25 March 2018

Jesus is Temple

On the Palm Sunday when the Lord came to His Temple and 'cleansed' it, it seems to me, as I argued yesterday, that our essential Jewishness is something which we must constantly bear in mind. And this was emphasised most brilliantly in the first published volume of Jesus of Nazareth by our Holy Father Benedict XVI. If, after your initial enthusiastic perusal of its pages, it has during the wearisome preoccupations of this lesser pontificate been rather gathering dust on your shelves, I beseech you to get it up and running again. I would urge you to turn to the very fine section where Joseph Ratzinger deals with the Sermon on the Mount; and does so by engaging with one of the most distinguished historians of Jewish thought in recent decades, Rabbi Professor Dr Jacob Neusner, whom I featured yesterday.

In Northern Ireland they are convinced, not only that the dogs in the streets are either Catholic or Protestant dogs, but that the very atheists are either Catholic of Protestant atheists. People sometimes laugh about this, but our Ulster friends mean, of course, very intelligently, that a man may claim to be an atheist, but that his mindset, the matrix especially of of his antipathies, may have been formed by a cultural background which is differently doctrinaire from his current position of dogmatic atheism. English atheists, for example, often have minds befuddled by a world view which is little other than the old, ranting, Fox's-Martyrs-in-a-sauce-of-Charles-Kingsley-with-a-dash-of-Kensit Protestantism, all in the reassuring clothing of a friendly atheistical sheep.

Jewish scholars who venture into 'Christian Origins' tend very often, I fear, to be Liberal Protestants in sheep's clothing. That is what made Neusner so exhilarating to read. He did not have that sort of crypto-Protestant bagage.

The old Liberal Protestant superstition, such a comfort to the anti-Catholic mind, was that the Eucharist started as a simple fellowship meal which, probably under the influence of Hellenistic Mystery cults, was perverted into the Catholic Mass. Neusner, on the other hand, was free to follow the obvious track which leads from the 'Cleansing of the Temple' (in which Christ emptied the Temple of those who, by changing money or supplying certified animals, enabled the Temple cult to be fulfilled) to the conclusion, documented from his profound knowledge of first century Judaism, that Jesus of Nazareth saw himself as abolishing that sacrificial cult on the Temple Mount because of His intention, on Maundy Thursday, to erect in its place the new sacrificial system of His Eucharistic self-oblation in His Body and Blood.

And, during this Holy Week, let us continually bring back to our memories the self-identification the Lord made of himself with the Temple. "Destroy this Temple, and in three days ...". But he had made this identification during his Galilaean ministry. He forgave sins! Who indeed, as the watchers absolutely correctly asked themselves, can forgive sins but God alone? And where does God do so, if not in the Place of Sacrifice, the Temple?

So ... who ... what ... is this Man?


Tom said...

Thank you for this Father. You have pointed out connections I had not noticed (and I recently read chunks of Sanders, Nuesner and Saldarini too!).

Unknown said...

I shall always remember the shock caused by that great Jesuit, Fr Meredith, when he preached in Wycliffe chapel [known in those innocent days of the 80s as “Wycers for Vicars in Knickers”] on Candlemas, when he explained carefully to the assembled Lollards that the Latin heading for the Scripture that day was: “In Templo Templum”. In the Temple is the Temple. The baby Jesus . He knocked them out! From that day I knew my fate was sealed.

richard tomlinson said...

On a sabbatical at Harvard, Bertrand Russell observed that, even among freethinkers, there was a difference between those of a Protestant (William James) and Catholic (George Santayana) tradition.

Christopher Boegel said...

I love Benedict’s truly open mutual engagement with Rabbi Neusner. Two profound thinking believers who can penetrate to truth, because aided by the gift of charity their minds and hearts can pursue truth to the very root.

Osmund Kilrule said...

"God does not exist, and Mary is His Mother" dixit Santayana

PM said...

For those without a copy of Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth to hand, I have just come across an excellent summary of his thinking on the liturgy with an emphasis on Temple and sacrifice, at this link:

How one misses him!

You remind me of a friend who was an agnostic, but not hostile to faith; indeed, he took the Augustine special subject then on offer in the Oxford history school. He became a civil servant in the Northern Ireland office and remarked that nothing had prepared him for Ulster Protestantism. The God he couldn't really believe in was, he reflected, the God of the decent high-and-dry Anglicanism of his family, and what he found in Ulster was something else again.

Stephen Barber said...

Please could provide a reference to the book by Jacob Neusner in which he makes this point? I have looked him up, and he was very prolific!

Tony V said...

Is that John Kensit or Patsy? The latter, I understands, self-identifies as a Catholic.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

And the Body of Christ is the only temple left, since 2000 years minus a little.

Any mitzvah accessible in OT by going to the Temple is accessible now only by being clothed in the one Live Jew who worshipped in it before it was destroyed.


Not missing that St Thomas' Domine atque Deus must have been Adonai ve Elohim or however that is in vocative with first person possessive pronouns added in Hebrew.