"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets...." (Luke 11:47-48)

"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the Prophets, and it was your ancestors who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the Prophets, and you build their tombs." (Luke 11:47-48)

Who built tombs for the Prophets?

Jesus is commenting on the hypocrisy related to the fact that the Temple institution of Jesus' time were honoring the Prophets - building monuments to them - while their institutional predecessors had persecuted them.

In other words, the Temple institution persecuted and murdered a number of Prophets. The same institution that was now honoring them.

Yes, over the centuries prior to Jesus' time, the Temple institution had persecuted many Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Amos, and Zechariah. To these, we can also add John the Baptist, Jesus' own teacher - who was persecuted by Herod - who also claimed to be some kind of ruler of the Judean people.

Jesus is pointing out that while they were saying they represented the Prophets in their teachings - their institution had murdered many of those Prophets.

Note that Jesus, along with Jesus' teacher John the Baptist and Jesus' own disciples, were also followers of the Prophets. But they truly followed the Prophets - in word and deed. They were not hypocritical as others were.

Who were the ancestors?

The word "ancestors" is being translated from the Greek word πατήρ (patēr), which can certainly be translated to "ancestors," but it also can mean, according to the lexicon, "teachers, as those to whom pupils trace back the knowledge and training they have received."

Thus a more appropriate translation of πατήρ (patēr) in this case would be "teachers" rather than "ancestors." Why? Because Jesus is speaking of the fact that they are following the teaching lineage of those who strictly abided by the ritualistic ceremonial trappings of the Temple tradition all the while they disrespected those Prophets who came - as did Jesus and John - to teach love for the Supreme Being.

Jesus is pointing out the hypocrisy of these teachers and their followers honoring the tombs of those Prophets while at the same time following the teachings of those who disrespected those Prophets and allowed them to be persecuted.

Yes, it is not necessarily as if they or their teachers physically killed these Prophets. For example, John the Baptist was killed by Herod, yes. But the Temple institution and their high priests during the time of John did nothing to protest the imprisonment of John. Because John was not a respected member - read professional scribe - of their Temple institution, these Pharisees and priests did nothing to help him. John's statement to these institutional Temple teachers illustrates the tension between them:
But when he [John the Baptist] saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! (Matt. 3:7)
This also describes those who disrespected the Prophets before John. As John and Jesus both indicate, this Temple institution and its leaders were similarly entrenched. They could have protected those Prophets, but instead, they saw God's representatives as threats to their positions of authority. So they allowed these Prophets to be arrested and killed.

Didn't they also murder Jesus?

This is the very same institution - the same high priests and Pharisees - that also saw to it that Jesus was persecuted. The institution might be able to claim that the Romans crucified Jesus, but it was the high priest's guards who arrested Jesus and it was the high priest who handed Jesus over to Pilate and then recommended Jesus' physical body be murdered.

"So you testify that you approve of what your ancestors did; they killed the Prophets, and you build their tombs."

As Jesus indicates, by these institutional teachers claiming their rite of position among the very same Temple institution that allowed previous Prophets to be persecuted, they were ex facto approving the persecution of those Prophets.

Ironically, this same issue relates to the priests of the primary organized institution that dominantly controlled the teachings of Jesus for over 1,000 years. This institution persecuted innocent people who didn't abide by their ritualistic doctrines for centuries. In the more recent past, their priests molested children. This institution allowed then excused those activities. Do they still have the right to suggest that they represent Jesus?

Yes, they like to say that because God is merciful, we should have mercy upon those priests. But who are we to grant them forgiveness? Those who have not been abused are not in a position to forgive. Only those who were molested have that right.

And because many of those priests who molested children were never brought before trial and stood to face those they molested, there has been little opportunity for forgiveness in most cases.

As for the rest of us, we are in no position to forgive an institution that has broken its obligation to its followers to care for them - and thus broken their right to represent Jesus.

Did they commit genocide?

There are many examples of genocide that have taken place in human history. These include the Roman slaughter of the Jews in the Roman-Jewish wars of the First and Second Century, the holocaust slaughter of Jews in Europe by the Nazis and 70,000 in Jerusalem between the 11th and 14th centuries. They also include thousands being burnt at the stake during the first years of the Spanish Inquisition, and some 900,000 Waldensian Christians murdered during a 15th century period lasting three decades. More than 250,000 Dutch Protestants were murdered a decade later. Then they killed over 10,000 Protestants in Paris in 1572. Another 8,000 were slaughtered in the countryside.

In the Thirty-year's war of the 17th century, this institution's mobs attempted to exterminate all European Protestants. Some European countries lost nearly half their populations. Some 100,000 protestants were slaughtered in Ireland. Some 500,000 French protestants were exterminated by order of the French King who represented this institution.

This reign of terror against any person following another teaching other than that taught by this institution and related sects has continued through to the 20th century. This includes hundreds of thousands - even millions - of people among the indigenous peoples of North and South Americas, Polynesia and elsewhere around the world over the centuries - those who were considered "savages" if they didn't submit to forced baptisms and the like.

Yes, these modern institutions like to distance themselves from those acts of brutality, and certainly many of their leaders may not be personally responsible for them. Nonetheless, Jesus is teaching here that the institutional doctrines of these institutions keep them responsible. 

Fanatical philosophies are not tolerant of other forms of worship other than their own. It is such fanaticism that is at the root of former crimes against humanity.

In many cases, these acts of terrorism can be compared to some of the modern acts of terror we see today propagated through the misinterpretation of the Koran.

All of these fanatical groups are mistaken that anyone can be forced to love or worship the Supreme Being.

Along with mass killings, some of these institutions have persecuted or disrespected those who dedicated their lives to the Supreme Being over the centuries.

Is this fanaticism?

Some of the very same institutions responsible for genocide were also known for their fanaticism. These fanatical institutions are responsible for gross misinterpretations of various scriptures over the years. Just as the Temple institution Jesus is criticizing was responsible for its misinterpretation of the teachings of the Prophets during Jesus' time, many institutions today have also become fanatical, and are missing or ignoring the meaning of Jesus' teachings.

They have completely missed that Jesus' mission - as were the Prophets' - was to teach his students to come to know, love, and serve the Supreme Being. As some institutions have become lost in the pomp of propaganda, ceremonial rituals, and proclamations of being saved, they have missed the essential purpose of Jesus' teachings:

To call us home. The Supreme Being wants each of us as individuals to decide by our own free will, to return home to Him. He wants to give us the opportunity - out of our own free will without being forced - to decide to return to our innate loving service relationship with Him. 

He wants us to come to understand our spiritual identity and our innate need to love and be loved. He wants us to renew our loving relationship with Him and the rest of our spiritual family. This is why both Moses' and Jesus' most important instruction was:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38 - drawing from Deut. 6:5)