Page 244 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 50

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Barabbas’ order to betray Jesus to the Romans as a soldier ac­
cepts an order. There is also reference in the novel to the chang­
ing image of Jesus. According to the earlier Christian scrolls
which had been disseminated, Jesus was depicted as a wonderful
human being, teaching a faith in people and human destiny.
He was also a zealous Jew who had no intention o f abandoning
the Torah or preaching to the gentiles. Later editions o f the
scrolls, influenced by Simon Peter and Paul, emphasized witch­
craft, magic and the mission to the gentiles.
While the figure of Jesus is faint, we encounter again in this
novel the motif that the real, Jewish Jesus has been falsified
by an ecclesiastical organization. Just as a cynical Roman can
create the cult of a saint, using the betrayed betrayer, Judas,
so did the early Church carry o ff an act of reconstruction and
deception about the nature of Jesus. In this novel he is, as Isaac
Mayer Wise saw him, a nationalist Jewish patriot.30
Universalistic cultural depictions of Jesus have also been of­
fered. Pinhas Sadeh (b. 1929) composed a cycle of six poems,
entitled “The Life of Jesus,” between 1970-79.31 The poems
do not deal with issues of Jewish nationalism but with Jesus
at the center of a dream world and as one inspiring sensuous
love. It is this love which is the force of redemption. King David
is pictured fancifully as coming to Jerusalem in his golden boat,
carrying the baby Messiah, while priests and Levites sing. The
journey o f the infant Jesus to Egypt through barren landscape
is described by a direct address of the poet: “You are carried,
embraced in your mother’s arms,/ a baby dressed in red,/ God-
doll.” The lonely cypress trees will provide the cross for Jesus’
crucifixion in thirty-three years, and twice more Jesus is ad­
dressed as “God-doll.” Jesus is imagined as physically sensuous.
The poet addresses him: “Blue angels. Red angels. Angels of
marble and gold./ The angels are flowers, they are young girls,
they are water./Jesus my love, in the garden between the sulfur
30. For descriptions o f Jesus as a zealot, see S.G.F. Brandon,
Jesus and the Zealots
(Manchester, 1967) and Hayyim Maccoby,
Revolution in Judea : Jesus and
the Jewish Resistance
(New York, 1980).
31. Pinhas Sadeh,
E l Shtei Necarot Nikhbadot
(Jerusalem and Tel Aviv: 1977),
45 -54 .