The transferability of sin: punishing
the innocent for the sins of the guilty
Passages in the Christian
(a.k.a. New Testament)
This section discusses a theme that runs through the entire Bible: that is
is moral to punish innocent persons for the sins of the guilty. That is, that
guilt can be transferred from the person who did the sin to those who had no
involvement in the sin. This theme is in violation of the tenets of every
religious that we have studied. Yet it is frequently seen in many biblical
stories and thus influences Judaism,
Christianity, Islam and the
The following examples of this theme are taken from the Christian
Scriptures (a.k.a. New Testament). Examples from first four books of the Hebrew Scriptures
(a.k.a. Old Testament), are listed elsewhere.
Examples from Deuteronomy through to 1 Chronicles are listed
Jewish acceptance of responsibility for Yeshua's execution:
The author of the Gospel of Matthew described the events which he believed
led up to Jesus' death sentence. Pilate, the governor of Judea, asked a crowd of
Jews whether he should release a criminal Barabbas, or give Jesus his freedom.
Matthew 27:20 states: "...the chief priests and elders persuaded
the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus."
Matthew 27:23-26 states: "And the governor said, Why, what evil
hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult
was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude,
saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just
person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His
blood be on us, and on our children. Then released he Barabbas unto
them: and when he had scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified."
1 (Emphasis ours)
The highlighted text is probably responsible for more loss of innocent
life than any other passage in the Bible. The author has a Jewish crowd
accept full responsibility on themselves for the execution of Yeshua.
Further, they stated that their children would share fully in that guilt.
For many centuries, Christian faith groups had enlarged
the group responsible for the execution beyond
those Jews who were present at the sentencing, and their children. The
church included all Jews who were alive at the time, circa 30
CE. This would include Jews who were living over
1,000 miles from the event in Jerusalem and knew nothing about Yeshua.
Further, the church taught that all Jews, from the 1st
century CE onwards, shared equally in the guilt for Jesus' death. They
believed that Jews were "Christ killers." The result was horrendous
levels of oppression, discrimination and mass murder
of Jews by Christians, that set the foundation for the Nazi Holocaust.
Edward Alexander, while reviewing a book Christian Antisemitism
by William Nichols, commented:
"...since the ideology of Jew-hatred and its catastrophic modern
result originated in Christendom, it is Christians more than Jews who
should be searching out their roots and trying to extirpate
them. ... Nicholls believes that neither modern anti semitism nor the
Holocaust can be understood without taking into account the way the people
of Europe had been taught about the Jews from their childhood up by their
own religious tradition...The popular view that the Nazis chose Jews as
their primary [Holocaust] target because 2,000 years of Christian teaching
had accustomed the world to do so is, in Nicholls's view, essentially
correct. In fact, he traces all modern forms of anti semitism, from liberal
and Marxist to conservative and Nazi, to the Christian myth of Jews as the
killers of Christ." 2,3
On 1965-OCT-28, following the Vatican II meeting by the leaders of the
Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican issued Nostra Aetate, a "Declaration
on the Relation of the Church to non-Christian Religions." 4
The Declaration notes that, according to the Gospels, some Jews in
Palestine advocated for the execution of Jesus. But this guilt cannot be
charged against all Jews of the 1st century CE,
nor can it be charged against any Jews of today. It stated that: "Jews
should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed
from the Holy Scriptures....the Church ... decries hatred, persecutions,
displays of anti-Semitism, directed against Jews at any time and by anyone."
This passage is the only one in the Christian Scriptures of which we are
aware which transfers guilt from adults to their innocent children. It is
unclear whether the original intent was to consider additional generations of
the mob's descendents as responsible for Yeshua's death.
Many faith groups within
Christianity have traditionally taught that God transferred all of the
sins of born-again believers onto Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) at the
time of his execution.
This included all of the sins that had not yet been committed, by people who
had not yet been born, all the way from the first century
CE, to the present day, and beyond into the
Many mechanisms have been used to explain how this transfer of sin takes
place. It is called the Atonement, which has been cited as "...the central
tenet of Christianity." 5 However, they all involve the transmission of sin and punishment from guilty persons to one innocent man who was tortured to death by the occupying Roman Army.
Being denied entry into Heaven because of one's behavior:
There are about a half-dozen "clobber" passages in the
Bible that some theologians and apologists have interpreted as describing God's hatred of homosexuals
and/or homosexual behavior. One of these is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10,
written by Paul.
The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible translates this passage as:
"... neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor
effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind ... shall inherit the
kingdom of God."
The Greek word translated as "effeminate" means soft. It has a range
of meanings. The Greek word translated as "abusers of themselves with mankind"
is "arsenokoitai." Its exact meaning is lost; it may
have been a word specially created by Paul. It is fairly certain that Paul did
not mean "homosexuals" here as many translations show. If he did, he would have
used the word "paiderasste." That was the standard Greek term at the
time for sexual behavior between males.
However, the Jerusalem Bible, New American Bible,
James Moffatt translation use the word "catamites,"
or "boy prostitutes" to describe what the KJV refers to as "effeminate." This is was often a young male who was kept as a
sexual partner/slave of an adult male.
A footnote in the New American Bible states:
"The Greek word translated as 'boy prostitutes' designated catamites, i.e.
boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not
uncommon in the Greco-Roman world....The term translated 'practicing
homosexuals' refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with
If this is the actual meaning of the passage, it is profoundly immoral by
today's secular and most religious moral standards because it transfers
punishment from a perpetrator guilty of child sexual abuse to his innocent
From the King James Version of the Bible.
Edward Alexander, book review
of "Christian Antisemitism," Reprinted from the Congress Monthly,
Vol. 61, #1, (1994), American Jewish Congress. See "The Nizkor
W. Nicholls, "Christian Antisemitism: A History of Hate,"
Jason Aronson, (1995).
You can order this book from Amazon.com
Pope Paul VI, "Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian
Religions (Nostra Aetate)," 1965-OCT-28. Available at:
John S. Spong, "Why Christianity must change or die," Harper SanFrancisco,
(1998), Page 84. Read
reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
Copyright © 2002 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2002-OCT-20
Latest update: 2010-JUN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson