Science in Christian Perspective
Book Reviews for March 1969
INASMUCH: CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN 20TH CENTURY AMERICA by David 0.
Moberg, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, 1965. 216 pp. 52.45
THE PASSOVER PLOT by Hugh J. Schoofield. Bernard Geis Associates, New York, 1965. $4.95
INASMUCH: CHRISTIAN SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IN 20TH CENTURY AMERICA by David 0.
Moberg, Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., Grand Rapids, 1965. 216 pp. 52.45
Both the title and tone of this book are taken from Matthew 25:40: "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it onto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it onto me." Moberg presents this book as a working document toward a Christian philosophy' of social concern, and as a guideline to direct the social welfare activities of evangelical churches.
The outline for the book was originally prepared during Moberg's five year tenure as chairman of the social agency and welfare committee of his denomination. It was intended "as a starting point for study, thought, discussion, prayer, and work on the sobjcct of Christian social responsibility. I hope it will stimulate effective action on matters related to the church's mission to society."
Dave Moberg is familiar to most A.S.A. members as a past editor of the J.A.S.A. and be is a respected friend of many of us. An active church and denominational officer, lay preacher, and student pastor, he received his Ph.D. in sociology from Minnesota with early expressed interest in "activist-involved" sociology Both backgrounds are reflected in Moberg's first book, The Church and the Older Person, which not only provided excellent empirical data, but also practical suggestions on how the church could serve and be served by the aging. His second book, The Church as Social Institution, is a fine descriptive text on the sociology of religion, which has been widely adopted as a textbook and resource book. He was for some time chairman of the department of social science at Bethel College, has twice held Fulbright professorships in Europe and has recently been appointed Chairman of the department of sociology and anthropology at Marquette University.
Here, however, Moberg does not write as a sociologist, but as one acquainted with sociology: "It is not a detailed handbook for dealing with specific social problems, nor is it strictly a social science treatise, though I trust that it is based soundly upon social science knowledge as well as upon Christian teachings. Inasmuch is designed for interested pastors and laymen, for whom Moberg attempts "to maintain a consistently evangelical Protestant orientation." This gives the book a particular coloring which is maintained in many ways. Each chapter ends with a list of discussion questions that a layman might well ask regarding social issues, hot they are not the questions a sociologist would probably ask. Each chapter also has a list of annotated reading, for which Moberg feels constrained to defend the inclusion of "liberal" sources, "simply because most work on Christian social concern has been done by the liberals." Bible references are frequently inserted, not as "proof texts," but to see if "the words of contemporaries are in accord with the supreme guidebook."
Moherg is a "soft-sell" author. He is addressing an audience which has deeply invested interests in the "right way", a way that is indeed often "to the right." To raise questions about this audience's social stance often evokes fear, anxiety, and anger. I think Moberg does not want his audience to "turn him off" as they might well do with other more open authors who have written on the same topic, men such as Gloek, Stark, Peter Berger, Martin Marty, Gibson Winter, and Harvey Cox. Therein lies both the strength and weakness of this book.
The book is divided into five parts. Part I takes up the social responsibility of the Christian; Part II the Scriptural Basis for Christian Social Concern; Part III Society's Need for Christian Social Concern; Part IV Implementing Christian Social Concern; and Part V Evaluating Christian Social Concern. Each section is clearly written, well documented, and filled with specific illustrations. Moberg does not tip his hand as to the answers to the provocative discussion questions he presents, thus succeeding admirably in presenting a discussion guide and an incentive to re-evaluation.
But Moberg also maintains an unspoken and unquestioned assumption, namely that an adequate philosophy of Christian social concern can be developed within the tradition and structure of evangelical Christianity. Jeffrey Hadden' has recently suggested that the old conservative-liberal dichotomy used by Moberg is a false picture of the actual position of churches and clergy today. It is around specific issues rather than denominational polarities that religious pluralism obtains today. Moberg suggests that an adequate Christian social concern can build upon the slice of Christendom known as evangelicalism as the base. But is that the best way of slicing the pie? Stark and Clock2 suggest that both the conservative and liberal polarities provide no adequate base for a meaningful Christian response in society.
To pursue this point on another tack, Moberg assumes that the social structure of evangelicalism is not inimical to responsible Christian social concern. Yet this slice of Christendom is a Christian sub-culture and may not be a viable sub-culture at all, but rather a "contra-culture"--a minority group which maintains its identity by pitting itself against the dominant culture, J. M. Yinger3 describes it. Several studies suggest that the evangelical sub-culture may contain social and theological constructs that defeat a feasible Christian social concern despite its best intents4,6. Thus, although Moberg lists ten factors why evangelical Protestants have not been involved with social concerns, his ten credible factors miss the heart of the matter, i.e. evangelical Protestantism is a time, place, and culture, constrained expression of Christian commitment. And that expression of Christianity may no longer be a viable form of Christian expression in society
The study of religion held a central place in the work of pioneer sociologists such as Troeltsch, Weber, Pareto, Durkheim, and Vach. After a hiatus of several decades, the sociology' of religion is again a serious concern of men like Clock, Stark, Michael Argyle, Bryan Wilson, j. M. Yinger, B. B. Dynes, Benton Johnson, and Cerharcl Lenski. Their views, more dispassionate than Moherg's, suggest that religion is both a powerful social force, and powerfully influenced by social forces. They Suggest that social forces are producing revolutionary changes in the structure of religion in America. And for this reason many theologians are looking at social relations and social responsibility as the point of relevance for 20th Century Christianity. Moherg writes of Christian social concern as an important, but perhaps a tangential aspect of Christianity. For comparison, this is what Langclon Gilkey5 recently stated: "there has been a shift in Christian ethical concern from personal holiness to love of neighbor as the central obligation, if not the essence, of Christianity . concern with a man's attitudes and behavior in relation to his neighbor in the social community."
Evangelical Protestantism is a time, place, and culture, constrained expression of Christian commitment. And that expression of Christianity may no longer be a viable form of Christian expression in society.
Is a responsible Christian social philosophy possible within the evangelical structure? To what degree can we assume that it is possible? What influence does the evangelical social structure have on the type of Christian social concern it can muster? To these larger issues Moberg does not speak, and we should not be tempted to read his mind on them. Does he really feel that the whole social structure of the evangelical slice of Christendom does not require re-evaluation in light of contemporary America?6 Or is Moberg being discreet and not raising these larger issues at this time so that the issues he does raise will open the door for the larger discussion at a later date? If so, when? Perhaps Moberg will speak to this in the future. I, for one, certainly hope so and look forward to his comments.
I personally appreciate the contribution which Professor Moberg has made in this book. It is a book which all A.S.A. members should read and discuss-even look up some of the many excellent references Moberg has provided us. Yet whether Moberg's hook can provide the incentive for a more adequate Christian social philosophy and social action is problematic. I wish I could be optimistic, but the movement may be more apparent than real, resulting in only a more vocal assertion of the old unexamined assumptions. For example, Moberg quotes Carl F. H. Henry and Billy Graham as representative of leaders in Christian social concern. Yet their position on "Christian" social action demonstrates little change from a 19th century view of the nature of man, social structure, and economic dynamics. These men are certainly more concerned, and one may appreciate and laud their concern. But I find in them no re-thinking of Christian social responsibility in the larger sense.
This review has not been intended to fault Moberg's book. He has written sensitively and authentically to a limited audience. He has tackled the foremost problem of contemporary Christianity with courage and conviction. He has presented a prologue and it is a good beginning for all of us. I want to hear more from him and see where he would point us further.
