A Rabbi's Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play, by Joseph Krauskopf, , at sacred-texts.com
"Why should brother deal treacherously against his brother?"Malachi ii, 10.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you: till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven." Words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.St. Matthew v, 17-20.
ONE of the most celebrated of early Church legends is that which tells of Credulity above reason in former times.St. Augustine walking one day on the seashore, meditating on the mystery of the Trinity, and encountering a little child fetching water in a seashell, and emptying it into a little hole in the sand. Inquiring of the child as to the motive of its labor, it replied that it proposed to empty the ocean into the little cavity it had prepared. "Impossible!" exclaimed St. Augustine. "Not more impossible," answered the child, "than for thee, O Augustine, to solve the mystery of the Trinity." Having answered thus, it vanished.
[paragraph continues] What the saint had believed to have been a child thus proved to have been an angel. What he believed to have been a child's playful utterance thus proved to have been a divine revelation. From that hour St. Augustine ceased brooding on the mystery of the Trinity. Henceforth he accepted it on faith.
It was a pretty legend, and it proved very convenient in saving others from the hopeless task of trying to solve this and otherCritical research a necessity in ours. troublesome mysteries of the Church, and made it easy for them to accept doctrines and dogmas on the authority of faith, after the example of a saint of the Church. Those credulous days, however, are no more. That which was easy and even commendable in former centuries has become difficult and quite reprehensible in this. The teaching of "Believe, and be saved" has changed into "Prove, and save thy belief." A mightier saint than Augustine has risen, whose name is Reason; and be the belief never so old and never so Church-encrusted, if it bears not the imprint of this modern saint, it cannot escape being cast aside as myth or counterfeit. Past is the time when the Church could teach with great sanity that the greater the impossibility of a belief the greater is its mystery, and therefore, all the more to be believed. In our age, it has become
an axiomatic truth that the creed worth believing is worth inquiring into. If it can stand the test of critical inquiry it will be all the stronger for the test; if it cannot, then not all the credulity in the world, nor all the authority or enactments or encyclicals of the Church, will be able to save it.
And also this has become a truth, that, whatever be the attitude the Christian may More especially for the Jew.take toward subjecting his belief to critical inquiry, with the Jew it has become a solemn necessity. The honor of our ancestry and the shame of our posterity make it an obligation.
If all that was enacted last summer in the Passion Play at Oberammergau be true, we If charge true Jew must do penance to Christ.have no right to continue as Jews. If all the villainies we are charged with in that play, or in the New Testament, whence that play derives its text and theme, be true, then the sooner we acknowledge our guilt, the sooner we call down the everlasting curse of God upon our ancestors for their heinous crimes against the Virgin-born, Death-resurrected, Heaven-ascended, Only-begotten Son of God, the sooner we crawl to the Cross and there pour out our very souls in contrition, the better will it be for our honesty and for our future salvation.
But if our searching inquiry prove the New Testament teachings against the Jews
false, unfounded, the invention of malice, the fabrication of policy, then it becomes our If false, Christian must right wrongs against Jew.sacred duty, for our suffering ancestry's sake, and for the sake of our posterity doomed to suffer, not to rest, nor to keep silent, till all the world shall know the wrong that has been done to us, and that is still being done, till the Christian himself, conscience-stricken at last, shall feel moved to recognize his error, expunge it from his Scriptures, banish it from his pulpit, and atone for all his past outrages against an innocent people by an amplitude of love in the future.
To the Passion Play, therefore, let us return, and continue the analysis we have thus far made. In our last discourse, reading theTriumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem re-stated. entry of Jesus and his followers into Jerusalem in the light of history, we saw how a band of peasants, fishermen and artisans had made their way from the interior country of the north to Jerusalem, the southern capital of Judea, at that time a tributary province of Rome, under one of the most cruel of Roman governors, Pontius Pilate; how, in their longing for deliverance from their cruel oppressor, and in the state of hysterical and credulous excitement in which they lived, they had deluded themselves into the belief that Jesus, the gentle preacher and healer, was the looked-for Deliverer of the nation; how, in their enthusiam and in their ignorance of
[paragraph continues] Rome's military strength at Jerusalem, they had permitted themselves to make a triumphal entry with their hero, and to proclaim him, in the capital, "King of the Jews!"a proclamation shout that in the ear of the Roman meant high treason in that seditious era, and called for dire and speedy punishment.
