Rome (Feb. 19)
Israel Zolli, former chief rabbi of Rome who caused a sensation by his conversion last week to Catholicism, had long been an admirer of Jesus and even wrote a book on the subject several years ago, it was revealed here today.
The 370-page book, entitled “The Nazarene” and published in the Italian language in 1938 by the Institute of Academic Editions in Udino, is a study of the exegesis of the New Testament. In it, Zolli refers to Jesus as a great creator and preacher, emphasizing that “the oratory of Jesus is of a prophetic character”.
Zolli wrote this book on Jesus when he was teaching at the University of Padua after he became a member of the Fascist Party in order to retain his position at the University. Asked by newspapermen last week as to what prompted him to adopt Catholicism, he said: “This has been going on in me for years, tens of years.”
More than 4,000 Jews assembled in the Rome Synagogue this Saturday re-affirmed their faith in Judaism in a demonstration aimed at refuting the action of their former rabbi. Speakers denounced the “traitors who sometimes arise in our midst”.
Meanwhile, Zolli and his wife moved from their apartment to the Georgian University. This was done “in order to get away from curiosity seekers, while looking for another apartment,” he told American reporters. He denied that his wife was converted through his pressure.
The volume on Jesus written by Zolli opens with a quotation from St. John reading: “No man ever spoke like this man.” The first chapter deals with the origin and various interpretations of the name “Nazoreno” and establishes that the word “Nazoreno” means in Syrian “to preach”, “Jesus the great creator and the great preacher followed the customs of the time and preached and prayed in public in a declamatory way,” Zolli writes, emphasizing that “the oratory of Jesus is of a prophetic nature.”
Zolli points out that the prediction of events before their occurrence, as has been credited to Jesus, was a proof of divinity offered by the Jewish prophet Isaiah to his contemporaries. “The predictions, the forecast of his betrayal, of the accusation, of the passion, of his death and resurrection, of the persecution of the apostles – all these prove the divine virtue of predictions inherent in Jesus,” the ex-rabbi wrote.
Referring to the discussion between Christ and his disciples at the end of the last Supper, Zolli says, “Jesus was never so great as in the hour when he pronounced the painful word “Enough.” He goes on to declare that “in the person of Jesus Christ human suffering is made divine.”
“The road of Jesus,” Zolli states in one of the chapters of his book, “Leads from heaven to earth. His adjourn on the earth was but temporary, his mission were to announce the coming of a new kingdom. Jesus represents the bending of heaven towards earth. Jeremiah is only an attempt at ascension, a desperate call which the earth launches towards heaven. Jeremiah wants to save Jesus wants to redeems”