A revelatory exploration of the Jewish roots of the Last Supper that seeks to understand exactly what happened at Jesus’ final Passover.
“Clear, profound and practical—you do not want to miss this book.”—Dr. Scott Hahn, author of The Lamb’s Supper and The Fourth Cup
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist shines fresh light on the Last Supper by looking at it through Jewish eyes. Using his in-depth knowledge of the Bible and ancient Judaism, Dr. Brant Pitre answers questions such as: What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? What were the Jewish hopes for the Messiah? What was Jesus’ purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body… This is my blood”?
To answer these questions, Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys—the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence—have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Along the way, Pitre also explains how Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Inspiring and informative, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a groundbreaking work that is sure to illuminate one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the mystery of Jesus’ presence in “the breaking of the bread.”
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.17(w) x 7.95(h) x 0.66(d)|
About the Author
BRANT PITRE is a professor of sacred Scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is the author of Jesus the Bridegroom. Dr. Pitre is an extremely enthusiastic and highly sought-after speaker who lectures regularly across the United States. He has produced dozens of Bible studies on both CD and DVD, in which he explores the biblical roots of the Catholic faith. He has also appeared on a number of Catholic radio and television shows, such as Catholic Answers Live and EWTN. He currently lives in Louisiana with his wife, Elizabeth, and their five young children.
Read an Excerpt
The Mystery of the Last Super
Jesus and Judaism
Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew. He was born of a Jewish mother, received the Jewish sign of circumcision, and grew up in a Jewish town in Galilee. As a young man, he studied the Jewish Torah, celebrated Jewish feasts and holy days, and went on pilgrimages to the Jewish Temple. And, when he was thirty years old, he began to preach in the Jewish synagogues about the fulfillment of the Jewish Scriptures, proclaiming the kingdom of God to the Jewish people. At the very end of his life, he celebrated the Jewish Passover, was tried by the Jewish council of priests and elders known as the Sanhedrin, and was crucified outside the great Jewish city of Jerusalem. Above his head hung a placard that read in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (John 19:19).
As this list demonstrates, the Jewishness of Jesus is a historical fact. But is it important? If Jesus was a real person who really lived in history, then the answer must be "Yes." To be sure, over the centuries, Christian theologians have written books about Jesus that don't spend much time studying his Jewish context. Much of the effort has gone into exploring the question of his divine identity. However, for anyone interested in exploring the humanity of Jesus-especially the original meaning of his words and actions-a focus on his Jewish identity is absolutely necessary. Jesus was a historical figure, living in a particular time and place. Therefore, any attempt to understand his words and deeds must reckon with the fact that Jesus lived in an ancient Jewish context. Although on a few occasions Jesus welcomed non-Jews (Gentiles) who accepted him as Messiah, he himself declared that he had been sent first and foremost "to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5). This means that virtually all of his teachings were directed to a Jewish audience in a Jewish setting.
For instance, during his first sermon in his hometown synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus began to reveal his messianic identity in a very Jewish way. He did not shout aloud in the streets or cry out from the rooftops, "I am the Messiah." Instead, he took up the scroll of the prophet Isaiah and found the place that spoke of the coming of an "anointed" deliverer (see Isaiah 61:1-4). After reading Isaiah's prophecy, Jesus closed the scroll and said to his audience, "Today, this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Luke 4:21). With these words, he proclaimed to his fellow Jews that their long-held hope for the coming of the Messiah, the "anointed one" (Hebrew mashiah), had at last been fulfilled-in him. As we will see over the course of this book, this was the first of many instances in which Jesus would utilize the Jewish Scriptures to reveal himself to a Jewish audience as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah.
You Shall Not Drink the Blood
However, if Jesus did in fact see himself as the Jewish Messiah, then we are faced with a historical puzzle-a mystery of sorts. On the one hand, Jesus drew directly on the Jewish Scriptures as the inspiration for many of his most famous teachings. (Think once again of his sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth.) On the other hand, he said things that appeared to go directly against the Jewish Scriptures. Perhaps the most shocking of these are his teachings about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. According to the Gospel of John, in another Jewish synagogue on another Sabbath day, Jesus said the following words:
"Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed . . ." This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (john 6:53-54, 59)
And then again, at the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed:
Now, as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (matthew 26:26-28)
What is the meaning of these strange words? What did Jesus mean when he told his Jewish listeners in the synagogue that they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood in order to have eternal life? And what did he mean when he told his Jewish disciples that the bread of the Last Supper was his "body" and the wine was his "blood"? Why did he command them to eat and drink it?
