Saturday, March 5, 2011

Jewish Roots - My Two Cents

Brant Pitre's book seems to be a runaway bestseller, perhaps to his own surprise. There have been several excellent reviews but I felt the need to add my own two cents' worth, if only because it's a way of processing the book in my own head. Like a book report. The book really is inspiring and not to be missed. Anyway, here's my review for Amazon:

To Michael Barber's extremely helpful review, I can only add a lay perspective. This is not my area of research or scholarship but for me the book was inspiring and eye-opening.

Dr. Pitre carries his scholarship lightly, so the text is not weighed down with the customary footnotes of biblical research. But for those who want the documentation, there are two dozen pages of notes at the end of the book.
Pitre's tone is engaging, almost conversational, and his book manages to be revealing and modest at the same time. He shows us how deeply embedded the Christian story of the New Testament is in the salvation narrative and context of the Old. Almost from the start, there has been a tendency for some Christians to see the Old Testament as an embarrassing prequel, full of slaughter, dirty tricks, and an irascible, jealous God, all of which is rendered irrelevant by the New Testament.

Pitre, like Popes Benedict and JP II, and a few other biblical scholars - see for example, Roy Schoeman, Salvation Is from the Jews: The Role of Judaism in Salvation History and Taylor Marshall, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity - brings home to us that such a view impoverishes and distorts Christianity. As Benedict puts it, "the message of Jesus is completely misunderstood if it is separated from the context of the faith and hope of the Chosen People" (quoted by Pitre, p.9).

Pitre shows how an understanding of this Jewish context deepens our appreciation of the Eucharist as the "source and summit of the Christian life". It revivifies the Christian story in its historical concreteness and particularity, in its unity of spiritual and physical, the story of God's incarnation in the context of Jewish liturgy, ritual, experience and expectations. After decades of "beige Catholicism" (in Father Robert Barron's term Eucharist (Catholic Spirituality for Adults)) - a disincarnated, accommodationist approach that reduced Christianity to timeless teachings and personal experience ("spirituality") - and after centuries of downplaying the Christian faith's Jewish roots, the new biblical scholarship represented so well by Pitre is a much-needed corrective.

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