24 March 2018

Don't rob the Rabbis

Tomorrow, Palm Sunday, with the narrative of the cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple, raises in an acute form the question which the Professionals call Christian-Jewish relations. Well meaning as these people are, it seems to me that they fail to make any real attempt at historical contextualisation. They are so obsessed with rapprochement between third millennium Catholicism and Pharisaic Rabbinic Synagogue Judaism that they almost seem unaware that, in terms of the 'New Testament Period', Judaism was a Temple-centred, Sacrifice-based, Religion. Modern discussions are so concerned with questions like "Does Christianity supersede Judaism?" and "Will Christians pervert Jews from Jewry?" that it pays little attention to the more down-to-earth question 'Exactly what is supposed to be superseding, or not superseding, exactly what?' I think this is a fairly massive lacuna.

Rabbis, very naturally, are preoccupied with anxieties that we might steal their congregations from them (if only they knew how useless we are at Mission!). But when did you last herar the complaint "Will these Catholic Priests stop Jews from going up to make the appointed animal sacrifices in the Temple at Jerusalem"? Since there hasn't been a Temple in Jerusalem for nearly two thousand years, it is very natural that this anxiety need never keep theRabbis awake at night ... you wouldn't expect it to! But Catholicism in fact claims to be the fulfilment and hence (in terms of day-by-day, year-by-year, cultic actions) the replacement, of the Temple's Sacrificial system.

Some thirty years ago, the great Ed Sanders, a self-described "liberal modern secularised Protestant", pointed out that the meaning of the Lord's Palm Sunday 'Cleansing of the Temple' is most obviously seen as the replacement of the Temple. And after all, Jesus does refer to himself as the Temple. And in 1989, Rabbi Jacob Neusner, a prolific and brilliant American writer upon First Century Judaism, offered his own, brilliant, refinement of Sanders' argument. The moneychangers, he explains, were there to facilitate the payment of the Temple tax which "serve[d] through the coming year to provide the public daily whole offerings, in the name of the community". So:

" ... the overturning of the moneychangers' tables represents an act of the rejection of the most important rite of the Israelite cult, the daily whole-offering, and, therefore, a statement that there is a means of atonement other than the daily whole-offering, which now is null. Then what was to take the place of the daily whole-offering? It was to be the rite of the Eucharist: table for table, whole-offering for whole-offering. It therefore seems to me that the correct context in which to read the overturning of the money-changers' tables is not the destruction of the Temple in general, but the institution of the sacrifice of the eucharist, in particular. It further follows that the counterpart of Jesus' negative action in overturning one table must be his affirmative action in establishing or setting up another table, that is to say, I turn to the passion narratives centred upon the Last Supper. That, at any rate, is how, as an outsider to scholarship in this field, I should suggest we read the statement. The negative is that the atonement for sin achieved by the daily whole offering is null, and the positive, that atonement for sin is achieved by the Eucharist: one table overturned, another table set up in place, and both for the same purpose of atonement and expiation of sin."

I have highlighted in blue the words in which Neusner the Jew expresses his discernment of how the Eucharistic Sacrifice ordained by Jesus of Nazareth was intended to supersede the Temple Sacrificial system.

I don't think we Catholics should be grabbing or claiming to supersede the synagogue-based Rabbinic Judaism of the last nineteen centuries. That would be sheer theft. The rabbis invented it; how could we possibly have any right to it? But the Temple with its system was the construct 'in possession' at the moment at which they and we, two competing heirs of Second Temple Judaism, began to go our two separate ways. What they took with them on their journey is for them to say and I would not be so discourteous as to lecture them upon it; what we took on ours was the Daily Sacrifice of the Lamb. Deus qui legalium differentiam hostiarum unius sacrificii perfectione sanxisti ...

The Temple hosted the private sacrifices of individuals and families between the Morning and Evening Sacrifices of the People of God. I can think of nothing more like this in spirit as well as in sacramental reality than a great Catholic church in the Medieval or Baroque period. At the High Altar you might see the formal prescribed ritual of the Act of Immolation in the public, communal Capitular Mass. And at the side altars, you hear the murmur of the private Masses laying before YHWH the private intentions of individuals and families.

Yes; the rabbis are more than entitled to undisturbed possession of their own lawful property. All we claim is the propitiatory Oblation which sums up and fulfills and enfolds and transcends all the Temple Sacrifices ... as well as the thusia typike of Our Patriarch Abraham ... and the munera, 'dutiful offerings', of God's Righteous Servant Abel at the dawn of time. If they have no wish to take all that from us, what is there for us both to squabble about?

19 comments:

Cherub said...

How did the synagogue services fit in with the Temple sacrifice system? Were those synagogue services very different from today’s synagogue services? I am finding this article most interesting and instructive.

A Daughter of Mary said...

