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Pope Benedict XVI’s recent revision of the “Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews” in the Latin text of the 1962 Good Friday liturgy set off a wave of questioning by puzzled Catholics and anxious concern among Jewish observers. Did the revival of language calling for the conversion of the Jewish people signify a departure from the ideals of the Second Vatican Council and its landmark document Nostra Aetate, which marked a radical change in the relationships between the Catholic Church and the Jewish people? Jews were wary of a return to preconciliar times, when the “teaching of contempt” marked the relationship between the two faiths. In restoring the 1962 liturgy, why did the pope not simply insert a Latin version of the lovely prayer adopted by Pope Paul VI and in use since 1970 in the vernacular services—a prayer that does not offend Jews and yet embodies the church’s hope for the union of the faiths at the end of days?

The concern expressed by Jewish leaders about a return to proselytizing Jews provoked two puzzling and unexpected reactions—one from Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, the other from Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. Cardinal George asked why Jews did not expunge passages in the Talmud that are insulting to Christians and refer to Jesus as a bastard. Cardinal Kasper reaffirmed “the freedom of Catholics to formulate our own prayers” and noted that “Jews have prayers in their liturgical texts that we don’t like.”

Are the charges true? Are there anti-Christian passages in the Talmud? Are there anti-Christian prayers in Jewish liturgy?

Censoring the Talmud

Over 5,800 pages long, the Talmud is a vast sea of learning that contains the opinions of thousands of rabbis, many of whom are not even named, on a variety of subjects, including law, lore, history, theology, ethics and many other topics. The Talmud does not represent authoritative law or theology or liturgy. There are perhaps four references to Jesus—all badly garbled, all written at least a century or two after his death. It is not at all clear if Jesus of Nazareth is even the intended subject of those citations.

In 1240, when Rabbi Yehiel of Paris had to defend the Talmud in a public disputation, he maintained that another man named Jesus, who lived a century before Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of references in the Talmud. Jesus, after all, was the Greek name for Joshua, a common name at the time. In fact, Rabbi Yehiel argued, there was reference to another Jesus in the New Testament itself. But even if Jesus of Nazareth was the intended subject of some of these troubling passages, they reflect the opinion of one man, not the consensus of Jewish thought then or now.

Several polemical passages in the Talmud reflect the sharp controversies between rabbinic Judaism and the minim—a generic term that means “heretics or schismatic sects.” Whether the minim referred to in these passages are Judeo-Christians (Nazarenes, notzrim) or some other sect, like the gnostics, is not always clear from the text. Certain of these polemical passages were probably aimed at the new Jewish sect that split away from the synagogue and engaged in sharp theological and religious debates in the first centuries of the Common Era. Interestingly, the Talmud (Shabbat 116a-b) quotes only one passage from the New Testament, Mt 5:17—“I come not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.”

In any case, the heavy hands of the censors removed the offensive passages. Sparked by the vindictiveness of apostate Jews who, for whatever personal or psychological reasons, maligned their former faith, cartloads of copies of the Talmud (and other Hebrew books) were torched in Paris in 1242. This happened again in Italy in the years 1553 to 1559. Censorship of all Hebrew books was introduced and enforced by agents of the Inquisition, often ex-Jews who turned with mindless fury on their former faith. Frequently the censors deleted inoffensive material; sometimes they substituted absurd and ridiculous texts for the original.

In 1554 in Italy, as a result of the relentless attacks on Jewish writings and in order to preserve the ability to publish Hebrew texts, Jewish communities installed a system of self-censorship so that no book would be published in the community without the approval of three qualified rabbis. As a result, no European edition of the Talmud contains anti-Christian texts or anti-Jesus statements. Texts published in oriental lands, however, were not subject to censorship, and they continue to contain the few offensive passages. Current editions of the Talmud text published in Israel indicate in the footnotes the original texts and explain the reasons for their elimination.

Problematic Liturgical Passages

Turning to the Jewish liturgy, we find it is virtually free of any references to other faiths except paganism and idolatry. There is not a single reference to Christianity or Islam in all the prayers. Yes, there are prayers that some day pagans will cease worshiping idols and come to acknowledge the God of Israel, the Father and Creator of all human beings, but surely no Christian or Muslim would object to these expressions of hope for the future?

Cardinal Kasper may have been thinking of two problematic passages in the liturgy of past centuries. The 12th blessing in the daily Amidah prayer, the so-called blessing of the slanderers, reads currently: “May there be no hope for those who slander and malign us and may all evil be crushed and all evildoers disappear.” This is a very ancient prayer; it was revised and rewritten any number of times in antiquity. It may have initially been formulated in the days of the Maccabees as a curse against the Hellenizing Jews who betrayed their people and the God of Israel. Later on, it was applied to the traitors who went over to the Romans and spied on the Jewish people. It was revised yet again as a prayer against the various sects and cults that contended with rabbinic Judaism: the Samaritans, the Sadducees, the gnostics—and for a time, the notzrim, the Judeo-Christians. In time, however, those ancient Palestinian texts were discarded. The version I have cited is the one universally used in the synagogue liturgy today—as it has been for centuries.

The second problematic text is the well-known Aleinu prayer, recited at the close of every synagogue service since the 14th century. The prayer has been attributed to the distinguished Babylonian sage Rav and his school of liturgists, who worked in the early third century, although recent scholarship has demonstrated that the prayer predates Rav and may well go back to the time of the Jerusalem Temple. The text clearly expresses the hope that some day the pagans who worship idols will accept the God of Israel and, in the spirit of the Prophet Zechariah, will unite in serving the one God. The line that has generated controversy reads, “For they bow to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who cannot save, whereas we bow and prostrate ourselves before the King of Kings.”

As there were few Christians in Babylonia with whom Rav (if indeed he was the author) came in contact, the prayer is obviously directed against pagans, not Christians. Moreover, the passage is a fusion of two verses from Isaiah, 30:7 and 45:20, words uttered centuries before the appearance of Christianity. Once again, apostate Jews ignited the controversy. They claimed that the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in the offending passage equals the name of Jesus. Other apostates went even further: they insisted that the numerical value of the phrase equals Jesus and Muhammad. Rabbi Lippmann Muelhausen in Germany successfully refuted this slander in 1399, but the matter refused to die. Finally, Frederick the Great of Prussia ordered the passage stripped from the liturgy in 1703, installing guards in the synagogues to confirm that the phrase was deleted. And so it has remained in European liturgy until today. The Italian rite changed the verb to the past tense, “For they used to bow to idols and pray to a god who cannot save,” etc. Jews from the Middle East and orient retained the original text. Current Israeli prayer books often restore the text, sometimes placing it within parentheses. But I doubt if many or even any interpret the text as directed against Christians or Muslims. Needless to say, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Jewish prayer books have eliminated the passages in question.

Moving Forward

What conclusions may we draw from this information? Centuries ago, a few bizarre statements about Jesus and Christianity could be found among the tens of thousands of rabbinic statements. These passages, however, have been deleted for many centuries. A denunciation of the new Judeo-Christian sect possibly was inserted in the Palestinian liturgy perhaps 19 centuries ago, a reflection of the sharp and often bitter theological polemics that raged at the time. That passage, too, has been long banished. A line in the Aleinu prayer that was surely intended as criticism of paganism and may have been misconstrued by some was deleted.

But all of these controversial passages together are dwarfed by the oceans of anti-Jewish preaching and teachings that attacked Judaism from the first century on. John Chrysostom alone (fourth century) delivered eight vitriolic anti-Jewish sermons—and this comprised but a fraction of the literature.

No anti-Christian material was ever inserted in our most sacred liturgy on Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, but the Good Friday service—one of the most sacred for Christians—codified anti-Jewish sentiment and, until 1962, slandered the “perfidious Jews,” who are blind to God’s truths and whose hearts are veiled to Jesus’ saving light.

