Item description for The Passover Plot: Special 40th Anniversary Edition by Hugh J. Schonfield...
Overview Explores the theory that Jesus planned his ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection in accordance with Hebrew Messianic prophecies.
Finally back in print, this special 40th anniversary edition of Dr. Schonfield's international multimillion-copy bestseller is set to rock the establishment view of the life of Jesus all over again.
There is probably no other figure in modern Jewish historical research who is more controversial or famous than Hugh J. Schonfield, who once said: "The scholars deplore that I have spilled the beans to the public. Several of them have said to me, 'You ought to have kept this just among ourselves, you know.'"
What he did to "spill the beans" was present historical evidence suggesting that Jesus was a mortal man, a young genius who believed himself to be the Messiah and deliberately and brilliantly planned his entire ministry according to the Old Testament prophecies--even to the extent of plotting his own arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.
Since Schonfield's death in 1988, his popularity and the interest in his prodigious work, which included over 40 books, has drawn increasing attention, particularly outside Judaism. In fact, it is probably fair to say that his contribution to the Gentile understanding of Jewish aspirations among those within the Christian cultural framework has been without parallel. In true Christian tradition, he has also been the cause of much contention.
In the wake of resurgent interest in religious history spurred by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" and Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code," this 40th anniversary edition of "The Passover Plot" is set to engage a completely new generation of readers searching for truth.
Citations And Professional Reviews The Passover Plot: Special 40th Anniversary Edition by Hugh J. Schonfield has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
Ingram Advance - 04/01/2005 page 132
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Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 0.75" Width: 5.5" Height: 8.25" Weight: 1.05 lbs.
Release Date Apr 1, 2005
Publisher The Disinformation Company
ISBN 1932857095 ISBN13 9781932857092
Availability 0 units.
More About Hugh J. Schonfield
Born in London in May, 1901, Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield was an eminent historian, biblical archaeologist and best-selling author. A scholar of unrivalled repute in the field of the Jewish origins of Christianity, he was one of the greatest popularisers of ideas of our time.
Hugh J. Schonfield was born in 1901 and died in 1988.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Passover Plot: Special 40th Anniversary Edition?
A Half-Credible Jesus Dec 17, 2007
Previous reader reviewers of this book have made many good comments, but have not, I think, made clear enough one important aspect of it. Only a portion of the book actually describes a "Passover plot" by Jesus involving a highly detailed planning of his own arrest, trial, crucifixion, faked death, and faked resurrection. That portion is far-fetched and sensational, but is a relatively small portion of the whole book.
By contrast, the first 100 pages of the book present a picture of Jesus that is, I think, credible and insightful. It is a naturalistic presentation of the entire life of Jesus, stripped of all supernatural acts and events, though not beliefs, and without fantastic intrigue either. Schonfield, as a Jewish scholar, is able to probe deeply into the Jewish background of Jesus. It becomes clear that 1st century Jews in Palestine, and especially Galilee, were intensely superstitious, nervously engaging in prophesies, oracular readings of the Old Testament, messianism and apocalypticism. Schonfield writes of the sickness of that society, a time in which young Yeshua (Jesus), among a number of others, naturally and honestly came to believe he was the messiah. After all, Schonfield notes, many boys everywhere, living in less intense times, dream of becoming great heroes or leaders of their people, even unto death. He also bravely points out some personal faults of Jesus such as a father-fixation and a grim tendency toward scorn. His passage on Jesus cursing the fig tree is precious. So are his comments that the Christian religion is basically pagan because it made of Jesus an anthropomorphic idol.
Up to about page 100, Schonfield's picture of Jesus has much in common with Albert Schweitzer's famous finding of an apocalypse-preaching historical Jesus. But Schweitzer's book is so massive and complex that few readers are likely to read much of it. Schonfield's simpler, easier-to-read book offers a more accessible account of that apocalyptic or eschatological Jesus. He also lucidly suggests that the ignominious martyrdom of John the Baptist partly prompted Jesus' desire for his own more spectacular death in Jerusalem at Passover.
However, after about page 100, a neat demarcation-line as it were, Schonfield moves from this credible account of Jesus' general belief in himself as a messiah who must suffer to a not-at-all credible account of his detailed plotting of every specific step on his way to that goal - and more. At about p. 100 I stopped reading the book (not only in disbelief, but admittedly also for lack of time).
As for the remaining, intrigue-laden scenario (which the dustjacket had described), Schonfield clearly borrowed much of this from the lives of Jesus written c. 1800 by Bahrdt and Venturini, whose "swoon" theories (coma on the cross, resuscitation later in the tomb) were understandable in their time but are much less so now that we know far more about ancient crucifixions and how efficiently deadly they were. Schonfield's 1965 reprise of that moribund theory (drugged vinegar drink on cross would cause coma) was probably influenced by the widespread drug culture of the early 1960s.
Yet, even Schonfield's fantastic notion of a highly detailed "Passover plot" by Jesus has some redeeming points. It offers a naturalistic theory for the reputed resurrection, which must indeed have had natural causes of various kinds (a body theft by whomever, then dreams, or visions, or chance glimpses of Jesus look-alikes, or the sight of his image on his shroud, or embellishments by storytellers, etc.). Moreover, some of the clues to a conspiracy that Schonfield thinks he sees in the gospels involve passages that are undeniably bizarre, passages that Schonfield did not invent and that Christians have no satisfactory explanations for. Schonfield deserves sympathy at least for his attempt to make some natural sense out of those bewildering passages.
I first heard of this book in the 1970s and, judging from what little I heard, did not think it worth reading. Now I have finally read it, or part of it, and must admit that I was long mistaken about its full contents. The first 100 pages or so can certainly be recommended to all readers curious about the real Jesus.
The Book: The Passover Plot Nov 29, 2007
Excellent read with a new angle, at least to me, on the life of Jesus. This book describes the environment both politcal and religious that led to the death of Jesus. You may not agree with the facts, as presented, but it is logically presented and entertainingly educational.
Schonfield's Jeckle and Hyde Jesus Nov 25, 2007
The 1960's were a wild time for revolutions of independence not only in race or gender, but in behaviors and ethics. It was the hippie revolution; the drug revolution; the sexual revolution. It was also a time that many thought they had a right to rebel against the social norms and the religious "oppression" that was placed on them. Many had proclaimed "God is dead," and now books by the hundreds were being written to prove this, such as The Death of God by Gabriel Vahanian (1961), Hamilton and Altizer's Radical Theology and the Death of God (1968), and more popular books criticizing Christianity such as John A.T. Robinson's best seller, Honest to God (1963). It is on this scene that the Jewish "Nazarean" author, Hugh Schonfield, writes this intriguing and strange book (written in 1965; I read the 40th anniversary eddition).
I call The Passover Plot intriguing because it is somewhat of a mystery spy novel of sorts with a touch of historical flair that any reader not very in tune with the issues may really be taken away with. Schonfield is a very good writer, and in my opinion has done a decent job at arranging this book and trying to make his case. But the book is also "strange," because it seems that Schonfield really wants to convince us of one thing, and then the next thing we see is a contradiction of it in his main premise!
He states, so convincingly, that Jesus counts for "so much," and answers "so much of human need" (p. 10). Jesus was a "most exceptional man," and that in his presentation of Jesus he will not "detract from his greatness and uniqueness" (p. 15). He believes that Jesus was no "charlatan, willfully and deliberately misleading his people," or that there was not the "slightest suspicion of pretence on his part," and that we have to "accept the absolute sincerity of Jesus" (p. 41). Jesus was "one above all others who showed mankind how to make their dreams come true" (p. 48). He was a man not of ambition or "self-aggrandizement," but that his recognition of himself was that of the "Servant" of the Old Testament (p. 66).
With such high praise for Jesus in the forefront, Schonfield now decides to investigate what he believes was this same man; an ingenius, willful mastermind attempting to "swoon" his own death in order to make sure people don't believe him to be a false messiah (pp. 83-84). This is a man who Schonfield has said has no inkling of pretence or ambition, but then ends up using trickery and deceit in this incredibly manipulative plot to get people to kill him at a certain time, whereby he will feign his death and be able to show himself to be the Messiah to his people. Thus Schonfield is presenting, in my opinion, a "Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde" Jesus, one who is a genuine figure but has a side to him which is devilish when you really consider Schonfield's proposal.
This proposal was that Jesus, knowing he must fulfill the Old Testament prophecies concerning his death, plotted how this could be done, and meticulously fulfilled it, using Joseph of Arimathea (who was to "drug" him) and the Beloved Disciple to help in getting this plot completed (see Chapter 10, The Plot Matures). While for 1960's hippies and rouge scholars from liberal theological seminaries, this is an interesting and intriguing look into why Christianity "mistook" Jesus as dead and raised up again, Schonfield today is just not taken seriously, even by radical biblical scholars such as those from the Jesus Seminar (I have yet to see his name or his book quoted in their works). The reason for this is that first of all Schonfield is obviously taking from the Gospels only what will make a case for his work. He obviously does not at all believe that the miracles could ever take place, and that especially is central with the resurrection of Jesus, and thus sees miracle stories as mythological or even pagan entries into the story. This the Jesus Seminar folks will agree with. But then he actually utilizes the basic story of Jesus, placing the Gospel of John as the main text, and really takes much of the information to be reliable (which the radical scholars would leave him here).
Schonfield goes wrong in many ways:
One, he goes back to a fallacy that is seen in many "Life of Jesus" writers in the 19th Century, which is trying to force Jesus to be in the current image of the writer, not in the image which is presented in His sources. Albert Schweitzer, back in 1906, wrote a book exposing this error, in his Quest for the Historical Jesus. He stated that the authors, in trying to write their new interpretations of what they thought was the "real" Jesus, simply made Jesus much like themselves. Schonfield, who takes a naturalistic view of reality, not allowing for the supernatural, places the story of Jesus' death and resurrection into his very own naturalistic bias. Since Jesus could not have possibly risen from the dead, the story of the resurrection must have been generated by a plot to pretend one took place. It seems Schonfield wants Jesus to think as a naturalistic scholar thinks! This is an error that still takes place in portraits of Jesus written by the Jesus Seminar today.
Two, while Schonfield tries to present a plausible alternative to the reason Jesus died and his followers believed he rose from the dead, he attempts to paint the miracle stories as utterly ridiculous, and not worth any credence, and then expects us to believe his even MORE unbelievable scenario that Jesus actually could manipulate situations so well that they all work out almost perfectly to fulfill the Old Testament scriptures (and not realizing the Jeckle and Hyde he has deliberated in the process). In fact, I think Schonfield does much justice in his examination of the prophecies of the Old Testament and his belief that Jesus believed himself to be the Messiah. Most of his good research here match the historical accounts, and most Christians scholars will agree with it. But in presenting the non-supernatural view of his death and resurrection, his great research has no foundation whatsoever. In fact, historically, there is not one story a person can turn to of someone trying to fake their death for messianic reasons, or of an actually historical precedent for a swooning that ever occurred. This is all modern day speculation.
Third, he also wants us to believe that Jesus' failure to swoon his death actually was a great victory of some sort (see pp. 185-186). Also, that even though the plot did not go according to plan (Jesus died when the spear killed him- John 19), that his disciples could still stand up with the authority and earnest desire to declare a Jesus that had "risen from the dead" though he obviously did not. Schonfield wants us to believe that there was another who claimed to be Jesus (must have been in on the plot, also), and the Beloved Apostle's word that it was him (despite it not being him, at least to the other Apostles) was all that the Apostles needed to proclaim the resurrection.
Fourth, if Jesus truly wanted to plan a "swoon" of some sorts, and did such a meticulous job to rouse up the leaders of the Jews against him to the point that he would even get Pontius Pilate to come at the exact time needed so he could be crucified just before the Sabbath, it is something that Jesus would then be so idiotic to not know all the procedures of crucifixion which the Romans did. Such a genius would easily had known the procedure of crurifragium, or the act of breaking one's legs to speed up the death by asphyxiation. This was a common practice when the Romans needed to speed up the death of an accused, and yet, the brilliant strategist Schonfield makes of Jesus completely overlooks this common practice!
Finally, the belief that Jesus' disciples would carry out the mission of Christ, even to torture and death, without knowing FOR CERTAIN that Jesus was truly risen, is false by psychological means. No one dies for a lie, and certainly no one dies for an uncertainty. Schonfield is unconvincing in trying to portray the Apostles as so gullible to believe a stranger to be Jesus and the "Beloved" Apostles sole word to be enough that his stranger would be seen as the risen Lord, and so go on to die for Him.
Schonfield must be commended on his scholarship up to the point where he tracks off into a painting of a schizophrenic messiah. He, as many critical scholars, is only trying to keep the resurrection as a unviable possibility; but at the same time, he presents many details in the story as true representatives of what really happened. But he fails miserably in his conclusions, and doesn't even see it. He has turned his messianic Jesus into a psychological schizophrenic.
Very informative book. Oct 21, 2007
I never pictured myself reading about about Jesus, however curiousity made me read this without putting it down. This book gives a different spin on this story, and I appreciate knowing more about the man without (what I consider) the exagerated additions. It is much easier for me to understand how people (including Jesus) believed who he was, and the series of events that led him through his life. It is a great read, for those who believe and for those who do not.
