Page 243 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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to God and to Jesus, too.28 He thereupon determined to write
a book to tell unhappy people that they are not abandoned.
The Jesus of the novel is a golden-haired, blue-eyed, dreamy,
abstracted man of great compassion He rejects the legalism of
the Pharisees and the militancy o f the anti-Roman rebels, who
include his martyred father and uncle. He does whatever he
can to ease the lot of the many victims of human cruelty. Mary
Magdalene is a fallen woman who loves Jesus, and Judas Iscariot
is a bitter, disillusioned man, yet Jesus’ admirer. Jesus attempts
to articulate a philosophy of redemption, which is rather vague.
At first he believes and advocates that revolt against the Romans
is essential for the coming of the Kingdom, but he then recoils
from that course, teaching a doctrine of human love. He is at
odds with his contemporaries, who emphasize or fabricate the
miraculous aspects of his ministry, another instance of a Jewish
and natural Jesus who rejects the Church’s reshaping of his
true identity. He accepts the necessity of his crucifixion but,
at the last moment, becomes confused and disillusioned about
his mission.
The image o f the nationalist rebel Jesus, rather faint and
weak, is hinted at in the novel by Igal Mossinsohn (b. 1917),
Yehudah Ish-Keriyyot.29
The novel does not depict Jesus at all
but rather the torments of Judas Iscariot. He had betrayed Jesus
ten years earlier and fled Judea because he feared revenge.
Living under an assumed name, Andper, he confesses to being
Judas but is not believed, since Judas is held to be dead. Judas-
Antiper is the victim of many deceptions. A Roman philosopher
and head of the Roman Secret Police has decided that it is pos­
sible to create a saint. He orders hundreds of statues in the
likeness of Antiper/Judas, who will ultimately be executed. The
same soldiers who lead him to his death believe in him as a
saint. According to the novel, the crucifixion was Jesus’ own
idea. He was part of a revolutionary movement against Roman
domination led by Barabbas. The movement, however, was not
supported by the Jews. Jesus believed that, if he were crucified,
public opinion would then be aroused. To Jesus the crucifixion
was no more than a means to a political end. Judas accepted
28. Ben-Or,
op. cit.,
169-170.
29. The original Hebrew edition was first published in 1963 by Am Oved,
Tel Aviv; second edition, 1964. It was trans. by Jules Harlow as
Judas
(New
York: St. Martin’s Press, 1963).
WALDMAN /GLIMPSES OF JESUS IN YIDDISH AND HEBREW LITERATURE
235