BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Interesting ...

OK, so those of you who have been following this space with a "stalker-esque" attention to detail (comparing what's been coming through here with the record of my reading over on LibraryThing) will know that I kind of got behind on my reviewing a number of months back, leaving me with a stack of books that were read between November '08 and February '09 still to be addressed. This is one of those. Needless to say, returning to a book six months or more after having read it is not the most ideal context for writing a review (the books hardly being "fresh" in my thought stream), and for this I apologize. So, if some of the upcoming reviews are a bit more "mechanical" than usual, please don't quit reading thinking "I've lost it" as I work my way through the backlog!

Those regulars will know that I've read many books in "alternative Biblical interpretation" (to give a "big tent" name to a number of associated genres), and Hugh J. Schonfield's The Passover Plot is certainly among that part of my library. The tone of this one, however, is rather different, rather than trying to re-write the theological base of Christianity, it takes a more "investigative" look at the stories and what, realistically, was likely to have been behind them. As one could guess from the title, Schonfield's conclusion is something of a well-planned conspiracy aimed at an actual Messianic kingship for Jesus, hatched by him and certain key associates.

This is not to say that the book doesn't have something of a theological axe to grind, the failings and hypocrisies of Christianity are frequently pointed out:
The Christian message obtained the most recruits among the slaves and underprivileged. Many of them, as we find in Paul's letters, were not only of low morality, but factious, restless and disaffected. ...

The message about Jesus found a lodging among peoples who believed in the commerce of gods with mortals and were accustomed to the deification of rulers and other outstanding personages. ...

There is a widespread desire for a realistic rather than an idealized representation of Jesus. The Traditional portraiture no longer satisfies: it is too baffling in its apparent contradiction of the terms of our earthly existence. The God-man of Christianity is increasingly incredible, yet it is not easy to break with centuries of authoritative instruction and devout faith, and there remains embedded deep in the sub-conscious a strong sense of the super-natural inherited from remote ages. ...

The modern dilemma of Christianity is patent and stems from a creed which down the centuries has so insisted on seeing God in Jesus Christ that it is in danger, as is now evident, of being unable to apprehend the existence of God without him. Far too many Christians do not know God in any other way than through Jesus. Take away the deity of Jesus and their faith in God is imperiled or destroyed. The New Testament is not entirely to be blamed for this. The major fault lies with those who have pandered to the ignorance and superstition of the people in giving them a God created in the image of man.
So, ultimately, what the author attempts here is to strip away the "superstition", and get to a view of the realistic, human, and historical milieu in which these individuals acted. In this, much of the book unfolds like a TV "procedural" looking at events and trying to pry out of the descriptions a likely 1st century scenario. Much of this hinges on peripheral (yet recurring) characters from the biblical narrative, and positing that some of these were closer to "the inner circle" than the "big name" apostles. To give one example: when folks are sent ahead to get an ass for Jesus' entry into Jerusalem (carefully adhering to the Old Testament "script") it's not a miracle that the animal is just where Jesus tells them to look, or that the owner allows them to take it when told a particular phrase, these sorts of things have all been pre-set to allow the mythic elements to accrue to Jesus.

It would appear that the timing, situations, and activities all point to a plan to have Jesus suffer on the cross, but not to die there (the crucifixion coming so close to the sundown on the Sabbath, when his associates could beg for the body, not being a coincidence), however the "piercing of the side" seems to have complicated things, and, rather than rising to reestablish the Jewish Theocracy, Jesus dies and leaves his followers at loose ends.

The book is in two parts, the stuff leading up to the crucifixion, and the stuff that ended up coagulating into Christianity after the crucifixion. There is a lot of very interesting evidence brought forth for both sides, but way too much to even sketch out here. Needless to say, The Passover Plot is a fascinating read, and I'd highly recommend it to anybody looking to make sense of the generally absurd Christian religion! It is still in print, and has a very low cover price, so this is one that you might as well grab at your local brick-and-mortar book vendor (Amazon has a minor discount on it, and their used guys aren't much lower than that when you figure in shipping). It's not a "light" read, but is nonetheless very illuminating!

Visit the BTRIPP home page!

Tags: book review
  • Post a new comment


    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.