CHAPTER 18 - DEPOSITIONS
Schmidt made certain to depose all of my witnesses. None of them yielded anything that could be used against me so he summoned me to his office. Familiar with the process from the past bout with Maria and anxious to keep my legal costs as low as possible, I showed up without Bennett. Besides, I didn’t want an attorney to stifle my responses. Bennett was always so cautious, something that I was bothered by when it came to defending the faith.
The questions were easy at first . . . name, address, occupation, etc. Then the attorney began to delve into The Great Christ Debate.
“You say in here that Jesus was the Messiah, isn’t that correct?” Schmidt asked.
“In a matter of speaking, I did, but not in the Christian sense of the term. I supported the Moslem concept then, that Jesus was one of a continuing series prophets.” I said.
“Do you still hold that belief?” Schmidt wanted to know.
“I maintain a very high degree of respect for the Koran and for my Muslim cousins. But I now totally reject Jesus. I think he was a false prophet,” I answered.
“Isn’t that highly inconsistent of you? What made you change your mind?” Schmidt asked.
“Your client and her mother did a very good job of doing that. The two convinced me that when Jesus said in Luke 14:26, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters . . . and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple, he meant it. I made excuses for his promise of division when I wrote the book, but I’m not wed to a Christian now and I needn’t rationalize Christ’s remarks anymore. Yes, I once preached in his favor in synagogues. But the closer I drew to him, the more I found that my Christian in-laws hated me. I’ve developed such a bad taste in my mouth for the man now that I see him more as an anti-Christ than as a Christ.”
“What do you mean by anti-Christ?” the attorney asked.
“The prime role of the Jewish Messiah is to bring peace - not in heaven but here amongst the nations. Jesus said, Think not that I’ve come to bring peace on earth, I’ve come not for peace, but for division or the sword. The prefix anti means against. Christ is Greek for the Hebrew Meshiach or Messiah. As Jesus has claimed for himself a role opposite that of Isaiah’s predicted Prince of Peace, it can only be said that he has laid claim to the role of Anti-Messiah or Anti-Christ. That's my current view of him.”
“How do you explain all the people who saw the resurrected Christ?” Schmidt asked.
“An important common thread runs through the Gospels,” I answered. “It’s one I missed in my original research … failure of those who knew Jesus to clearly recognize him after the Cross. In Matthew 28:17 we read of their doubt. In Mark 16:12 we’re told that Jesus appeared in another form. In the 24th chapter of Luke we find that Jesus had told the apostles about his return on the third day, which it then was. Although Mary Magdalene had informed them that she had seen the risen Christ, still when they themselves met him, their eyes were kept from recognizing him for what must have been around six hours or so. In John’s story, Mary Magdalene at first thought the risen Jesus to be the gardener. And as for the tale of Doubting Thomas, it’s missing from the synoptic Gospels. It took 60 years for someone to fabricate the story and for it to make its way into John’s account. I now believe that someone who didn’t even look like Jesus succeeded in impersonating the slain rabbi.”
“Why would anyone want to do that?” Schmidt asked.
“I can’t say. Maybe he wanted to be proclaimed King of the Jews. Maybe he was just playing a sick joke on those who refused to believe that Jesus was gone. He might have been following the Nazarene’s instructions. We can only speculate. There’s one other possible explanation besides that of an impostor.”
“Which is?” Schmidt asked.
“Jesus was only on the cross for about nine hours. It usually took two days to die up there. If he survived the cross and piercing (though unconscious at first) and was placed in the tomb still alive, he could have escaped his tomb. It was above ground. Later when he was well enough to walk about, he might have disguised himself to keep from being caught and thrown back on the cross again. Thus the stories about his friends not recognizing him until they heard his voice. Who knows?”
Schmidt then asked about events preceding Bobby’s delivery.
“I have here a copy of the records from Cedars of Lebanon Hospital concerning the birth of your son. You list his religion as Monotheistic, not Jewish. Why?”
