Monthly Archives: March 2016

On Eastertide – and “artistic license”

“Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…*“

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Last (Holy) Saturday night, I stayed home and watched part of The Ten Commandments.  (Noted further below.) That’s where Moses – as seen in the image above – comes in. And by the way, the “quote” is pure illeism:  “the tendency in some individuals to refer to themselves in the third person.”  That’s where the imaginary quote – “Moses doesn’t like this. Moses doesn’t like this one bit“ – comes in.  (Moses wrote the First Five Books of the Bible in the third person.)

There’s more on that later, but first a note:  Many churches this year will celebrate the Annunciation on April 4, instead of the usual March 25.  (See e.g. The Lectionary Page.)  That is:

The Annunciation would normally fall on Friday, March 25, 2016.  That day, however, is Good Friday, and Annunciation is never celebrated during Holy Week.  It is transferred, therefore, to Monday, April 4, 2016, the first open day after Easter Sunday.

See also An Annunciation-Good Friday anamoly.  Then there’s Easter Season – AND BEYOND, which noted that Easter isn’t just one day, it’s an entire season.  (Aka Eastertide.)  In turn, Eastertide is defined as that long period – of 50 days – from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  (For more on Pentecost, see Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”)  But before we get into that, I wanted to make a few comments on watching part of The Ten Commandments, the Saturday night before Easter Sunday.

(The real version, the one with Charlton Heston.  You know, the one God watches?)

I happened on the movie while channel surfing the night of Holy Saturday.   I came in just as Moses was about to learn he wasn’t really a Prince of Egypt, as he’d been taught “since birth.” As the faithful reader will know, that was pretty much the topic of my .

(Briefly, What did Moses know, and when did he know it?)  

As for watching the movie:  Some time and a lot of commercials after I started watching, I realized this Hollywood version was a whole lot longer than the original.  So I pulled out my trusty Bible and checked.  Sure enough, in a short time I found Exodus 2:11-14, telling what made Moses to flee to Midian (seen at right):

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.  Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting.  He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”  The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”  (Emphasis added.)

That’s it.   That’s all there was to the Bible version.  But Cecil B. DeMille turned those four short verses into what seemed like hours of viewing time.  (Including commercials of course.)  He also added a host of complicated sub-plots that simply aren’t anywhere to be found in the Bible.

From which – I figured – there had to be some kind of object lesson.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give any clue about how Moses knew those two fighting Hebrews were “his own people.”  (That passage follows right after Exodus 2:10, describing how Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter:  “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying,  ‘I drew him out of the water.'”)

The point of all this being:  The 1956 Hollywood-DeMille version of this passage featured a great deal of artistic license, used to fill in a whole lot of blanks in Exodus 2:11-14.

If you don’t believe me, read the Wikipedia plot summary of the movie yourself.  You’ll see that the mere summary alone is much longer than the Bible account.  For another thing, you’ll see that the movie included a whole lot of drama that the Bible doesn’t even infer.

You’ll see things like Moses growing up to be a winning Egyptian diplomat, and general.  (As in “winning a war with Ethiopia.”)  Then too there’s the torrid love affair between Moses and Nefretiri. (Played by a very hot Anne Baxter.)

The movie also had Moses meeting “the stone-cutter Joshua.”

Incidentally, Joshua did go on to become “the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses.”  (He also went on to write the sixth book of the Bible, after Moses wrote his “First Five.”)  But the movie had Moses meeting Joshua way too early, while the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt.  (And it was this Joshua who – in the movie – tells Moses “of the Hebrew God.”)

But in the Bible, Joshua isn’t mentioned until Exodus 17:9.  That was way after the Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and wandered around the wilderness a good long while.

For more examples of such artistic license – again – check out the Wiki-plot summary yourself.  But here are a few more highlights.

For one thing, while Moses is still an Egyptian general and overlord, he saves an old woman from being crushed to death.  That woman – in the movie – turns out to be “his natural mother, Yoshebel.” (Or Jochebed.)  Then there’s the matter of the beautiful Hebrew virgin “Lilia.”

In the movie – but not mentioned in the Bible – Lilia is engaged to Joshua.  But various bad guys lust after her, like the evil Egyptian “master builder Baka” – played to perfection by Vincent Price – and the “ambitious Hebrew chief overseer Dathan.”  (Ditto, by Edward G. Robinson.)  Then too, in the movie – but not in the Bible – Moses kills Baka, but only to save Joshua.  (In the movie, Joshua attacked Baka to keep him from raping Lilia, and he in turn is rescued by Moses.) 

