A Rabbi's Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play, by Joseph Krauskopf, , at sacred-texts.com
"The Lord is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and in truth; He shows kindness unto the thousandth generation, forgives sin, yet will He by no means clear the guilty."Exodus XXXIV, 6-7.
"Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I strengthen thee, yea, I help thee. . . Behold, ashamed and confounded shall be all who were incensed against thee."Isaiah XLI, 10-11.
"And this commandment have we from him (Christ): he who loveth God loveth his brother also."I. John IV, 21.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Words ascribed to Christ.St. Matthew x, 34-37.
"These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them saying, Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans."St. Matthew X, 5.
"And he said unto them: Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." Words ascribed to Christ in St. Mark XVI, 15-16, but generally admitted to be spurious.
NOT far from Oberammergau, almost within sight of it, is the beautiful town of A mediæval miracle.Ettal. That little village enjoys a distinction that is accorded to none of the other mountain hamlets. It is the ancient
seat of one of the most celebrated of Benedictine convents. Vast are the buildings of the Brotherhood, magnificent is the architecture of its convent-church; yet it is neither the one nor the other that gives Ettal its proud distinction. Its glory lies in having had a miraculous origin, in having within the sanctuary of its church the very statuette of the Virgin Mary which had located that convent-site. When Ludwig, the Bavarian, some six hundred years ago, was about to start for home from Rome, where he had been crowned Emperor, an angel, clothed in a Benedictine garb, presented him with a statuette of the Virgin Mother of God. This precious treasure the pious Emperor carried in his arms all the way from Rome to his native lands. When ascending the mountain-road of Ettal, the statuette suddenly grew heavier and heavier, till at length neither he nor his powerful charger could carry it any further. Here was clearly a miracle, and but one interpretation of it: it was at Ettal where the statuette wished to remain, where the Virgin desired a convent to be established, and a shrine to be consecrated to her. Upon the question being directly put to it, the statuette nodded assent; and to that nod Ettal owes its fame.
Leaving Ettal, and pursuing our road within the Bavarian mountain-forests, we suddenly light upon an old Germanic hut,
the dwelling-place of the Hundings of the An old Germanic myth.Volsung Saga, made famous by Wagner's Nibelung tetralogy. There stood the mighty oak into which Wotan, chief of the gods, had buried the sword to the hilt, which none but Sigmund, the brave Volsung's son, could withdraw. There was the starting point of those marvelous and mythical deeds that are treasured in the rich storehouses of the Volsung Saga and of the Nibelungenlied.
A convent located by a statuette of the Virgin Mary, a hut and forest once the trysting-placeBelief in the supernatural once common. of gods and demi-gods, a town celebrated for its decennial representations of the sufferings and death of a Son of God all three within close proximity of each otherwhat better theme for a mind given to meditations on subjects such as these! Here, within a radius of but a few miles, the Orient and the Occident, the North and the South, the Christian and the Heathen, are brought together in their myths and legends, to demonstrate, as it were, how prone man has been in all ages and in all climes to people the earth with supernatural beings, to ascribe to men superhuman powers, or to assign miraculous origins to natural events.
But the age of supernatural happenings has passed, and, in critical minds, also the beliefNo longer held, except for Passion Play. in their ever having happened. Wagner has created widespread interest in the Icelandic
[paragraph continues] Eddas and in the Germanic Sagas, but has neither found nor implanted a belief that the gods and the demi-gods, the valkyrs and the norns, of which he sings, ever had existence. Poets still find rich themes for their muse in the quaint lore of the Mediæval Church, but never a trace that the miraculous with which it teems ever occurred, The Passion Play of Oberammergau, however, that deals, from first to last, with the supernatural and the superhuman, with a Heaven-descended, miracle-working, death-resurrected, Heaven-ascended, Virgin-born Son of God, this, and this alone of all the three, we are asked to accept as absolute fact, as holy truth.
Here is, sure enough, a double standard of belief regarding the supernatural. Only the miraculous of the Scriptures is to beAnd for Scriptural miracles in general. accepted as truth, that of any or all other literature is to be discarded as fiction. When we read in the Northern legends of gods appearing in the guise of men, when we read of heroes conquering, single-handed, whole legions of evil spirits, making themselves invisible at will, walking the waters, sailing through the air, passing unscathed through fire, when we read of a dove descending from the sky to turn a swan into a beauteous youth, or of a pilgrim-staff bursting into leaves and blossoms, or of a statue of stone
nodding its head in approval of the spot where it desires a sanctuary to be erected to itself,when of these we read we are told to class them with the tales of the Arabian Nights. But when we read of a Holy Ghost manifesting itself in the form of a dove; of angels appearing in the sky to intone a song of joy at the birth of a God; of a star showing the way to the manger in which the newborn Deity lies cradled; of that Deity performing, in the guise of man, marvelous miracles, such as walking the water, flying through the air, feeding the thousands on a few loaves and a few little fishes, withering a tree by a mere curse, expelling devils out of men and driving them into swine, restoring the dead to life, ascending in the flesh and blood, after burial, to take his seat in Heaven as God, the Son, at the right hand of God, the Father,when of these we read, we are told that we must believe them as absolute truths, or take the consequences of being eternally damned, after death, for disbelieving them, and, if Jews, of being also eternally persecuted before death.
It was with some such thoughts as these that I made my way back to the Passion Play After above reflections witnessed continuation of sufferings of Christ.hall, after the noon recess. My heart, that had been very heavy at the close of the forenoon part of the play, looked painfully forward to the afternoon part. I knew what I had to
expect, judging from the viciousness I had seen enacted on the part of the Jewish hierarchy and the teachers and leaders of Israel, in their plotting and conspiring against the noble Jewish patriot, against him, whom deluded zeal had unwisely proclaimed "King of the Jews" in the capital of a Roman province, at a seditious time; against one, who had in nowise offended against the Jews, nor against the Law of Israel; all of whose teaching and preaching and yearning had been Jewish, and solely for the Jew; who had been animated by but one desire,a desire, which not a Jew at that time but wished to see fulfilled,that of restoring Israel to its independence, and freeing Palestine from its cruel oppressor, and sweeping it clean of the Roman heathen, and in which aspiration and unwise proclamation lay the head and front of all his offending, for which he was made a Roman prisoner in the dead of the sacred Passover night, to be speedily despatched in the morning as a traitor upon the Roman cross, before the Passover pilgrims and the residents of the capital could learn of the seizure, before they could run to the rescue of their brother, or rise in revolt against the Procurator, as had occurred divers times before.
I had not long to wait. The very opening of the afternoon part represented one of the
[paragraph continues] High Priests on the balcony of his house, in Jesus led before High Priest and abused.the midnight hour, thirsting for the blood of the patriot of Nazareth, unable to sleep until he shall have feasted his eyes on the sight of that miscreant in chains. His feverish craving is soon satisfied. The victim of his hatred is led before him,not led, but crowded, pushed, jostled by an infuriated mob of Jews. There is but one disappointment, that the prisoner's disciples had been permitted to scatter and escape. Insolent questions are put by the High Priest to Jesus. He disdains to answer them, excepting the one in which he is asked to give an account of the pernicious doctrines he had taught: "I have spoken openly," replies he, "men have heard me; let them tell thee what I have taught." For this dignified answer, he is cruelly smitten in the face, to which Jesus righteously answers: "If I have taught wrong, tell it; if not, why smitest thou me?" This is more than the High Priest Annas, whose name might more worthily have been Haman, can endure. He bids them take the culprit out of his sight, and to afford that delectable treat, of seeing Christ in chains, also to Caiaphas, the other High Priest.
We see the unfortunate prisoner dragged Representation of High Priest modelled after Roman Popes.through the streets of Jerusalem, amid mockery and abuse. We see him brought before Caiaphas and before the assembled Sanhedrin.
[paragraph continues] Caiaphas is the younger High Priest of the two, very cleverly acted by the village beadle of Oberammergau; but not a whit inferior is he to Annas, in hatred against the unoffending son of his race, faith, nation. If the picture of the Jew, as represented by fanatics of the early Church, of the Dark and Middle Ages, of the modern Anti-Semites, served Johann Zwink as a model for his Judas Iscariot, then the pictures of some of the Popes of Rome, at and before the dawn of the Reformation, must have served Sebastian Lang as a model of Caiaphas,those Popes, whose hands were red and whose souls were black with the blood and poison of assassination; those Popes, who inundated the soil of Europe with the blood of the innocent; those Popes, who founded and operated the Inquisition and Torture Chambers, and intoned Te Deums for such massacres as that of St. Bartholomew night; those Popes, who sickened Christianity with the stench of their open voluptuousness and public immoralities; who made a public jest of the religion of that very Christ whose apostolic successors they professed to be; who made a traffic of their religion for the money with which to indulge their luxuries and riotousness; who kept their iron hands relentlessly on the hearts and souls and minds of the people; who
made of Rome a Babylon and of St. Peter a heathen temple; those Popes, who tortured and strangled and burnt the prophet Savonarola; who tortured and burnt the saint Huss and the philosopher Bruno; and who would have tortured and strangled and burnt the reformer Luther, if his time had not grown a little too enlightened for mental serfdom, if the people's spirit, at that time, had not grown a little too bold for spiritual oppression.
But we must return to Caiaphas, the High Priest, and to the Supreme Court of the Jesus subjected to mock trial.nation, which had assembled in the sacred Passover night to sit in capital judgment upon a Jewish culprit. A mock trial is entered upon. Witnesses are called, and serious indeed are the charges they bring against Jesus. He has been heard declare that, if they would tear down the Temple, he would restore it in three days. He is accused of having spoken disrespectfully of the Rabbis, and of having taught, in regard to the ceremonial law, contrary to their teaching. He is accused of greater crimes still, of having been seen eating with unwashed hands, and of having associated with publicans and sinners and Samaritans; of having permitted the hungry to pluck ears on the Sabbath, of having actually healed the sick on the Day of Rest. He is accused of still greater crimes, of the greatest of all conceivable crimes, of
having arrogated to himself the right of God in forgiving sin, of having committed blasphemy in calling himself the Messiah of Israel, the Son of God.
The High Priest is horror-stricken. He rends his clothes as a sign of the nation's humiliation and contrition at the blasphemyCondemned to death. of one of its sons. "He is guilty of death!" shouts the High Priest. "He is guilty of death!" re-echoes the mob. "He is guilty of death!" decrees the Sanhedrin, and turns him over to a guard for safe-keeping till the break of day, when the Tribunal is to proceed with him to the Roman Procurator, Pontius Pilate, for the Roman's execution of the criminal condemned by them.
I have called it a mock trial, and my voice may probably have indicated somewhat of a tone of amusement while narrating this so-calledNot acted nor witnessed as mock trial in Oberammergau. judiciary proceeding of the Supreme Court of the nation, whose president, historically, was the distinguished and peace-loving Gamaliel, and one of whose foremost members was the noble Jochanan ben Saccai. But, as for the impersonators of it at Oberammergau, nothing could have been further from their minds than that they were enacting a mock trial, or that there was any illegality or no legality at all in the whole trial, or that it never was, and never could have been, an historical fact. There was an
earnestness, a naturalness of malice in their performance that cast a pall over the thousands of spectators. On the one hand, the calm dignity of the prisonerbound but not bowed, silent and yet most eloquent of innocence; on the other side, the envenomed hierarchy, and the chief tribunal of the nation, and the mob, raging against him like a maddened sea against a well-secured lighthouse, it was a spectacle to stir even the most callous, to move even a heart of stone.
Analyzing my feelings, I found them stirred by two emotions: one was the pity one The trial a fabrication, like Blue Grotto.naturally feels for the wronged in any play on any stage; the other was a curiosity to know how many of that audience could penetrate that crudely-woven web of falsehood, that had been maliciously drawn in front of the Roman to conceal the real offender; a curiosity to know how many could understand that, the offense of Jesus having been solely a political one against Rome, the Jews had as little cause as they had right, to proceed judicially or otherwise against him, more especially as that offense against Rome had had for its intention the deliverance of the Jew. The preceding afternoon I had seen some of the spectators in the celebrated Blue Grotto, near Oberammergau, back of the Linderhof palace of the ill-fated Bavarian King. I had no doubt but that they
had been as profoundly impressed as I had been by the magnificent naturalness of that stupendous piece of imitation, of that bold fabrication of fiction. Did these same people, I wondered, perceive that the whole trial they had just listened to, even though drawn from the gospels, was, like unto the grotto they had seen the day before, a bold fabrication of fiction, the machination of malicious Jew-haters, whose cunning and self-interest had counselled the exculpation of the guilty and the incrimination of the innocent.
I wondered also whether some of that audience had seen the Hunding hut, and had learned that even that was all imitation, allAnd like Mediæval miracle and Germanic myth. fabrication, and that the story of the nodding Virgin-statuette at Ettal was all fiction, the invention of Benedictine monks in the financial interest of their order and convent. If they had, I wondered whether they had better reason for believing that trial to have been true, seeing how the whole procedure, in its ignorance of Jewish law, history and institution, proves itself a bungling fabrication of a later age, that had gain for its object, malice for its motive power, vengeance for its tools.
And I wondered also whether any of them had ever heard the remark Prof. Huxley had made, when told as a definition of a lobster,A blunder, like that exposed by Huxley. that it was "a red fish that swam backward,"
said he, "the lobster is neither red, nor a fish, nor does it swim backwardall the rest of the definition is true." If they had, then had they seen in that trial an illustration of the kind of error Huxley had so cleverly exposed. With the exception that that trial, from first to last, was not Jewish; that, being a trial for a capital offense, it could not, at that time, have been conducted by Jews according to Roman interdiction; nor that any of the charges brought against the accused constituted capital offense or any offense at all, according to Jewish Law,with these exceptions, all the rest of the trial was true.
We are told of two High Priests; there could never be more than one, at one time, Every detail of trial false.in Israel. The one is named Annas; Jewish literature knows of no High Priest by the name of Annas at the time when Jesus is said to have stood in trial before him. Of the other, Caiaphas, it has as little knowledge as High Priest in Israel as has the gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four gospel stories, or has the gospel of Luke a knowledge of a trial before Caiaphas. Not until some two hundred years after the death of Jesus do we find in Jewish literature the name of a Joseph of Caipha. Josephus mentions a Joseph as High Priest at the time of Pilate. The addition of the words "who is also called Caiphas" in no wise clears the
difficulty, knowing only too well how the work of the Roman-pensioned Josephus, dedicated to Vespasian and Titus the destroyers of Jerusalem, written in Rome and for Romans, had additions and subtractions made to it and from it, by later hands, to suit ulterior purposes. The trial is held in the High Priest's palaceno penal case in Israel could ever be tried in any other place than the legal seat of the Sanhedrin, which at no time in the history of Israel was in the dwelling of the High Priest. The trial is held, and the verdict of death is pronounced on the Passover nightaccording to Jewish Law, no trial could be held in the night, least of all on the Holy Passover night, nor could a sentence of death be ever pronounced on the same day on which the trial was held. Jesus was condemned for having differed from the Rabbis, and for having spoken disrespectfully of thema guilt that was one of the commonest and most harmless occurrences in those days of free speech, of schools and sects of widest divergence, from the almost atheistical Sadducees to the extremely orthodox Essenes, both of which had broken with the Rabbinical Law and had spurned the authority of the Rabbis. He is condemned to death for irreligious actions and for blasphemous sayings; there is not in the whole compendium of the Talmudic Law, an
enactment, a decision, a decree, that could even by the farthest stretch of an orthodox imagination construe as heresy or blasphemy anything that Jesus ever did or said. There is not in the whole history of Israel, from Moses to Jesus, a single case on record of any one ever having been put to death because of differing religious views. Only he who cursed God by the ineffable name of Jehovah, and who seduced others into cursing God, and enticed them to idolatry, was a blasphemer according to Jewish law, and guilty of death. Unbeliever that Robert Ingersoll was, not even he, having never cursed God nor enticed men to idolatry, could have been condemned to death by Jewish law, as a blasphemer, much less those thousands of godly and valiant thinkers, who were done to death at the stake, in the torture-chamber, during the Dark and Middle Ages, by the Christian Inquisition, even for but slightly different opinions on doctrines and dogmas of the Church.
But what of the gospels in which this trial and the other fabrications previously touched Is it not so recorded in inspired Scripture?upon are recorded? What of the phrase "Gospel Truth "? Are not these accounts given in the New Testament, and has not the New Testament, as well as the Old Testament, been written by the hand of God, or by the hand of man under the dilation or inspiration of God?
It is too late a date in the history of our mental progress to postulate a supernatural origin for either the New or Old Testament. Theory of inspired Scripture no longer tenable.The very shortcomings of the writings themselves, their own frequent, flagrant contradictions, their conflict with historic and scientific facts, their occasional childish, absurd, even pernicious, teachings, show only too plainly the hand of man with all the limitations of the age in which it wrote. And when to this we add the fanatical spirit that characterized the Councils, in which the canonicity of the New Testament writings was established, the intrigues, the partisan passions, the bitter feuds, the personal encounters, that determined which writings should and which should not constitute the Holy Scripture, and when we consider when and how and by whom and under what spirit and with what motive some of these Scriptures were composed, it becomes a matter of scientific and philosophic necessity to re-emphasize our old-time objection to the old-time teaching with regard to the gospels that they are divine in origin, supernatural in essence, miraculous in evidence.
If Jesus himself ever committed any of his sayings and doings to writing, not a line of it has come down to us or was ever known toNo contemporaneous biography of Jesus. have existed. If the Disciples ever wrote anything of the life of their Master, not a line of it has come down to our day. Not one of
the manuscripts of the four canonic gospels in our possession dates from a time earlier than three hundred years after the death of Christ. Not one of the early church-writings gives evidence that any of these gospels existed in their present form as early as a century after Christ. The very names of the authors of these gospels, with the possible exception of the third, are unknown; the names they bear are merely the names of the men whose oral traditions have been transmitted through a number of generations. With the probable exception of one, all were written far from Palestine, the scene of action,two in Rome, the other in Ephesus in Asia Minor, or in Alexandria in Egypt. Final sanction is not given by Council decree to the New Testament as canonic Scripture until three hundred years after the death of Jesus. Within contemporaneous Jewish literature not a line is found of Jesus, nor a word of him prior to the fourth century. In Josephus, who wrote half a century after the death of Jesus, and whose writings have come down to us through the hands of Christian copyists, a reference to Jesus is contained, which has long since been proven even by Christian scholars as spurious.
The beginnings of the gospel stories were very unlike their present form. Founded on tradition, they started as brief and simple
memoranda of the life and teachings of aStarted as brief memoranda of factended as collectanea of fiction. Jewish patriot, believed by a band of faithful followers to have been the long-expected Saviour of his nation, and they ended as a detailed and doctrinal biography of a composite hero-myth and man-God, Jew-enemy, and Roman-friend. The fate of Jesus has been that of all ancient-day heroes who have come down to historic times by the vehicle of tradition,between the first and last stages of that journey stretch miles of unconscious fancy and leagues of deliberate invention. Ours are the days of exact science and of reliable historical data; and yet, if not a line had been written or published of the life of Washington to this day, if we had had to depend for our knowledge on tradition, the Washington of to-day would have been as unlike the Washington of 1776 as was Jesus, the carpenter's son, unlike the Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, of a century and a half later.
At first there was no thought of preserving in writing an account of the life and deeds of Christ. There was no need of it, since heWritten accounts of life of Christ deemed unnecessary at first. might at any moment make his Second Advent and take his followers into the Kingdom of Heaven, in the interest of which he had suffered himself to die, and for the preparation of which he had but temporarily separated himself from them. But years rolled on, and there was no Second Advent. The delay
could only be due, it was believed, to the fewness of Christians. They must send out missionaries and spread a knowledge of their Christ. They must found churches and supply them with literature. Thus arose the first need of a written account of the Master and of his work.
Different men, differently endowed, penned different versions of different traditions. With rise and spread of missionary zeal commenced rise and spread of differing gospels.Different peoples required different renderings of the stories the missionaries had to tell. Different copyists incorporated different marginal comments of others, and opinions of their own into the texts. There gradually ensued combinations and supplementations and elaborations to such an extent that Papias, a Bishop of the middle of the second century, grew suspicious of them and expressed himself as preferring the old oral traditions to the new writings, the old simple reminiscences and logia of Christ to the mass of doctrinal and differing biography that had sprung up.
Time passed. The halo around the head of the now supernatural Christ widened. Life of Christ made to correspond with ecclesiasticism of the Church.There was nothing, deemed ecclesiastically good or doctrinally right, which he was not believed to have thought or said, or which he might not have thought or said. And so it was an easy matter, in those days of elastic literary consciences and deficient historic
sense, to credit to Christ whatever they, of their time, thought worthy of a Christ.
Time passed. Contentions arose among the spreaders of the gospel; differences of opinions required textual corroborationsandWith differing doctrines and claims of sects and factions. the teachings of Christ had to be made to corroborate the opinions of the one and those of the other. Factions sprang up, one faction regarding Peter the head of the Church; another, Paul; another, John; another, James, the brother of Jesusand each had to twist the story of Christ into confirming his supremacy and policy. Polemics sprang up between the missionaries of the new religion and the followers of the old faiths, and the story of Christ had to be made to meet the objections and requirements of the opposition.
With regard to the Jews, the story had to be made to meet the views of the ascetic Essenes, of the land- and law-devoted Pharisees,With differing notions of Jews. of the anti-Rabbinical and pro-Roman Sadducees, of the Neo-Platonic Alexandrians, of those who believed that the Mosaic dispensation was to remain intact for ever, of those who believed that the Messiah was promised to the Jew alone and not to the Gentile as well; that he had to be born of the Davidian family, and at Bethlehem, the seat of the royal dynasty; and that he had to fulfil all that the Prophets had foretold of him in the Old Testament.
With regard to the Pagan, the story of Christ had to be made to suit the Heathen's With differing notions of Pagans.notion of religion. The real had to be turned into a fiction, the man into a God, a matter that became all the easier the more converted Pagans entered upon missionary work. Like unto the Greek Jove, who, in the form of a swan, had become father of Helen, by Leda, wife of the Spartan King, the stern, incorporeal, invisible, incomprehensible Jewish Jehovah, had to be made, in the form of the Holy Ghost, or dove, Father of Jesus, by Mary, the wife of Joseph. The birth of Jesus, like unto that of the Pagan demigods, had to be announced by wondrous signs and visions. Like unto the Pagan mythical heroes, Jesus had to be shown to them as having performed wonders without number and as marvelous as numerous. Like unto the mythical heroes of the Paganseven like unto some of their Emperors, who were honored with apotheosis after death, and made to ascend to Olympus to take their places alongside the godsJesus had to be made to resurrect after death, and to confer with his favorites as the poets had made the gods of the pantheons do, and to ascend to Heaven to take his seat as God, the Son, at the right hand of God, the Father.
Time passed. The early close and friendly relationship, between the Jews of the old
faith and the followers of the new, becameThe nearer story of Christ to life-time of Jesus the friendlier to Jews. strained. The nearer the story of Christ to the life-time of Jesus the friendlier the tone toward the Jew. The gospel of Markthe oldest of the four extantknows nothing of a miraculous or Bethlehem birth of Jesus, nor of many of the other miraculous deeds; in the main its doctrines are unitarian, its principles Jewish, its spirit friendly, containing none of the bitter harangues against the scribes and Pharisees. One of the early Church Fathers even tells us that a sect, in the middle of the second century, accepted the gospel of Mark only, because it separated the Jewish Jesus from the Pagan Christ.
The further the story of Christ from the life-time of Jesus the more bitter its spirit toward the Jew. In the gospel of JohntheThe further from life-time of Jesus the more hostile to Jew and the more friendly to Roman. latest of the fourthe Jews are contemptuously spoken of as an alien, outcast people, as offspring of the Evil One. This growing hostility was due partly to the poor success of the missionaries among the Jews, and partly to their desire to escape being classed as Jews, as they had hitherto been, since the Emperor Hadrian had, after the Bar Cochban revolution, decreed the stamping out of all the Jews and their religion.
The friendliness toward Rome was by no means a mere pretext. The followers of
the new faith were by this time far more of The end to be attained regarded a justification of the means.Pagan than of Jewish origin, and clearly they recognized that there, among the Græco-Romans, who at that time had little religion and less morality, lay the future of the new faith. What if it required paganization of the Jewish faith and of the Jewish hero? Was it not justified by the end to be attained? What if it necessitated the incrimination of the Jew, and the exculpation of the Roman from the guilt of the crucifixion of Christ? Did not the Jews deserve it for refusing to accept Him as their Saviour? And was it not a necessity, seeing that it would never do to tell the Romans that the new God they were asked to worship had been one of those Jews detested by them? What if it required the surrender of Mosaic laws and institutions? Did it not mean the conquest of an empire for the new faith? With such colossal ends to be attained, was it not worth recasting the story of Jesus so as to meet the necessities of the Pagan mind?
And recast it was. And when it emerged from the Roman mould, and displayed its Jesus of Nazareth turned into a God of the Pantheon.hero in the new guise of a paganized deity, it required, indeed, a very skilled eye to trace any resemblance between this new God of the crumbling Pantheon and the gentle preacher and healer of Nazareth, the noble, self-sacrificing
would-be deliverer of his people from the cruel Roman yoke.
Thus it was that the character of Jesus was made to grow step by step, by accretions and recastings, from man to God, fromAnd the gentle preacher is transformed by missionary zeal into a Divinity without Humanity. a hater of Rome to a champion of it; from a condemned by Rome to a defended by it; from a patriot of Israel to an opponent of it; from a teacher of the Golden Rule and of the Beatitudes and of the precepts of Non-Resistance, to an announcer that he had but come to bring the sword and the fire, and to set brother and brother at variance with each other; from a strengthener of the family-bond, to a spurner of his own family, refusing to grant even his own mother's request to see him, saying that those who believed in him were dearer to him than his blood-relations, bidding allif they desired to escape damnationto forsake their nearest and dearest, to sever the most sacred home-ties, and follow him; from a commiserator with the sorrowing and suffering and fallen and ignorant, to a curser of those who do not believe in him, or who do not assist his disciples.
To such an extent can missionary zeal madden the human mind and pervert the human heart. To such an extent can propagandic policy transform one of the simplest and gentlest and most lovable of men, degree by degree, into a divinity that lacks even
humanity, into a God who is wanting even in the virtues of man.
After this brief survey of the simple and natural origin and forced artificial growth, This survey will make clear some of the many errors and contradictions.through several centuries and in several continents, of the gospel stories of the life of Jesus, you will probably understand why they contain so many errors and contradictions and falsifications and paganizations; why some of these gospels know nothing of a miraculous birth of Jesus, and others trace him, by means of differing lines of ancestries, to King David, through Joseph as father, and yet assigning the fathership direct to God; why some know nothing of a Sermon on the Mount, or of the Lord's Prayer, or of such a stupendous miracle as that of Christ's restoring Lazarus from death to life; why, according to some, Jesus had come but for the benefit of the Jew, and not to cast his pearls before the swine, and according to others he had come for the Gentile as well as for the Jew, and later, for the Gentile altogether.
After this survey, you will probably understand why in one place the people are told to obey the Scribes and Pharisees, who teach and judge in Moses stead, and in another place they are denounced in vilest terms, and the people openly incited to rebellion against them; or why Peter is now shown to be the discoverer and announcer of Jesus as the
[paragraph continues] Christ, and is rewarded for it by being told, by Jesus, that the new Church will be built upon him as upon a rock, and that unto him will be given the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven,and then he is branded by Jesus as a Satan, as a thrice-denier of his Master.
After this survey, you will probably understand why nothing is known of the end of Judas, the arch-enemy of Jesus, in three gospels, while the account of it in St. Matthew, that of his hanging himself, even before the crucifixion of Christ had taken placethe end represented in the Oberammergau Passion Playdiffers entirely from that given in the Acts of the Apostles, that of falling headlong in a field, and bursting asunder in the midst, with all his bowels gushing out; and both of these differ from that given by Papias, Bishop of the Church a century and a half after the death of Jesus, that of his walking about in the world a great example of impiety, his body being afflicted with running sores and swollen to enormous size, so much so that, on one occasion, when a wagon was moving on its way, not being able to pass it, he was crushed by it, the stench of his mouldering remains making of that whole country a shunned and howling waste,each account the more horrible the later the date of its authorship.
After this survey, the outrage perpetrated
A Rabbi' s Impressions of the
against the Jews by foisting upon them a trial and condemnation of their brother and patriot, will reveal itself to you not less monstrous but probably a little more intelligible. After this survey you will probably understand the better what I shall have to say in my next discourse, on the additional trials of Jesus before Pilate and Herod, and on his Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.
After this survey you will probably know how much truth there is in the assertion that It required all of God's mercy to forgive all the wrong done to the Jew.the gospel stories are divine in origin, supernatural in essence, miraculous in evidence. You will probably know how much reliance there is in "gospel truth." Reading the definition of the word "gospel," you will know how much of "good news" and of "happy tidings" it has brought to the Jew, and to countless millions of non-Christians Fortunate it has been for many an one that, as the Old Testament teaches, "Jehovah is a God of Mercy," for it certainly required all of God's mercy to forgive those who, in the interest of policy and in the madness of fanaticism, outraged truth, falsified history, paganized the religion of Jesus, cleared the guilty Roman, and condemned the innocent Jew.