The Passover Plot

passover plotThis year Passover begins in the evening of Friday, April 6, 2012, with Easter Sunday falling on April 8, 2012. While many people celebrating the religious holidays this weekend think they know what happened in Golgotha, Israel a couple of thousand years ago, there is in fact tremendous controversy, spurred not least by a best-selling 1965 book by British Biblical scholar Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot.

Based on scholarly research into the social and religious culture in which Jesus was born, lived and died, into the source documents of the Gospels, and into other literature, Schonfield reached the following conclusions:

  • That Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish man, probably well-versed in the teachings of the local northern sects such as the Nazarenes and Essenes.
  • That growing up in Biblical Galilee he had a skeptical and somewhat rebellious relationship to the hierarchy and teachings mandated by the authorities (the Pharisees) of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • That Jewish Messianic expectation was extremely high in those times, matched to the despair caused by the Roman occupation of the land, and by their subjugation of the Jews.
  • That he was in many ways both typical of his times, and yet extraordinary in his religious convictions and beliefs, in his scholarship of the Biblical literature, and in the fervency in which he lived his religion out in his daily life.
  • That he was convinced of his role as the expected Messiah based on the authority of his having been descendant from King David (the royal bloodline of David), and that he consciously and methodically, to the point of being calculating, attempted to fulfill that role, being eminently well-versed in the details of what that role entailed.
  • That he was convinced of the importance of his fulfilling the role perfectly (after all prophesy and expectation), and that he could not allow himself to fail, as that would undoubtedly lead to his being declared a false Messiah.
  • That he was perfectly aware of the consequences of his actions all along the way, and that he directed his closest supporters, the original twelve Apostles, unknowingly to aid him in his plans.
  • That he involved the least possible number of supporters in his plans (“need to know” basis), therefore very few knew of the details of his final plan, and even then only the least amount of information necessary.
  • The culmination of his plan was to be his death (the crucifixion), his resurrection and his reign as the true Kingly and Priestly Messiah, not in heaven but on earth— the realized King of the Jews.

Here’s a sample from the book:


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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9 Comments on "The Passover Plot"

  1. Great book like others by that author, but hasn’t it largely been superceded by books that make similar points with the weight of quite a few years more research behind them?

    • Liam_McGonagle | Apr 6, 2012 at 11:55 am |

      Well, everyone’s got their own schtick, I suppose.  So alternate iterations can only help I think.

      But generally I agree.  John Dominic Crossan wrote a book back in ’91 that turned me on to many of these ideas.  I think Albert Schweitzer may have written “the” pioneering study into the historicity of Jesus back in the early 1900’s or something.

      Can’t be too many of these things as far as I’m concerned.  Despite the plethora of them out there, the popular image of Jesus in America seems to be that of some avenging bad-ass sh*t-kicker, rather than the rebel captain who went down with the ship.

  2. Lifobryan | Apr 6, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    Jesus wasn’t a Jew … he was CHRISTIAN, for chrissakes! He was caucasian, probably from Kansas, the very first Republican, and he spoke good ol’ King James English. Don’t these people read the Bible?? 

    Personally, I like the Pat Robertson/Sarah Palin Authorized Translation because it prints all of Jesus’ words in red, and all of the bloody bits in redder. 

  3. People have been saying what Jesus was and what he thought over 2,000 years ago. No one is around that could really know. Why do we pretend to know anything about Jesus? We don’t know what he looked like, but yet people see a face on a piece of toast and say he looks like Jesus, how would they know? WWJD, who knows and who should give a shit? He may have been a good guy or he may have been an asshole, we will never know and really shouldn’t care. Who is was and what he thought 2000 years ago, has absolutely no influence on modern man at all, at least it should not.

    • Liam_McGonagle | Apr 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |

      There are scientific methods to available to objectively weigh the evidence.

      We have manuscripts which can be reasonably dated and located based on linguistic, stylistic, radio carbon and cross-referencing evidence.

      Categorizing the various texts in this way, we can make well reasoned judgments as to which texts are “closer” in time and place to the actual historical man around whom the Jesus legend grew.

      Given the simple fact of the incredible cultural influence of the Jesus story, it’s clear that these authors were onto something.  They may or may not have been completely accurate in their accounts, but clearly they were not 100% bat-sh*t incompetent buffoons. 

      At best each of them were sincere, but deeply flawed interpreters of a tradition that began at least 40 years before their writing.  At worst they were self-seeking con-men willing to write anything that served their rhetorical purpose–but even that was subject to the constraints of its audience’s credulity. 

      But we do have a means for evaluating the evidence objectively.

      Read John Dominic Crossan’s 1991 book, “The Historical Jesus:  The Life of A Mediterranean Jewish Peasant”.  He takes the reader step-by-step through the process of identifying the various strata through objective science.

      I understand your ridicule of superstition and the typically less-than-rigorous approaches applied to the Jesus story, but you should really be aware that there is very serious, transparent scientific work being done as well.

      • I disagree, that they clearly were not batshit buffoons.We don’t know anything about these people. In 2000 years, things get pretty twisted, not to mention King James, a clearly 100% batshit buffoon. Why people keep concerning themselves about this whole story, is beyond me. The first thing you have to believe is, there is a god, in order to believe that Jesus was the son of that god, and that is where you lose me. There is not an iota of evidence that there is a god. So the rest of the story matters not at all. Another thing with me is, why do humans believe that there was a type of mysticism happening 2000+ years ago and then it just stopped. People were talking and hearing from god and now if a person claims to hear the voice of god, they are committed to a mental institution.WTF?

        • Liam_McGonagle | Apr 7, 2012 at 1:47 pm |

          Well, I guess you can disagree all you want.  That still won’t make reality go away: Jesus was the single most influential person in the last 2,000 years western history. All of the pretending in the world won’t make that one go away.

          They’ve got all these independently sourced radio-carbon dated documents proving that people wrote contemporaneously about an actual living historical character named Jesus, and that their writings contain a remarkable (though not absolute) degree of consistency with one another.

          If you don’t like the way those writings have been interpreted or misinterpreted, fine.  That’s fair.  I don’t like most of it either.  But to say that radio carbon dating technology doesn’t exist, that modern day academics don’t know how to read Koine Greek, or that historical interpretations of Jesus’ legacy have no relevance to history is to flirt with insanity.

          You REALLY are unable to distinguish between the actual historical flesh-and-blood person named Y’shua Bar Joseph and the Marvel Comics supervillain portrayed in the popular press?

          Either you haven’t thought seriously about the issue or it never occurred to you that the most convincing mythologies are the ones that contain a grain a truth mixed in with a bunch of fantasy.

  4. To prioritize biographical details over the moral message of Christ’s ministry is to repeat the error of the fundamentalists.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  How hard is that? 

    What kind of world would we have inherited if our ancestors had made that simple, powerful idea the foundation of their society, instead of greed?  What kind of world could our descendants inherit if we did it?

  5. Jackson Buddingh | Apr 8, 2012 at 8:49 am |

    what a great exercise in solipsism

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