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"But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Jews for Judaism claims in their article that the pronoun "they" in Matthew 17:12 refers to the Jews, and therefore Matthew places the sole blame for John's persecution and death on the Jews. However, there is no good reason to believe that Jesus' statement referred only to the Jews. Matthew (as well as Mark and Luke) clearly implicate Herod and his wife as the persecutors of John: Herod had John imprisoned and Herodias asked for him to be beheaded. The Gospels don't mention any Jewish persecution of John the Baptist, but only say that the Pharisees didn't believe him. This doesn't prove that no Jews persecuted John; however, if Matthew's goal in writing 17:12 had been to blame the Jews, surely he would have included accounts of Jewish persecution of John rather than Herod's acts.
Jews for Judaism further claims that "they" refers solely to the Jews because Jesus describes "them" as his persecutors as well, and supposedly Matthew claimed the Jews took full responsibility for Jesus' death. Yet this is not true (see Is the New Testament anti-Semitic?).
1. Mt 14:3-11,
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