We'll explore these questions and many others throughout this book. For now, I simply want to point out that the history of Christianity reveals dozens of different responses. Over the centuries, most Christians have taken Jesus at his word, believing that the bread and wine of the Eucharist really do become the body and blood of Christ. Others, however, especially since the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s, think that Jesus was speaking only symbolically. Still others, such as certain modern historians, deny that Jesus could have said such things, even though they are recorded in all four Gospels and in the writings of Saint Paul (see Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-30; John 6:53-58; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
The reasons for disagreement are several. First of all is the shocking nature of Jesus' words. How could anyone, even the Messiah, command his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood? As the Gospel of John records, when Jesus' disciples first heard his teaching, they said, "This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?" (John 6:60). Jesus' words were so offensive to their ears that they could barely listen to him. And indeed, many of them left him, and "no longer walked with him" (John 6:66). And he let them go. From the very beginning, people found Jesus' command to eat his body and drink his blood extremely offensive.
Another reason for disagreement is somewhat more subtle. Even if Jesus was speaking literally about eating his flesh and drinking his blood, what could such a command even mean? Was he talking about cannibalism-eating the flesh of a human corpse? While there is no explicit commandment against cannibalism in the Jewish Bible, it was certainly considered taboo. Again, the Gospels bear witness to this reaction. "The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?'" (John 6:52). This is a good question, and it deserves a good answer.
Perhaps the strongest objection to Jesus' words comes from Jewish Scripture itself. As any ancient Jew would have known, the Bible absolutely forbids a Jewish person to drink the blood of an animal. Although many Gentile religions considered drinking blood to be a perfectly acceptable part of pagan worship, the Law of Moses specifically prohibited it. God had made this very clear on several different occasions. Take, for example, the following Scriptures:
Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. . . . Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. (genesis 9:3-4)
If any man of the house of Israel or of the strangers that sojourns among them eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. (leviticus 17:10-12)
You may slaughter and eat flesh within any of your towns, as much as you desire. . . . Only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it out upon the earth like water. (deuteronomy 12:16)
Clearly, the commandment against drinking animal blood was serious. To break it would mean being "cut off" from God and from his people. Notice also that it was a universal law. God expected not only the chosen people of Israel to keep it, but any Gentile "strangers" living among them. Finally, note the reason for the prohibition. People were not to consume blood because "the life" or "the soul" (Hebrew nephesh) of the animal is in the blood. As Leviticus states, "It is the blood that makes atonement, by the power of its life." While scholars continue to debate exactly what this means, one thing is clear: in the ancient world, the Jewish people were known for their refusal to consume blood. Jesus' words at the Last Supper become even more mysterious with this biblical background in mind. As a Jew, how could he ever have commanded his disciples to eat his flesh and drink his blood? Wouldn't this mean explicitly breaking the biblical law against consuming blood? Indeed, even if Jesus meant his words only symbolically, how could he say such things? Wouldn't his command mean transgressing the spirit of the Law, if not the letter? As the Jewish scholar Geza Vermes points out,
[T]he imagery of eating a man's body and especially drinking his blood . . . , even after allowance is made for metaphorical language, strikes a totally foreign note in a Palestinian Jewish cultural setting (cf. John 6.52). With their profoundly rooted blood taboo, Jesus' listeners would have been overcome with nausea at hearing such words.
So, what should we make of these words of Jesus?
Through Ancient Jewish Eyes
In this book, I will try to show that Jesus should be taken at his word. Along with the majority of Christians throughout history, I believe that Jesus himself taught that he was really and truly present in the Eucharist. In doing so, I will follow the Apostle Paul, a first-century Pharisee and an expert in the Jewish Law, when he said,
I speak as to sensible men, judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? (1 corinthians 10:16)
My goal is to explain how a first-century Jew like Jesus, Paul, or any of the apostles, could go from believing that drinking any blood-much less human blood-was an abomination before God, to believing that drinking the blood of Jesus was actually necessary for Christians: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you" (John 6:53).
In order to achieve this goal, we will have to go back in time to the first century A.D., in order to understand what Jesus was doing and saying in his original context. To a certain extent, this will mean taking off our modern "eyeglasses" and trying to see things as the first Jewish Christians saw them. When we look at the mystery of the Last Supper through ancient Jewish eyes, in the light of Jewish worship, beliefs, and hopes for the future, we will discover something remarkable. We will discover that there is much more in common between ancient Judaism and early Christianity than we might at first have expected. In fact, we will find that it was precisely the Jewish faith of the first Christians that enabled them to believe that the bread and wine of the Eucharist were really the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, as soon as we try to do this, we are faced with a problem. In order for us to hear Jesus in the way his first disciples would have heard him, we need to be familiar with two key sources of information: (1) the Jewish Scriptures, commonly known as the Old Testament, and (2) ancient Jewish tradition, enshrined in writings not contained in the Jewish Bible.
