26 / CHRONICLESnthe leadership for our escape from the wilderness, they willnhave to recognize that people don’t want them sticking theirnnoses into decisions which only families and communitiesncan make. They didn’t like Lyndon Johnson interfering inntheir business, and they don’t want Ronald Reagan lookingnunder their beds. If we start legislating for other people’snScripture for SkepticsnThe historian of religion who boastsnof objectivity deserves to be trustednalmost as far as a used-car salesmanncalling himself Honest John. HughnSchonfield is a case in point. AnJewish scholar born in London andneducated in Scotland, Schonfieldnestablished himself as an iconoclasticncelebrity in 1965 with his controversialnbook The Passover Plot.nRecently reissued by ElementnBooks of London, The Passover Plotnargues that Jesus tried to fake deathnon the cross through the clever usenof drugs. Applauded by atheists andnliberal clergymen, the book helpedninspire the countercultural religiositynof Jesus Christ, Superstar.nBut most Christians rejectednSchonfield’s theory as just onenmore effort to explain away thenResurrection, more imaginativenperhaps than ancient Jewish calumniesnagainst Mary and the Resurrection,nbut not surpassing the inventivenessnof Oscar Wilde’s fantasyn(recorded by Yeats) about Jesus’ secretnlife as a brooding carpenternwho always kept his hands coverednafter surviving the cross. Few Christiansnhave been much more receptivento Schonfield’s subsequentnworks—including After the Cross,nThose Incredible Christians, ThenPentecost Revolution, and The EssenenOdyssey—in which he continuesnhis assault upon Christian doctrinenand belief by popularizing thennotion that the Christian evangelistsnmisappropriated and distortednthe essentially Jewish message of annentirely human Jesus. To understandnJesus’ real significance, wenmust lay aside the episties of Paulnand study the Dead Sea Scrollsninstead.nSchonfield has now continuednREVISIONSnhis private crusade for truth with annew one-man translation of thenNew Testament, The Original NewnTestament (Harper & Row; SannFrancisco; $19.95). In the prefacento this new translation, Schonfieldnwrites: “I have sought to approachnthese records objectively, as if theynhad recentiy been recovered from ancave in the Holy Land or fromnbeneath the sands in Egypt, andnhad never previously been given tonthe public.” Such an approach isneither absurdly naive, arrogantlynpresumptuous, or deceptively disingenuous.nWhy would any honestntranslator ignore the centuries ofnefforts by the best Greek scholarsnand the most accomplished textncritics in collating and interpretingnthe numerous manuscripts of thenNew Testament — why, unless anprivate agenda is being imposed onnthe text? Never mind that leadingntext critics are still quarreling overnthe merits of different manuscripts,nnow that Schonfield has miraculouslyndiscovered the original NewnTestament: he can’t even be botherednwith providing a critical apparatusnor a serious bibliography.nIn a recent interview with Chronicles,nSchonfield insisted upon hisnperfect objectivity and his freedomnfrom bias or preconception in hisnapproach to Christianity and Christianndocuments. Serious students ofnthe Greek New Testament will marvelnat Schonfield’s objectivity innaction, especially when it permitsnhis own conjectures to overridenevery existing manuscript (as, forninstance, in the “correction” ofnPaul’s declaration in Philippiansnthat for him “to live is Christ,”nemended to read “it is useful for mento live”). The deliberate avoidancenof all distinctively Christian vocabularyn{immersion for baptism, envoynnnown good and impose our views on abortion, pornography,nand free enterprise by executive fiat working in tandem withna packed Supreme Court, then the dime’s worth of differencenbetween Democrats and Republicans will have beenndevalued to one red cent.n—Thomas Flemingnfor apostle, community for church),nas though the Christian use of thesenterms had somehow contaminatednthem, will annoy at least a fewnreaders. But it is the tendentiouslynskeptical introduction and footnotesnthat will offend most. It is hardlynthe decision of a scrupulously neutralnhistorian to attribute the Christiannbelief in Jesus as the Son ofnGod to the inability of non-Jewishnconverts to understand properly thenMessianic concept. Nor is it simplynan act of scholarship to add a footnotentelling the reader that the angelsnat Jesus’ empty tomb arendressed remarkably like Essene hermitsnor to add another note discreditingnthe account in John of Jesus’ntrial as a later accretion that assignsntoo much blame to the Sanhedrinnand too little to the Romans.nSchonfield claims that he wishesnto create “understanding betweennChristians and Jews.” It is hard tonimagine, however, a strategv morenlikely to create ill feelings betweennChristians and Jews than that ofnattacking Christian faith while assumingnthe posture of objectivenscholarship. Imagine the responsenof the Jewish Community, if anChristian scholar were to pass offnThe Protocols of the Elders of Zionnas an authentic document. But asnthe former president of the Commonwealthnof World Citizens andnof the International ArbitrationnLeague, Schonfield no doubt resentsnthe treatment he has himselfnreceived from the millions of Christiansnin Great Britain and the UnitednStates. After all, these peoplenhave ignored his splendid plans forncreating world harmony while continuingnto regard someone else asnPrince of Peace. ccn