Further, when Moses “confesses” to Joshua that he too is a Hebrew, the ever-sneaky Dathan overhears the confession.  In turn Dathan tells Pharoah – Yul Brynner – and in turn is rewarded with his freedom, various “riches” – and his own shot at Lilia.

But in a strange turn of events, when Pharaoh tells Moses to take His People and leave Egypt,  Dathan gets turned out with them.  From that point on – throughout the film – Dathan remains a “thorn in the flesh” to Moses.  (As the Apostle Paul might put it.  See 2d Corinthians 12:7.)

There are other examples of such whole cloth and/or artistic license episodes drawn from those four short verses in Exodus 2:11-14.  They include but aren’t limited to: 1) A Hebrew woman named Memnet telling Nefretiri that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves, then being murdered – pushed off a high balcony – by Nefretiri.  2) Moses voluntarily becoming a slave himself – after he wangles the truth from Nefertiri – “to learn more of their lives.”  And 3)  Moses brought in chains to Pharaoh – played by Yul Brynner – and then “banished to the desert.”  (All because Nefertiri is still madly in love with himMoses – and because Yul Brynner doesn’t want Moses as a martyr to his new queen.)

These then are the few comments I wanted to make, “on watching parts of The Ten Commandments on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. ”

Which brings up the topic of rabbit trails.  Some people say running down a rabbit trail is an “exercise in futility.  It means wasting time and energy pursuing leads that go nowhere – or everywhere.”  (Obviously, if a rabbit trail “leads everywhere,” it doesn’t waste your time.)

Others take a more broad view, like Today’s Idiom Is … Rabbit Trail.  That fellow-blogger noted that while going down rabbit trails in “discussions can be fun and interesting,” they can also “interfere with resolving the topic at hand.”  But the blogger noted this distinction:

You would never use that phrase to describe a leisurely trip when you explored a side path and had an interesting adventure.  That’s more like taking the road less traveled[,] which is a literary reference to a poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” (E.A.)

So “we” may have ended up going down a rabbit trail here.  Or we may have “taken the road less traveled.”  Either way, it was fun for me, and I hope for the reader as well.  

In the meantime, back to the subject of Easter being “not just one day, but an entire season.”  (Also called Eastertide.)  I’ll be writing more about Eastertide in the near future.  But for now we can look forward to Pentecost – as the Birthday of the Church!

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An artist’s depiction of Pentecost – the “birthday of the Church…”

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I borrowed the idea of the upper image from On Moses and “illeism,” a post I did on May 20, 2014.  But to get a larger version of the image I went to

Also, as to the asterisk (*), I cut-and-pasted the caption quote for the upper image from Moses and “illeism.”  As in: “Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…“

The map of Moses’ path to Midian is courtesy of

Re:  “Yoshebel” or Jochebed.  Wikipedia noted that the “story of Jochebed is thought to be described in the Book of Exodus (2:1–10) – although she is not explicitly named here.”  The article further noted that according to the Torah, she was “a daughter of Levi and mother of Aaron, Miriam and Moses.” Also, she is “praised for her faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

Re: Joshua’s first mention in the Bible.  See When is Joshua first mentioned in the Bible –

Re: Rabbit trails.  Today’s Idiom also noted this:  “If you’ve ever seen a dog follow a real rabbit trail in a field or someone’s back yard, you’ll see where this idiom comes from.  The dog will endlessly sniff around in circles, never getting anywhere.  And it certainly never finds the rabbit!” 

Other links about the “road less traveled” – or more precisely “the road not taken” – include:  The road less travelled – meaning and originThe Road Less Traveled – New York UniversityThe Road Not Taken – Wikipedia, and How to Take the Road Less Traveled: 14 Steps – wikiHow.

The lower image is courtesy of Pentecost – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption: A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.” 

An Annunciation-Good Friday anomaly

Johann Schröder‘s interpretation of the Annunciation, which this year falls on Good Friday…  

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Here’s an anomaly, having to do with this year’s Good Friday.  (An anomaly is “odd, peculiar, or strange condition, situation, quality, etc.”  Either that or an “incongruity.”)

This year, Good Friday falls on March 25.  But by tradition, March 25 is also the day when we celebrate the Annunciation.  So this year – on the same day we remember Jesus being hung on a cross – we would normally also celebrate “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus.”  However:

The Annunciation would normally fall on Friday, March 25, 2016. That day, however, is Good Friday, and Annunciation is never celebrated during Holy Week.  It is transferred, therefore, to Monday, April 4, 2016, the first open day after Easter Sunday.

