Thursday, February 17, 2011

Russian Orthodox theologian: Hoffman unjust to Prof. Brant Pitre

The following is an e-mail exchange between a Russian Orthodox theologian, "V.M.," and Michael Hoffman, concerning Hoffman's review of Dr. Brant Pitre's  book, "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper," which can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/6ehewar

On Feb 17, 2011, at 8:46, V.M. wrote:
I think you are being a little unjust to Prof. Pitre here.  I fully accept that the Talmud is a hateful book, which has to be treated with extreme caution. And I also agree that Christ rejected the man-made traditions of the Pharisees....do you not accept that there may have been some authentic traditions from Old Testament times that did not enter the text of the Old Testament? And that even in the Mishnah there may be some trace of these authentic traditions?

Dear V.

In her public debate with the Judaic Stalinist Lillian Hellman, Mary McCarthy stated, "Everything Miss Hellman says is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.'"

Of the Cretans St. Paul said they were all dishonest (Titus 1:12-13).

You are most welcome to uphold, as a source of inspiration and guidance for Christians, the traditions that were compiled by authentic Christians who were dedicated to truth. The fact that rabbinic tradition is riddled with lies, fantasies, half-truths and preposterous hyperbole does not nullify or detract from Christian traditions. Though my understanding of sola Scriptura differs from yours, I am not formulating a Protestant epistemology of discounting all tradition, when I expose the worthlessness of a specific tradition, the Torah SheBeal Peh that constitutes the corpus of the rabbis.

Furthermore, you did not address my point: who is going to sift rabbinic tradition for alleged truths contained within it? How would this quicksand be navigated? Are we in any way required to undertake so nearly impossible a task when Jesus Christ did not? He did not quote rabbinic tradition except to condemn it. Shouldn't that teach us something?

On Feb 17, 2011, at 8:46, V.M. wrote:

 I do not accept the argument that since the evidence is from Jewish rabbinic tradition, it must be wrong.

Michael Hoffman replies:

I will concede your point, in theory, by putting the case another way: even a blind chicken picks up some corn. Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. In that sense, rabbinic tradition is not wrong in every case, and only in that sense.


On Feb 17, 2011, at 8:46, V.M. wrote:

Since Pitre's account of eucharistic traditions in Jewish tradition does not, to my knowledge, contradict any facts or teachings of the True Church, but on the contrary, fits in with them very well, I am inclined to accept it as a describing a genuine tradition...

Michael Hoffman replies:

Your criterion is disturbing. You have fallen into a very tight snare. You concede some semblance of credibility and reliability and worst of all, a degree of faithful witness, to rabbinic texts which are a palimpsest of fraud and perjury. By way of analogy, Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, was in favor of home-schooling and opposed to abortion. What would you say if I were to author a book seeking to buttress the validity of home-schooling and anti-abortion in which I quoted Anton LaVey in support of my position?

How is the Roman Catholic/Orthodox dogma on the Eucharist advanced one jot by quoting rabbinic tradition in support of it? Is there something inadequate about the Christian testimony and theology that requires the support of the Mishnah of the Pharisees to buttress it?

I do not mean any offense, but Truth compels me to state that your position is double-minded and self-defeating. Why, oh why, are certain Christians forever seeking after rabbinic approbation for their beliefs?

How is it that we must have recourse to the blind-guide Pharisees and their farrago of filthy stories, replete with institutionalized deception and murderous treachery against their own Messiah, to support Jesus' words at the Last Supper?  I cannot in my wildest dreams countenance Jesus doing this or approving of it. Moreover, almost none of the Church Fathers who are esteemed by your Orthodox tradition ever engaged in such folly. 

How is it that the Church and its sacred deposit of Faith existed for 2,000 years without having to use promo blurbs from the Babylonian tradition of the rabbis of fallen and decayed Judaism to advertise the validity of the teachings of Christ?  Is there not a macabre alchemical mélange brewing in this cauldron's mixture of opposites?

I reject Prof. Pitre's modernist pandering, which inevitably lends cachet and cleans up the image of the texts that inculcate the darkest evil on this planet, containing traditions that led most of the Jews of first century Palestine to reject and crucify Yahweh's Divine Son, and which continue to hold in thrall millions of Judaics today. 

Quoting the Talmud in support of the Eucharist is like quoting Anton LaVey is in support of home-schooling. By so doing one is burnishing an evil root. When the Renaissance Catholic neo-Platonists first sought to gain acceptance for the Kabbalah inside the Church, they promoted it as a document that testified to the truth of Jesus Christ. Catholic university Prof. Brant Pitre is promoting the Talmud as testifying to the truth of Jesus Christ. Coincidence?

On Feb 17, 2011, at 8:46, V.M. wrote:

...do you not accept that there may have been some authentic traditions from Old Testament times that did not enter the text of the Old Testament? And that even in the Mishnah there may be some trace of these authentic traditions?

Hoffman replies:

I will answer your question from the Mishnah itself, from Mishnah Hagiga i, 8. Commenting on its own enormous compendium of meaningless and ungodly laws, which nullify the Word of God, the Mishnah concedes that these laws are "as mountains hanging by a hair, for they have scant Scriptural basis but many laws." 

