About a month away: “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity”

When a Christian scholar writes about Moses, or a Jew, about Jesus, I believe we may have some explaining to do. Because my intention has never been to dismantle anybody’s religious beliefs, offering a few words about the genesis of my thesis seems appropriate. As those who join in prayer on Rosh ha-shannah and Yom Kippur know, we Jews ask God “al tikach ruach kodshecha mimenu” Do not take Your holy spirit from us. Like most other Jews, I had given the nomenclature little extra thought, until, years ago, I was confronted by its pronounced importance in the Dead Sea Scrolls. As I detail in my forthcoming book, “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity,” the holy spirit is, in fact, a Jewish concept at the heart of God’s relationship with the creation, imbuing worthy recipients with a transcendent awareness of God’s will. (Although the holy spirit occurs throughout the Hebrew Bible as a principle aspect of interaction with God, following Jesus’ death it was largely taken over by Christianity as a doctrinal component of the Trinity. ) If Jesus was attempting to restore his ignorant disciples to their Hebrew family with words of Torah, believing the commandments were imbued with ruach ha-kodesh (the holy spirit) his aspiration, given their disaffection, may have been futile–but his goal was steeped in the deepest Jewish tradition. Therefore, given his was the voice of a profound Jewish spirituality of the first century, I could not fathom why he was vilified, arrested and put to death. It made no sense. Determined to know why he suffered so grim a fate–and to find and return the lost Jewish spirituality executed with him, I set out on this intellectual journey. After two years of graduate research for a leading scholar, while attending New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies, I became aware of the many profound issues hovering over New Testament studies. Perhaps most provocative, although least often verbalized, was the question of how Jesus saw himself–and whether he believed he was anointed by God as the messiah. Dating back to the late 1700’s almost all serious scholars, of whom the majority were Christian theologians, had recognized the Gospel passages in which Jesus asserted his messiahship were editorial enhancements. Further, it was generally conceded he had never promulgated the model of salvation theology which we know–and his devotees formulated postmortem–as Christianity. Naturally, Jesus’ reticence about his divine identity and mission might have threatened faith in him, had not that very faith become the precondition of salvation according to the church –and that included justifying his grim demise as God’s plan. Almost of equal weight as an incendiary question was what Jesus had done to be arrested. (Indeed, notable theologians had asked the same question as I more than a century earlier.) Other rabbis of his era had made themselves conspicuous as healers with messianic powers, but at most only bore the brunt of popular mockery, not suffering official sanction or the unimaginably gruesome punishment of crucifixion. The paper just above, “Jesus’ Life As He Would Have Remembered It,” extrapolates main dramatic episodes as portrayed in my novel, “The Matthias Scroll,” and which are critically analyzed in my forthcoming nonfiction book, “A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity.” Hopefully, all will be moved by the historic account of this tragic drama as it is told for the first time.