Hugh J. Schonfield

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Hugh Joseph Schonfield (London, 17 May 1901 – January 24, 1988, London) was a British Bible scholar specializing in the New Testament and the early development of the Christian religion and church. He was born in London, and educated there at St Paul's School and King's College, doing postgraduate religious studies in the University of Glasgow, Doctor of Sacred Literature. He was one of the founders and president of the pacifist organization Commonwealth of World Citizens "Mondcivitan Republic".

Religious and political beliefs[edit]


At one time he was president of the H.G. Wells Society. He founded the "Mondcivitan Republic," Commonwealth of World Citizens, in 1956.[1]

Hebrew Christian and Messianic Judaism[edit]

Schonfield was a liberal Hebrew Christian. In 1937 Schonfield was expelled from the Executive Committee of International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA), of which he had been a member since 1925, (this organisation is now the International Messianic Jewish Alliance or IMJA).[2] He later associated with Messianic Judaism for a while, but was bitterly disillusioned by the experience.[3]


Schonfield was one of the original Dead Sea Scrolls team members.[4]

Schonfield wrote over 40 books including commercially successful books in the fields of history and biography as well as religion. In 1958 his non-ecclesiastical historical translation of the New Testament was published in the UK and the US, titled The Authentic New Testament. This aimed to show without idealised interpretation the meaning intended by the writers while maintaining the original structures. A revised version appeared in 1985 titled The Original New Testament. In 1965 he published the controversial The Passover Plot, a book whose thesis is that the Crucifixion was part of a larger, conscious attempt by Jesus to fulfill the Messianic expectations rampant in his time, and that the plan went unexpectedly wrong.

Schonfield followed The Passover Plot with a sequel in 1968, Those Incredible Christians. This was also described as controversial, but had less impact than the earlier book.[5]

An additional aspect of his work was the revision of the Hebrew writing system.[6] In The New Hebrew Typography, published in 1932, he argued for a significantly revised version of the Hebrew alphabet modeled after the Latin alphabet, including a capital-lowercase distinction, no final forms, a vertical emphasis, and serifs. This alphabet has not been adopted.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • An Old Hebrew Text of St. Matthew's Gospel, Translated (translator, with notes and appendices)
  • Letters to Frederick Tennyson (editor)
  • The New Hebrew Typography
  • The Authentic Photograph of Christ (by Kazimir de Proszynski; editor and author of "historical supplement")
  • For the Train: Five Poems and a Tale (by Lewis Carroll; arranged poem order, wrote preface)
  • The Book of British Industries
  • The History of Jewish Christianity from the First to the Twentieth Century(1936)
  • Richard Burton, Explorer
  • Ferdinand De Lesseps
  • According to the Hebrews
  • Travels in Tartary and Thibet
  • Travels and Researches in South Africa
  • The Suez Canal
  • Jesus: A Biography
  • The Treaty of Versailles
  • Readings from the Apocryphal Gospels
  • Judaism and World Order
  • Italy and Suez
  • This Man Was Right: Woodrow Wilson Speaks Again
  • The Jew of Tarsus: An Unorthodox Portrait of Paul
  • Saints Against Caesar: The Rise and Reactions of the First Christian Community
  • Lost Book of Nativity of John
  • The Suez Canal in World Affairs
  • Secrets of the Dead Sea Scrolls: Studies Towards their Solution
  • The Song of Songs
  • The Bible Was Right: An Astonishing Examination of the New Testament
  • A Popular Dictionary of Judaism
  • A History of Biblical Literature
  • The Passover Plot: New Light on the History of Jesus
  • Reader's A-to-Z Bible Companion
  • Those Incredible Christians
  • Suez Canal in Peace and War
  • Politics of God
  • The Jesus Party
  • For Christ's Sake
  • The Shroud of Turin
  • The Original New Testament (originally published in 1958 as The Authentic New Testament, updated and re-published under this title in 1985)
  • The Essene Odyssey
  • After the Cross
  • Proclaiming the Messiah
  • The Mystery of the Messiah
  • Jesus: Man and Messiah


  • Wells as religious humanist[7]


  1. ^ The Cramoisy Queen: A Life of Caresse Crosby - Page 168 Linda Hamalian - 2009 All that was required, she thought, was formal official status, and so she merged with the legally established Commonwealth of World Citizens founded by Dr. Hugh Schonfield, a British historian and scholar of what the West called the ..."
    • The politics of God, Hugh Joseph Schonfield - 1970 "There shall be identical treatment of those outside the Commonwealth as of those within it, treatment that is founded on reverence for the human personality. 3. The Commonwealth of World Citizens shall ever promote and actively assist ..."
    • World citizenship and mundialism: a guide to the building of a ... - Page 23 John Charles de Villamar Roberts - 1999 "The Commonwealth of World Citizens offered itself as an example of a new "nation" devoted solely to serving humanity. Its founder, Dr. Hugh Schonfield, a distinguished Biblical scholar, had worked for world citizenship and mundialism ..."
    • Alternative approaches to world government Hanna Newcombe - 1967 "The Commonwealth of World Citizens, or Mondcivitans , was founded long before Garry Davis. In 1938, Dr. Hugh Schonfield, distinguished British Jewish scholar and diplomat, conceived the civilized world's need for a new "independent and ...
    • No Sense of Obligation: Science and Religion in an Impersonal Universe - Page 141 Matt Young - 2001 "Hugh Schonfield was a New Testament scholar who was educated at King's College, London, and earned a doctorate in sacred literature at the University of Glasgow. He was a prolific author but received attention mostly for The Passover Plot..."
  2. ^ The Apostle Paul in the Jewish imagination: a study in modern ... - Page 155 Daniel R. Langton - 2010 -"Schonfield was expelled from the Executive Committee of IHCA, of which he was a member from 1925 to 1937). 3 The origins of this organisation, later renamed the Mondcivitan Republic, are described in Hugh Schonfield, The Politics of ."
  3. ^ David A. Rausch Messianic Judaism, its history, theology, and polity 1982 "Note 43. It is interesting that Daniel Juster, the Spiritual Leader of Beth Messiah Congregation in Rockville, Maryland corresponded with Schonfield several years ago. Schonfield confirmed to him that he indeed had had a bad experience with the ... He said that after that experience he began to rethink everything and came to new conclusions ... Schonfield indicated to Juster that Juster' s faith in Messianic Judaism was naive and that he would have to someday "grow up" as Hugh Schonfield had done. 44. Note "Greetings From Friends" Hebrew Christian Alliance Quarterly" 1982 p48-49
  4. ^ The Hiram Key: Pharaohs, Freemasonry, and the Discovery of the ... - Page 202 Christopher Knight, Robert Lomas - 2001 "A major piece of evidence came to light thanks to another member of the original Dead Sea Scrolls team and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee. In many of the scrolls Dr Hugh Schonfield discovered a Hebrew code that he called 'Atbash cipher',"
  5. ^ Da Vinci code decoded - Page 119 Martin Lunn - 2004 - ... Dr. Hugh J. Schonfield. Dr. Schonfield was one of the original researchers working on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran and his most notable book on Biblical history is The Passover Plot. He applied the code to some of the scrolls that ..."
  6. ^ The Schonfieldian Script Page at the Wayback Machine (archived August 25, 2003)
  7. ^ Religious humanism: Volume 3 Fellowship of Religious Humanists - 1969 WELLS AS RELIGIOUS HUMANIST By Hugh J. Schonfield - Experiment in Autobiography, by HG Wells"

External links[edit]