1. Hadden, J., A Protestant Paradox-Divided They Merge, Trans-Action, July/August, 1967.
2. Stark, II. and Cluck, C. Y., American Piety: The Nature of Religions Commitment. Univ. Calif. Press, Berkeley, 1968.
3. Yinger, J. M., Cantracolture and Subculture. Amer. Social. Rev., 25:625, 1960.
4. Clock, C. Y. and Stark, B., Christian Beliefs and Anti-Semitism. Harper & Row, New York, 1966.
5. Gilkey, L., Social and Intellectual Sources at Contemporary Protestant Theology in America. Doedalus Winter, 1967.
6. Pattison, E. M., The Closed Mind Syndrome. Christ. Med. Soc. J., 15:12, 1963.
Reeierced by F Mansell Pattison, M.D., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Coordinator for Social and Community Psychiatry, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington.
THE PASSOVER PLOT by Hugh J. Schoofield. Bernard Geis Associates, New York, 1965. $4.95
"In another age, the author of this book would have been burned at the stake," reads an advertisement heralding Hugh J. Schonfield's The Passover Plot in the September 25th, 1966 issue of the New York Times. The controversial book by the Jewish scholar raised a furore when published in England in 1965. Published in the fall of 1966 by Bernard Geis in the U. S. it has received but cursory and unfavorable views thus far (cf. Christianity Today, December 9, 1966, pp. 29-30). Samuel Sandmel of the Hebrew Union College, author of We Jews and Jesus, writing in the Saturday Review, December 3, 1966, p. 43, says: "Schonfield's imaginative reconstruction is devoid of a scintilla of proof, and rests on dubious inferences from passages in the Gospels whose historical reliability he himself has antecedently rejected on page after page. In my view, the book should be dismissed as the mere curiosity it is."
Although the work will not convince scholars and will not appeal to Christians, it will undoubtedly attract many others because it is being sensationally publicized and will be issued in paperback. The book deserves some critical attention because it raises before the public the paramount issues of the death, the resurrection, and the deity of Jesus.
I. Schonfield speculates that Jesus was a socalled Nazorean.
Building on the speculative theories of Robert Eisler, the author holds that there existed in the time of Jesus a pre-Christian Nazorean sect in Galilee with affinities with the Essenes of Qumran and the Mandaeans (p. 208). He even includes the Old Testament Rechabites and Kenites as elements in his North Palestinian Sectarians (pp. 38-39). He asserts, "We must therefore regard it as highly probable that for a time Jesus attached himself to a traveling body of sectarian craftsmen, and thereby came to be known as the Nazorean" (p. 64).
Although he does not fall into the error of identifying Jesus as an Essene, he argues that Essenc influence was strong in Galilee since Damascus is mentioned as one of their centers in the Damascus Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls. (pp. 38-39). (The distance between Galilee and Damascus is not taken seriously.) Some scholars had suggested that after the earthquake of 31 B. C. the Qumran community had temporarily abandoned their Dead Sea habitation for Damascus. But since we now have a manuscript of the Damascus Document dated long before 31 B. C., possibly to the early first century B. C., the literal interpretation of" Damascus" seems untenable -the references to the movement to Damascus are not prophetic. (Cf. Frank M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran [Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Anchor], 1961. pp.Sl-83.)
The author suggests that the Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran-an Aramaic-speaking, Gnostic community -are the heirs of the so-called Nazoreans of Galilee (p. 208). There is indeed some indirect evidence to indicate that the Mandaeans may have had their origins in Palestine about the time of Christ. However, their literary texts, so widely used by R. Reitzenstein and Rudolf Bultmann in the 1920's and 1930's to interpret the Gospel of John, are medieval manuscripts. They may it is true contain some ancient traditions. But since most of the references to Christ are polemics against Byzantine Christendom, the uncritical use of such texts in New Testament exposition can hardly be justified. (See the present writer's article, "The Present Status of Mandaean Studies," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, XXV , 88-96). It is rather striking that critics who are often the most skeptical in their estimate of the New Testament can at the same time be quite credulous in the use of such late sources.