The rabbis are witnesses against themselves.  Woe to those like Pitre who defend the indefensible in the Name of the Most High. Please do not partake of their transgression. I believe you to be a sincere seeker after the Gospel. The confusion you exhibit is typical of millions of modern Christians. 

Thank you for writing and giving me the opportunity to defend the unchanging Truth. "For this end was I born and for this cause came I into the world."

Sincerely in Christ,
Michael Hoffman


On Feb 17, 2011, at 8:46, V.M. wrote:

Dear Michael,
 
I think you are being a little unjust to Prof. Pitre here.
 
I fully accept that the Talmud is a hateful book, which has to be treated with extreme caution. And I also agree that Christ rejected the man-made traditions of the Pharisees.
 
But do you not accept that there may have been some authentic traditions from Old Testament times that did not enter the text of the Old Testament? And that even in the Mishnah there may be some trace of these authentic traditions?
 
This is not to say that Pitre is necessarily right. All I am saying is that he is not necessarily wrong...
 
In the Orthodox Church we accept two sources of truth as regards the faith: the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. With regard to Old Testament times, some of the Holy Fathers who knew Hebrew sometimes referred to Jewish traditions in order to illuminate a passage of Scripture. St. Jerome in particular did this.
 
The same as regards New Testament history. Before the writing down of the Scriptures Tradition was the only source of truth. The Scriptures of the New Testament represent a writing down, a crystallization, as it were, of one part of this oral Tradition. Many parts of the authentic Tradition were not written down until much later - for example, the sign of the cross, the Jesus prayer, the rites of Baptism and the Eucharist, the apostolic understanding of many parts of the Old Testament, etc. Much of this unwritten tradition was later written down in the service books of the Church and the writings of the Holy Fathers.
 
Because of the undoubted existence of this Holy Tradition, the Orthodox Church has never accepted the Protestant criterion of Sola Scriptura. In fact, we believe that this criterion contradicts the Scriptures themselves. For St. Paul writes: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle" (II Thessalonians 3.15). Moreover, without Tradition we believe Holy Scripture itself cannot be understood correctly. Witness the innumerable disagreements among Protestants who believe in Sola Scriptura. This is no way implies a lack of respect for the holiness and truth of the Holy Scriptures. It means only that the Scriptures need to be interpreted in the light of that other source of Christian truth, Holy Tradition. Only the full picture provided by both sources will give the whole truth - and truly protect us from error.
 
How then, you may argue, can we distinguish between authentic tradition and man-made traditions? It is the Church as the repository of all Christian truth, "the pillar and ground of the truth", as St. Paul calls her, that sifts the true traditions from the false. To take one example. Early in the sub-apostolic period there appeared many false gospels and "memoirs". One of these was the Protoevangelium of St. James. Now the Church considers this work to be untrustworthy, does not include it in her canon of Holy Scripture and does not recommend it to be read in Church, where only the Holy Scriptures are read. But she does recognize some parts of it to be truthful - specifically, the story of the Entrance of the Mother of God into the Temple at the age of 3.
 
Since Pitre's account of eucharistic traditions in Jewish tradition does not, to my knowledge, contradict any facts or teachings of the True Church, but on the contrary, fits in with them very well, I am inclined to accept it as a describing a genuine tradition. And I am grateful to you for drawing it to my attention. I may be wrong, and I will listen carefully to any well thought-out counter-argument. But I do not accept the argument that since the evidence is from Jewish rabbinic tradition, it must be wrong.
 
Yours,
V.M.

On. Feb. 16, 2011 Michael Hoffman wrote:

If rabbinic tradition is truthful on some points, if the Talmud, which says that Blessed Mary was a harlot and Jesus an idolator who got what He deserved when He was executed, are doctrinally sound or historically trustworthy in certain respects, who decides which portions of the man-made rabbinic tradition of Chazal are reliable and which are not? Jesus did not engage in any such sifting of the rabbinic tradition. 

Jesus quoted the Old Testament, he never quoted rabbinic tradition or the oral lore that would later become the Mishnah, except to wholly condemn it (cf. Mark 7:1-13 and Matthew 15:1-20). Prof. Pitre on the contrary, rehabilitates these traditions and this lore. He must know something Our Lord did not. 

The eucharist is certainly Jewish in the sense of having its roots in the Word of God (Old Testament). But it is abominable and indeed ludicrous that Pitre ascribes to the man-made Talmud and rabbinic tradition the status of upright and trustworthy harbingers of Christ's Last Supper. This falsification will, however, gain him brownie points from the modernist movement that seeks to twist, distort and disgrace the Gospel by turning Jesus into some sort of Talmid Chacham

  ***

2 comments:

Jason said...

Thanks for posting this exchange. Discussions on this topic are too few and far between, and serve to advance the cause of Truth.

Kentagerna said...

I am a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy. I just can't picture the Three Great Hierarchs, St. John of Damascus, St. Ephraim, St. John Chrysostom, etc, quoting from the Talmud. I must read them more to figure out what authentic Orthodoxy is.

Although...if Pitre's book is a missionary effort, seeing how modern day Protestants hate priests and love Rabbis, maybe they would stop blaspheming the eucharist if they thought it was a Jewish thing. :) Still, I can't picture the Holy Fathers and Ecumenican Councils taking such an approach.