See, as to the question, When Is Annunciation 2016?

And speaking of the Annunciation, last year I posted The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling.” I noted the metaphor of how the original early Church Fathers got that March 25 date by “figuring it backwards:”

It all started with the birth of Jesus.  The early Church Fathers decided first that the celebration would be on December 25. (For reasons explained further below.)  Then they figured backwards, nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

I also noted how December 25 got picked as Jesus’ birthday.  It had to do with the winter solstice, “the shortest day and the longest night of the year.”  Back in the olden days, our primitive ancestors started worrying; “there was never any certainty that the sinking Sun would ever return…   So about mid-December those old-time people kept worrying that the days would keep getting shorter and  shorter, until there was nothing but eternal night.”

Which makes that the perfect complement to Good Friday, on which the liturgical color is black.

That is, beginning at the end of the evening Maundy Thursday service – in the Western church – the altar is stripped.  Also, “the clergy no longer wear the purple or red that is customary throughout Great Lent, but instead don black vestments.”

But as we know, there is a happy ending.

For more on particular-church practices on Good Friday, see Wikipedia.  But the general theme is revisiting “the events of the day through public reading of specific Psalms and the Gospels, and singing hymns about Christ’s death.”  Other practices include fasting and acts of reparation.

Also, “the Stations of the Cross are often prayed either in the church or outside, and a prayer service may be held from midday to 3.00 pm, known as the Three Hours’ Agony.”

But during all those Good Friday hours of fasting, penance and remembering, don’t forget the real “reason for the season.”

That would be exemplified by the El Greco painting at right.

That painting “shows Jesus – the Risen Messiah – ‘in a blaze of glory … holding the white banner of victory over death.’”  (See also On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.)

Note also that the Annunciation is celebrated about the time of the vernal equinox(Vernal is from the Latin word for “spring.”)

Which brings up the matter of the Incarnation.  See Wikipedia:

The Incarnation … is the belief that [Jesus], “became flesh” by being conceived in the womb of Mary…   [The idea is that the Son of God] took on a human body and nature and becameboth man and God.  In the Bible its clearest teaching is in John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…”  The Incarnation is commemorated and celebrated each year at Christmas, and also reference can be made to the Feast of the Annunciation;  “different aspects of the mystery of the Incarnation” are celebrated at Christmas and the Annunciation.

(See also Liturgical year – Wikipedia.)  In other words, before Jesus could perform His greatest miracle, he had to pay the price of going through Good Friday.

And that could be another way of saying that both the Good Friday Experience and the Joyful Easter Experience that followed were all part of the rich tapestry of life.   On the part of Jesus, that is.  (And through Him, something we can experience as well…)

Which in turn is another way of saying “When one door closes, another one opens.”

That’s a famous saying, and it’s variously attributed to Alexander Graham Bell, or to Helen Keller, or to “the 21st chapter of Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes’s classic, “Don Quixote.” (And incidentally, here’s the rest of the quote:  “…but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”)

So here’s the real reason for the season:  To remember the door that Jesus “opened for us.”

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Mihály Munkácsy‘s depiction of “behold the man” with Jesus and Pontius Pilate

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The upper image is courtesy of Annunciation – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Annunciation – Johann Christian Schröder.”  As to Good Friday on the same date at the Annunciation:

Because the sacrifice of Jesus through his crucifixion is commemorated on this day, the Divine Liturgy (the sacrifice of bread and wine) is never celebrated on Great Friday, except when this day coincides with the Great Feast of the Annunciation, which falls on the fixed date of 25 March (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar

Re: “rich tapestry.” See also quotes and quotations on the tapestry of life, and/or America A Rich Tapestry Of Life « NaegeleBlog.

The lower image is courtesy of the Ecce Homo link in Annunciation – Wikipedia.   

On Holy Week – 2016

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn: The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen

“The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – which comes at the end of Holy Week


Today is the start of Holy Week.  (Also known as the last week of Lent.)  And just as an aside, last year – 2015 – Easter Sunday came later, on April 4.  (As noted in On Holy Week – and hot buns.)

The “hot buns” part of that equation noted that “’hot cross buns are traditionally toasted and eaten on Good Friday,’ in the Anglican countries of the British Commonwealth:”

hot cross bun is a “spiced sweet bun made with currants or raisins and marked with a cross on the top.”  The eating of this hot cross bun was designed to mark the end of Lent, with all its disciplines and “giving ups.”  I.e., during Lent, only “plain buns made without dairy products” could be eaten.  That prohibition ended at noon on Good Friday.