II. Schonfield alleges that the concept of Jesus' resurrection is pagan, patterned after the rising
and-dying gods of the Near East.
"It took a Nazorean of Galilee to apprehend from the Scriptures that death and resurrection was the bridge
between the two phases (i. e. Suffering Just One and Glorious King). The very tradition of the laud where Adonis yearly died and rose again seemed to call for it" (p. 227). The theory that there was a widespread worship of a dying-and-rising fertility god Tammuz in Mesopotamia, Adonis in Syria (note: not Galilee!) Attis in Asia Minor, and Osiris in Egyptwas propounded by Sir James Frazer in 1906. Schonfield rests his case on Theophile Meek's interpretation of the Song of Solomon as a liturgy of an AdonisTammuz cult, which is in turn dependent upon Frazer's hypothesis.
The theory has been widely adopted by scholars who little realize its fragile foundations. In recent years Samuel N. Kramer has made a thorough study of the Mesopotamian sources for the alleged resurrection of Tamsnuz by Ishtar, and has found that this popular belief was based on "nothing but inference and surmise, guess and conjecture." (Mythologies of the Ancient World [Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday Anchor, 1961], p. 10.) In 1960 Kramer discovered a new poem, "The Death of Dumuzi (the Sumerian name for Tammuz) ," which proves conclusively that instead of rescuing Tammuz from the underworld Ishtar sent him there as her substitute. (See the present writer's article, "Tamniuz and the Bible," Journal of Biblical Literature, LXXXIV , 28390.) A line in a fragmentary and obscure text is the only positive evidence to indicate that after being sent to the underworld Tasnmuz himself may have had his sister take his place for half the year. (Cf. S. N. Kramer's note, Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 183 [October, 1966], 31.)
The case is no less tenuous for the alleged resurrections of Adonis and of Attis. Pierre Lambrechts has recently shown that in the case of Adonis-the beautiful youth, beloved of Aphrodite, who was slain by a boar -there is no trace of a resurrection in the early texts or pictorial representations. The four texts which speak of his resurrection are quite late, from the 2nd to the 4th centuries A. D. (P. Lambrechts, "La 'resurrection d'Adonis,'" in Melanges Isidore Levy , pp. 207-40.) He has similarly shown that Attis, the consort of Cybele, does not appear as a "resurrected" god until after 150 A. D.
The death and resurrection of these various mythological figures, however attested, would in all cases typify the annual death and rebirth of vegetation. This significance cannot be attributed to the death and resurrection of Jesus. A. D. Nock sets forth the most striking contrast between pagan and Christian examples of resurrection as follows: "In Christianity everything is made to turn on a dated experience of a historical Person; it can be seen from I Cor. 15:3 that the statement of the story early assumed the form of a statement in a Creed. There is nothing in the parallel cases which points to any attempt to give such a basis of historical evidence to belief." (Early Gentile Christianity and its Hellenistic Background [New York: Harper Torchbuoks, 1964], p. 107; cf. also Bruce Metzger, "Considerations of Methodology in the Study of the Mystery Religions and Early Christianity," Harvard Theological Review, XLVIII , 1-20.)
III. Schonfield asserts that the deity of Jesus is a pagan concept, influenced by the Roman ruler
He dismisses the subject of the deity of Jesus by that most disarming adverb-"obviously." "Obviously," he asserts, "we have to divorce the issue (of the Messianic Hope) from the paganizerl doctrine of the incarnation of the Godhead with which for Christians it has become intermingled . (p. 21). He explains that this doctrine was intruded into early Christianity by Gentile believers who could not hold Jesus their true emperor inferior in dignity to Caesar (p. 200).
In 42 B.C. Julius Caesar was posthumously deified by the Senate. Augustus (27 B.C. - A.D. 14), his successor, accepted divine honors particularly from the eastern provinces. Technically speaking it was the emperor's genius or double who was being honored. After his death Augustus was also deified and introduced into the Pantheon.
