Erich Lessing

The crowd demands Jesus’ blood while Pilate listens skeptically to their charges, in this 1881 work by Hungarian artist Mihaly Munkacsy.

Writing in the 80s C.E., when the split between Jewish followers of Jesus and other Jews had become even more acrimonious, Matthew added his own anti-Jewish embellishments to the story, such as the famous handwashing scene. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” Pilate declares, and the people answer, “His blood be upon us and our children!” (Matthew 27:24–25)—which seems to be what the man with upthrust arms in this painting is announcing. Luke, a gentile, has Pilate declare: “I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him; neither did Herod” (Luke 23:14–15). Thus Luke emphasizes that the Jews rejected Jesus while the gentiles accepted him. According to Patterson, these early revisions of Jesus’ story have resulted in nearly two millennia of Christian hatred and persecution of Jews.