Melito of Sardis in his homily "On the Passover" picks up on the theme found in the gospels that portrays the Jewish people as responsible for Jesus' death even though historically crucifixion was used by the Romans and not the Jews as a means of capital punishment. In rhetorically powerful language that builds through the sermon, Melito provides us with the earliest example of what became known as deicide - the belief that in killing Jesus, the Jewish people killed God - as the excerpts below show.

70 It is he that was enfleshed in a virgin,
that was hanged on a tree, 490
72 It is he that has been murdered. 505
And where has he been murdered? In the middle of Jerusalem.
By whom? By Israel?
Why? Because he healed their lame
and cleansed their lepers
and brought light to their blind 510
and raised their dead,
that is why he died.
Where is it written in law and prophets,
' They repaid me bad things for good
and childlessness for my soul, 515
when they devised evil things against me and said,
"Let us bind the just one,
because he is a nuisance to us'"?

73 What strange crime, Israel, have you committed?
You dishonoured him that honoured you; 520
you disgraced him that glorified you;
you denied him that acknowledged you;
you disclaimed him that proclaimed you;
you killed him that made you live.

74 What have you done, Israel? Or is it not written for you, 525
'You shall not shed innocent blood,'
so that you may not die an evil death ?
'I did', says Israel, 'kill the Lord.
Why? Because he had to die.'
You are mistaken, Israel, to use such subtle evasions 530
about the slaying of the Lord.
He had to suffer, but not by you;
he had to be dishonoured, but not by you;
he had to be judged, but not by you;
he had to be hung up, but not by you 535
and your right hand.
92...But as for you - You killed this one at the time of the great feast.
93 Bitter therefore for you is the feast of unleavened bread, as it is
written for you:
You shall eat unleavened bread with bitter flavours.
Bitter for you are the nails you sharpened, 680
bitter for you the tongue you incited,
bitter for you the false witnesses you instructed,
bitter for you the ropes you got ready,...
bitter for you are your hands which you bloodied when you killed your Lord in the midst of Jerusalem.

94 Pay atttention, all families of the nations, and observe!
An extraordinary murder has taken place
in the center of Jerusalem
in city devoted to God's law
in the city of the prophets, in the city thought of as just.
And who has been murdered?
And who is the murder?
I am ashamed to give the answer, but give it I must
95And thus he was lifted upon the tree.
and an inscription was affixed identifying the one who had been murdered.
Who was he?
It is painful to tell,
but it is more dreadful not to tell.
Therefore, hear and tremble
because of him for whom the earth trembled.

96 The one who hung the earth in space, is himself hanged;
and the one who fixed the heavens in place, is himself impaled;
the one who firmly fixed all things, is himself firmly fixed to the tree.
The Lord is insulted,
God has been murdered,
the King of Israel has been destroyed
by the right hand of Israel.



To read more excerpts from Melito's sermon "On the Passover, go to  

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