It was a madman, Gains Caligula (37-41 A.D.), who demanded worship of himself asaliving god. Of a later emperor, Domitian (81-96 AD.) Suetonius said; "With no less arrogance he began as follows in issuing a circular letter in the name of his procurators, 'Our Master and our God bids that this be clone.'
Sehonfield holds that these titles were inserted into the month of Thomas when he cried out to Jesus, "My Lord and my God" (p. 200).
Hugh Sehonfield, a Jewish scholar, has set forth an interesting and provocative theory to explain the circumstances of the death of Jesus and the development of the belief in His resurrection. His book, The Passover Plot, sets forth the thesis that Jesus conspired with certain of His disciples to feign death on the cross by the use of drugs, and then to rise from "the dead." Schonfield's arguments when examined critically are found to be built upon a tenuous web of speculations, evasions, and distortions of the Gospels.
Many scholars believe that the ruler 'cult was more the expression of political loyalty than of geiiuinc piety. A. D. Nock points to the absence of ezvotos to the emperor, i.e., dedications in which thanks would be given for prayers answered and sicknesses healed. In any case the situation of Jesus is quite unlike the above examples; 1) He was not a conqueror or an emperor with massive powers and a tradition of divine honors. 2) His followers who worshipped him in the first instance were not, as Schonfield assumes, Gentiles from a polytheistic background where heroes were readily assimilated to anthropomorphic deities, but as will be shown below, Jews from a monotheistic tradition.
IV. Schonfield ignores the Old Testament foreshadowings of the deity of the messiah.
We shall agree with Schonfield that the Jews at the time of Jesus were not expecting a divine messiah. But it can be shown that Jesus and the early Hebrew Christians interpreted a number of Old Testament passages as indicating a messiah who was one with God in a unique sense. Schonfield does not deal with such passages as Psalm 45;6 cited in Hebrews 1:8; Psalm 110:1 quoted by Jesus in Mark 12;35-37; Psalm 2:7 quoted in Acts 13:33, etc.
A telling testimony to the presence of such passages in the Old Testament is the way in which Sehonfield twice quotes Isaiah 9 (pp.2O2, 223). In the first passage he notes that the message of the angels at Christmas "echoes the words of Isaiah 9; 'Unto us a son is born; and the government shall be upon his shoulder .... Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it and establish it.'
In the second passage in referring to a hymn from Qumran, Hodayot III, lie notes that "the words of the hymn make obvious reference to Isaiah 9:6-7: 'Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall he upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor ... Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice from henceforth even for ever.'
The dots in Sehonfielci's citations represent a most eloquent silence. What has been omitted reads; "MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE."
V. Sehonfield assumes rather late dates for the Gospels and consequent pagan intrusions into
Schonfield characterizes the Gospel of John as the work of a Creek author, the so-called elder John of Ephesus, who has introduced the picture of Jesus as a "posturing polemical figure with a streak of antisemitism," and "a pathological egotist" who claims to be the Son of God (p. 99). He dates the Gospel of John to A.D. 110-115 (p. 258).
The author does not take into account the revised estimate of the Gospel of John that the Dead Sea Scrolls have impressed upon many scholars, e.g. Bishop J. A. T. Robinson. W. F. Albright summarizes his personal views on John in New Horizons in Biblical Research (London: Oxford University Press, 1966), p. 46, as follows:
"All the concrete arguments for a late date for the Johanoine literature have now been dissipated, and Boltmann's attempts to discern an earlier and later form of the Gospel have proved to he entirely misleading, as both of his supposed redactions have similar Jewish background. The date which I personally prefer is the late 70's or early 80's, i.e. not more than thirty or forty years after the composition of the earliest Pauline epistles"
Schonfield similarly adopts very late dates for the honk of Acts, placing it in
the time of Trajan, A.D. 98-117 (p. 197), and for Luke, dating it
about 100 A.D.
