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The blood curse is a New Testament passage from the verse ( ). The passage has provoked considerable controversy. The passage is not mentioned in the other gospels (Mark, Luke, John). The blood curse should not be confused with the blood libel, an antisemitic belief that is not based on Scripture. The blood curse is however an important part, not to say a corner stone, of many versions of the blood libel.
Versions of the scriptural quotation
- Ιδων δε ο Πιλατος οτι ουδεν ωφελει αλλα μαλλον θορυβος γινεται, λαβων υδωρ απενιψατο τας χειρας απεναντι του οχλου, λεγων αθωος ειμι απο του αιματος του δικαιου τουτου; υμεις οψεσθε. Και αποκριθεις πας ο λαος ειπεν, το αιμα αυτου εφ ημας και επι τα τεκνα ημων. Greek New Testament
- Videns autem Pilatus quia nihil proficeret sed magis tumultus fieret, accepta aqua lavit manus coram populo, dicens innocens ego sum a sanguine iusti huius: vos videritis. Et respondens universus populus dixit: Sanguis eius super nos et super filios nostros. Vulgate
- When Pilate saw that he could not prevail, but rather that a tumult was beginning, 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!" (KJV)
- When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (NIV)
- So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." Then the people as a whole answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" (NRSV)
- When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to that yourselves." And all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!" (NASB)
- When Pilate saw that he was not succeeding at all, but that a riot was breaking out instead, he took water and washed his hands in the sight of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this man's blood. Look to it yourselves." And the whole people said in reply, "His blood be upon us and upon our children." (NAB)
- When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, and that there was danger of a riot, he took water and washed his hands in full view of the crowd. 'My hands are clean of this man's blood,' he declared. 'See to that yourselves.' With one voice the people cried, 'His blood be on us and on our children.' (REB)
Note to the quotation
The actual curse is understood to be το αιμα αυτου εφ ημας και επι τα τεκνα ημων, which would be in a word-by-word translation: The blood his on us and on the born ours. As can easily be seen there is no verb in the original of the blood curse. The vulgate translates here true, but most translations insert some verb here. In translation the text can thus take the form of a wish, expressing the desire for the death of Jesus ("be", "komme", "kome"), it will get some tense, usually a future one, which allows for the translation to be read as some prophecy, which alters the mere acceptance of the responsibility which would have been Pilate's, expressed by "πας ο λαος" of the author in the "undeniable biblical testimony" of the blood curse.
It is possible that Matthew, the author of the Gospel in which the verses appear, understood them to be an ironic echo of Moses sprinkles sacrificial blood on his people after reading the Book of the Covenant to them as a means of ratifying the covenant. Interpreted thus, the words would have actually been an unintentional expression of desire for ratification of the New Covenant., in which
Another possibility is that this contrasts with the pagan sailors who threw Jonah (whom Jesus was to give the sign of in ) into the ocean, praying, "O Lord, do not let us perish on account of this man's life and do not put innocent blood on us." .
As well, it is possible that the author of the Gospel understood the words to be an ironic echo of Deuteronomic Code commands that the elders of a town nearest which an unknown murder victim is found declare "Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did we witness the bloodshed. Accept expiation, O Lord, for your people Israel whom you redeemed, and do not let the guilt of innocent blood rest upon your people Israel: let this bloodshed be expiated on their behalf." In the blood curse, the elders accordingly leave the expiation to the people, who ironically accept communal responsibility for Jesus's death. In this manner, the blood curse would be an invocation of the Deutermonic Code passage's converse. Pontius Pilate also noted that he found no fault in Jesus Christ., in which the
It is also possible that the author meant the blood curse as a curse indeed, one fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, to explain that disaster and to put the blame on the leaders of concurrent Jewish movements who had led the masses to destruction.