A review of Abram Epstein’s
Responsio Iudaeorum Nostrae Aetatis: A Response to Christianity’s Eternal Accusation of the Jewish People
iUniverse, July 2020, 122 pages
Abram Epstein, in his new book The Case Against the Gospels’ False Accusation of the Jews relies on a significant advance in Gospel analysis to explain, with some degree of certainty, what occurred during the Passion of Jesus (aka Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ) and who was ultimately responsible for his crucifixion. To put it more clearly, Epstein methodically and compellingly walks his readers through the argument that the Jewish people never conspired to kill Jesus, nor did any Jew participate in his arrest, his pronouncement of guilt, or his state-sanctioned murder on the cross. In The Case Against the Gospels, Epstein argues that the Christian clergy’s recent ecumenical acts of forgiveness, which were originally intended to ease relations between the modern Christian community and the Jewish people, actually offer no acquittal at all, but only serve to reinforce the church’s own historically anti-Semitic actions and defamatory point of view.
In this dissertational-styled work, Epstein quite clearly points the proverbial finger of blame directly at early church leaders, accusing the religious patriarchy of the times for not only concealing the true nature of its own past as it shrouded itself beneath a veil of good will, but of secretly maintaining and promoting a clandestine doctrine and false belief that the Jewish people were responsible for plotting and promoting the crucifixion of Jesus. Epstein’s agenda moves forward to demonstrate and explain how the ensuing centuries of built-up hatred and bias that the early Christian community fostered against the Jewish population still continues to affect modern day attitudes toward the Jewish community.
As a fellow independent author, I found Epstein’s book to be well-formulated, concise, and intriguing. The author leads his readers on a consuming but relatable journey through centuries of falsifications, accusations, and propaganda that the Christian church intentionally and systematically forced upon Jewish communities worldwide, and explains why the Vatican’s official apology to the Jewish people, issued on March 17, 1998 at the behest of Pope John Paul II, sadly fell short of expectations.
As an historian and biblical scholar who continues to be engrossed by the life of Jesus and the early Christian community, I found this book fascinating. I can, however, neither confirm nor deny the substance of Epstein’s argument since the four canonical Gospels on which he bases his formulations and subsequent conclusions about supposed quotes by referenced individuals are, in and of themselves, basically constructed on hearsay and not historical fact. The earliest “gospel”, referred to by scholars as “Q”, is—at its earliest—estimated to have been written anywhere from three to four decades after the crucifixion of Jesus. The first canonical gospel, The Gospel of Mark, dated to around 70 C.E., is believed to have been—at least in part—extrapolated from this “Q” document. Some scholars claim that there is a unknown document they call “Q” from the German Quelle or source, that informs some of the synoptic gospels. The fault with Epstein’s conjecture is that he relies heavily on the circumstances and, in particular, the dialogue noted in the three synoptic gospel (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) accounts. But as biblical scholars often fail to mention, any events and/or dialogue mentioned in the four synoptic gospels cannot possibly be proven as fact. Since these writings cannot be proven to be historically accurate accounts of the life of Jesus, it must be mentioned that each gospel is ultimately based on a certain degree of story-telling, opinion, and conjecture gathered by the authors, whose identities—with the exception of John—are only assumed to be individuals who served as Jesus’ actual disciples.
Regardless of the fact that the gospel accounts themselves may lack a certain voracity, Epstein’s argument remains valid. Throughout history the Church has used the gospels, along with non-canonical works about the life of Jesus, to their best advantage. While Epstein’s argument may be based on a “he said, she said” scenario about the Passion of Jesus and the actions taken by those around him, history has proven the Church’s lecherous quest for wealth and power through its misappropriation of the gospel accounts in order to effectively spread lies and propaganda among its followers which resulted in grave and unfair biases against certain ethnicities and religious groups.
Epstein’s book reads somewhat like an unfinished court presentation that relies heavily on unproven accounts and hearsay, and that is why I pointed out that statements quoted from gospel accounts simply cannot be taken as truth without other historical sources backing up one’s arguments. Epstein’s overall logic as to how and why the Church created a scapegoat responsible for the death of Jesus in order to solidify the Christian community against a single hated enemy, however, does hold up well in the eyes of time.
I’m pleased to recommend this intriguing book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the underlying causes of political or religious propaganda throughout history, and the subsequent manipulation of public opinion against targeted groups.
Jeannie B Richards is an historian and international multi-award-winning, multi-genre Amazon, Goodreads, and Xlibris author. She is a biblical scholar who holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in Psychology and History.
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