It was not just the combination of external and internal censorship, however, that nudged Judaism to its stance. Jews concluded with the Prophet Malachi (3:10), that we all, indeed, have one Father, one God who has created us all. And the sages reasoned, perhaps as early as the second century, that “the righteous of all nations have a portion in the age to come” (Tosefta Sanhedrin 13:2). There should be no place in our liturgy or teachings or preaching for the demeaning of any other faith. This explains why Jews—and many Catholics—are so puzzled and disappointed by Pope Benedict’s changes to the 1962 liturgy. Does this return to a language of conversion reflect an erosion of the advances of Vatican II and its landmark documents, which have been part of the magisterium of the Catholic Church? Are we to forfeit the remarkable legacy of the late, lamented Pope John Paul II? We all pray that we will not retreat, but rather move forward in our relationship, the relationship of elder and younger brother, to borrow Pope John Paul II’s matchless language, so that we both may be a blessing to each other and “a blessing to the world.”

Rabbi Gilbert S. Rosenthal is the executive director of the National Council of Synagogues and the author and editor of 11 books, including Contemporary Judaism and The Many Faces of Judaism.

Comments

GEORGE STAPLETON | 5/16/2008 - 4:38pm
I think Rabbi Rosenthal addressed the concerns of Cardinal Francis George and Cardinal Walter Kasper in a very forthright and convincing manner ("Jewish Views of Other Faiths" 5/19/08). That Catholic Church leaders would even bring up the matter of anti-Christian, anti-Catholic references in the Talmud and Jewish liturgy is surprising given the responsibility the Roman Catholic Church (as well as oither Christian denominations) must assume for much of the anti-Jew, anti-Semitic hatred, prejudice, and violence that have occurred over the centuries. In this whole matter of hateful and intolerant language found in the scriptures and liturgies of any faith, I have found most pertinent a scenario Anthony De Mello, S.J., imagined in one of his parables ("Amend the Scriptures") in The Song of the Bird: "A proposal was made at the United Nations that the scriptures of every religion be revised; everything in them that leads to intolerance or cruelty should be deleted; everything that damages the dignity of human beings should be destroyed. When it was found that the author of the proposal was Jesus Christ, reporters rushed to his residence. His explanation was simple: 'The Scripture, like the Sabbath, is for human beings,' he said, 'Not human beings for scripture.'"
stlouisix | 5/12/2008 - 1:49pm
America Magazine is guilty of false advertising in that they provide a forum for dissenters from Catholic teaching on a regular basis. This article is just another in evidence of that. When did the Catholic Church get out of the conversion business? The suggestion is patently absurd! Holy Mother Church can't and remain Catholic, per the end of Matthew's Gospel, which is something that non-Catholics must understand. The Church doesn't exist to make them comfortable in their error. Rather, the Church witnesses to the Truth Who is Christ for salvation's sake for all. That is traditional Catholic teaching in the recognition that the One, True, God, is Triune, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which is Catholic dogma that is not subject to interpretation to the contrary by non-Catholic sources. There is a New Testament that superceded the Old whose primary concern is the Word made flesh who dwelt amongst us, per the Gospel of John, which needs to be recommended reading for the editors of America Magazine.
Joseph | 5/12/2008 - 12:23pm
These old Talmudic deceptions, denials, obfuscations and rationalisations have been utilised for ages. This entire issue is obviously not limited to the opinions of just one rabbi. It is the cumulative opinion of countless rabbis over the centuries. Moreover, Rabbi Yehiel was merely the spokesperson for a large circle of rabbis who had assembled to take part in these disputations. The passages in the Talmud offensive to Christians had been exposed by Jewish rabbis who sincerely converted to Catholicism. The Jews attempted to deny the charges. Hence, the public disputation. Their contrived and not very witty attempts to obfuscate the truth failed and the Talmud was ordered to be confiscated and burned. This man is rehashing all the old fabricated excuses and red herrings thrown out by the Jews over the ages. Hell, we have seen the same tactics utilised in our own disputations with Jewish apologists on the Internet. Guys like this merely take advantage of people's ignorance. Consider the hypocrisy of those who live by the teachings of the Talmud whining about 'the teaching of contempt.' They have been teaching contempt of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and Christianity for centuries. Their true colours really came out during the Bolshevik era. Well, it was just one colour, really: RED. And notice the Talmud line reiterated throughout the article, such as the following gems: The Talmud does not represent authoritative law or theology or liturgy. Well, if it doesn't, what and whom DOES it represent? Did it bring itself into existence ex nihilo? Judaism is a zero accountability religion. Deny and take no personal responsibility for anything. Perhaps no other religion on the face of this earth has so many rites and duties and observances as mainstream Talmudic Orthodox Judaism, but this expositor will have us believe that, although the Talmud is the work of hundreds of the most influential and revered Jewish rabbis, their opinions and regulations in respect to the Law count for nothing. Well, if that is the case, why do the Jews continue to observe them? The next passage is a doozy. He writes: There are perhaps four references to Jesus—all badly garbled, all written at least a century or two after his death. It is not at all clear if Jesus of Nazareth is even the intended subject of those citations. Now, we all know that there are innumerable references to Jesus in the Talmud, and none of them are 'badly garbled.' The Jews knew exactly what they were doing when they appended these odious passages to the Talmud. And notice that for all their self-vaunted dialectical abilities, not ONE of these rabbis ever spoke up in defence of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Not ONE. His next point- In 1240, when Rabbi Yehiel of Paris had to defend the Talmud in a public disputation, he maintained that another man named Jesus, who lived a century before Jesus of Nazareth, was the subject of references in the Talmud. Rabbi Yehiel was dissembling. He and his fellow rabbis knew perfectly well that these passages referred to Jesus Christ. Also, it was around this time that the infamous 'Sefer Toldoth Yeshu' was composed, and that, too, was based upon the Talmud, not to mention the similarly hateful references to be found in the pages of the Zohar, Kabbalah, Tosefta and Schulchan Aruch. Thus, the historical facts reveal purposeful continuity. I couldn't help but chuckle when I read his next offering: Several polemical passages in the Talmud reflect the sharp controversies between rabbinic Judaism and the minim—a generic term that means “heretics or schismatic sects.” Whether the minim referred to in these passages are Judeo-Christians (Nazarenes, notzrim) or some other sect, like the Gnostics, is not always clear from the text. Someone needs to inform this 'scholar' about the 18 Blessings prayer which was recited daily in the Synagogues. The rabbi
Bob O'Connell | 5/12/2008 - 11:37am
What Rabbi Rosenthal writes makes me wonder whether we Catholics are truly loving our Jewish neighbors. If only because I know our Pope always does his best to know the mind and imitate the heart of Jesus Christ, I will not disagree with his decision on this revision to the Latin Mass. Formulating our own prayers is important, but so is honoring the words of our Lord, who says, "Give to the one who asks of you . . . ." How else will others know we are truly Christ's disciples?
ARMANDO QUIROS | 5/11/2008 - 11:18am
IN MY 20 YEARS AT CONGREGATION B'NAI B'RITH I HAVE NEVER HEARD AN ANTI-CHRISTIAN COMMENT SAID OR READ. A PRAYER FROM OUR SIDDUR: "WE GIVE THANKS FOR THE SAGES AND TEACHERS OF ALL PEOPLE AND FAITHS WHO HAVE BROUGHT MANY TO DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF YOU AND YOUR WILL."
leonard Nugent | 5/11/2008 - 7:51am
That Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah longed for and awaited by the Jewish People is one of the most deeply held tenants of the Christian faith. Jesus himself claimed it. Either it is true or he is a liar and the Christian faith is worthless. Not to pray that the Jewish People recognize this would be to deny our faith. Let me take this opportunity to ask of my Jewish brothers and sisters to pray for my conversion, there is nothing greater that I could ask.