Before continuing the story of Jesus in the light of history, let us hear what follows He creates a riot on the Temple mount.upon Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, as enacted on the stage of Oberammergau, or as told in the pages of the gospels. Scarcely had the echo of the exultant Messiahship proclamation of the rustic pilgrim-band died away, when Jesus approached the booths in which sacrificial offerings were for sale, and the stands where the foreign money of the pilgrims was changed for the native coin, and in bitter language denounced the merchants for trafficking within the sacred Temple grounds. And yet more bitterly he turned upon the priests and scribes for permitting such a desecration of the Sanctuary, denouncing them as utterly corrupt. And working himself into a passion, he seized a scourge, and with it lashed the merchants out of their shops, upset their tables, brushed their money to the ground, set free the doves, poured out the oil, scattered the spices, and created a general havoc among
the wares, and consternation among the priests and people.
As an invention of dramatic interest, the introduction of this scene was a happy thought, and as a bit of acting it was superb.Which is historically false. As a bit of history, however, it was a flagrant blunder, a blunder that made the malicious object of its introduction only too painfully apparent. It would certainly have been a strange proceeding for a leader, far-famed for his gentleness and forbearance, for a Prince of Peace, for an exultantly proclaimed "King and Deliverer of his People," to inaugurate his Messianic reign with starting a riot among the people, with openly and fiercely attacking the priests and teachers of Israel, with laying violent hands on the bodies and properties of people peacefully pursuing their lawful tradesand all this in one of the courts of the Temple grounds, at a time when pilgrims were streaming to the Sanctuary for the celebration of their festival of liberty, at a time when the Roman garrison in Fort Antonia, almost within earshot of his voice, was keenly on the alert for the slightest outbreak among the revolution-suspected people.
If ever there was a time when peace was needed among Israel itself, that was the time; and if ever there was a man to Jesus not a man of passion or riotousness.knit the people in closest bond of mutual sympathy
and helpfulness in the hour of the country's direst distress, Jesus was that man. Not he the man to brand the teachers of his people "hypocrites," "scorpions," "whited sepulchres." There was not enough of gall in him to force such words to his lips. He who preached to love the enemy, to bless those that curse, to do good to those that harm, to resist no evil, certainly could not harm nor curse them that had not harmed nor cursed. This bitter denunciation of the teachers of Israel is the language of the later-day Romanized vindictive theologians of the Church militant. From his earliest childhood, at his mother's breast, he had drunk in the Jew's reverence of the teacher in Israel, of the judge who judges in God's stead; and in all his studies of the history of Israel he had not come across a time when the teachers of Israel were more deserving of reverence than in that age that produced a Philo, a Hillel, a Gamaliel, a Jochanan ben Saccai. Too many a pilgrimage had he made to Jerusalem, in accordance with the requirement of the Mosaic Law, during the thirty-three years of his life, not to have known that the sale of sacrificial offerings, and the exchange of foreign money for native coin, within that court of the spacious Temple grounds, called the Court of the Gentiles, were practices authorized by
the Temple statutes, and, far from being a profanation, was an accommodation to the pilgrim, as is the sale of crosses, candles, rosaries, or votive offerings, near the doors of cathedrals, at the present day.
Had that scene been true, that of a stranger, at the head of a band of country-people, making a treasonable entry into Jerusalem,If true, Rome would have silenced him at once. and then rushing upon the traders booths in one of the Temple courts, destroying property, lashing people, abusing priests and teachers,had that scene been true, the watchful Roman in Fort Antonia close by would have recognized in this newly proclaimed "King of the Jews" not a mere deluded creature (who was to be quietly hunted out in the dead of night; to avoid troublesome disturbance during the assembling of the pilgrims), but a dangerous fanatic and agitator, a public disturber of the peace, to be seized and silenced at once. For no offense at all, simply for causing a commotion among the people, merely for creating a fear of an uprising, Herod Antipas had, but a short time before this riot, caused the banishment and imprisonment of John the Baptist, and subsequently his decapitation. It was on this very Temple mount, and likewise on the Passover festival, that, some years before this, a revolution had broken out under the reign of Herod Archelaus,
which was quelled only after great bloodshed; and it was there, and again on the same festival, that, shortly after this, another revolution broke out against the Roman Procurator Sabinus, with the same bloody results. It was for that very reason that Rome feared the annual approach of the Passover, and that the Roman cohort held the Temple mount under vigilant surveillance, and that the Procurator himself made it his duty to take up his residence in the city of Jerusalem shortly before and during this festival, to be on hand in case of an uprising.
Had that scene been true, we would never have heard of Jesus entering the Temple for If true, Jesus would never have entered Temple.worship, immediately after his public display of passion and riotousness. The desecrated state of the Temple and the corruption of the priesthood, of which he had but just complained so bitterly, would have prevented his entering a "den of thieves," a "hive of wickedness," for divine service. Had not he himself taught that God, being a Spirit, is everywhere, and they who seek Him in spirit and in truth will find Him everywhere, in the secret closet as much as in the public synagogue? And had he not been taught by the Rabbis that wheresoever man draws nigh unto God there God draws nigh unto man? Had he not worshipped before and after in places other than the Temple? He had no need,
therefore, of the Temple to satisfy his craving for worship; nor would his foot ever have crossed its threshold, had it been the place of corruption the Passion Play represented it, and the gospels teach it to have been.
And never prayed man with a devouter congregation than Jesus prayed that day in the midst of his brethren. And never wasNever a devouter congregation than gathered at that time. Temple freer from corruption than was that of Jerusalem at that time. Theirs was a woful time. Never a day closed that brought not its fear of the coming morn. The veriest tyro could read athwart the sky that the final death-struggle between Judea and Rome was at hand. It was a tearful time, and, therefore, a prayerful time. It is only in seasons of ease and luxury that the heart turns from God and yields easily to corruption. In a time of stress and storm such as was Israel's in the days of Christ, heart and soul and mind are humble; eye is very quick-sighted to religious duty, and ear very sharp to God's command. God then is a stern reality, worship a comfort, religion a stay. Had they been less scrupulous about their religion and their Temple, they would have been less opposed to the Roman, and thereby would have suffered less of his cruelty.
Oh, the infamy, to charge the Jews of the
time of Christ with making of their SanctuaryCharge of Temple corruption infamous. a place for barter and gain, when they regarded it a sacrilege even to enter the Temple carrying a staff or purse, or with shoes or dust upon their feet! Oh, the infamy, to charge the Jews of the time of Christ with making of their Temple "a hive of wickedness," when they offered the bitterest opposition to Herod's profanation even of the city of Jerusalem by the erection of a theatre in which golden images formed part of the decorations! Oh, the infamy, to charge the Jews of the time of Christ with making of their Temple "a den of thieves," when, upon Pontius Pilate's soldiers entering the city of Jerusalem carrying on their standards the image of the Roman Emperor, the people arose in great numbers, and for five days and nights besieged the Procurator for the removal of the images, and on the sixth day heroically bent their bare necks under his soldiers swords rather than trespass against the Second Commandment, and permit the presence of images within the Holy City! Oh, the infamy, to make of Jesus a ruthless denouncer of Temple priests and teachers, a reckless breaker of laws, a dangerous disturber of the peace at a dangerous time, when his very heart bled for his people, when his very soul thirsted for the Temple, when at the mere
sight of Jerusalem he had wept, when but one yearning possessed his ecstasized spirit: to bring to his people peace and not war, joy and not sorrow, hope and not despair; when for that peace and joy and hope he had braved to hear himself proclaimed the Messiah, had dared a traitor's death upon a Roman cross!
But time is pressing, and so we must turn from these historic reflections once more to the tragic scenes of the Passion Play. WhileAll Jerusalem represented plotting against Jesus Jesus and his disciples are engaged in their devotions inside the Temple, there are very busy doings outside. Seemingly the whole city of Jerusalem, with its hundreds of thousands of people, is represented as animated by but one thought: how to revenge itself on that one country-enthusiast who had been proclaimed "King of the Jews" by a band of country-people, and who had entered upon his Messiahship by destroying property, lashing people, denouncing priests and teachers. Let us pause long enough to ask ourselves what would happen if a band of country-people, from some northern interior gubernia of Russia, had made a triumphal entry into Moscow, had rushed upon the Kremlin, had there proclaimed its leader "Czar of all the Russias!" had then rushed upon the shops and booths in the vicinity of the Cathedral of St. Michael, in which ikons,
candles and other church paraphernalia are offered for sale, upsetting counters, overturning tables, destroying property, lashing merchants, denouncing priests and officers,what would happen? A detachment of soldiers would speedily be ordered out to seize or scatter the rioters, and to give the leader, if not a taste of the hangman's rope, a chance to cool off, and to work off, his ardor in one of the Siberian mines.
But not so at Jerusalem, as represented in the Passion Play. Jesus and his disciples are permitted to finish their devotions in the Temple, are allowed to make their way in peace to the hills back of Jerusalem, while the whole Temple court is afire with clamors for revenge. Two High Priests, the heads of the academies, judges of the courts, chiefs of the Sanhedrin, high officials and dignitaries, hold solemn conclaves, secret meetings, with all the insignia of office, to devise ways and means how they might obtain possession of this unarmed, unknown, unprotected, unbefriended, Nazarene enthusiast, and in all their speeches and accusations and plottings and proposed cruelties give expression to a venomous maliciousness, to a bitterness of hatred, that could not possibly have been more intense even if a whole legion of devils had broken loose against the Jews, that could not possibly have been worse
even if the poor deluded Galilean had snatched from off the chiefs of the nation all their honors and had placed them upon his own head, even if the gentle preacher had leagued himself, at the head of a mighty army, with the Roman, sworn to the destruction of the Temple and of the Holy City.
A hatred as bitter as this must have a commensurate cause; a fear such as theirs of proceeding against him openly must have Hatred must have cause.a reason. It is an axiom in criminology that unless there is a motive there can be no crime. Their not proceeding against him openly could not have been from fear of the Roman, for even if Jesus had been guilty of the Temple riot, more yet had he offended against Rome by his public act of treason. It could not have been from fear of causing needless bloodshed among the followers of Jesus, for most of these had been won over to their side by artful pleas and speeches, and hence it would have been quite an easy matter to seize him and put him out of harm's way. How shall we account for this hatred of the chiefs of the nation? Had it been a Herod, the detested semi-heathen, the assassin of three of his sons, the murderer of his wife and relatives, the slayer of hundreds of the people and of scores of the chiefs of the Sanhedrin, had this abhorred Idumæan come into their power, such a venomous hatred
as was theirs, that was content with nothing short of death, would have been quite intelligible, even if unpardonable.
Butgranted even that Jesus had been guilty of the Temple riot, which, considering Proclamation as "Son of David" no cause.his delusion, an arrest, or a fine, or an expulsion from the city, would have amply expiatedwhat crimes had he committed against the Jews to have merited such bitter execration, such a hatred to the death? Was it his having been proclaimed "Royal Son of the Royal David"? There was humor in that, but no offense. None knew better than the Rabbis of the Sanhedrin the genealogical tables of the Davidian House in the city of Bethlehem close by, and that the carpenter's son of far-away Galilee had no place in it, nor ever had laid claim to it himself.
Was itif it be truehis having boasted, while the delusion was still upon him, that if Nor his boasting of supernatural powers.they would tear down the Temple, he would restore it in three days? There was humor in that, but no offense; seeing that it had taken forty-six years to build the Temple, and that even then it was not yet finished, there was little danger of their obliging him with tearing it down so as to give him a chance to restore it in three days.
Was it the report of his preaching, that had reached Jerusalem? Sifting the real Nor his teaching.preaching of Jesus from that which was credited to
him a century or two later for certain doctrinal and polemical and vengeful reasons, of which I shall speak in my next discourse, there was nothing that Jesus ever preached or taught that had not the heartiest endorsement of the Rabbis of Israel. Not a precept had he ever uttered that had not proven him a Hebrew of Hebrews. His every word breathes of the religious and moral and social atmosphere of his time. His every as is the translation into deed of the aspirations of the pious and cultured Jew in the days of Palestine's bondage under the cruel Roman. His every declaration to the people is a restatement of his fundamental position that he had not come to make common cause with the Gentile, but to preach to Israel; that he had not come to antagonize nor to destroy, but to fulfil; that he had not come to remove as much as a jot or tittle of the Law and the Prophets, but to preserve their institutions and to conserve their spirit. His every admonition to the people was a reiteration of the teaching of Moses to worship the One God, and to love Him with all their heart and soul and mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves. His every teaching with regard to the Scribes and Rabbis, members of the Sanhedrin, was that they sit in Moses seat, and whatsoever they bid that should be done. His very manner of teaching, his
aphorisms and quotations, his parables and illustrations, is the manner of the Rabbis of his time. Not a reform principle that he taught, which they had not taught; not a ceremonial abuse to which he objected, which they had not objected to; not an ethical lesson that he enjoined, which they had not enjoined; not a prayer that he offered, which they had not offered; the very "Lord's Prayer" was a specimen of the kind of prayer they prayed; the very "Golden Rule" was the Rule taught in every school.
Or perhaps this fiendish hatred of the Rabbis against one of their own was due to Nor his healing.the reports that had reached them of the wondrous miracles he had wrought in healing the sick, in ridding afflicted ones of evil spirits, in awakening people out of trances. Making due allowance for exaggerationthe invariable concomitant of popular glorifications of popular heroesthere was nothing in his cures that could give offense, that, on the contrary, could not but give delight. There was nothing in this that to the Rabbis could even seem strange. Rome's cruelty, the Herodian outrages, fear of the approaching national catastrophe, intense excitement, had made it an age of widespread and deep-seated nervous disorders, an age of all sorts of delusions, hallucinations, hysterias, catalepsies, which, as the Rabbis themselves had
experienced, yielded quite readily to the sympathetic, soothing look, word, touch, treatment of men of such large magnetic and spiritual powers as Jesus proved himself to have possessed.
What, then, could the motive have been of a hatred as fierce as that which the Passion Play exhibited on the part of the RabbisNo motiveall invention. against Jesus? The answer is quite simple: as a historic fact, there was as little hatred as motive. There is not one word of truth in all these trumped-up charges against the Rabbis, in all the gospel-recorded bitterness of Jesus against the Scribes and Pharisees, or of the Scribes and Pharisees against Jesus. There was as little knowledge of it as there was cause for it at the time of his fatal collision with the Roman law, and Rome's cruel interpreters and executers of it. And there was no knowledge of it, as we shall see in our next discourse, till a century or two later, when in the interest of policy, and for the sake of propagation of the new creed in the Roman Empire, and because of hatred of the protesting Jew, the Roman had to be cleared of the guilt of having killed the Christ he was asked to worship, and the Jew had to be charged with having been the Christ-killer, because he refused to accept him as his Saviour.
In the light of history, let us follow the fate
of Jesus a little further, before we return to Makes preparation for his seizure.the Passion Play. He knew that his last hour had come. Sorrowing yet more for the faithful twelve than for himself, he tells them delicately that his end is nigh; but they understand him not. At any moment the Roman might appear, and well he knows what would follow. He has himself to get ready, but above all he must get his disciples out of the way. If the Romans come upon them unexpectedly, they will seize him and nail him upon the cross as a deterrent example to other "would-be Kings of the Jews," and mercilessly mow down his devoted disciples. He is ready to die a martyr's death, but the others must not suffer because of him. He must bid them flee to Galilee. He must withdraw from them on some plea, must send one of the trustiest of them, one who had proven his executive ability as treasurer of the little band, Judas of Kariyoth, to make his whereabouts known to the Romans, must bid him to do quickly that which he is to do, so that but the Master alone might die, a martyr to the cause, so that by his death the others might be saved. Better that one die for all than that all should die for one. Such was to be his vicarious atonement. Thus was he to take upon himself the sins of those who had believed in him.
Sad and stirring as this story is of his last
hours on earth, how marred it has been by shameful admixtures of anti-Jewish theologicalIntroduction and description of Judas Iscariot. venom of a century or two later! How different this tearful story in the Passion Play! All that dramatic art and diabolical villainy could gather together are crowded into a climax of treachery that stands unrivalled in the whole range of the world's fiction. It is the pièce de resistance, without which the Passion Play would have been deprived of the most exciting of its dramatic interest. Here angel and miracle are introduced. Here the heavy villain, Judas Iscariot, plays his part, and to the bitter end. His very garb, look and gait are calculated to arouse bitterest hatred. Yellow robe, the emblem of envy and treachery; a money-bag in his girdle, to serve as emblem of the Jew's greed of gold; sharp, restless eyes; shaggy hair; a haggard face; a snake-like glide;an appearance so repulsive as to prove at once the historic impossibility of the character, since a nature like that of the noble-minded and pure-hearted Jesus could never have attached to himself in closest intimacy a character whose very presence dripped poison, whose very voice spoke hypocrisy, whose very eyes sent daggers thrusts. Everything that is vile in human nature is pressed into that one character of Judas Iscariot. He is covetous, dishonest, mean, rapacious, cunning,
treacherous. While yet associating with his Master, while yet breaking bread with him at the common table, he is selling him to the priests and scribes for filthy lucre, for thirty shekels of silver, for about twenty dollars. While yet his Master hails him "friend," and offers his cheek to him for the kiss of friendship, there is back of him an armed mob of Jews, to whom that kiss is the signal for laying violent hands upon the friend who had so implicitly trusted his disciple.
It was a difficult rôle, but Johann Zwink was equal to it. And of him it may be truly Dramatically thrilling.said that he was about the only actor in that whole cast of some eight hundred players. A human being of heart and soul could never feel such a part, could but act it. And he had only to think of the type of Jew as represented by Church Fathers in the early centuries, as pictured by fanatics during the Dark Ages, as held up for derision and persecution during the Middle Ages and among modern Anti-Semites, and he had all the models he needed for that miserable character, whichalthough each of the other disciples was a Jew as was the Master himselfwas so enacted as to convey the impression that Judas alone typified the nature and the way of the Jew. At one of the vilest parts of the traitor's acting, a locomotive close by gave a terrible shriek. To me this
modern engine-shriek, in the midst of a piece of ancient-day mendacity, sounded like a modern protest against this villification of one of the disciples of Jesus. A lady near me shuddereddid she shudder at the baseness of the Jew?
And that same Johann Zwink had played the part of St. John during the preceding two decennials. What a change from St. JohnBut no basis in fact., the most beloved of all the disciples of Jesus, to Judas, the most execrated of all men! But as unlike as the real character of Johann Zwink, the decorator of Oberammergau, is to the Judas of his impersonation, so unlike was the real Judas of Kariyoth to the Judas Iscariot of the Passion Play or of the gospel stories. There is not one word of truth in all this treachery attributed to him. Examine it from whatever point of view we may, contradiction and disproof are the invariable results.
Examining it scripturally, we have no record of "the treachery of the kiss" in the gospel of St. John, which, as the record of theScripturally false. most beloved of Christ's disciples, the bosom friend whom Jesus took to his heart, purports to be one of the most faithful of all the accounts of the life of Christ. We have glaring contradictions as to the end of Judas between St. Matthew and The Acts. We are told of Christ's announcing his approaching
seizure and end before yet any knowledge of Judas treachery is had. We are told of Christ's washing the feet of Judas, calling him friend, eating the Paschal meal with him, and all this with full knowledge that Judas is in the meantime bargaining for the Master's destruction. We are told of Jesus having often and publicly taught in the Temple, and of his having made a public entry into Jerusalem, and yet it required a traitor's kiss to point him out to members of the Sanhedrin who have come to arrest him.
Examining it theologically, we are confronted by the difficulty of Jesus, as is doctrinallyTheologically false. taught, knowing all things from the beginning of time, reading the hearts and minds of all men, and yet accepting that viper for his closest associationship, choosing him for one of his disciples, for one of the elect, permitting the other eleven to run the chance of being corrupted by this miscreant.
And there is that other difficulty, that of Christ knowing of the treachery about to take place, and yet doing nothing to prevent it; on the contrary, urging it on by stinging words. Even if Christ's crucifixion had been pre-ordained, as is doctrinally taught, would it not have been Christ-like to have held up to Judas the enormity of the crime he was about to commit, to have conquered his wicked intention by showing him that the
martyrdom had to be suffered, treachery of not, and thereby to have made a saint of one about to become the blackest of criminals, and all for the paltry sum of twenty dollars Such a triumph over a trusted disciple could not but have been easy for a Christ, seeing how many other sinners he is reported to have turned from the evil of their way! How should later preachers hope to convert sinners in the name of Christ, when Christ himself could not convert one of his own trusted friends? Having it in his power to prevent the crime, and not doing it, may be well enough for dramatic purposes, but is all wrong for the morals of a Saviour, for the theology of a God. If, according to the Divine plan, the treachery had to be committed, if just in that way Christ's death had to be effected for the salvation of mankind, then the guilt ought to be laid against the theology rather than against Judas. If that was the Divine plan, did not Judas do what had been ordained to be done? Unless my common sense has deserted me, I cannot possibly come to any other conclusion than this: If the treachery of Judas was infamous, the theology that necessitated it was infinitely worse.
Examining it historically, we have the fact of a bishop of the early Christian Church, a century after Christ, named Judas, whichHistorically false.
name, if the treachery had then been known, would have been as impossible as it is impossible for a Christian, Jew, or American to name his son, respectively, Nero or Pharaoh, or Guiteau. Moreover, we have the fact thatexcepting one slight and contradictory notice in a fragment of Papias, and a spurious reference in the New Testament Apocryphathe early Christian literature, so rich in lore on other characters, good or bad, makes no mention of Judas, which could never have been the case if so fertile a story for moralizing purposes had then existed. Next we are told of the bargaining, for the treachery-price, going on on the Paschal night before the assembled Sanhedrin, and of Judas, together with a number of the members of the Sanhedrin, leading an armed Jewish guard against Jesus, on that same sacred night, when, in the first place, Rome at the time permitted no Sanhedrin sessions; secondly, even if it had permitted, no Sanhedrin session could be held, according to Jewish Law, on the sacred Paschal night; thirdly, there was no armed Jewish guard to arrest any man, and no right to punish, even if there had been an armed guard to arrest; fourthly, the Paschal night, when the place of every Jew was in the privacy of his home for the Passover celebration, was of all nights the most impossible one for Jews to be prowling
about in the outskirts of the city, in search of a prisoner, while for the Roman it was the best night possible for quietly seizing and dispatching a traitor, without creating a needless commotion among the people.
Examining this Judas-treachery story in the light of third century polemics, its origin and motive become quite intelligible.Invented for polemical purposes. Judas stood to the Roman as the name of the hated Judean, the name Jew being in the Roman language Iudæus, and in the Greek language Ioudaios. The name of Judas, the Maccabee, had been the battle-cry with which the Judean had rushed against the Roman. Judas, the Galilean, had led the zealots in a revolutionary onslaught on the Romans. Rome had bitter memories of the name of Judas. No other name could waken in her as bitter a hatred and contempt as this. No other name could lend itself more helpfully than that of Judas, in branding the hated and obdurate Judean with the guilt of treason that was connected with the death of Christ. It was a well-aimed dart,and it hit the very heart. And within the Jew's heart that poison-tipped and hatred-barbed dart has remained to this day.
Let us turn from this horrible falsehood of polemical fiction to history once more, and take yet one glance of Jesus, before the Christ's agony and arrest at Gethsemane.forenoon part of the Passion Play is ended. He is
all alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. His followers are dispersed. His disciples are scattering. He is on his knees, and in the throes of agony. His whole frame shakes with emotion. His doom is nigh. And yet would he livehis people is still oppressed, and he still so young. He opens his lips, and prays: "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; if not, then not as I will but as Thou wilt." Oh, how human is all this, how unlike a death-struggle of a God! And yet, how divine because so human!
A second time and a third time he prays: "Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, Thy will be done." He has his answer. Not his, but God's will is done. The Roman is upon him. Bravely he steps forward, and, without a tremor in his voice, says: "I am the Jesus of Nazareth whom ye seek." He is boundbut not bowed. He is a Roman prisonerbut a Jewish patriot still. His career is ended. He is on the road to the via crucis, to the way of the cross.
It was a large crowd, yet a silent crowd, that wended its way from the great hall at How will it end?the noon-hour recess. Deep sorrow seemed spread over every face. The rapid pace seemed checked; the head seemed bowed. Walking along and thinking, I remembered having read in a German paper of some one
having been overheard saying, as he came away from the Passion Play at the noon recess: "The play is not so bad; I wonder how it will end." That one presumably did not know much of the end of Christ. But we Jews know it, and know it well. It has been etched into our souls, burnt into our flesh with fire and sword, with garrote and gibbet, on the rack, at the stake, in the Ghetto. Well I knew how the play ended, and yet, when I considered the falsity I had listened to, the hatred and the malice I had seen enacted, when I reflected upon the wrong that has been done to us, I could not but ask myself: How will it end? When will justice be done to the Jew?