The “Passover Plot” and its Unintended Consequences


Article #279

by Bill Nugent

The year was 1965, on the cusp of the sixties generation’s search for meaning and destiny. A new book by a British scholar appeared that would attempt to flip the table over regarding Jesus, the most influential religious leader in all of world history. If you know your sixties history, you know that young people were flocking to Jesus in the late sixties. It would later be called the Jesus Movement.
The book was titled “The Passover Plot” and its author was Hugh Joseph Schonfield (1901 – 1988). Schonfield was born in London to a Jewish family and was educated at St. Paul’s School and King’s College and later at the University of Glasgow. At some point he came to be a Hebrew Christian (now called Messianic Jew) and joined the International Hebrew Christian Alliance in 1925 and later served on its board until he was expelled in 1937.
Schonfield was liberal in his views, both theological and political. He was one of the founders of The Commonwealth of World Citizens, a pacifist organization. He was a prodigious scholar and authored 40 books. He was also one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls team members (Wikipedia).
Schonfield proposed a new and radical view about Jesus. He claimed that Jesus was an ordinary mortal Jewish man who came to regard Himself as the Messiah. He alleges that Jesus, who had a thorough knowledge of Old Testament messianic prophecies, deliberately plotted to arrange fulfillment of the prophecies in His own life and ministry.
Schonfield claimed that Jesus surrounded Himself with eager disciples and the disciples, though tangentially involved in the plot, had limited knowledge of its scope. Schonfield could claim that it would be easy to arrange the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 which prophesied that Israel’s king (Messiah) would come “lowly, and riding upon an ass” but that prophecy is just one small detail.
Schonfield would take Jesus’s alleged plotting to the most bizarre of extremes. He claimed that Jesus intended to fake His crucifixion and resurrection supposedly with the help of John the apostle and Joseph of Arimathea. Schonfield claimed that Jesus intended to be on the cross just a few hours before the Sabbath when Jewish law would stipulate that a Jew would have to be taken down from the cross. Jesus’s alleged co-conspirators would carry away the wounded Jesus and nurse Him back to health and He would appear in public as the resurrected Christ. According to Schonfield, the alleged plot went wrong when a Roman soldier stabbed Jesus in the heart as He hung on the cross.
Schonfield’s fanciful reasoning is an absurdly strained interpretation of the New Testament scriptures. What this enigmatic book did, however, was to draw attention to the fact that the crucifixion and resurrection were prophetically predicted in the Old Testament scriptures. The 53rd chapter of the Old Testament book of Isaiah gives a very clear prediction that the servant (Messiah) of the Lord would suffer for the sins of the people.
“But he was wounded because of our transgressions,
He was crushed because of our iniquities:
The chastisement of our welfare was upon him,
And with his stripes we were healed.
All we like sheep did go astray,
We turned everyone to his own way;
And the LORD hath made to light on him
The iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:5-6 The Holy Scriptures according to the Masoretic text, The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1980).
The 53rd chapter of Isaiah, often called the ‘Gospel of Isaiah’ continues on in later verses to give even more details of the work of Messiah to bear the penalty of the sins of the people. There are other Old Testament scriptures that predict the sufferings of the Messiah and still others that predict the resurrection of the Messiah.
The Passover Plot sold millions of copies. You can imagine the millions of unbelieving Jews and Gentiles gleefully reading this blasphemous book hoping to see it as a final chapter on Jesus of Nazareth, hoping to write Him off once and for all. You can imagine their shock when they saw the huge number of predictive messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures that were fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
Traditional Jews who had never read the 53rd chapter of Isaiah and other prophecies were exposed to these prophecies for the first time. Schonfield’s bizarre plot theory is so strained that many people likely found it easier to believe that Jesus really is the promised Messiah of Israel and that He did, in fact, die for our sins and rise from the dead. I’ve heard the testimony of at least one man who found it so. Though it is a blasphemous and outlandish attack on Christ and I would never recommend reading it, The Passover Plot, got the Gospel message out in an unintended way.

The Bible is the only holy book of any faith that proves its supernatural origin by hundreds of predictive prophecies that are accurately fulfilled in history. Mohammed did not come in fulfillment of prophecy. The Koran does not even claim that Mohammed worked miracles. I once saw a list of a couple of dozen alleged predictive prophecies from the Koran. They were very general and vague, nothing to compare to the many hundreds of Bible prophecies.


You would look in vain in the Hindu Vedas or the Buddhist Tripitaka or the Tibetan Book of the Dead for anything to compare to the Bible’s many prophecies and their fulfillments down through history.
Christianity is a faith but not a blind faith. God has presented rational evidence to convince rational people. The New Testament book of Acts says that Jesus “presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of  forty days” (Acts 1:3 NAS). To have faith in a person means to trust in the ability of that person. We must have faith in Christ to save us and forgive us because He died for us. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins and receive eternal life!


(C) 2016 William P. Nugent, permission granted to email or republish for Christian outreach.

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