This post was great, very informative. I seldom think of the Jews at all, to be frank. We hear so little (at least where I live) about them, except in the international news - Jerusalem and all that…any Jews I have known in my life have been very secular and clung to their Sedar meal and other customs because the food is great, and it is the only remaining link to the 'family past' - but to quarrel with them or what their Rabbis say is not something we do.

On the other hand, what is to be done about converting them? Can I say that I don't think most people want to convert them these days. It has become insulting to tell them they must convert and be Baptized or risk their salvation.

So isn't it a balance: on one hand they certainly have the modern right to believe what they want (!) but on the other hand we are to bring them into the One True Church.

mark wauck said...

"Jesus does refer to himself as the Temple."

Not to be nit picky but ...

It's not actually Jesus who refers to himself as the Temple--it's the narrator, John. There are other interpretations that could be placed on Jesus' words than the interpretation John gives it here. Which is not to question the legitimacy of John's take on it, but to suggest that it also be placed in the context of the Matthean account of Jesus stating that "something greater than the Temple is here," where Jesus clearly sees himself not AS the Temple but very precisely as OTHER THAN and GREATER THAN the Temple--a mere building after all, rather than a saving sacrifice. And in this latter case we're dealing with ipsissima verba, as we like to say in Latin--a direct quote. In point of fact the Matthean version definitely works better with the Sanders/Neusner take.

Having said all that, I do agree with the interpretation of the "action in the Temple" as signalling the replacement of the sacrificial cult in the Temple with Jesus. The letter to the Hebrews has quite a bit to say about that.

David Chislett said...

More than brilliant, Father!

Rose Marie said...

The Sacrifice that saves us is not the Eucharist of the Last Supper but the whole Sacrifice on Calvary. "This is My Body, given for you.... This is My Blood, poured out for you."

If the Last Supper had effected our salvation, there would have been no need for Calvary. The Eucharist is not a representation of the Last Supper, but of Calvary. Missing this point is the source of what seems to be the prevailing impression of most Catholics today, unfortunately encouraged by many shepherds and theologians, that the Mass is a meal, not a sacrifice. I have even seen an altar with a bas-relief of the Last Supper all across its front. How many times does the Novus Ordo tell us that the Mass is a sacrifice? I am not surprised that Rabbi Neusner misses it. It is a tragedy that so many Catholics do.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Rose Marie: somehow, we are misunderstanfing each other. Rabbi Neusner DID believe that the Eucharist was intended and instituted by our Lord to be the sacrificial re-presentation of Calvary. He came to this conclusion by applying to the Gospel narratives his understanding of Judaism. He did not come to it by studying the Novus Ordo.

Rose Marie said...

Thank you, Father. I am glad to hear that Rabbi Neusner concluded that the Eucharist was instituted as the representation of Calvary. The quotation given does not mention Calvary, only the Last Supper, and he speaks only of tables, not the Cross/Altar. We are certainly in agreement about the pedagogical utility of the Novus Ordo.

Martin McDermott said...

to Rose Marie,
Sacrifice consists of oblation (offering the victim) and immolation (killing the victim). The Lamb stands (risen) forever before His Father showing His wounds (immolated). The Immolation happened once and lasts for all time and eternity. At the Supper, Our Lord offered Himself before immolation the next day; in each Mass He and we offer His immolated Self to the Father.
When celebrating in the Latin rite, I usually use the first canon. This morning I con-celebrated and heard the word Sacrifice in the third canon, but the idea is there in all four of them.

Michael Leahy said...

I have read that the Talmud states that at the time of the fall of Jerusalem, the Temple sacrifice had appeared to have lost its effect from about forty years before (evidenced by the continued failure of a sacred taper to daily change its colour from red to white, signifying the cleansing of guilt to innocence), a period which neatly projects backward to a certain other Event.

Confitebor said...

Father asks, "What is there for us both to squabble about?" Well, what we've been "squabbling" (disputing, rather) with non-Christians Jews ever since Jesus' apostolate -- Is Jesus the Messiah or not, or is the Messiah still to come? Is He, as He claims, God? Is He the Savior of the World or not -- and therefore do non-Christian Jews like everyone else have an obligation to confess that Jesus is Lord? Should the Jewish people continue to hope for a Messiah who will someday rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and reestablish the cult of animal sacrifices, or rather should they believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and its sacrificial cult?

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

ABS was learnt that The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is a Holocaust that has four sacrificial aspects to it;

Sacrifice of Homage, offering to His Sovereign Greatness

Sacrifice of Expiation, offered to appease His Justice

Sacrifice of Impetration, offered to thank Him for His bounty

Eucharistic Sacrifice, offered to thank Him for His bounty

Of course, one would search in vain for even a hint of this truth in the Lil' Licit Liturgy but one does have to grant our younger brothers (Rabbinical Judaism is younger than the Catholic Church) their due for by their effort the Holocaust has been redefined to mean solely the war crimes committed against the Jews (and them alone) and the have been so successful at that redefinition that if you were to ask any Catholic- What is the Holocaust? - less than 1 % would have even heard that the Pluperfect Self-Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary, where His burning love for mankind substituted for the O.T. Holocaust fires, is the Holocaust.