(pp. 169, 177). He bases these dates on the disputable dependence of
Luke on Josephus'
Antiquities, which was pulished in 94 A.D. But there are many cogent
dating Acts prior to the Neronian persecution of 64 AD. Acts 1:1 would further
require that Luke was prior to Acts itself.
One of his arguments for the late date of Luke is the resemblance between the incident on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-32) and the first chapter of Apuleisss' The Golden Ass which was pointed out by the mythographer Robert Graves (pp. 177, 254). It is a glaring blunder for Schonfield to posit the Gospel of Luke about 100 A.D. on this basis, inasmuch as Apuleius was not born until 124 A.D. and did not publish his famous work until about 150 A.D.!
VI. Schonfield evades the testimony of Paul to the deity of Jesus.
"Even the Hellcnised Paul in his mystical philosophy never went as far as speaking of Christ as God, though his doctrine of the Messiah as the pre-eminent expression of God is so delicately poised in its terminology that it could be misussclcrstood by those unacquainted with its peculiar esoteric Jewish background of thought connected with the Archetypal Man" (p. 200). Schonfield's rather tortuous statement seeks to evade the full implications of Paul's testimony.
In a book which is about Jesus Schonfield does not go into any detail about Pauline thought. But from his notes to The Authentic New Testament (New York: Mentor Books, 1958), a translation which he produced, we see that he does not question the fact that Paul was a Pharisaic Jew or that his letters were written before his death in the 60's. Paul's testimony on the issue of the deity of Christ is thus quite crucial.
Most scholars would not agree with Schoafield that Paul's language about Jesus is ambiguous. To quote a distinguished Jewish authority, H. J. Sehoeps, Foul (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961):
"In Phil. 2:6 Paul speaks of an isa eissai thea of Christ, which can only mean that 'Christ was and is equal with Cad.' In 2 Cor. 11:31 Paul relates the Jewish formula of benediction, the word enlogetos (blessed)..., which applies to God to Jesus Christ and no doubt feels no scruple in so doing" (p. 152).
"The equation of the Chrfstos with God Himself, which cancels the line of demarcation between the Cad of the Old Testament and the Messiah, leads logically to the fart that Paul transfers all the Old Testament statements about Cod to the exalted Christos Ieaons" (p. 153).
VII. Schonfield distorts the testimony of Jesus.
He maintains that, "Jesus as much as any other Jew would have regarded as blasphemous the manner in which he is depicted, for instance, in the Fourth Gospel" (p. 21-22). When the high priest Caiaphas adjured Jesus to declare under oath whether he was the Messiah or not, Jesus answered, "I am, and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:62). The high priest thereupon rent his clothes and said, "Ye have heard the blasphemy." Schonfield guided by his preconceptions interprets the rending of the garments merely as "a formal sign of sorrow." He holds that "Jesus had committed a 'blasphemy', not of God in Jewish law but of Tiberius Caesar in Roman law" (p. 148).
This is a most unconvincing interpretation of what the high priest regarded as blasphemy. The rending of the garments was a protest against a gidduf, a blasphemy against God, according to Mishnah Sanhedrin VII. 5; according to Mishna Kerithoth I. 1 this was worthy of death. To quote the Jewish scholar Schoeps:
"In the scene of Jesus' trial at night He is asked by the high priest with a solemn oath to say whether He is the San of Cod. 'According to Mt. 26:63 and Mk. 14:61-62, the question is put directly by the high priest, and according to the older tradition contained in Mark, is answered by Jesus in the wards ego eisssi ('I am')."
"E. Stauffer has carefully investigated traces of the liturgical theophany formula Ani (we) His (literally "I and He" but meaning "1 am He") in Jewish writings. It seems in me to be proved that this lies behind the ego einsi statements, and that in the mouths of Jesus it implied that He predicated of Himself divine nature, while in the ears of the high priest it sounded, of course, like a horrible blasphemy (op. cit., p. 161).
