© 1969 Far West Editions




Bernard Geis Associates (Random House)




Beacon Press


What an extraordinary help it would be to millions of the earth’s inhabitants if it were possible for someone to explain in a book the workings of Christ’s mind during the main events of His life! The mind of an Ideal Figure certainly, but not one that is approached only through faith because He is so completely out of the reach of our thought.

Some of the events in His life are thinkable—for example, the temptation. That the truly religious mind would refuse omnipotence, par­ticularly at a time when a political Messiah was expected, is remotely understandable, even to us opportunists.

In the case of certain other events, the Virgin Birth for instance, and the questioning of the doctors in the temple, we can accept the opinion of scholars that these are not historical fact but represent symbolic and traditional additions to the story by early Greek influences. The myth of Christ is not in question, and the point is not whether His historical life has been em­bellished by fairy tales.

The problem remains whether even a resi­duum of such central events as the message to the apostles, the journey to Jerusalem, the be­trayal, trial and crucifixion can possibly be re­lated together as actions corresponding to any intelligence we know or can imagine. If not, Christ’s life has an entirely inner meaning for us and His example, however inspiring, remains partly a mystery.

Dr. Schonfield is a Jewish scholar in London who, as a boy at Glasgow University, was at­tracted to study the person of Jesus and has pursued his research through the writing of five books including a fresh translation of the Chris­tian scriptures. In “The Passover Plot, “ which has been a minor sensation in England, he succeeds in making Christ a practical thinker of extraordinary insight and subtlety, entirely free from the sentimentality which surrounds all that is purely mythical. As the Messiah, He did not wait for things to happen, He helped to make them happen as He wished they should. But for both Christians and Jews, something is felt to be lacking. The figure that emerges from this ac­count, we feel, is dynamic but too much a hero of our own time.

 “It was useless for the Jews, or any others for that matter, to cherish a noble ideal if they were not going to sweat and strive to put it into effect. Jesus prayed and then He got to work. So many do the first but not the second.” (p. 186)

This is very true, but how then has He be­come, from the standpoint of general humanity,

 a light unto the Gentiles” rather than to the chosen people? Can this have been entirely the work of Paul and others? How intelligent was Christ the Jew if the tradition of love which has become associated with His name was only incidental to the main intention of proving to His own people that He was exactly the Messiah described by their prophets?

Dr. Joseph Klausner evidently spent a life­time with these very questions. He was born in Russia in 1874 and, after holding various aca­demic posts in Jewish institutions in Odessa, immigrated to Palestine in 1920. His aim in gcing there was to assist the Jewish renaissance by showing “not the superiority of Judaism to Christianity and not the superiority of Christian­ity to Judaism but simply how Judaism differs and remains distinct from Christianity and Christianity from Judaism.” In other words, in asmuch as they are distinct teachings, they are reconcilable. By this means he hoped to con­tribute—and indeed did contribute—towards making possible the establishment of Israel among the Western nations.

Writing for Jews, Klausner suggests that Jesus can be seen, not as the provider of a new religion, and not as one of the Pharisees whose aim was to strengthen the national existence, but “as a great teacher of morality and an artist in parable. “ The Lord’s Prayer, he says, and “virtually everything else that Jesus uttered, can he divided up into separate elements, every one of which is Hebraic in form and occurs in either the Old Testament or the Talmud”...“But there is a new thing in the Gospels…Jesus gathered together and so to speak con­densed and concentrated ethical teachings in such a fashion as to make them more prominent than in the Talmudic Haggada and the Midrashim, where they are interspersed among more commonplace discussions and worthless mat­ters.” (p. 389)

To some at least, this approach to under­standing the mind of Jesus—as one which was able to select and combine from the mass of existing religious literature the elements which could have direct and universal appeal for twenty centuries—will give food for thought and encouragement in pondering the question which still baffles our minds: why did He act as He did?