Hugh Schonfield, “an independent Jewish historian of the Nazarene Faith” was the enfant terrible of the Hebrew Christian movement of the 20th century.
A pioneering researcher in the history of Jewish Christianity and founding member of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA), his gifts as scholar, writer and visionary thinker made a significant contribution to Hebrew Christian thought and identity.
As evidence of his heterodox views emerged he was excluded from IHCA membership, and his talents were employed elsewhere, in the cause of his own particular brand of biblical scholarship and the search for world peace.
In a series of reconstructions of the life of Jesus and the early church he proposed sensationalist versions of events which found little acceptance in academic circles but were widely canvassed in the popular press.
His innovative editions and translations of Jewish and Christian works such as the Tol’dot Yeshu, while putting for the first time important materials before the general public, were marred by the imposition of his own agenda.
Much can be gained from a study of Schonfield’s life and work, especially as these impinge on the task of developing coherent Messianic Jewish theology for today.
Prayer and Reflection: There is much for Messianic Jews to learn from the life and work of High Schonfield. He was a gifted but unorthodox scholar, a visionary who foresaw the rise of the Messianic movement, but someone whose own personal spiritual insights isolated them from the Hebrew Christian movement and led them to follow a path tinged with other elements. Yet he remained a kind and gracious man, and his writings continue to merit serious, but critical, study. His unorthodox views on the Trinity, and the nature of God, inevitably led to his exclusion from the mainstream Hebrew Christian movement, but his path might have been different with more careful monitoring, mentoring and method in his research.
Lord, teach us to serve you with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen.
Hugh Joseph Schonfield (London, 17 May 1901 – January 24, 1988, London)
Richard Harvey, Passing over the Plot? The Life and Work of Hugh Schonfield [p35]
with several inaccuracies – caveat lector
Preface to Owen Power, Hugh Schonfield: A Case Study of Complex Jewish Identities
I first met Hugh Schonfield at a meeting of the local synagogue to which my great aunt had invited me. There he spoke about his latest book, a study of the life of Jesus, to the somewhat bemused Rabbi and synagogue members. At the end of the meeting my great-aunt was curious about Schonfield’s unorthodox but sympathetic historical reconstruction of the life of Jesus. “Isn’t he one of yours?” she asked, knowing of my own beliefs as a Messianic Jew.
Owen Power has made a pioneering contribution to the study of Hugh Schonfield, a complex personality and maverick scholar, whose writings and activities have earned him a significant but underestimated place in 20th century religious thought. John Lennon referenced his work when charting the rise of the Beatles. His book “The Passover Plot” sold millions of copies. His ideas influenced successive generations of Jewish, Christian and Messianic Jewish thinkers. But his thought and the context in which it emerged remains a mystery which this important study explores and explains.
Readers will find Power’s study invaluable in understanding the times in which Schonfield lived and wrote. He wrote in response to the threat of anti-Semitism in Europe, the position of the Jewish people in the United Kingdom, the birth of the modern Hebrew Christian (Messianic Jewish) movement and the utopian idealism of various political movements. These all combined with the zeitgeist of the 1920s and 1930s in the midst of a world in crisis. Political, social and religious concerns were combined in Schonfield’s unique and eclectic blend of philosophy and spirituality. His skills as a writer, publicist and political activist brought a small coterie of followers together that continues to this day in the Mondcitivan movement, for which he was nominated (unsuccessfully) to receive the Nobel prize. Power’s study takes on these diverse and contradictory aspects of his career, and sets them in the context of the intellectual history of the 20th century.
 Saints against Caesar (SAC) (London: Macdonald, 1948), vii.
 The IHCA was renamed the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA) in 1992.
 According to the Hebrews, a new translation of the Jewish Life of Jesus (the Toldoth Jeshu) (London: Duckworth, 1937)
 London: Duckworth, 1936; Manna Books, 1995