Peter straightforwardly accuses his audience on the day of Pentecost of murdering their Messiah.

this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. -Acts 2:23

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” -Acts 2:36

The accused seem to assent to that accusation:

Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” -Acts 2:37

My question is were the accused actually present for the crime and even possibly personally responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus?

They were described as "devout men from every nation under heaven"(Acts 2:5)... and "Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians."

I'm sure those from Judea were most likely present but what about everyone else?

This question relates to the nature of their guilt and the sins being forgiven in Acts 2:38. If they were not present and could not participate in the crime then, in context it seems that the sins being forgiven aren't simply personal and individual sins but in addition to those the corporate sins shared as a people group regardless of the participation of the individual person being forgiven.

  • 1
    @HoldToTheRod, thanks for the edit.
    – Austin
    May 23, 2023 at 15:23
  • You question is the point of Acts 2 - the Jews corporately rejected the Messiah - they all understood this and so all who held such an attitude were indirectly responsible.
    – Dottard
    May 23, 2023 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


No, the accused were not present at the crime -- at least not many of them -- not even those from Judea. So if the charge is true, it cannot be literally so. Historically the accusation developed into a doctrine of collective responsibility of the Jews and has been the source a great deal of anti-Semitism. In another sense the whole of humankind is seen as guilty of rejecting Jesus, or at least of rejecting God, of whom Jesus in the incarnation. But the issue begs the question: why was it a crime to crucify Jesus if this was God's predestined plan of salvation all along? (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Cor. 2:8)

In any case, recent developments in Christian civilization have tended to absolve the Jews of collective guilt for the crucifixion. In Catholic tradition this has been the case since Vatican II. Benedict XI spoke forcefully on that matter, echoing the very question in the OP. "How could the whole people have been present at this moment to clamour for Jesus' death?" A BBC article from 2011 summarized:

Benedict explains how only a few Temple leaders and a small group of supporters were primarily responsible for the crucifixion.

One need not be a Catholic to agree with the Pope when he said

Jesus' blood "does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation. It is not poured out against anyone, it is poured out for many, for all."

Indeed, the World Council of Churches (comprised of hundreds of denominations) agreed, when it said:

the historic events which led to the Crucifixion should not be so presented as to fasten upon the Jewish people of today responsibilities which belong to our corporate humanity.

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