© 1969 Far West Editions
THE PASSOVER PLOT
BY HUGH J. SCHONFIELD
Bernard Geis Associates (Random House)
BY JOSEPH KLAUSNER
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.
remains whether even a residuum of such
central events as the message to the apostles, the
Dr. Schonfield is
a Jewish scholar in
“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?
Klausner evidently spent a lifetime with these
very questions. He was born in
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?