WHY JESUS DIED by Pierre van Paassen


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Profound faith in the historical fact of Jesus is combined, in van Paassen with training in his youth in Holland in higher criticism, in a challenging of the accuracy of the Gospels as biographical records. This is a book written at popular level, which will shock the fundamentalists, cause the skeptios to weigh the evidence therein, and re-enforce thoughtful believers in the faith in the concept of a portent that has survived through 2000 years. van Paassen explores the apocryphal gospels and other sources for the story of the formative years, and recreates a picture of the life and times, indicating as he does this, the contradictions, the interpolations of the evangelists in subsequent writings in order to expand incidents to fit the needs of conversion. He proves, fairly conclusively, Jesus' intense Jewishness, suggesting that attempts to contradict this are Christian additions. Jesus' theology was deeply rooted in the fatherhood of God, and the contemporary Jewish nationalistic movement is implicit in much of the gospel story though there is confusion- which van Paassen indicates -- in the chronology of events, again, he feels, a later interpolation. Paul's writings, his Hellenio slant on events and philosophy, are responsible for some of the thinking of the early church and the development of the Christian dogma. Paul the casuist is rather a new approach. van Paassen explores, too, the revolution Jesus was supposed to have preached and finds in his own exegesis that there was a very human tieup with the Zealot movement, a hope for realization that took him to the danger spot of Jerusalem, and a perhaps belated return in his final acceptance of orientation towards the kingdom of God. But it came too late; Pilate had no alternative than to decree crucifixion. The step by step analysis of the contradictions in historical possibility as against the gospel version of the resurrection discounts the mystical aspects, and van Paassen claims that the truth, in itself sufficient, was deliberately obscured to suit a pagan doctrine written in by missionary apologists three generations after Jesus' death. Actually, in so doing, the early Christians created the myth of Jewish responsibility and blame, with deliberate intent. To students of Bible history, much of what is brought together here will be familiar ground. To the average reader, it may be first encountered in these pages. van Paassen's final chapters, in the challenge to thinking today, places his book as a factor in his desire to make Christianity a potent force towards world peace.

Pub Date: Sept. 19th, 1949
Publisher: Dial