BradK | 5/11/2008 - 4:20am
I agree with the previous comment and will add the fact that orthodox Jews use a prayer that states: "praise God that I am not born a gentile." This does not even cover the vicious attacks by secular or cultural Jews in the media and entertainment business on Catholicism. To claim innocence on this topic is to deceive and to do so while attempting to force changes on another people.
A. Ch. Weizman | 5/10/2008 - 9:48pm
Very interesting and oportune article. Perhaps the reform of the liturgical text for the people using the latin text has also a framework, i.e. the policy and guidelines of Pope Benedict ( and also of Pope John Paul II) regarding the traditionalist within the Roman Catholics, Schismatics ( Lefebvre) or not. Perhaps the Roman Catholic Church will follow his official dialogue with the Jewish People and it will be an excellent sign of truth and reconciliation.
Jack Shea | 5/10/2008 - 7:16pm
It is impossible for me to believe, as a Catholic Christian, as a catechist and as a candidate for the diaconate that there would be any backsliding, especially with the present Pope. It is clear that we cannot fully grasp Christianity without understanding the Old Testament and at the same time being grateful to our Jewish brothers and sisters. We are all children of the same God.
Teresa Katona | 5/10/2008 - 1:33pm
This is from a knowledgeable friend. Aside from the verses shown in the labels at the bottom of this article, Maimonides clearly states in the Mishnah Torah Chapter 10 that Christians and Jesus of Nazareth Himself are considered Minnim. "The Talmud does not represent authoritative law or theology or liturgy." The worst of this nebulous, relativized , normative nothingness was later codified in Shulkhan Aruch, Mishnah Torah and other Jewish Halakhah. The Zohar III, 282a refers to Esau, Ishmael, Jesus and Muhammad as dead dogs who reside amid filth and vermin. During the Renaissance, copies of the Talmud began using code words for Christ, Christians, non-Judaics and apostate Judaics.
Pat O'Connell | 5/10/2008 - 1:20pm
Rabbi Rosenthal mentions the Aleinu. Read it. "It is our duty to praise the Master of All, to ascribe greatness to the molder of primeval creation, for He has not made us like the nations of the lands, for He has not assigned our portion like theirs nor our lot like theirs, for they bow to vanity and emptiness and pray to a god who cannot save--man, ash, blood, bile, stinking flesh, maggot, defiled men and women, adulterers and adulteresses, dying in their iniquity and rotting in their wickedness, worn out dust, rot of maggot [and worm]--and pray to a god who cannot save." ---Aleinu cited in Two Nations in Your Womb, Israel Jacob Yuval, University of California Press, 2006, p.119 “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” ---Galatians 6:7 The Talmud, teaches that Jesus of Nazareth was a bastard born of an adulterous relationship (Kallah 51a) of a whore (Sanhedrin 106a) and that, because he was an idolator and sex pervert, He is now in Hell boiling in feces and semen (Gittin 57a). "You are adam ["man"], but goyim [gentiles] are not called adam ["man"]." ---Talmud Kerithoth 6b "...'living soul' designates Israel because they are children of the Almighty, and their souls, which are holy, come from Him. From whence come the souls of other peoples? R[abbi] Eleazar said: 'They obtain souls from those sides of the left which convey impurity, and therefore they are all impure and defile those who have contact with them.'...'living soul' refers to Israel, who have holy living souls from above, and 'cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth,' to the other peoples who are not 'living soul," but who are as we have said." ---Bereshith 47a Since gentiles only look like men, but have the souls of animals (among many, Kerithoth 6b, Sanhedrin 74b,Yebamoth 98a, Bereshith 47a, et al.), Gentiles are owed no debt of morality or decency - not honesty (Baba Kamma 113a), not property (Baba Mezia 24a), not even life! -"The best of the Gentiles should all be killed" (Soferim 15, rule 10). No mere imprecation that, Bar Ilan University Professor Ariel Toaff, son of the retired Chief Rabbi of Rome, has documented the medieval Ashkenazi cult that crucified then bled to death little Christian children like St. Simon of Trent, Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln, and St. William of Norwich. Notwithstanding Mosaic Laws against the use of blood, the blood obtained was widely used as an alleged hemostatic agent in the circumcision ritual and also used in Kabbalistic necromancy. ---Prof. Ariel Toaff, Pasque di Sangue, English translation available at http://www.israelshamir.net/BLOODPASSOVER.pdf] The Talmud’s misogyny is as palpable as its misanthropy: "...a man may do whatever he pleases with his wife at intercourse: Meat which comes from the abattoir may be eaten salted, roasted, cooked or seethed; so with fish from the fishmonger.... A woman came before Rab and complained [of her husband's sodomy with her], "Rabbi replied: 'Wherein does it differ from fish?" ---Talmud, Nedarim 20b, Soncino edition, p.58 At tractate Yebamoth 63a the Talmud teaches that "Adam had intercourse with all the beasts and animals" in the Garden of Eden. At tractate Gittin 69b the Talmud teaches that the cure of a catarrh is to "take the excrement of a white dog kneaded with balsam." Then, of course, the rabbis till perform their oral circumcision ritual Mezizah b'peh * on little boys, sometimes causing the death of innocent babies. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/26/nyregion/26circumcise.html Much effort has been expended to wrongly convince Catholics that Judaism is an Old Testament religion, but practicing Catholics know better. God accuses them (Mark 7:9) and Moses accuses them (John 5:45-47) and we know the history spawned by Jewish racial supremacism and genocidal teachings of contempt. http://www.traditioninaction.org/HotTopics/a028htJPII_VisitToSynagogue1986.htm http://www.catholicvoice.co.uk/pinay/ (Read Part I and pay special attention to "Jewish Tes
Alecoque | 5/10/2008 - 1:19pm
I am curious. As a Roman Catholic who has read some very offensive remarks directed towards my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the Talmud, am I to take it that these words, being merely the opinion of one apostate Jew, should be ignored? Or to quote a friend of mine: "There is nothing objectionable in the Talmud and rabbinical writings —but if you find something objectionable, it isn't really there." If this apostate Jew is so unimportant, then I wonder that his words were so emblazoned for time immemorial.
Diego Milagro | 5/10/2008 - 12:43pm
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, calls Rabbi Jacob Neusner a "great Jewish scholar." [Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI, p.71] Unarguably Neusner is the most prolific Talmud scholar ever, more prolific than even Maimonides. Those with eyes who can see, who have ears and can hear, should heed Neusner, not Rosenthal. "...the Babylonian Talmud represents God in the flesh..." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, Rabbinic Judaism, Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1995. p. 62] "The Bavli [Babylonian Talmud] has formed the definitive statement of Judaism from the time of its closure to the present day." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, quoted by Norman F. Cantor, The Sacred Chain: A History of the Jews, page 112] "... The rabbi constituted the projection of the divine on earth. Honor was due him more than to the scroll of the Torah, for through his learning and logic he might alter the very content of Mosaic revelation. He was Torah, not merely because he lived by it, but because at his best he constituted as compelling an embodiment of the heavenly model as did a Torah scroll itself." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, "The Phenomenon of the Rabbi in Late Antiquity: II The Ritual of 'Being a Rabbi' in Later Sasanian Babylonia," Numen, Vol.17, Fasc. 1., Feb., 1970, pp.3-4] "On the surface, Scripture plays little role in the Mishanaic system, The Mishnah rarely cites a verse of Scripture, refers to Scripture as an entity, links its own ideas to those of Scripture, or lays claim to originate in what Scripture has said, even by indirect or remote allusion to a Scriptural verse of teaching... Formally, redactionally, and linguistically the Mishnah stands in splendid isolation from Scripture....the Mishnah constitutes torah. It too is a statement of revelation, 'Torah revealed to Moses at Sinai.' But this part of revelation has come down in a form different from the well-known, written part, the Scripture. This tradition truly deserves the name 'tradition,' because for a long time it was handed down orally, not in writing, until given the written formulation now before us in the Mishnah.... Since some of the named authorities in the chain of tradition appear throughout the materials of the Mishnah, the claim is that what these people say comes to them from Sinai through the processes of qabbalah and massoret --handing down 'traditioning.' So the reason... that the Mishnah does not cite Scripture is that it does not have to." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1988. pp. xxxv-xxxvi] Note the casual admission that both "qabbalah and massoret [namely, the "Hebrew Bible]" change Scripture through "process," "traditioning." In Judaism tradition is not fixed or faithful, but is an ever changing "process" that is described as "traditioning." This is why the Jewish Encyclopedia states that "the latest Responsa and homiletical interpretations of the rabbis" are Torah, authoritative in Judaism. "Originally, in order to maintain the distinction between the written Torah (see written law) and various traditional interpretations, customs and practices, the rabbis forbade the commitment to writing of the additional material. However, when it became too voluminous and chaotic conditions made oral transmission too uncertain, the ban was lifted and the material organized and transcribed in the form of the Mishnah, the Talmud, and other rabbinic works. The rabbis expressed their view that 'two Torahs' were given at Sinai, a Written Torah [definition #1] and an Oral Torah [definition #2] (see oral law) and that at least some of the oral traditions relating to the meaning of basic biblical concepts were as authoritative as the written text (see halakah le-mosheh mi-sinai) In a sense the Oral Torah came to be regarded as more important than the Written Torah inasmuch as the explanations and understanding of the latter depended upon the former. A third meaning of the word "Torah" therefore includes elements of the Oral Tor
Diego Milagro | 5/10/2008 - 12:37pm
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, calls Rabbi Jacob Neusner a "great Jewish scholar." [Jesus of Nazareth, Benedict XVI, p.71]  Unarguably Neusner is the most prolific Talmud scholar ever, more prolific than even Maimonides. Those with eyes who can see, who have ears and can hear, should heed Neusner, not Rosenthal. "...the Babylonian Talmud represents God in the flesh..." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, Rabbinic Judaism, Minneapolis MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1995. p. 62] "The Bavli [Babylonian Talmud] has formed the definitive statement of Judaism from the time of its closure to the present day." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, quoted by Norman F. Cantor, The Sacred Chain: A History of the Jews, page 112] "... The rabbi constituted the projection of the divine on earth. Honor was due him more than to the scroll of the Torah, for through his learning and logic he might alter the very content of Mosaic revelation. He was Torah, not merely because he lived by it, but because at his best he constituted as compelling an embodiment of the heavenly model as did a Torah scroll itself." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, "The Phenomenon of the Rabbi in Late Antiquity: II The Ritual of 'Being a Rabbi' in Later Sasanian Babylonia," Numen, Vol.17, Fasc. 1., Feb., 1970, pp.3-4] "On the surface, Scripture plays little role in the Mishanaic system, The Mishnah rarely cites a verse of Scripture, refers to Scripture as an entity, links its own ideas to those of Scripture, or lays claim to originate in what Scripture has said, even by indirect or remote allusion to a Scriptural verse of teaching... Formally, redactionally, and linguistically the Mishnah stands in splendid isolation from Scripture....the Mishnah constitutes torah. It too is a statement of revelation, 'Torah revealed to Moses at Sinai.' But this part of revelation has come down in a form different from the well-known, written part, the Scripture. This tradition truly deserves the name 'tradition,' because for a long time it was handed down orally, not in writing, until given the written formulation now before us in the Mishnah.... Since some of the named authorities in the chain of tradition appear throughout the materials of the Mishnah, the claim is that what these people say comes to them from Sinai through the processes of qabbalah and massoret --handing down 'traditioning.' So the reason... that the Mishnah does not cite Scripture is that it does not have to." [Rabbi Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 1988. pp. xxxv-xxxvi] Note the casual admission that both "qabbalah and