Fantastic, fictional swoon plot Oct 16, 2007
The best fiction is based, as much as possible, in truth. Schonfield succeeded in writing an entertaining work of fiction in The Passover Plot, but unfortunately that was not his intent. This now-deceased (1988), esteemed Dead Sea Scrolls scholar sets out to prove his take on the swoon theory. To do so, he must deny Jesus' deity, death, and resurrection. The swoon theory makes the rounds every now and then, and here Schonfield attempts to build a case in the face of strong evidence to the contrary.
Schonfield is clear with regard to his beliefs concerning Jesus and the New Testament (the Gospels in particular), unlike many current authors. In the Introduction (1996 mm ed.), he tells the reader Jesus is not divine (11, 12), nor the incarnate Son of God, but was used as a crutch by the fledgling church, which needed the human embodiment of a deity (13). Schonfield claims Jesus himself would see his deification as blasphemous, but offers only conjecture of Jesus' own interpretation of the prophecies. Regarding the New Testament gospel accounts, Schonfield states they are inconsistent, late, and contain many inaccuracies. Yet he uses his own translation of the New Testament (The Original New Testament) mixed with more widely accepted translations to support his theory.
Schonfield asserts Jesus came to believe he was "the expected Messiah of Israel" (14, 16) after immersing himself in the Old Testament traditions. Jesus then plotted and schemed to fulfill the messianic prophecies, persuaded this was "imposed upon him through the demands of the Old Testament." (51) Counter to the major theme of John's gospel, Schonfield states Jesus was not and did not believe himself to be divine. However, Schonfield uses this gospel liberally in support of his assertions throughout the book. He believes the gospels themselves are corrupted legends and traditions written after A.D. 100 by a Gentile offshoot of Jesus' original Jewish followers after Josephus' works were published. We therefore have no access to the "inside story" of Jesus (218). If the gospels are so corrupt, why use them as support? Schonfield's belief that the gospels post date 100 A.D. is misplaced. The number of attested manuscripts far exceeds any other ancient work; they exhibit remarkable internal consistency and historical reliability. Even reputable liberal scholars now admit that the whole of the New Testament was written before A.D. 70. Josephus' writings are part of the support for the A.D. 70 date. But Schonfield uses them to claim they were written after A.D. 100. In this regard, the weight of scholarly evidence is not in Schonfield's favor.
An underlying current in this book implies religion is not rational because it requires faith (57). One sees this clearly on page 58, on which the author states there was no virgin birth and Jesus was not God. But no basis is given for this claim. Rather, the old modernist position "all religion or matters of faith is myth" is employed in a reverse "God-of-the-Gaps" argument. Yet by the author's claim, Jesus was a deeply religious man convinced by his Jewish faith that he was the Messiah. This is circular reasoning. Further, Jesus had such faith in the prophecies and scriptures of his religion that he put his life on the line to fulfill them. Following this flawed line of reasoning, Schonfield picks and chooses from both Old and New Testaments to support his position. He discounts the Gospels as untrue, but turns around and quotes one (usually John) out of context to support his assertions. The overall effect is scattered.
Last is the "Plot" itself. Jesus was able to plot his way to crucifixion and "resurrection" in the form of a risky plan. He was to be secretly revived after his "death," then assume his rightful place as Messiah. In chapter 12 Schonfield describes the sequence of events surrounding the crucifixion. According to Schonfield, Jesus carefully orchestrated every event with the help of a few assistants. Jesus never intended to actually die on the cross. With exquisite timing he intended to be there no more than three or four hours. He planned to be drugged into unconsciousness briefly while someone ran to a waiting Joseph of Arimathea, who would then run to beg a supposedly agreeable Pilate to allow Jesus' body to be removed from the cross. Joseph would then run back with word of Pilate's approval to the waiting man, who would then return to Golgotha, be believed by the Roman soldiers who would promptly remove the unconscious Jesus from the cross before he suffocated to death. This theory breaks down because the process of crucifixion Jesus endured would have led to his suffocation even if everything went perfectly. The distances involved are too great, and Jesus' physical condition on the cross too deteriorated for survival. By being drugged unconscious, Jesus would suffocate quickly because he wouldn't be able to push himself up to take a breath. The unanticipated wrinkle in Jesus' plan was a Roman soldier with a spear, which he used to pierce the pericardium sac surrounding Jesus' heart, thus ensuring death prior to removal from the cross.
When Schonfield wrote this book, many were seeking a "true Jesus" as an antidote to a church they felt had not succeeded in keeping up with the shifts in cultural moods. The Passover Plot attempts to bridge the gap between old traditionalism and new post modern seekers whose questions the church was slow to answer. In the end, this book raises more questions than it answers.