Homemade Hot Cross Buns.jpgThe post also noted a number of superstitions from English folklore, about such “hot buns.”  For example: Sharing a hot cross bun with friend “is supposed to ensure friendship throughout the coming year.”  Also, if taken on a sea voyage, “hot cross buns are said to protect against shipwreck.”

But enough about those “hot buns.”  (We are still in Lent, after all…)  

More to the point, Holy Week includes – but is not limited to, spiritually speaking – the following Feast Days:  Palm Sunday,  Holy Wednesday (also known as Spy Wednesday), Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday (Holy Friday), and Holy Saturday.”  But here’s a key note:

Holy Week doesn’t “end” with Easter Sunday.  By definition, Easter Sunday “is the beginning of another liturgical [season, 50 days long]…”  That in turn could be a metaphor or object lesson for a whole new beginning, as in a “whole new way of life.”  Which is another way of saying [that] Easter Sunday is the defining moment of the liturgical year…

See On Easter Season – AND BEYOND.  That post noted that Easter Sunday – the end of Holy Week – is also known as Resurrection Sunday.  For obvious reasons.  It also included “a word about Rembrandt‘s interpretation of Easter morning, shown above:”

Mary Magdalen had just found Jesus’ grave empty, and asks a bystander what has happened. In her confusion she thinks the man is a gardener.  Only when he replies with “Mary!” does she realize who she’s talking to.  To illustrate Mary’s confusion, Jesus is often depicted as a gardener in this scene.

Then there’s the matter of Easter Sunday as celebrated today, “with the ‘Easter Bunny, colorfully decorated Easter eggs, and Easter egg hunts.’”  (For a more liturgical view see What is Easter Sunday?)   Which leads to the question:  “So how did the Easter Bunny get mixed up in all this?”

The Easter Bunny (also called the Easter Rabbit or Easter Hare) is a symbol of Easter, depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs.  Originating among German Lutherans, the “Easter Hare” originally played the role of a judge, evaluating whether children were good or disobedient…   In legend, the creature carries colored eggs in his basket, candy, and sometimes also toys to the homes of children, and as such shows similarities to Santa Claus or the Christkind, as they both bring gifts to children on the night before their respective holidays.

That’s from the Easter Bunny link, connected with the “bunny” postcard image at the bottom of the main text.  There’s also a note that the Easter Bunny custom was first written of – in America – at about the year 1682.  (See also social control, connected to similar practices before Christmas.)

Last year’s post – On Easter Season – AND BEYOND – also included a link to Ēostre – Wikipedia.

The Venerable Bede translates John 1902.jpgThat noted the “Germanic divinity” who originally served as “namesake of the festival of Easter.”  And it noted that the “Ēostre” celebration was mentioned by the Venerable Bede – at left – in his “8th-century work The Reckoning of Time.”

But in closing, here’s a more incongruous note.

I was sitting in church this morning, listening to the priest read from Luke 22:14-23:56.  (Part of the full Palm Sunday readings, which can be seen at Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.)  And for some reason, on this particular morning I was struck by Luke 22:37.  That passage came right after Jesus said that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed.  Jesus went on to say – in our translation – “I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, `And he was counted among the lawless‘; and indeed what is written about me is being fulfilled. has a number of different translations for the word “lawless:”  Words like “transgressors,” or “rebels,” or “evil doers,” “criminals,” or even “outlaws.”  And the notes thereto point to the “fifty third chapter of Isaiah, where this passage stands.”  That 53d chapter is in turn “a manifest prophecy of the Messiah.”  Specifically, see Isaiah 53:12:

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.  For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Another note pointed out that Jesus was “crucified between two thieves; and more than this.”

The more than this involved what might be known in the lawyer trade as a legal fiction.  (That is, ” a fact assumed or created by courts which is then used in order to apply a legal rule.”)  The legal rule in question demanded a blood sacrifice, under the Old Law, to cover the sins of the people.  But to solve that problem for all time, Jesus substituted HIs own “blood” for ours:

[B]eing in the legal place, and stead of his people, and having their sins laid upon him, and imputed to him, he was made and accounted, by imputation, not only a sinner, but sin itself; and as such, was considered in the eye of the law, and by the justice of God…   (E.A.)

Which is something to remember next Sunday, while enjoying those Chocolate Bunnies.

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“An Easter postcard depicting the Easter Bunny...”

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The upper image is courtesy of The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen – Art and the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of Easter – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

St. Joseph and the “Passover Plot”

Guido Reni - St Joseph with the Infant Jesus - WGA19304.jpg

Saint Joseph – his feast day is coming up on March 19 – “with the Infant Jesus…”

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Here’s a spoiler alert:  Saint Joseph – earthly “father” of Jesus – has nothing to do with The Passover Plot.  It’s just that this post is about both St. Joe and the book by Hugh Schonfield(The thesis of that 1965 Schonfield book: The Crucifixion was a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations rampant in his time,” but His plan “went unexpectedly wrong.”)

Resurrection (24).jpgThen too, a discussion of The Passover Plot seems especially appropriate because Easter Sunday – March 27 – is now less than two weeks away.

But first, about St. Joseph.  Last year at this time I posted On St. Paddy and St. Joe.  There I noted the unusual situation in March – of most years – where a minor feast day is celebrated more than a major feast day.

That is – in a liturgical sense – the “earthly father[figure] of Jesus” outranks – by far – Saint Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.

(As noted in St. Joe, when it comes to the list of important Bible figures with feast days, St. Joseph “comes in third only to Christ the King and Mary.”)

St Patrick's DayNevertheless,  St. Patrick’s Day – March 17 – is celebrated far more widely than St. Joseph’s Day.  (March 19.)  On the other hand, this year’s Lectionary Page does list St. Joseph’s Feast Day, but it doesn’t list St. Patrick’s Day.

That’s because this year Easter comes way earlier than usual.

In other words, for this year – on what would normally be St. Patrick’s Day – the Lectionary Page has March 17 officially listed as Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent.  But of course that won’t change the fact that “St. Paddy’s Day” will be the more widely celebrated…

For more on St. Paddy and St. Joe, see last year’s post.  It included a section on How the Irish Saved Civilizationand on how the Irish went from widespread ridicule to acceptance:

Facing nativist detractors who characterized them as drunken, violent, criminalized, and diseased [ – as illustrated at right – ] Irish-Americans were looking for ways to display their civic pride and the strength of their identity…  [They] celebrated their Catholicism and patron saint … but they also stressed their patriotic belief in their new home.  In essence, St. Patrick’s Day was a public declaration of a hybrid identity [with] a strict adherence to the values and liberties that the U.S. offered them.

And that seems to be an object lesson we could re-learn today…

But back to The Passover Plot.  As noted, the thesis of Hugh Schonfield‘s 1965 book was that the Crucifixion was part of a “conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations [but] that the plan went unexpectedly wrong.”  On a related note, here’s something I didn’t know before:  The book was made into a movie in 1976.  That is, it was made into a:

Dramatization of the controversial best-seller that posits an alternate version of the birth of Christianity.  In this version, Jesus planned for His crucifixion by taking a drug that would simulate death.  After His unconscious body was placed in the tomb, a religious sect known as the Zealots would secretly steal Christ’s body from the tomb, then spread the rumor that He had risen, thus fulfilling Biblical prophecy.

The one thing I do remember is that the book was so fascinating it made me miss a plane to Key West.

This was in the days before cell phones.  (In the late 1980s or very early 1990s.)  My late wife was working as a traveling sales-lady, for a company that did church directories.  So when she got posted down to Key West, I planned to fly down for the weekend.  (From Tampa Airport.)

I brought along a copy of Passover Plot.  I got checked in and seated in the waiting area, then started reading.  When I looked up from the book – finally – I saw that my “flight had flown.”

I ended up getting to Key West on a later flight.  I also ended up disagreeing with many or most of Schonfield‘s conclusions.  But I found his methodical research enlightening.  (In much the same way that I found Last Temptation of Christ enlightening.  There too, I didn’t agree with all the premises of the movie, but I did feel it showed the conditions in which Jesus lived, far more accurately than the typical Hollywood “blonde, blue-eyed Jesus.”)

Then too, I’ve always felt that personal faith is not a matter of scientific proof.  (Like those “boot camp Christians” who look so assiduously for proof of Noah’s Ark in Turkey, on or near Mount Ararat.)    To me, faith is more a matter of that ongoing interactive walk to Jesus.

(See also GIST of the matter, and Why I’d Still Believe In God Even if the Bible was a Fairytale.)