massoret [namely, the "Hebrew Bible]" change Scripture through "process," "traditioning." In Judaism tradition is not fixed or faithful, but is an ever changing "process" that is described as "traditioning." This is why the Jewish Encyclopedia states that "the latest Responsa and homiletical interpretations of the rabbis" are Torah, authoritative in Judaism. "Originally, in order to maintain the distinction between the written Torah (see written law) and various traditional interpretations, customs and practices, the rabbis forbade the commitment to writing of the additional material. However, when it became too voluminous and chaotic conditions made oral transmission too uncertain, the ban was lifted and the material organized and transcribed in the form of the Mishnah, the Talmud, and other rabbinic works. The rabbis expressed their view that 'two Torahs' were given at Sinai, a Written Torah [definition #1] and an Oral Torah [definition #2] (see oral law) and that at least some of the oral traditions relating to the meaning of basic biblical concepts were as authoritative as the written text (see halakah le-mosheh mi-sinai) In a sense the Oral Torah came to be regarded as more important than the Written Torah inasmuch as the explanations and understanding of the latter depended upon the former. A third meaning of the word "Torah" therefore includes elements of the Oral Tor
Al Roschinski | 5/10/2008 - 12:05pm
After studying dozens of Talmud editions in the vernacular and in the original languages, Princeton's Director of Judaic Studies, Prof. Peter Schafer contradicts Rabbi Rosenthal. "The very fact that the Talmud's claim of Jesus' closeness to the Roman government reflects some knowledge ... of the New Testament narrative, particularly of John's version of it ... this detail exonerates the Roman government from the blame of Jesus' condemnation and consequently, adopting the Gospels' message, puts the thrust of the accusation on the Jews ... What we then have here in the [Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 43a] is a powerful confirmation of the New Testament Passion narrative, a creative rereading, however, that not only knows some of its distinct details but proudly proclaims Jewish responsibility of Jesus' execution. [Princeton University Judaic Studies Prof. Peter Schafer, Jesus in the Talmud, ISBN-13 978-0691129266 Princeton University Press, pp.73-74] The latest edition of the Talmud, translated by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, "nasi" ("prince") of the recently reconvened Sanhedrin, the court that convicted Jesus, ironically the man who stands in Caiphas' shoes today, confirms Prof. Schafer's conculsion and rebuts Rabbi Rosenthal's deceit. Turn to tractate Sanhedrin, folio 43a, in the Steinsaltz translation and see for yourselves.
Terry Dolorosa | 5/10/2008 - 11:45am
Rabbi Rosenthal is the editor of "Maimonides: His Wisdom for Our Times." Here's a pearl from "the Great Rambam," an accurate translation of Book III, chapter 51, Maimonides' elucidation of those that the rabbis deem unfit for true worship of God: "Some of the Turks and the nomads in the North, and the Blacks and the nomads in the South, and those who resemble them in our climates. And their nature is like the nature of mute animals, and according to my opinion they are not on the level of human beings, and their level among existing things is below that of a man and above that of a monkey, because they have the image and the resemblance of a man more than a monkey does." Interestingly this racist outrage is sanitized in the Friedlander translation. Friedlander merely transliterated Maimonides’ use of "Kushim," which means Blacks, into "Kushite." Viola! Searing racism concealed. This was, like much of the sanitized rabbinical and Talmudic literature, an effort to conceal the offenses that cannot be missed in accurate translations of the racial supremacist and genocidal roots of Judaism.
Pontian | 5/10/2008 - 11:30am
Parse Rosenthal's words carefully. His position is this: "There is nothing objectionable in the Talmud and rabbinical writings —but if you find something objectionable, it isn't really there." I am surprised that America would publish something so transparent that the most cursory investigation proves Rosenthal a deceiver.
Bill Williams | 5/10/2008 - 9:40am
JP2 is anathema for suggesting Christians are the younger brother of jews. Jews are cursed for they curse Jesus. Christians are as related to jews as they are to Satan.