“When I wrote the book,” I answered, “I considered starting a new faith for those like my son who were not born Jewish. Gentiles needed a religion that taught the proper view of the Almighty. Monotheism means the belief in One God. The faith I envisioned starting would’ve been modeled after basic Jewish theology. It would have opposed both the Trinity and the doctrine of vicarious atonement, concentrating instead on the concept of individual responsibility, and on morality based upon the Seven Precepts of Noah (maintain courts of justice; commit no murder, theft, incest or adultery, blasphemy, idol worship, or cruelty to animals). But after Bobby was born, Maria and I decided to include Bobby in the Jewish covenant, thus the brith milah. So I dropped the idea of Monotheism and gradually returned to a more traditional Jewish belief. I also came to understand that theological compromise can't guarantee family harmony.”
Schmidt decided to go for the jugular vein. “Does the name Sabbatai mean anything to you?” he asked.
I knew right away that one of my students had leaked a misquoted story to Maria. I had spoken about the similarities in the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations. Then I used a few coincidental links between myself and the 17th century Turk during a lecture on the differences between science and superstition. My kids had been given most of the facts and were asked to use scientific logic to pick apart the significance of the comparisons. I loved to do things like that during the first week of every science course I ever taught. If the students failed to destroy the implications of my story, I would show them how the scientific approach would. Yet I knew that Schmidt would only bring up the topic in an attempt to prove me mad, so I resolved to give the attorney no more information that was absolutely necessary.
“Yes,” I admitted, “The name does mean something. It’s part of my Hebrew name.”
“Does it have any particular religious significance?” Schmidt asked.
“The name’s a common one, often given to someone who’s born on the Sabbath,” I said.
“Did you ever tell anyone that you’re a reincarnation of a man who had his head cut off?” Schmidt inquired.
The question had been improperly phrased if he really meant to prove such a thing. Sevi had not had his cut; he was only threatened with beheading.
“No,” I said smugly, I know nothing of any man who was beheaded.”
“Did you ever tell anyone that you got the scar on your neck because you were beheaded in a previous life?” Schmidt asked again.
I laughed and said, “I got the scar on my neck when a cyst the size of a grapefruit was cut out of my neck in this life! Your question is absurd!”
“I have no further questions. I’ll be able to see the transcripts of the deposition in about five days if we use them. You have the right to make any corrections you like at that time. Thank you,” the attorney said. With that, the meeting was over. Schmidt never did have the interview transcribed.
I remained concerned about the Sevi questions and soon learned that source was Rico Gonzales, a boy thrown out of my class for misconduct. This meant that it would be necessary to cue Bennett in on Sabbatai Sevi and to ask the attorney to subpoena Rico’s grades and disciplinary record. That way any weird tales would be tainted by Rico’s history of persistent misconduct and suspensions.
When I phoned my attorney, I discovered that Bennett hadn’t yet subpoenaed the mohel, Cantor Lipson. I was furious. Bennett urged me to calm down while he phoned the Cantor. Then the lawyer had to break the news to me that Lipson was only four hours away from flying off to Europe on a summer vacation.
“Get over to his home or out to the airport now and preserve his testimony in a deposition!” I demanded.
Bennett did his best to set the thing up. He was lucky to get a court reporter, but he couldn’t reach Schmidt to inform him of the deposition. Within two hours the crucial story was ready to be transcribed, but Bennett knew that without Schmidt there to cross-examine the witness, Lipson’s statements would probably be inadmissible even though I had paid hundreds to preserve them.
Having waited too long to guarantee Lipson’s testimony, Bennett finally subpoenaed Maria to bring Bobby to court. That turned out to be no easy feat. Maria refused to open the door, and before it was all over, there was such a disturbance outside her home that she called the police to “remove the trespassers.” The cops came all right, but they helped nail her with the order. Bobby, it seemed, would finally have his day in court.