Hugh J. Schonfield.But we were discussing Passover Plot.  I’ve included some excerpts in the notes, but first a couple reviews.  For one, Goodreads also called the book fascinating, as well as “lucidly written and carefully documented.”  At the same time it acknowledged “probably no other figure in modern Jewish historical research” was more controversial than Schonfield.  (At right.)

Tim Chaffey said the book “created quite a stir.”  He also questioned the author’s claims of objectivity:  “it is easily demonstrated that his bias and philosophy overrule any attempt at objectivity.”  And Stefan Zenker got to the crux of the matter:

[T]he discussion of Jesus’ faith and objectives was not what made the book controversial.  The part that created an uproar was Schonfield’s claim that Jesus painstakingly built his own legend without actually performing any miracles.  In particular, the greatest miracle of all: resurrection after death, had been carefully staged.

But Zenker also acknowledged that this “unusual book … read[s] like a thriller.”

And finally, there’s a review with a title that sounds a bit like a country-western song:  “Pass Over ‘The Passover Plot’.'”  But this review by the Christian Courier does provide one very valid reason for reading the book:  “The Passover Plot  illustrates every argument that tries to naturally explain the empty tomb.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

And if that is true, then the Courier’s take on the matter almost makes The Passover Plot a bit of  “required reading.”  After all, Jesus Himself said in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves:  be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Other translations of Matthew 10:16 tell us to be “cunning as serpents,” or “crafty as snakes,” or “shrewd as serpents.”  And since the serpent is a metaphor for the Devil, what Jesus seemed to say in Matthew 10:16 was that we should be “wise as hell” or “wise as the Devil.”

In plain words, Jesus was saying, “Know your enemy.”  (A shrewd bit of wisdom officially attributed to Sun Tzu.)  So for whatever reason, it might be “wise” to read The Passover Plot.

Unless of course you never made it beyond Bible boot-camp. . .

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Joseph – Wikipedia, which also noted that the “Pauline epistles make no reference to Jesus’ father; nor does the Gospel of Mark.”    The caption for the painting:  “Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, Guido Reni (c. 1635).”

The plot summary of the movie version of Passover Plot was written by Mike Konczewski.

The Schonfield image is courtesy of the zenker review.

The lower image is courtesy of The Passover Plot – Wikipedia:  “First edition (publ. Hutchinson).”

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The following excerpts are from the 1967 “Bantam Books” paperback version of The Passover Plot.  

1)  At pages 17-19, Schonfield described circumstances “making the Messianic Hope the powerful influence it became in the first century B.C.,” one of which was a “change of attitude towards the Bible.”  The Hebrew Bible had three divisions, the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings:

The Law, as consisting of the five books of Moses, had binding force by the fifth century B.C., or not much later.  The Prophets did not acquire their force until about the third century B.C….  The effects of the recognition of the Law and the Prophets … as a corpus of sacred Scriptures were far-reaching.  It opened the way for a new development, the treatment of these books as the Oracles of God.  They became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.

This and other factors – including occupation by foreign armies – led to an increase in both religious devotion and “messianic thinking and prediction.”  As a result, from “160 B.C. we are in a new age, an age of extraordinary fervour and religiousity…  The whole condition of the Jewish people was psychologically abnormal.”  At page 23 he added, “A whole nation was in the grip of delirium.”

2)  And speaking of Palm Sunday – coming up next week – at pages 114-15, Schonfield wrote of “the brilliant move on the part of Jesus” to enter Jerusalem openly, and with great fanfare.  “There had been no attempt  to sneak into the city unobserved.”  That brilliant move also kept the members of Sanhedrin from “molesting” Jesus.  And speaking of being “wise as a serpent:

He had finally allowed Himself to be acknowledged as the Messiah; but the clever way in which He had done this secured Him for the present complete freedom from molestation.  They had to recognise that they were up against a man of courage, cunning and ingenuity.

And finally,  3)  At pages 179-80, Schonfield noted the love and compassion of Jesus, but “united with commitment …  the emphasis is on deeds as the proof of faith and love.”  He then indicated – in an offhanded way – that we too could fulfill John 14:12 by performing as great or greater miracles than Jesus.   (Okay, that last was a bit of artistic license on my part.)  He concluded Part I with this:

The Iron Chancellor Bismarck, with reluctant admiration, once said of Disraeli, another famous schemer, “The old Jew, there is the man!”  Seen in the Messianic light of the Passover Plot we can with more wholehearted approbation say of jesus, “The young Jew, there was the Man!”

All of which leads to a key observation.  It was apparently only from the fifth century B.C. on that the Hebrew Bible achieved “binding force.”  It was also at that “original” time that the Scripture “became subject to all kinds of interpretation to draw out of them hidden meaning hidden meanings and prognostications.”  In other words, it appears that as originally intended, there were no “boot-camp Hebrews.”  Then too, it can be said that in his book Schonfield greatly admired Jesus, even if he didn’t recognize Jesus as “the Messiah.”  But as noted above, while I disagreed with much of what Schonfield wrote, I found his research enlightening.  That is, giving “spiritual or intellectual insight.”

Did Jesus write the Gospels?

Luke, Matthew, Mark and John, each of whom did write a Gospel


As noted in earlier posts, my Lenten discipline is a formal contemplation – some deep profound thinking – about exactly how and when Moses put the first five books of the Bible – the Torah – into writing.

One thing I’ve learned:  Moses may have relied heavily on oral tradition.

It wasn’t until Moses’ lifetime that writing as we know it got used at all. (And then only among the “learned classes.”)  And as late as 700 years after Jesus, even Charlemagne – lord and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire – couldn’t read or write.

And Moses lived a thousand years before Jesus.  (And two millennia before Charlemagne.)

Another thing I learned:  Moses may have gotten the “One God” idea from a Pharaoh who ruled 100 years before him.  (That would be Akhenaten.  Egyptians later called him the “heretic king” for messing with traditional Egyptian polytheism.  See Moses, the Burning Bush, “et alia.”)

Of course you may find that a bit hard to swallow.  (That Moses got “One God” from an Egyptian.)

But consider this new evidence from the Daily Office Readings for Saturday, February 27.

In Genesis 43:16-34, Moses continued the story of how the Hebrews came to be in Egypt.  For starters,  Joseph was the son of Jacob, whose name got changed to Israel by God.  And basically, Joseph ended up in Egypt after being kidnapped and sold into slavery by his jealous brothers.

So Joseph ended up in Egypt as a slave, but that was a good thing.  (As it turned out.)

And aside from being a slave, Joseph also had to become pretty much a convicted felon.  That is, he got “convicted” after Potiphar’s wife – seen at right – falsely accused him of rape.  But then he ended up so well rehabilitated that Pharaoh made him his right-hand man.  (Pharaoh seems to have given Joseph the functional equivalent of a pardon.)  

In the meantime, Joseph’s family back in Canaan was going through a devastating famine. So Jacob – alias “Israel” – sent most of his sons down to Egypt to negotiate for some food.

In turn, the reading for Saturday, February 27, had Joseph invite his brothers to dinner.  Of course the kicker was that his brothers didn’t recognize the guy who invited them to dinner as their “dead brother.”  (Joseph was “dressed as an Egyptian ruler,” and the the last thing the brothers expected was to “find the brother they had sold into slavery.”)

The point of all this:  According to Genesis 43:32 the Hebrews were unclean to the Egyptians:

The waiters served Joseph at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table. The Egyptians who ate with Joseph sat at their own table, because Egyptians despise Hebrews and refuse to eat with them. (E.A.)

According to the Pulpit CommentaryEgyptians couldn’t “break bread” with Hebrews, basically because they were ritually unclean.  (The ritual painting at right is of “taking the bride to the bath house.”)  

In turn, the Hebrews – after Moses – went on to develop their own tradition of refusing to eat with, come in contact with, or even visit “Gentiles.”  See for example Salvation of the Gentiles, Part 1:

A strict Jew wouldn’t allow himself to be a guest in a Gentile house, neither would he invite one to be a guest in his own home…  The Jews viewed Gentiles as unclean, and that had great ramifications.  For example, milk that was drawn from a cow by Gentile hands was not allowed to be consumed by Jews…  No Jew would ever eat with a Gentile. (E.A.)

So it would seem that the Hebrews “borrowed” this idea of ritually unclean foreigners from the Egyptians.  In turn it seems well within the realm of possibility that – in the same way – Moses borrowed the idea of “One God.”  (From the “heretic” Egyptian king, Akhenaten.)  But note that Moses did a much better job than Akhenaten.  He literally changed history, in such a way that it can be said, “His burning bush still lights our world.”   (Moses, the Burning Bush, “et alia.”)

But we were talking about about exactly how and when Moses put the first five books of the Bible into writing.  And to that end, we were discussing the related topic of whether Jesus Himself personally “wrote” the four Gospels found in the New Testament.

Of course the short answer is No, Jesus didn’t personally write any of the Gospels.

In turn the fact that He left that task to His disciples – and/or followers – seems rarely to have been debated in history.  (Of course one “atheist” answer is that Jesus didn’t write His own Gospel because He was, “as a Galilean peasant, most probably illiterate.”)

Then too, it seems to have been commoAristotle Altemps Inv8575.jpgn practice back then for really smart people to have their students – and followers – take down what they said.  For example, consider what Will Durant wrote about Aristotle, who lived from 384 to 322 “before Jesus.”  (And so well after Moses):

…it is possible that the writings attributed to Aristotle were not his, but were largely the compilations of students and followers who had embalmed the unadorned substance of his lectures in their notes…  Even the unity of style that marks Aristotle’s writings, and offers an argument to those who defend his direct authorship, may be, after all, merely a unity given them through common editing…  About this question there rages a sort of Homeric Question…  We may at all events be sure that Aristotle is the spiritual author of all these books that bear his name:  that the hand in some cases [may be] another’s hand, but that the head and heart are his. (E.A.)

In turn it could easily be said that Jesus “spiritually authored” the four Gospels.  But might the same thing be said of Moses?  Once again, there seems no certain answer.

“Boot camp” Christians say that of course Moses personally hand-wrote all first five books of the Bible.  (See Don Stewart :: When Did Moses Write, or Compile, the Book.)  Others point out various anachronisms and/or “chronological inconsistencies” that seem to prove otherwise.  (See Why Moses Did Not Write the Torah – Mesa Community College.)

But couldn’t Moses too have had his own “students and followers,” just like Aristotle?

Those students and followers might well have “embalmed the unadorned substance” of Moses’ “lectures.”  After all, what else was there to do on those long dark nights during 40 years of wandering in the wilderness?  And those students and followers might well have numbered in their “hundreds, fifties and tens.”  (Just like the other “leaders over groups” noted in Exodus 18:21.)  And just what was Moses trying to do during those 40 long years?

Mainly Moses was trying to forge a disciplined army – from a bunch of former slaves – capable of bringing down the walls of Jericho, on the way to re-conquering the Promised Land.

(As alluded to in the Old Testament reading for the Fourth Sunday in LentJoshua 5:9-12.)

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  And unfortunately we’ve gone beyond the ideal length of blog posts, meaning this Homeric Question will remain unresolved a while longer…


 Aristotle [contemplating] a bust of Homer, by Rembrandt

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Four Evangelists – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  For the four listed in order of appearance, see Peter Paul Rubens: The Four Evangelists – Art and the Bible:

Rubens portrayed the four evangelists while working together on their texts.  An angel helps them…  Each gospel author can be identified by an attribute.  The attributes were derived from the opening verses of the gospels.  From left to right:  Luke (bull), Matthew (man [angel]), Mark (lion), and John (eagle).

Re:  “Boot-camp Christians.”  There’s more on that concept at the end of these notes.  See also 2d Timothy 2:3-4, where Paul wrote,  “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 

Buckprivatesposter.jpgAlso re: “buck private.”  See Buck Privates – Wikipedia, on the “1941 comedy/World War II film that turned Bud Abbott and Lou Costello into bona fide movie stars.”  (A poster for which is seen at right.)

The image of Potiphar’s wife and Joseph is courtesy of Potiphar – Wikipedia, captioned:  “Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife, by Guido Reni 1630.”

On Joseph becoming “Israel.”  See On arguing with God.

Re: brothers not recognizing. See Why didn’t Joseph’s brothers … Answers.

Re: Egyptians refusing to eat with Hebrews.  See the full Pulpit Commentary on Genesis 43:32:

Because the Egyptians might not eat bread with the Hebrews.  Herodotus (2:41) affirms that the Egyptians would neither use the knife, spit, or basin of a Grecian, nor taste the flesh of a clean cow if it happened to be cut with a Grecian knife.  For that is an abomination unto the Egyptians.  The reason for this separation from foreigners being that they dreaded being polluted by such as killed and ate cows, which animals were held in high veneration in Egypt.

The Durant quote on Aristotle is from The Story of Philosophy: The lives and opinions of the world’s greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey.  Specifically, from the 1953, Washington Square Press “Pocket Books” edition, at page 57, from Chapter II, “Aristotle and Greek Science,” sub-section II, “The Work of Aristotle.”

Note also that – strictly speaking – a Homeric Question “concerns the doubts and consequent debate over the identity of Homer, the authorship of the Iliad and Odyssey, and their historicity…” 

The lower image is courtesy of Aristotle – Wikipedia.