Now, if my experience with students is any indicator, many modern readers-especially Christians-find the Jewish Scriptures to be challenging and unfamiliar territory. This is especially true of those passages in the Old Testament that describe ancient Jewish rituals, sacrifice, and worship-passages that will be very important for us as we explore Jesus' last meal with his friends before his crucifixion. As for ancient Jewish writings outside the Bible-such as the Mishnah and the Talmud-although many people have heard of them, they are often not widely read by non-Jewish readers aside from specialists in biblical studies.
For this reason, before beginning, it will be helpful to briefly identify the Jewish writings that I will be drawing on over the course of this book. (The reader may want to mark this page for future reference as we move along.) I want to stress here that I am not suggesting that Jesus himself would have read any of these, some of which were written down long after his death. What I am arguing is that many of them bear witness to ancient Jewish traditions that may have circulated at the time of Jesus and which demonstrate remarkable power to explain passages in the New Testament that reflect Jewish practices and beliefs.
With that in mind, after the Old Testament itself, some of the most important Jewish sources I will draw on are as follows:
. The Dead Sea Scrolls: an ancient collection of Jewish manuscripts copied sometime between the second century B.C. and A.D. 70. This collection contains numerous writings from the Second Temple period, during which Jesus lived.
. The Works of Josephus: a Jewish historian and Pharisee who lived in the first century A.D. Josephus' works are extremely important witnesses to Jewish history and culture at the time of Jesus and the early Church.
. The Mishnah: an extensive collection of the oral traditions of Jewish rabbis who lived from about 50 B.C. to A.D. 200. Most of these traditions are focused on legal and liturgical matters. For rabbinic Judaism, the Mishnah remains the most authoritative witness to Jewish tradition outside of the Bible itself.
. The Targums: ancient Jewish translations and paraphrases of the Bible from Hebrew into Aramaic. These emerged sometime after the Babylonian exile (587 B.C.), when many Jews began speaking Aramaic rather than Hebrew. Scholars disagree about their exact dates.
. The Babylonian Talmud: a vast compilation-more than thirty volumes-of the traditions of Jewish rabbis who lived from around A.D. 220 to 500.
Table of Contents
Foreword Scott Hahn ix
1 The Mystery of the Last Supper
Jesus and Judaism 11
You Shall Not Drink the Blood 13
Through Ancient Jewish Eyes 17
2 What Were the Jewish People Waiting For?
What Kind of Messiah? 22
The Jewish Hope for a New Exodus 23
Jesus and the New Exodus 42
3 The New Passover
The Biblical Roots of Passover 50
What Was Passover Like at the Time of Jesus? 59
Jesus and the New Passover 68
You Have to Eat the Lamb 74
4 The Manna of the Messiah
The Manna in the Tabernacle 78
The Bread of the World to Come 86
Jesus and the New Manna 92
"This is a Hard Saying" 104
5 The Bread of the Presence
The Bread of the Face 118
"Behold, God's Love for You" 125
Jesus and the New Bread or the Presence 134
The Real Presence 144
6 The Fourth Cup and the Death of Jesus
The Shape of the Jewish Passover Meal 149
Did Jesus Finish the Last Supper? 158
I Thirst 165
7 The Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith
Pascha Means Passover 172
The Shadow of the Manna 180
In Remembrance of Me 188
8 On the Road to Emmaus
Study Guide 229
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I’ll keep it short. This is one of the Best books that I have ever read on the Eucharist. Wow! Brant Pitre does such a great job of weaving the Scriptures, History and Tradition together that after reading the book you get such a great appreciation for the Eucharist. He spends a good amount of time in the Old Testament/Covenant and that I would say was the most eye opening portion of the book I encountered. His insights on the Passover, the sacrifice of the lamb, and on the Mana are exceptional. I also liked how he treated the development of the Passover at the time of Jesus and how He would celebrate the Passover; drawing the parallel to the Mass and its’ development and how we celebrate it today. It is a scholarly work, well-researched, but written in such a way that he draws you into the story. Brant wrote the book in such a way that if flows nicely making the book feel as if it is a light, short read - I read it in about two days and I’m sure I’ll read it again. Not a “school text-book” and I guarantee if you buy this book you will highly enjoy it. God Bless!
Do you realy want to know what the Euchaist realy means to those of us that believe in the 'True Presense?" This is the book for you. Very well documented and scholarly work. Takes you through Scriptures, history, and traditions. Was glad to see that he didn't lump the Lutherans into the Pretestant camp. We do believe in the true presense.
Fascinating weaving of Jewish traditions and the Jesus Movement that has evolved into the Eucharist celebrated today. This gives important background of the Jewish laws and how Jesus' words and actions impacted the early Jewish coverts and how we can find new personal meaning in the Eucharist.
Material was well researched and inspiring.
I will never view the Eucharist the same again.
If you love the Mass, you will love this book! If you don't know about the Mass, you will learn why, where, and how it all started. I highly recommend it.
The title says it all.... A link between the Sacrifice of the Catholic Mass and what was believed and prayed in Christ's time at the Last Supper. As a cradle catholic I never saw the "link" under now. A must read book.
This is great book to gain the depth and breadth view of the Holy Eucharist in the Christian church as Christ intended and as Roman Catholicism programs in theology and in practice.
Ever wonder how the Eucharistic teachings of the New Testament evolved? Where did Jesus get the idea for his Last Supper ritual? How did Paul think to tie this ritual to his theology of atonement? Why does John¿s Gospel emphasize so strongly the Paschal Lamb? Why were the church fathers so adamant about tying the Eucharist to the Passover?Because the Sacraments have deep Hebrew roots. I have studied a little about the pagan influences on the ceremony of bread and wine, this concept of ¿eating the body¿ and ¿drinking the blood,¿ but never delved much into its Hebrew side ¿ other than to imagine how bizarre it must have appeared to God-fearing Jews, who had been taught since childhood never to ingest blood. Pitre digs into scripture and Judaic writings, and his research is fresh, scholarly, and easy to digest. If I can find more Pitre books, I¿m going to snap them up.Absolutely fascinating, and critical to Pitre¿s conclusion, is a chapter in his book about the ¿shewbread¿ (showbread), what Pitre calls the ¿Bread of the Presence.¿ This bread, kept fresh in the Holy of Holies at the back of the Temple, shares a table with the libation flask, and thus links to the wine offering. Judaism has long connected the bread and the wine, back to the days of the very first priest, Melchizedek. But this holy bread carries with it a certain symbolism, understood by every Jew each time it was carried out for their viewing at the major festivals. Jesus references this ¿Bread of the Presence¿ (the presence of God, if you haven¿t already guessed) directly in the Gospels, and it forms an important basis for understanding Jesus¿ teaching at the Last Supper.One interesting conclusion Pitre reaches is that Jesus never finished the Passover meal with his disciples! The fourth and final cup of wine, which each participating Jew shared during the Passover celebration, was never drunk. Instead, Jesus drank this final cup just moments before his death. Pitre thus brings the theological meaning of Jesus¿ timing to life in a most intriguing way.Pitre writes from a conservative Catholic perspective, as seems appropriate. (I'm no scholar of current-day religious practices, but who finds more ritualistic meaning in the Eucharist than the Catholics?) He does lean toward a Roman Catholic understanding of the bread and wine, though he avoids the word "transubstantiation" in favor of the baggage-free phrase "reality of Jesus' presence in the Eucharist." But I guarantee Christians of all denominations will enjoy this one.
Dr. Brant Pitre has given the church a great gift with this book. As the title suggests, the Eucharist was not an invention of Christ's, but has a much deeper history. Yet, it is not as if Christ didn't do something special, for He did indeed give a new meaning to something ancient. Pitre does all the work that you have always wanted to do in regards to the Old Testament and Midrash, and he does it well. What is so great about this book is that it feels like you already know all of this stuff, yet you are seeing it all new. The book also bears the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, which might raise some issues for non-Catholics, but somewhat surprisingly, Pitre doesn't present what are so often seen as the marks of Catholic eucharistic theology. I do hope that the Catholic church will read this book and learn from it. There really is no theology of sacrifice to be seen here, which is usually so prevalent in Catholic theology. Great! Read this book!The only problem with this book is that it seems to be too simple for the scholar, yet too complex for the average layman.
Pitre, Brant James. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. New York: Doubleday, 2011.This book by James Pitre discusses the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. The author gives a number of extensive elements of the context of the Lord¿s Supper within Judaism. Pitre discusses the ways in which Jews understood elements of the Passover and how this can illuminate one¿s understanding of the Eucharist.While well-researched, there were a number of problems with this book. The author makes a compelling case, however, the data that he presents can be placed in different ways in which one can come to a different conclusion. For example, Pitre, pretty much ignores Paul¿s understanding of the Eucharist. In addition, the author uses Catholic doctrine as proof of the original intent of the Eucharist. Pitre uncritically accepts the view of the Roman Catholic church, which reduces his argument. By the end of the book, it become more a treatise of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist rather than an objective study. Finally, there is the narrative style of the book. There are many places where the author expresses unbelief that these common views were never taught to him. However, his unbelief is unbelievable. For example, Pitre express that he never knew that the Eucharist was based on a Jewish meal, even though he was a cradle Catholic. How the author could never attended a Seder meal where that was not pointed out either is implausible.
In essence, Pitre's two goals are this: describe the Jewish roots of the Lord's Supper and then prove that this connection supports the teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject (Transubstantiation). I think he did a good job with the first goal but I personally found his arguments for the second unconvincing. But it's important to recognize the purpose of Pitre's book. It is obvious from his subtitle and introduction that it is written with the average reader in mind. And it was a valiant effort (for example, his explanation of the common terms and literature on pp. 18-19 are very helpful), even though I think that many in my congregation would still find it a bit "over their heads."All that to say, many might complain by his lack of footnote support but I appreciate the cleaner style. However, with that said, if you aren't going to footnote things, then you have to make your argument stronger in some other way. And this is where Pitre simply falls short. On at least a few important occasions, he makes assumptions that cannot be made unless you are already convinced of his arguments.The content of the book is structured around the Exodus and the Passover and how Jesus considered himself the ¿new Moses¿ who brings the ¿new Passover¿ and the ¿new manna.¿ This is the ¿Jewish roots of the Eucharist¿ spoken of in the title. I think this part of the book really does help the average reader grasp some of the interesting and helpful connections between the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Jewish tradition, and what Jesus was doing. Pitre does a great job with describing the connections between these things. But when it comes to what these connections mean, Pitre¿s arguments seem to come up a little short. Before I critique anything I want to be clear that this really is a good book to describe some important cultural background that sheds much light on how Jesus saw himself and his ministry. As a Protestant pastor, I must make two confessions. First, I did not read this book with a Catholic view of the Eucharist. But second, I did read this book hoping to better understand the Catholic view of the Eucharist. But I found myself simply unable to follow the connections Pitre was trying to make. Almost all of my problems came from Chapter 4, called ¿The Manna of the Messiah.¿ On page 101 Pitre states, ¿It is widely recognized by New Testament scholars- Protestant and Catholic alike ¿ that Jesus is speaking here (and by here, he means Jesus sermon in John 6) about the Eucharistic food and drink that he will give the disciples at the Last Supper.¿ From this point in the book until the end, Pitre simply assumes that almost any mention of bread is now the literal bread of the Last Supper. This is a hinge in Pitre¿s argument and it would be super helpful if he proved his point rather than relying on a plea to authority, ¿It is widely recognized.¿ That¿s not good enough ¿ especially because in John 6 Jesus explicitly says, ¿I am the Bread of Life.¿But he continues to build his entire argument based on the assumption that when Jesus speaks about bread in John 6, he is speaking about the literal bread he will break with the disciples at the Last Supper. But it seems obvious that the bread in John 6 is not literal since again Jesus says that he himself is the bread of life. This is just like Jesus declaring himself living water in the context of literal water and calling himself the Temple (¿tear it down and in three days I will raise it up¿) in the context of the literal Temple. It seems more likely that Jesus is simply changing the expectations of a literal ¿new manna,¿ and a literal ¿new Temple,¿ to the fact that he himself fulfills those expectations in his own person and work. He is the new manna, no need to look for actual bread. He is the new Temple, no need to look for a physical building.Then he says ¿From a Jewish perspective, if the Eucharist of Jesus is the new manna from heaven, then it can¿t be just a symbol.¿ Exactly. But he has
¿Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper¿ by Brant PitreIn this new book, Dr. Brant Pitre does an excellent job illuminating the parallels as well as the differences from Jewish worship at the time of Christ to the actions of Christ and the beginnings of Christianity.Dr. Pitre puts worship and the hopes of a coming Messiah in the perspective of a Jewish person living at the time of Christ. He describes the worship at the first Passover, the rituals of worship during the Exodus, and goes on to the Passover rituals followed at the time of Christ. The details here are not the type of things the typical Catholic would know about Jewish worship and tradition. Even more intriguing was the anticipation by Jews of a "new Exodus" in relation to the coming of the Messiah. Dr. Pitre's easy to read, straight forward style helps tie these details together to the "new Passover" worship found in Christianity.Some of the connections between the Passover rituals to the Catholic mass have been touched on in other books. But this book does a tremendous job of bringing all of the related items together in one, well organized place. In Dr. Pitre's closing discussion, he details just where you can find references to the Passover and the Last Supper/Eucharist in other texts including the writings of the Early Father's of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as writers in Jewish and Protestant faiths. Detailed notes for further reading follow in the back of the book with references to Pope Benedict XVI, Thomas Aquinas, and Justin Martyr as well as a veritable "Who's Who" of scripture scholars.The book has an introduction by well known Catholic writer Scott Hahn as well as a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur. Dr. Pitre has degrees from the Notre Dame University in Indiana and is currently a professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the Jewish roots of Catholic worship as well as anyone wanting to have a better appreciation of the Real Presence within the Eucharist. I believe it will also aid many in a better understanding of the celebration of the Catholic mass.
I heard of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre and thought that it would be a great book - just not for me. Either it would be so complex that I would never make it past the first chapter, even while heavily caffeinated and sitting at an uncomfortable table in a suitably chilled room. Or it would just be a marvelous refresher course in that which I already knew. My only correct assumption was that it is a great book. Starting with the most basic facts: Who was the Messiah? How was the Passover celebrated at the time of Jesus? ? How could a good Jew demand that his friends eat his body and drink his blood? Exactly what are we asking for when we pray for our daily bread I thought I was fairly well versed in the fundamentals, but I must also acknowledge the part of me who was goofing off during Sunday school when some of the most basic groundwork for the understanding Christian faith was being presented. For example, somewhere along the line I had conflated manna with Marshmallow Fluff. (though Pitre explains manna comes from the Hebrew words - man hu - for ¿what is it?¿ So in one sense I was not too far off. ¿What is it?¿ My mother¿s words exactly!) This was just one example of the sad gaps in my education which have persisted into adulthood.I was humbled by how much I didn¿t know. The extent of my knowledge of Passover - in spite of a college level course on a Jewish understanding of the New Testament - was mostly limited to all I could learn from the Maxwell House haggadah at a few religious studies department seders. The fact that Passover at the time of Jesus was ¿first a sacrifice and then a meal¿ is brought home in Pitre¿s work in vivid detail. A blood sacrifice with an approximate two hundred thousand lambs sacrificed at the temple at the time of one Passover. Blood sacrifice. Lots of blood. With unblemished lambs slaughtered and roasted in a manner resembling crucifixion. ¿Jesus himself would have witnessed the ¿crucifixions¿ of thousands of Passover lambs in the Jerusalem Temple...which has the power to shed light on Jesus¿ conception of his own fate.¿[p. 64] This corporeal sacrifice was not complete until the lamb had been eaten.I found my faith enriched as Dr. Pitre answered questions that I didn¿t even know I had. What made the Last Supper different from all previous Passover meals? When exactly did Jesus drink the fourth cup of his last Passover celebration? ¿He has also just identified one of the cups of wine as his own blood, about to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, Jesus implicitly identified himself as the new Passover lamb. The implication of this self-identification is sobering: by the time this new Passover is finished, Jesus will be dead. That¿s what happens to Passover lambs. They don¿t make it out alive.¿ [p. 164]The ¿source and summit of the Christian life¿ [CCC1324] is heady subject matter and Dr. Pitre expounds on this profound mystery and makes it accessible while providing a riveting and enriching read. It requires a special genius to take something of such depth and explain it to a broad population with clarity. We who believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist - body, blood, soul and divinity - can benefit from this bit of a refresher/enrichment course. And those who don¿t understand receive a well presented explanation.In the Sunday School days of my Lutheran childhood, we sang that Jesus loves us and ¿this we know, `cause the Bible tells us so.¿ Yes it does. We just need to look. ¿¿when it comes to the richness of the Christian tradition, many of its most profound insights into the Bible have not been lost, only overlooked by those of us who do not know them. They are there, present, just waiting to be discovered and realized anew.¿[p. 188] Thank you to Dr. Pitre for pulling together these insights and, in the process, weaving together a moving meditation on the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.
In this book Dr. Pitre intent is to help the reader understand the Jewish roots of the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence. This book was written for the layman and a wide audience. Nothing in this book is new to any student of biblical studies at even the basic level. If you were raised Roman Catholic and taught your Catechism in the U.S.A. this subject matter will be very familiar to you. At least until 1988 for I have not seen the approved lesson plans and supporting documents since then. Dr. Pitre has used the Holy Bible, Jewish tradition, and ancient Jewish writings some of which the lay person should read with caution. For though he seems to use this research to gather a framework of what Jewish life and traditions were like at the time of Jesus he also uses such books as the Talmud. Though the insight gained from older writings gives us a frame work to see why some people acted as they did to the ministry of Jesus. The Talmud is a book written long after the time of Jesus and consist of passed down rabbinic tradition. If you read the Talmud remember that it detracts from the Bible and will give the reader an insight on how those traditions go against Christianity. As to the Holy Eucharist, the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church prepared following the Second Vatican Council, which is quoted in this book , states where the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist ¿is the substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.¿ Before this in 1551 the Council of Trent definitively declared: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.¿The author is trying to help the reader understand the framework of society in which Jesus lived and taught while during his ministry. And how those Jews who were following the traditions and teachings of Judaism at that time may have interpreted His words and actions. Unlike the author who uses rabbinic tradition Jesus actually reproves the scribes and Pharisees preaching that they have made void the commandment of God for their tradition. Dr. Pitre should have used the Old Testament and New Testament to make his point and not the teachings that Jesus himself admonished. Despite any shortcomings the book is very easy to read and has some points of interest.
Over the past few months, Dr. Pitre's book has received quite a bit of attention ¿ and quite a few rave reviews ¿ from the Catholic media and blogs. It's hard to know what to add at this point, since I have to agree with the consensus: this is a well-written and fascinating exploration of the connections between Jewish and Catholic ritual, between messianic expectations and the actions of Christ, and between the Old and New Covenants. While there were a couple of places where the attempt to connect the dots seemed a bit strained, most of the reasoning is quite good. This book sheds light on some fascinating ideas that have been forgotten by most Catholics, and it does so in a clear and straightforward style.
Brant Pitre has done an excellent job of summarizing for readers the scriptural and historical connections between the Eucharist and the Jewish faith.He begins by outlining Jewish expectations for the Messiah -- in the process, making a compelling case that far from a militaristic messiah, many Jews were awaiting a more spiritual savior in line with Moses. Pitre then makes connections between the Passover and Exodus events, Jewish worship centered on the Ark of the Covenant, and traditional Christian beliefs concerning the Eucharist.In the penultimate and most speculative section of the book Pitre offers a compelling case for reading the Last Supper as an "interrupted" Passover Meal. Pitre argues that the "fourth cup" which would traditionally have ended the Passover Meal was delayed until the final moments of Jesus' crucifixion.(Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI argues against a strict reading of the Last Supper as a traditional Passover meal in his Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection. However, as that book is not an exercise of the pope's magisterial authority, we are free to glean insights from both books.)This is an excellent book that further bridges the oft-misunderstood connections between Christianity and its Jewish roots. Pitre is to be commended for his contribution to that work.
I'm going to have to admit to having difficulty getting to this book. Not that it isn't good, in fact, it's so good that it's hard to put down. I've just been delayed by so many other good books that I'm already immersed in!This book is a terrific book. My thoughts are still muddled about it as there is so much 'meat' that it would take an essay as long as one of the chapters to be able to discuss it properly. Because of its topic it will be of more interest to Catholics and those of related faiths who share the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The author is an scholar and writes a book with scholarly content in a very readable, and very engrossing style. It is often hard to put this type of work in a book that the average layman will want to read, but he does it very well indeed.The Eucharist is central to the Catholic faith, and Mr. Pitre takes the reader through the Jewish sources, the tradition and history, that lead up to the 1st century Christian concept of Eucharist and the Real Presence. He ties together the Passover lamb tradition and belief with the Paschal Lamb belief of the Church, and how the one tradition leads to the other belief. He is showing that the Catholic tradition is simply a fulfillment of the Jewish tradition, and that the Eucharist has become the new Passover in the Christian faith. He shows how Jesus' actions at the last supper are in agreement with the tradition of Passover and that this act is now Passover for believers. He then links this new Passover with the Resurrection and the new life at the end of life.I love this book. The author writes in an incredibly readable fashion. I can understand why the foreword was written by Scott Hawn. There's no doubt that these younger theologians who write for the average lay person must get to know each other. They're writing in a new way for the body of the Christ, in a way that the average Catholic can understand their faith, without the jargon and difficult concepts that have been presented in the past.I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the Eucharist - the origins of the belief and theology and the current thinking of theologians and Church historians. This is a book that will stay in my library and be re-read. That's the reason for the 5 star rating.
In Brant Pitre¿s new book, ¿Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist¿ is a new work of good biblical scholarship and theology concerning unlocking some of the secrets of the Lord¿s Supper according to Pitre. Dr. Brant Pitre is professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary and well known catholic author, speaker and theologian. In this book Pitre sets out to establish that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are literally flesh and blood. It is a well known catholic doctrine known as transubstantiation in Catholicism. It proposes this is proven when looked at historically through the use and reading of first the Bible and other ancient Jewish sources.I do agree that a return to study the Jewish roots of Christian theology is necessary and very useful when studying the ordinance of the Lord¿s Table since many Christians due fail to see the unity of the Old and New Testaments. Also too many Jews mistakenly suppose Christianity represents an out right denial and rejection of their tradition. As the title of this work states it sets out to remedy this problem.Pitre provides a framework to view the last supper as a new Passover in light of the Jewish hopes for a new exodus. This can be logically seen when one is familiarized with the story of the exodus from Egypt to the rise and fall of the Davidic Kingdom. Also when one has read the prophets and understood the prophecies of the reuniting of the Jewish people including the lost ten tribes. This would we accomplished under the new Kingdom under a new King David by one who is a greater prophet than Moses. Pitre builds this theological framework through scholarly research and the bringing together of notable works written by Catholics¿, protestants, and Jewish scholars.I enjoyed and found interesting Pitre¿s use of rabbinical sources such as the Mishna and the Babylonian Talmud. Although Pitre's perspective is Catholic he gives a fair presentation of the material then in the final couple of chapters he emphasizes his view as the properly interpreted view in light of his interpretation of the scripture.He main proposed argument was that eating the Passover lamb was necessary during the original Passover or the firstborn son would have died even if the lamb¿s blood was on the doorpost. Even though this assumed fact is not explicit in the book of exodus. In this the author is implying that with Jesus being the Passover Lamb then the Passover was not completed by the sacrifice of the lamb alone, the flesh had to be consumed. Then the literal meaning of when Jesus said, ¿This is my flesh¿ would be necessary.Even though I think Pitre¿s arguments for transubstantiation are not convincing it doesn¿t negate me from recommending this work as an excellent read. It is a book with a good argument for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist written by a good scholar. It was presented in a non abrasive tone that would make it an excellent read for both Catholics and even Protestants who would like to know more about the catholic tradition of the Lord¿s Supper.Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided at no cost through LibraryThing¿s Early Reviewer¿s program.
