This 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: