Thursday, April 23, 2009

Purim, Jesus and Antisemitism in the Times Literary Supplement



Sir, – Robert Fraser’s essay concerning Sir James Frazer’s response to the misappropriation of his work by anti-Semites was an interesting sidelight on the influential scholar’s life and work (Commentary, April 10). But Fraser distorts Sir James when he summarizes the argument that the Easter story may be linked to the version of the killing of the mock king found in the Purim story and associated rituals, which included the hanging of a Haman surrogate or burning of an effigy. Fraser states that Sir James “was at pains to argue” that in the year in question (the year of Jesus’ crucifixion) Passover and Purim “happened to coincide”. Frazer makes no such argument, as reference to the abridged edition of The Golden Bough, edited by Robert Fraser, makes clear.

Frazer points out that one objection to linking the crucifixion with the death of Haman is that Purim and Passover are a month apart (Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar and Passover on the 14th of Nissan). Frazer offers several “considerations” to overcome the objection. One is that Christians deliberately changed the date of Christ’s death from Purim to Passover. Another is that “occasionally, for special reason, the Jews should have celebrated . . . Purim, or at least the death of Haman, at or about the time of Passover” in keeping with parallel rituals in the Saturnalia that gave the mock king “licence of thirty days before he was put to death”. But Frazer, ever the cautious writer, offers no argument in support of these suppositions; he merely is throwing out “some hints and the hope of stimulating and directing further inquiry”.

609 West 114th Street, New York, New York 10025.

Sorry, couldn't find the original article online.

No comments: