While Jesus was on the cross, Joseph made arrangements for an unidentified man to give Jesus a drink that had been drugged. As a result, Jesus slipped quickly into a state of unconsciousness, which made him appear dead. Nonetheless, Jesus was in a very serious condition when he was removed from the cross, especially complicated by John’s report of the spear wound in his chest.^5 On Saturday, Jesus’ body was
1 Hugh Schonfield, The Passover Plot(New York: Bantam Books, 1965).
2 Ibid., pp. 37–38.
3 Ibid., pp. 112–115.
4 Ibid., pp. 153–161.
5 Ibid., pp. 160–161.
From Gary R. Habermas, The Historical Jesus – Ancient Evidence For The Life Of Christ (in print at Amazon)
removed from the tomb, after which he regained consciousness briefly, but died shortly thereafter and was reburied.^6
At this point, Schonfield turns to his proposed reconstruction of events that account for the disciples’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection. The unidentified man at the cross who administered the drug is the key figure in this reconstruction. He helped carry Jesus to the tomb, then returned on Saturday to rescue him. During Jesus’ brief period of consciousness, Jesus asked this man to convey to his disciples that he had risen from the dead. However, Jesus died shortly after and this person helped bury him. It is also this anonymous person who was present in the tomb when the women came early on Sunday morning and was the one mistaken by Mary Magdalene as the gardener. Later this same man visited the disciples on the road to Emmaus, at the seashore and in Galilee. The disciples mistook this stranger for Jesus and proclaimed his resurrection from the dead.^7
It should be obvious to the reasonably impartial reader that this incredible sequence of events, where an unidentified man simply “appears” very conveniently whenever there is a need to explain anything away, is extremely questionable, to say the least. The entire plot closely parallels the fictitious lives of Jesus which are now so outdated and ignored by serious scholars. Indeed, even Schonfield admits that much of his account “is an imaginative reconstruction.”^8 Later he explains that “We are nowhere claiming for our reconstruction that it represents what actually happened.”^9 According to John A.T. Robinson, The Passover Plotis an example of a popularistic book which is factually groundless enough that, if the public were not so interested in virtually anyone who writes on Christianity, it “would be laughed out of court.”^10 Therefore, we assert that there is a very high improbability against Schonfield’s reconstruction of Jesus’ life.