibson.

Recognizing his stature and influence as a film producer and celebrity, we can expect that Mr. Gibson's project will shape or reshape understandings of this central Christian story for millions of viewers. It is imperative that such influence be exercised with due regard for the powerful heritage of the Passion as gospel truth for Christians and as human tragedy for many Jews. It is possible to use the occasion of this major media event to build understanding and goodwill among Jews, Christians, and many others.

We therefore urge the following:

We urge pastors and educators of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to learn the history of Passion portrayals and their consequences for the Jewish community. We urge them to study more deeply the gospel portrayals of the Passion and to grasp the distinctive proclamation of each gospel writer, in order to lead their congregants and students in well-informed analysis of Passion portrayals, including Mr. Gibson's. We urge them to teach boldly in their congregations and to make public witness to this church's commitment to confess its faith and preach its gospel in ways that will not demean, malign, or harm the Jewish people.

We urge members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to renew their familiarity with the Passion story by reading and studying the gospel portrayals. We urge them to become informed about the issues that surround the challenging task of portraying the Passion in dramatic or cinematic form. We urge them to consider the many levels at which messages about the characters in the Passion are conveyed in such a production, such as the sound track, staging, costuming, and lighting, and to become better-informed viewers.

We urge Mr. Gibson to give due regard, in the final editing of his film, to its historical accuracy and to its portrayal of Jewish characters. He has been widely quoted as aiming to produce the most accurate historical portrayal of Jesus' Passion ever filmed. This goal requires that he give credence to the critique of historical scholars who are expert in the period, cultures, and sources of this story. We believe that he aspires to produce a film that will neither stir antisemitism nor lend itself to antisemitic exploitation. Individuals and organizations that work regularly to counter and diminish antisemitism can aid him in fulfilling that aspiration.

We urge Evangelical Lutheran Church in America congregations, civic organizations, and people of good will everywhere to afford opportunities for study and dialogue about Passion portrayals, including Mr. Gibson's film after it is released. No one portrayal can express the whole truth of the Passion or summarize the understanding of the whole Christian church about it. Open discussion and analysis of the Passion whenever it is portrayed will assist Jews and Christians and others in our communities to understand one another, the diversity of our respective views, and the Passion itself as central to Christian faith.

– – – – –


Dr. Franklin Sherman (chair)

Associate for Interfaith Relations

Department for Ecumenical Affairs

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Chicago , Illinois

Dr. Peter A. Pettit

Assistant Professor of Religion

Director, Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding

Muhlenberg College

Allentown , Pennsylvania


Dr. Darrell Jodock

Drell and Adeline Bernhardson Distinguished Professor of Religion

Gustavus Adolphus College

St. Peter , Minnesota


The Rev. John Stendahl

Pastor, Lutheran Church of the Newtons

Newton Center , Massachusetts


Dr. Esther Menn

Associate Professor of Old Testament

Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

Chicago , Illinois


Dr. Karla Suomala

Assistant Professor of Religion

Luther College

Decorah , Iowa