It wasn't so long ago that ABS posted the public declaration of the Liturgical Commission at the opening of Vatican Two speaking about The Mass as The Holocaust.

Now just try to imagine any Pope or Prelate, postV2, daring to speak that truth in public today.

No, it is solely up to the laity to preserve that consequential truth - The Mass is the Holocaust and there is only one Holocaust.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

...We wish to convey to all men and to all nations the message of salvation, love and peace which Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, brought to the world and entrusted to the Church.

In fact, it is for this reason that we, the successors of the apostles, all united in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, forming one single apostolic body whose head is the successor of Peter, are gathered here at the invitation of His Holiness Pope John XXIII.

...Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we intend in this meeting to seek the most effective ways of renewing ourselves and of becoming increasingly more faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Christ.

We will strive to propose to the men of our times the truth of God in its entirety and purity so that they may understand it and accept it freely.

Conscious of our duties as pastors, we wish deeply to meet the demands of those who seek God “and perhaps grope after him and find him though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17: 27).

Faithful, therefore, to the mandate of Christ, who offered Himself a holocaust “in order that he might present to himself the Church in all her glory … but that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:27) we shall devote ourselves with all our energies, with all our thoughts toward renewing ourselves and the faithful entrusted to us, that the image of Jesus Christ, which shines in our hearts “to give enlightenment concerning the knowledge of the glory of God” (II Cor. 4:6) may appear to all people...

Rose Marie said...

To Fr. McDermott: thank you for your note. I understand that the idea and the fact of a sacrifice is in the Eucharistic Prayers of the Novus Ordo. It has to be or it would not be a valid sacrament. It's the word that is almost entirely absent, unlike in the liturgy used by the Church for at least 1500 years. And the idea itself has to be cobbled together as you demonstrated. Consequently the idea has been lost to most of the faithful who have also been instructed to think of the Eucharist as a community meal. That's why they can't fathom that there should ever be any barrier to entry, like adultery.

Morning Glory said...

Thank you,father H ! Your instruction today has truly enriched my understanding and my spiritual journey through Holy Week! Bless you and those who provided the rich commentaries

Randolph Crane said...

@ABS: That sounds very antisemitic, and I think you have been blocked from NLM for this kind of words (might have been someone else, though).

"Holocaust" is a scandal to Jews, as they prefer the term "Shoah".

To be honest, I find your comment disgusting and disgraceful. How the Reverend Father allows such comments, is beyond me.

Amateur Brain Surgeon said...

Dear Father. ABS merely reiterates Tradition in saying that the Mass is a Holocaust and he has taken his usual incautious and audacious attitude in comparing the one Holocaust with what the Jews claim is the holocaust - the war crimes committed against them alone during WW2.

Here is the link to his captious comparison and it eviscerates any and all claims that the Jews have proprietary use of that word...

We Catholics must recapture that surrendered ground of truth if we are to understand the true history of type and anti-type vis a vis The Holocaust for what Our Lord and Saviour did on Calvary was a fulfillment of all the old testament holocausts...

https://thenesciencentnepenthene.blogspot.com/2018/03/there-is-only-one-holocaust-and-it-has.html

Randolph Crane said...

Oh, I am not a priest, a mere lay theologian is all I am.

Holocaust is a Latin word, and usually not used in Catholic theology. That Christ's Sacrifice supersedes the Temple's liturgy is a fundamental truth, but you are viciously attacking the Jews for "usurpating" this term, when this doesn not correspond to truth.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

I am not anxious for one particular debate to continue. I would agree that the GREEK word Holocaust applies most totally and properly and theologically to the Sacrifice of the Rabbi from Nazareth upon a Cross. It is certainly true that Jewry seems to prefer the term Shoah. But in the pictures of yesterday's anti-anti-semitism demonstrations in London, banners, allegedly printed by the Board DBJ, use the word 'Holocaust', so I don't think it can be true that they have insuperable problems with it. Nor have I often heard the term 'Shoah Denial'.

But I don't have any problems if anybody uses the H-word for the horrific events that followed 1933. And if the Armenians, the Ukrainians ... also want to use it, well, I'm not going to lose any sleep about that either.

Anyway, PUNTO to this piece of acrimony.

coradcorloquitur said...

You are, Father Hunwicke, a kind and erudite priest---and your blog is a treasure trove of ideas and pertinent historical/liturgical inforamtion. But for the life of me, I cannot understand why you allow Randolph Crane to poison this very Christian site with his misrepresentations and vitriol. By what he writes and claims and by his unprovoked attacks (I have been the object of such), he seems unhinged. His insults are a stain on this otherwise excellent blog.