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a fascinating, meaty-yet-readable book on the Last Supper.Pitre takes Jesus¿ Jewishness seriously as he examines just what his Last Supper would look like through Jewish eyes. In a way, he reminds me of what Kenneth Bailey did in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. The Lord¿s Supper (or Communion, or Eucharist) has been so ritualized, it¿s difficult to see what sort of impact it would have made on a group of disciples who gathered to celebrate the feast of Passover.Each of these ideas are explored:1. The Last Supper was the inauguration of the new exodus. The Jewish people were longing for freedom from Roman oppression¿they longed to see the promises of the prophets realized. In order for a new exodus to happen, there had to (presumably) be a new Passover. That¿s precisely what the Lord¿s Supper is.2. The Last Supper was a new Passover. Pitre delved into the Passover story of Exodus 12, explaining how it was celebrated in Exodus, in the Jerusalem of Jesus¿ day, and how it differs from today¿s Seder meal. Jesus identified his body and blood with the Passover sacrifice, effectively reinterpreting Passover itself.3. The Bread of the Last Supper is like manna¿divine food. Here¿s one area where the book shines. Pitre made a number of connections between manna and the bread of the new covenant that I had never thought of before. I would challenge his understanding of ¿daily bread¿ from the Lord¿s prayer (according to Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book, it¿s more ¿Wonderbread¿ than ¿supersubstantial bread¿). Still, that¿s a minor quibble.4. The Bread of the Last Supper (and the wine) is related to the Old Testament¿s Bread of the Presence. Again, Pitre makes a number of substantial connections here between the Face of God in the Showbread and the body of Jesus in the Eucharist.5. Perhaps the most interesting chapter (albeit confessedly the most speculative) was the idea that Jesus didn¿t finish the Passover meal until he took the bitter wine just before his death on the cross. The fourth cup was drank after his sacrifice was effectively finished.These chapters are all very well reasoned. Any pastor would do well to brush up on his Bible by reading this book in advance of Easter. Many of the points have already worked their way into my own preaching.My only problem with the book is Pitre¿s desire to defend the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. In the introduction, he relates a gripping and tragic story about being grilled on this doctrine. Then, throughout the book, there are subtle as well as not-so-subtle interjections on why a Jewish understanding of the Last Supper supports traditional Roman Catholic doctrine.I¿m sure it¿s my Protestant sensibilities speaking, but understanding the Jewish roots of the Last Supper is no slam-dunk defense of transubstantiation. Pitre admits near the end that most of these thoughts have been around since the early church fathers. I don¿t see any new information in this volume that would sway my understanding one way or another.Whether you¿re Protestant or Catholic, this book will inspire your Lenten reflections en route to Easter.Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided at no cost through LibraryThing¿s Early Reviewer¿s program.
This is an excellent book. Learning the Jewish background really helped me understand the Eucharist. As an RCIA sponsor I plan to have all my Catechumens and Candidates read this book and discuss it. Learning what the Jews expected from the Messiah really helped me to understand their reaction to Jesus. And what Jesus was dealing with when he established the Eucharist was an eye opener. Wonderful book I highly recommend it.
This was a very well written book: not a lot of fluff, logical and linear in its construction, and in depth yet very readable. Pitre effectively conveyed what he set out to. Additionally, I appreciate that he writes the book for the benefit of Catholic or Protestant alike, without the discrimination he has experienced (as indicated in the introduction). One of his points throughout the book was supporting transubstantiation. I wasnt fully convinced of the necessity of the doctrine of transubstantiation based on his arguments, but I also have respect for his high view of the Eucharist. I personally learned a lot about the Jewish roots of the Eucharist: things that seem as plain as day, and things that I think I probably should have known before, but Pitre spells it out in a clear and cogent manner. Contents include: Jesus as the new Moses and the new Exodus, Jesus as the new manna, Jesus as the Showbread, and Jesus postponing the fourth cup of the passover meal to include his own death in his new interpretation of the passover. After reading this book I felt a significant increase in understanding of the connection between the Old and New Testaments. Summary: A very well written book that clearly notes points related to Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.
Brant digs into a topic that I'm glad has been getting greater attention in recent dates. The Jewishness of Jesus is given thorough focus in this book as well as how its influence shapes the Eucharist. While much of what was in here is not incredibly new to me I appreciated having such a concentrated focus on a topic that is so deserving. Brant shows how crucial understanding 1st Century Judaism and the OT is to properly understand what Jesus taught and how it was understood. Definitely a worthwhile book adding to the conversation.