Schoeps points out that the more claim to have been the Messiah would not have
been adequate reason for the Sanhedrin to have condemned Jesus to
death. In A.D.
132-35 when Rabbi Akiba proclaimed Bar Kokhba the Messiah, the rabbis
did not persecute the latter. In the Jewish view history would be the judge of
messianic claims. (Cf. Gamaliel's speech in Acts 5:34 ff.)
Schonfield objects that if Jesus were guilty of blaphemy he would have been stoned (Lev. 24:16). He recognizes, however, the fact that the Jews at this time were deprived of the right of capital punishment, a fact confirmed by the Talmud. They were indeed tempted to stone Jesus when he said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30, 31; cf. Luke 5:20 ff.).
On two occasions they evidently took advantage of the temporary absence of a Roman governor to take the law into their hands. In 37 A.D. when Pilate had been recalled they stoned Stephen for blasphemy (Acts 6:11 ff.). In A.D. 61 between the terms of Festus and Albinus they stoned James, the brother of Jesus. (See Josephus, Antiquities XX. 200; Eusebins, Church History II. 23.)
VIII. Sehonfield contrives an implausible plot to explain the circumstances of Jesus death.
The author conceives of Jesus as a sincere but astute messianic pretender, whose intimate knowledge of the Old Testament prophecies enabled him to manipulate people and events so as to achieve the fulfillment of those prophecies. Toward the end of his ministry he took certain people into his confidence Joseph of Arimathea, Lazarus, a Judean priest (John 18:15), and an anonymous "young man." It may be asked why Jesus did not confide in Peter, James, and John-his closest disciples.
His accomplices were to give Jesus' .a drug so that he might feign death on the cross. He would then recover and after three (lays reveal himself as the resurrected one According to Schonfield the drug was given in the "vinegar," i.e. the cheap wine, offered to Jesus when he said, "I thirst." He nowhere mentions the fact that Jesus had earlier refused wine mingled with gall or myrrh as an anodyne (Mark 15: 23; Matthew 27:34).
As evidence of Joseph of Arimathea's participation in such a plot, Schonfield
argues: "It has been noted by scholars that Joseph asked for the
of Jesus, which would indicate that he did not think of him as dead. It is only
Pilate who refers to the corpse (ptoma)" (p. 168), No doubt scholars have
noticed the difference in the synonyms, but only someone with
could argue that in this context some means a living body and not a
corpse . The
Greek word some often means a corpse; In Homer this is always the
case. (Cf. Josephus,
Antiquities XVIIt. 236 to cite but one of numerous possible cases).
After the body had been laid in Joseph's tomb, the plotters came on Saturday night to revive Jesus. The setting up of a guard at the tomb is dismissed as "a late reply to allegations that the body had been
stolen by the disciples . (p. 170). Unfortunately for the plot Jesus had received a spear wound and could not be revived. The plotters then disposed of the body somewhere leaving the riddle of the empty tomb (p. 172).
IX. Schonfield explains away the appearances of the risen Christ as cases of mistaken identity.
Sconfield recognizes that the early Christians became convinced of the resurrection of Jesus not primarily because of the empty tomb but because of the appearances of "the risen Christ." He also concedes that, "Christians are surely right in protesting that the Church could not have been established on the basis of deliberate faleshood on the part of the apostles. (pp. 170-71). He admits that, "We are not dealing in the Gospels with hallucinations with psychic phenomena or survival in the Spiritualist sense" (p. 159). He further remarks, "What emerges from the records is that various disciples did see somebody, a real living person. Their experiences were not subjective" (p. 173; italics are the author's).
According to Schonfield Mary Magdalene, who was after all unbalanced, did not see Jesus in the garden but simply the gardener (pp. ].71, 174). The angel at the empty tomb (Matthew 28:25) was simply a "young man" (cf. Mark 16:5), perhaps the same as the gardener. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus mistook a stranger for Jesus, possibly the same "young man" (pp. 177-78).
Commenting on the rendezvous with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee (John 21), Schonfield quotes vs. 12,
"None of the disciples dare ask him, 'Who are you?' knowing it was the master," and then gratuitously adds, "But this was just what they did not know" (p. 179). The same ubiquitous young man was mistaken by the disciples on the mountain in Galilee (Mat. 28-17). He does not mention I Car. 15:6 which probably refers to this incident. There St. Paul says that more than 500 at one time saw the risen Jesus. (In Schoofield's The Authentic N, T. the qualifying phrase, "of whom the greater part remain until now," is strangely omitted.)
Schonfield dismisses the two appearances of Jesus to the apostles in Jerusalem, the first week without and the second week with Thomas. He argues that this is a Judean tradition followed by Luke and John (not noting the allusion in Mark) which is at variance with the Galilean tradition in Matthew. He explains this story as a Jerusalemite response to the Galilean story (John 21) since, "In both there is an eating by Jesus of broiled fish" (p. 178).
It is commonly agreed that there were ten appearances of Jesus after his death to the disciples. Of these Schonfield does not allude at all to: 1) the early appearance of Jesus to the women returning from the sepulchre (Mat. 28:9,10); 2) the appearance to James (I Cor. 15:7); nor 3) the final appearance to the disciples on the Mount of Olives (Mark 16:19; Acts 1:4-9). 4) He mentions without comment the appearance to Peter (I Cur. 15:5; Luke 24:34). 5) & 6) As seen above he dismisses the two appearances in Jerusalem as conflicting Judean traditions (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25; I Cur. 15:5).
In the four appearances that he dues seek to explain: 7) to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11; John 20:11-18), 8) to the two disciples on the Emmaus road (Mark 16:12, 13; Luke 24:1335), 9) to the disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-23), and 10) to the disciples gathered on the mountain of Galilee (Mat. 28:16-20; I Cur. 15:6), Schonfield capitalized on certain statements of hesitation or of initial failure to recognize the risen Jesus. He does not apply his ingenuity to the cases where there are no such statements.
Schonfield seeks to maintain that neither Jesus nor his apostles were guilty of any fraud. Yet he does not explain how the plotters-Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, the mysterious "young man" can be regarded as innocent of deception. The latter is mistaken for the risen Jesus on the four occasions of "appearances" admitted by the author, but never quite manages to correct the misapprehension of the disciples. He is supposed to bear a message from the dying Jesus "that the Messiah had risen" and "that they' would see him in Galilee" (p. 179), knowing full well that he was quite dead, since according to Schonfield (p. 175) he had assisted in the second burial of Jesus. We are asked to believe that the skeptical disciples were confused by the appearance
of this young man into believing that Jesus had arisen and that they were so transformed by this confusion that they, turned Jerusalem upside down with their preaching.
Schonfield asserts that it is not his intention to denigrate Jesus. He professes admiration for Jesus as a "dynamic personality" who worked and plotted to accomplish Cod's will (p. 185). But the level of that admiration is revealed in his concluding comparison of Jesus with the flamboyant British prime minister Disraeli, "another famous schemer" (p. 187).
We are left with the following alternatives: Was Jesus the Son of Cod or was he a "pathological egoist"? Was the empty tomb the result of an elaborately contrived Passover plot or of an eternally decreed Easter triumph? Is Christianity based on the mistaken identity of an anonymous "young man" or on the recognition of the risen Christ?
Reviewed by Edwin H.Yamauchi, History Department, Rutgers-the State University, New Brunswick, New Jersey. This review originally appeared in The Gordon Review 10, No. 3, 1967, pp. 150-160, Reprinted by permission.