The Passover Plot

The Passover Plot (ISBN 1852308362) is the name of a controversial, best-selling book (©1965), by British Biblical scholar Hugh J. Schonfield. It is also the name of the 1979 movie which was adapted from the book.

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The following paragraphes reveals the thesis of the book that made it so controversial.

Based on scholarly research into the social and religious culture in which Jesus (Yeshua) was born, lived and died, into the source documents of the Gospels, and into other literature, Schonfield reached the following conclusions:

  • That Jesus was a deeply religious Jewish man, probably well-versed in the teachings of the local northern sects such as the Nazarenes and Essenes.
  • That growing up in Biblical Galilee he had a skeptical and somewhat rebellious relationship to the hierarchy and teachings mandated by the authorities (the Pharisees) of the Temple in Jerusalem.
  • That Jewish Messianic expectation was extremely high in those times, matched to the despair caused by the Roman occupation of the land, and by their subjugation of the Jews.
  • That he was in many ways both typical of his times, and yet extraordinary in his religious convictions and beliefs, in his scholarship of the Biblical literature, and in the fervancy in which he lived his religion out in his daily life.
  • That he was convinced of his role as the expected Messiah based on the authority of his having been descendant from King David (the royal bloodline of David), and that he consciously and methodically, to the point of being calculating, attempted to fulfill that role, being imminently versed in the details of what that role entailed.
  • That he was convinced of the importance of his fulfilling the role perfectly (after all prophesy and expectation), and that he could not allow himself to fail, as that would undoubtedly lead to his being declared a false Messiah.
  • That he was perfectly aware of the consequences of his actions all along the way, and that he directed his closest supporters, the original twelve apostles, unknowingly to aid him in his plans.
  • That he involved the least possible number of supporters in his plans ("need to know" basis), therefore very few knew of the details of his final plan, and even then only the least amount of information necessary.

The culmination of his plan was to be his death (the crucifixion), his resurrection and his reign as the true Kingly and Priestly Messiah, not in heaven but on earth— the realized King of the Jews.

According to this book Jesus had planned everything precisely: so that he would not be on the cross for more than a few hours before the Sabbath arrived when it was required that Jews be taken down; that one of his supporters, who was on hand, would give him some water to quench his thirst that was laced with a drug to make him unconscious; and that Joseph of Arimathea, a well-connected supporter, would get him released off the cross while still alive (but appearing dead) so that he could be nursed back to health in the tomb under the safety of the Sabbath.

The plan, however, went wrong on the cross when Jesus was unexpectedly and fatally wounded by the spearing in his side at the hands of one of the Roman guards. Those few supporters who were in on his plan, tried desperately to revive him, but to no avail, and he died during the next 24 hours in the tomb. His disappearance from the tomb is explained as partly innocent bungling by his supporters, partly fear of discovery at having disturbed the dead and partly fear of disclosing the elaborate plan.

The apostles, distraught at having lost their beloved spritual leader, guide and friend, truly believed it was he who subsequently appearanced to them, even when they did not recognize him.

After first laying out the storyline and outcome of Jesus's life in the first half of the book, along with supportive arguments, Schonfield devotes the second half of the book to a more in-depth exposť of the concepts and arguments used to support his conclusions. Schonfield also discusses how Jesus's original message and purpose may have become transformed during the century after his death.

The movie starred Zalman King as Yeshua, and the cast included Harry Andrews, Dan Hedaya, and Donald Pleasence. It was directed by Michael Campus and nominated for an Oscar for Best Costume Design.


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