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A Rabbi's Impressions of the Oberammergau Passion Play, by Joseph Krauskopf, [1901], at

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The Summary

"There is hope for thy future, saith the Lord."—Jeremiah xxxi, 17.

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake."—St. Matthew v, 10, 11.

ON my desk at home lies a Hebrew calendar. Its pages, chronicling the events of the month in which occur Easter formerly a season of Jewish martyrdom.the Passover and the Easter, are written in letters of fire and in letters of blood, are encircled with the rainbow hues of golden promise, and bordered with the deep lines of black death. It is the month in which Israel walked by the light of the pillar of fire, and under the shadow of the pillar of cloud. It is the month that brought him freedom from Egyptian tyranny, and that made him writhe under a brutality worse than the one from which released. It is the month that gave him hope, and that whelmed him with despair; that gave him life, and that brought him death. In his synagogue, the Jew sang songs of freedom; in his ghetto, he wailed

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the wail of bondage. In his synagogue, his heart swelled with pride at being a Jew; in the ghetto, he suffered humiliation, pillage, and massacre, for being a son of Israel. In the church, Christians sang exultant Easter hymns to the glory of the resurrected Jew of Nazareth; and in the wretched quarters in which they entombed the Jew, their cruelty called forth the lamentations of the brethren of him they glorified for having brought peace on earth and good will among men.

It is the month of the greatest martyrdoms in Israel. Turn the pages of Jewish history, and read, if you have the heart, the martyrology crowded annually, for centuries, between the days of Good Friday and Easter Monday, days which the Jew might well name Black Friday and Easter Moanday,—here a hundred tortured, there twice and thrice that number burnt and massacred; here a thousand driven out, there twice and thrice that number mobbed and pillaged; here a whole settlement wiped out, there helpless little ones torn from their parents and dragged to the baptismal font. Verily, the Christian's Easter worship of the Resurrected Prince of Peace has, throughout the Dark and Middle Ages, meant, for the Jew, riot and ruin, pillage and plunder, outrage and atrocity, torture and death.

This is Easter Sunday, and in the churches

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there is glorification of the Jew of Nazareth Such martyrdom unknown in our as there was then; but there is no fear to-day in the Jewish quarter, as there was then, of insult or assault; there is no placing of special guards at ghetto gates; there is no barricading of doors and windows; there is no burying of special valuables in fear of plunder; there is no concealing of women behind mounds and tombstones of cemeteries; there is no hiding of helpless little ones and of helpless aged; our men are not assembled for an all-day service of fasting and mourning in the synagogue, attired in their funeral-shrouds, tremblingly awaiting the Christian's rushing from his church—tremblingly awaiting his merciless onslaught with club and pike and torch. There is no longer a compulsory Jewish quarter at all. Torn down are the ghetto walls. Destroyed are the external dividing lines between the Christian and the Jew. Yea, thanks to the spirit of the Reformation, to the work of the printing press, to the popularization of knowledge, to the teaching of science, thanks to the layman's throwing off the yoke of priests and monarchs, here, under Columbia's protective wing, we fear no Easter onslaught on Jews, have had no fear of it in the past, and shall have no fear of it in the future.

And this escape of ours from former-day Easter martyrdoms is also that of many

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brethren of ours in other liberal and enlightened Some still being suffered in European lands because of two cruel chargeslands. But, for very many of our brethren in benighted and priest-ridden lands, this week still witnesses the Easter of the Dark and Middle Ages. This very day in Roumania or Russia, in Bohemia or Hungary, all the passions of fanatic hatred and of bigoted greed may be at work in riots and massacres in Jewish quarters. To-morrow morning we may read, if the reports succeed in passing the censor, cable dispatches of pillages and outrages, perpetrated by hands scarcely dry from the holy water with which they crossed themselves in church, because of vivid and passion-exciting Easter-preaching of the Jews’ crucifixion of the Son of God, or because of the other charge, that of Jews slaughtering Christians to use their blood for the Passover bread.

Thank God, that we are delivered from this latter vicious accusation. Would that we had reason to thank God for our deliverance One of these charges made also in our country.also from that other charge, that of Jews having crucified the Son of God! It is true, we suffer not from Easter riots, yet we suffer to-day, every day, all the year round, an injustice, an anguish, which, considering the humaner times in which we live, is quite as hard to bear as were the maltreatments to which our fathers were subjected during the Dark Ages. They at least had the solace

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that the wrongs they suffered were the product of cruel and superstitious times, the perpetrations of ignorant, brutal, fanatical, priest-ridden people, who fled from contact with the Jew as if he were the fiend incarnate, who separated him from themselves by cruel laws, and who, in their complete ignorance of him, believed of him whatever malice, superstition, and bigotry, invented or fancied.

We, however, live in a different age, under a different spirit, and amidst a different A cause of much painful injustice.humanity—an age that is enlightened, a spirit that is broad, a humanity that is tolerant. In the eyes of the Law, Jew and Christian are alike, and in worldly relationship we mingle freely with one another. And yet; even here, there are barriers between us; even here prejudices and hatreds separate us wide. We are known, and yet not understood; we come in contact, and yet are distant. We are branded, distrusted, ostracized,—and all because of that teaching against the Jew, that is implanted in the hearts of impressionable children in Sunday-schools (and, here in Philadelphia, contrary to the Constitution of the United States, also in the Public Schools), and, taking root there, grows and deepens and ripens an abundant harvest of prejudice, hatred, and dislike, and all because of that preaching that is uppermost in Christian pulpits this day, that in benighted lands is the

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cause of cruel outrages, and in enlightened countries the cause of painful injustice. In thousands of churches and before crowded congregations, there is preached to-day, with fervent eloquence and with emotion-stirring and passion-arousing accessories, the story of the blood-thirsty Jews having cruelly persecuted, foully betrayed, unjustly condemned, brutally scourged, and inhumanly crucified, the heaven-descended Saviour of Mankind, the only-begotten incarnate Son of God.

Even if this story had been true, even if such a crime had been committed by Jews, nineteen hundred years ago, it would be veryTo instil hatred even with true charge is wrong. unlike the spirit of Christ to keep on preaching and enacting it, and thereby engendering prejudices and hatreds, and inciting assaults and outrages, against Jews of the present day, for a crime their ancestors are charged with having committed nearly two millennials ago.

What if the case were reversed, what if the Jews were the overwhelming majority, and the Christians the small minority,What if Jew were to pursue such course against Christian? and the Jews were constantly to preach and teach and enact stories of Christian crime,—the story of John Huss, the noble Christian, imprisoned, tortured, burnt at the stake, by most execrable of Christian ecclesiastics; the story of Savonarola, the Christian prophet, condemned without a hearing, tortured, strangled, burned for exposing the

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tyrannies and immoralities of the heads of the Christian Church; the story of the aged Galileo imprisoned, for years, for teaching that the earth revolves around the sun, and, when broken in spirit, forced to recant to escape the tortures of the Inquisition; the story of Michael Servetus, the distinguished physician and theologian, burnt at the stake by John Calvin, for disbelieving in the Trinity; the stories of the massacres of the Saxons, Waldensians, and Albigenses, of the atrocities against Mohammedans and Jews during the Crusades, that cost the lives of five millions of human beings; the story of the Inquisition, which, during the five hundred years of its accursed existence, gorged itself on the heart's blood of hundreds of thousands of Christians as well as Jews; the story of the St. Bartholomew-night massacre, that cost the lives of fifty thousand human beings, and in honor of which Pope Gregory XIII went in solemn state to church to render thanksgiving, and had a coin struck, and proclaimed that year a Year of Jubilee; the story of the imprisoning and scourging and torturing and drowning and hanging of innocent women as witches, and of harmless Quakers as devils,—what if the reverse were true? What if the Christians were in the great minority, and the Jews, in overwhelming majority, were constantly to preach and teach and enact

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these authenticated historical occurrences, and thereby engender hatred and prejudice against the helpless Christians and incite riots and outrages against them? Would the persecuted Christian, suffering for crimes committed by his ancestors, for which he is in no way responsible, regard it right? Would he think that course acceptable to God? Would he believe it promotive of peace on earth and of good will among men? I will leave this question for the Christian to answer.

It being un-Christian to preach and teach and enact even a true story, if by it passions are aroused and prejudices engendered, whatHow much more wrong to instil hatred with a charge that is false. shall we say when this is done, day after day, year after year, century after century, in church and in school, in the press and on the stage, with a story that is false, all false, and that leads to results most baneful to the Jew, and most injurious to the promotion of peace and good will?

It is a serious statement I make, when I say that the story of the Jews having persecuted, betrayed, condemned, and crucifiedCharge of the Jews having crucified Christ false. Jesus, though told in the gospels, though supported by the beliefs of four hundred millions of Christians, though rooted by eighteen centuries of credence, though preached to-day in thousands of churches, is nevertheless historically untrue, is the invention,

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partly of an excited imagination, partly of policy, and partly of malice.

I have built that statement on textual criticism and on historical fact. I have studied The Jew's story of Jesus summarized.sources. I have searched motives. I have weighed arguments. I have balanced authorities. But to no other conclusion have I been able to arrive than that Jesus, the gentle preacher and healer of Nazareth, the enthusiastic lover of his country and people, felt himself called, as did many another unfortunate enthusiast, before him and after, to deliver the Holy Land from the hand of the cruel Roman, who at that time held Palestine as his tributary province. His enthusiasm was not only heartily seconded by a number of faithful disciples and a host of followers, over whom he exercised a powerful spiritual influence, but also begot in them the thought that their inspired Master was in truth their long-expelled Messiah, the Deliverer of the people, the Saviour of the nation. Their delusion deluded him. He threw himself into the current of his people's delirious hope, and, like many another enthusiast and revolutionist, was swept by his ardor into destruction. They acclaimed him in public procession, in the capital of the tributary nation, "King of the Jews!" and he accepted their acclamation. It might have been a harmless delusion, had not Rome,

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at that time of constant seditions among the people, been especially vigilant against would-be deliverers of the tributary province, and especially severe against agitators, prophets, and Messiahs. That acclamation was heard by the garrison in the fortress of Antonia, close to the Temple. It meant the doom of the acclaimed. He was seized in the dead of the night, and made to pay the penalty of his love for his country and people by a traitor's death upon the cross, at the hand of the cruel Roman.

This is the summary of one of the saddest lives of history, of one of the noblest sons of Israel, which I have told at greater lengthI ask for disproof of Jew's story of Jesus, or for proof of Christian's story of Christ. in the preceding discourses of this series. Thus stripped of mythical accretions and ecclesiastical falsifications, it is the Jew's story of the life and deeds of Jesus, the Rabbi and patriot of Nazareth.

I submit my argument to the world's Highest Court, the Supreme Judgment-seat of Reason.

I ask for disproof of this sad and simple story; or for historic and scientific proof of the miracles told, of the myths narrated, of the contradictions disclosed in connection with the gospel-stories of the Virgin-born, miracle-working, vicariously-crucified, death-resurrected, heaven-ascended, only-begotten Son of God.

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I ask for disproof of Jesus having been a Jew, and a lover, and the beloved, of Jews; or for proof of his having been a God, and a hater, and the hated, of Jews.

I ask for disproof of Jesus having suffered condemnation and death at the hand of the Roman; or for proof of his having been the innocent victim of the vengeful persecutions of the Jews.

I ask for disproof of Jesus having died a traitor's death at the hands of the Roman because of his political offense against Rome; or for proof of his having died a heretic's death, at the hands of the Jews, because of his religious offense against Israel.

I ask for disproof of any religious offense having constituted a capital crime, according to Jewish Law, excepting cursing God with the use of the ineffable name of Jehovah; or for proof of Jesus having been condemned, in legal proceedings, for the crime of having cursed Jehovah.

I ask for disproof of the Jews having had no motive adequate to the bitterness of their persecution of Jesus, as portrayed in the gospels and as enacted in the Oberammergau Passion Play; or for proof of the guilt charged against Jesus, constituting capital offense, according to the Law of Israel.

I ask for disproof of the impossibility, according to Jewish Law, of such a trial as

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that of Jesus before the Sanhedrin; or for proof that such a scene as that of Jesus before Pilate could have taken place in the light of history's record of that Procurator's cruelties in Judea.

I ask for disproof of Jesus never having preached a doctrine, performed a deed, advocated a reform, that was not strictly Jewish, of his never having had a thought of separating himself from his people and of founding a pagan-blended anti-Jewish creed; or for proof of Jesus having ever declared himself an immaculately conceived, Virgin-born, David-descended, Son of God, and one of the Trinity of the threefold God.

I ask for disproof of the impossibility of such marvelous miracles as earthquake, eclipse, Temple-Veil rending, grave-resurrection, heaven-ascension of the dead, occurring at the moment of Christ's death, without the slightest trace of them to be found in contemporaneous Pagan and Jewish literature; or for proof of such unprecedented and unequalled miracles as Christ's resurrection, his conference, after his death, with his disciples, and his ascension to heaven, taking place in the presence of witnesses, and yet of the four different gospel records of these greatest of all miracles, that have come down to us, no two of them agreeing, as may be seen from the following chart:

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Number of Women to whom Jesus appeared after death.

Number of Angels seen in or at Sepulchre by Women.

Message sent to Disciples.

Later Happenings.

According to the Gospel of St. Matthew.
Chap. xxviii.



Ordered to proceed at once to Galilee.

No mention of Ascension.

According to the Gospel of St. Mark.
Chap. xvi.



Ordered to proceed at once to Galilee.

Jesus received up into Heaven in Galilee.

According to the Gospel of St. Luke.
Chap. xxiv.



Ordered to remain in Jerusalem.

Jesus received up into Heaven in Judea.

According to the Gospel of St. John.
Chaps. xx, xxi.



No message at all.

No mention of Ascension.


I ask for disproof of the many other contradictions between the gospels, and the many other teachings at variance with facts of history, and with the eternal and immutable laws of nature; or for proof that the gospel stories existed, even as late as a century after the death of Jesus, in the form in which they have come down to us.

In the name of Truth, in the name of Justice, in the name of History and Science, in the name of our past and present sufferings, in the name of our descendants doomed

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to insult and outrage, in the name of peaceI ask for disproof of Jewish argument advanced, or for Christian's expurgation from gospel of false charge against Jew. on earth and good will among men, I ask for disproof of the arguments advanced, or for the expurgation from the New Testament of so much of the story of Jesus as can not stand the test of reason, as cannot bear the analysis of historical inquiry and of scientific research.

Such an expurgation will not only be a much-belated atonement for the heinous wrongs done to the Jew, eighteen centuriesSuch expurgation will be atonement and salvation of Christian. long, but will also prove a most timely salvation for the Christian. The hand of Nemesis is at work. Myths and dogmas and fabrications of the credulous, hysterical, fanatical first and second centuries cannot be swallowed by the emancipated and rationalized twentieth century. The Church is permeated with unbelief. The pulpit is harassed by doubt; it revolts against preaching what it knows to be contrary to history and reason; it knows that mankind is not yet saved, despite the story of a Saviour having come; that mankind is sinful still, despite the story of a suffering Messiah having vicariously taken upon himself the transgressions of man; that there is not yet peace on earth nor good will among men, despite the story of a Son of God having paid for them with his life.

With the unhistorical of the New Testament

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expurgated, nothing will be lost, but everythingWill leave world-conquering humanity of Jesus intact. essential for godliness and humanity will be gained. It is the humanity of Jesus that has appealed to mankind, not his divinity. It is the religion of Jesus, the Jew, not the theology of Christ, the God, that has conquered the world. It is the Nazarene preacher of love of God and of love of man, not the Nicean teacher of incomprehensible dogmas, that rules civilization to-day. It is Jesus, the man, who descended to the lowly of the earth, to the sorrow-laden, to the sinful and fallen, that has conquered the hearts of men; not Christ, the God, who ascended in the sight of man, to take his seat at God's "right hand," whatever that may be, in a "Heaven," somewhere in interstellar space.

With the unhistorical of the New Testament expurgated, there would remain an Will leave biography of inspired teacher to Jew and Gentile.inspiring biography of a leader and teacher of whom both Jew and Christian might well be proud—the Jew for having reared him, the Christian for having given him to the world; the present deep-cloven enmity between brother and brother would gradually cease, and he, who is the product of both, and belongs to both, would become the means of uniting both into a religious and social fellowship, in which hatred and prejudice and ostracism would or could never again have place.

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With the unhistorical of the New Testament expurgated, men will find it easier than they have hitherto, to shape their livesWill encourage man to imitate human Jesus. according to the example set, and precepts taught, by Jesus. There will no longer be the excuse that it is impossible for man to live the life of a God. It will then be seen that the noble life lived by one man may be lived by all men, if all will but try as Jesus tried, if all will but set moral duty and spiritual excellence as high as they were set by the teacher and preacher of Nazareth.

As to the claim that, if Jesus be not a God, men will not be able to live up to the divine standard set by him, let this be said: Christianity has not as yet commenced to live up even to the purely human of the teachings of Jesus. It teaches doing to others as it would be done by, and yet treats others as it would not like to be treated. It speaks of the duty of loving the enemy, and does not even love the friend. It speaks of the duty of being of the persecuted rather than of the persecuting, and yet persecutes even them who do not persecute. It speaks of the duty of resisting no evil, and yet inflicts evil where there is not only no offense but even no resistance. It speaks of doing good to evil-doers, and yet does evil even to its benefactors, the Jews.

They who have lived noble lives will continue

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living nobly, even though the unhistoricalHighest moral excellence attained without a Divinity of Christ. be expurgated from the gospel stories. Once upon a time there lived a young woman f whose life was sweet and useful. She attributed the cause of the beautiful life she lived to a locket, a family heir-loom, that she wore next to her heart, which was believed, according to a family tradition, to contain something concealed within, that imparted to the wearer the power of right-living and right-thinking. Upon the locket being opened one day, it was found empty. She was disappointed, but only for awhile. She continued to live her sweet and useful life, as those had lived who had worn it before. It was they who had given to the locket a charm, not the locket a charm to them. Thus will it be when the gospel stories will reveal themselves empty of a Divine Christ. Many will be disappointed. But they who have lived good lives will continue to live nobly, proving that it was their excellence that imparted a divinity to Christ, not the divinity of Christ an excellence to them. And many will lead even better lives than they have lived hitherto, no longer relying on the vicariously-shed blood of Christ to wash away their sins. Our Emerson was no believer in the divinity of Jesus, and yet he lived a noble life, so noble that Father Taylor, the Boston missionary, said of him, "Mr. Emerson may

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think this or that, but he is more like Jesus Christ than any one I have ever known. I have seen him when his religion was tested, and it bore the test."

My argument in behalf of the Jew and my plea to the Christian are at an end. I have spoken plainly, at times possibly harshly, butJesus has not yet risen, nor has even commenced to live. there was no malice in my heart. There could have been no conscious bitterness, for there has probably never been a Christian who has studied the life of the preacher and teacher of Nazareth with greater reverence than I have, or who values his real teachings more highly than I do. I do not promise myself speedy results, if any results at all. Even though this is Resurrection Day, Jesus has not yet risen. He is still buried under the mythology and ecclesiasticism of a primitive, credulous, and fanatical age. Even though on Friday last it was the theme, throughout Christendom, that Jesus died for man, it is my conviction that Jesus has not, as yet, begun to live for man. If Christians really believed the life of Jesus they would live it, and living it, the Jews would not be obliged to tell a story of martyrdom continuing even unto this day.

But the day of the Resurrection of Jesus from Divinity to Humanity, from a Pagan Christ to a Jewish Patriot, is drawing near.The Day of Resurrection, however, dawning. It has already dawned for the advance guard

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of the Christian Church, and gradually the light of the dawn is spreading deeper and wider.

It was a rainy day on which I witnessed the Oberammergau Passion Play. Down poured the rain upon the open stage, and upon the performers, all forenoon, and during the greater part of the afternoon. At the moment of the crucifixion, however, when, according to the gospels, the sun should have withdrawn its light, when there should have been an eclipse, the sun burst forth in all its afternoon glory, shedding a golden radiance over the thousands of spectators, and over the country around.

To me that seeming protest of nature against the defamation of the Jews on the Jew will be revealed as Suffering Messiah, as Saviour of Man.stage of Oberammergau, was a prophecy, a prophecy that the storm that has raged over the Jew eighteen centuries long, and that has deluged him with torrents of expatriation, expulsion, massacre, torture, degradation, prejudice, ostracism, will cease, that the sun of justice will burst forth at last, and, in the radiance of light, and in the beauty of truth, reveal the Jew to the world as having, eighteen centuries long, walked the way of the cross, as having been the real Suffering Messiah, as having been the real Saviour of Man.

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