Who Crucified Jesus is an excellent work of historical research into the Christian scriptures showing that the Jewish people are not responsible for Jesus' crucifixion. There are some important features about the first century CE that come out in this contribution. Sectarianism is explained clearly to show context of the emerging new religion. The role of the Sanhedrin is discussed in detail. Philo and Josephus are heavily relied upon to give an accurate picture of the Roman procurators. Professor Zeitlin explains the differences between political and religious offenses and concludes that Jesus was accused of a political offense and put to death under the Roman authorities. The book originally written during WWII enables the author to analogize the Roman brutality to the Nazi onslaught making an evocative read.
After discussing the Hasmonean revolt and the emergence of the sectarians Pharisees and Sadducees, Professor Zeitlin explain the basic differences in belief. The Pharisees believe in an afterlife and the resurrection of the dead and the Sadduccees do not. This difference ends up being crucial in understanding the Jewish followers of Jesus commit no crimes in believing in a resurrection. The prof. goes through the Tannaitic literature and shows that Jesus commits no religious crime that deserves capital punishment through the religious court, the Sanhedrin and concludes that there must have been a separate second Sanhedrin for political crimes against the Roman State to which which Jesus is ultimately submitted and then sent to the Roman procurator, Pilate. The political offense of being accused of being the "King of the Jews" would imply sedition to which the Romans would sentence one to death by crucifixion.
Dr. Zeitlin shows his power of exegesis when he deconstructs the Christian Scriptures. He shows the absolute contradictions among them. By explaining, however, that each book addresses a specific audience, the prof. proves that there are not serious contradictions but understandable prejudices. He claims that the so-called 'Synoptic Gospels' are really addressing a Jewish audience and thus one does not find a negative inference about the Pharisees being hypocrites; whereas the non 'Synoptic Gospel' is addressing a non-Jewish audience which understandably depicts much prejudice against the Jewish people for rejecting their messiah and introduce the Pharisees as being hypocrites.
According to Christian Scripture, Pilot the procurator that put Jesus to death is depicted as sympathetic, however, Professor Zeitlin cites the testimony of Philo and Josephus to show that Pilate was not a sympathetic character but rather a vicious personality. There is built in animosity against the Jewish people for rejecting Jesus, so the Romans are depicted as not being responsible for his death.
Professor Zeitlin shows definitively that the Jewish people are not and should not be accused of crucifying Jesus. He admits that Jewish people rejected him as the Messiah but never did they try Jesus for any religious offense that the religious Sanhedrin (which was dominated by the Pharisees) could have been responsible for punishing him. As a matter of fact, the corrupt High priest as the vassal authority who had everything to lose by not cooperating with the Romans delivered Jesus over to the authorities for the capital crime of sedition against the Roman state. The book is an excellent read, showing the consummate skills of the critical historian.