Saturday, October 6, 2007

Cardinal promotes anti-Semitic myth

The cardinal who will soon take over the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has promoted a virulent anti-Semitic myth in an interview with the National Catholic Reporter. Cardinal Francis George has charged that the Talmud refers to Jesus as a "bastard" and, equating this with overtly anti-Jewish Catholic texts such as the Good Friday prayer for conversion of the "perfidious Jews", said that, if the Catholic texts are to be changed, the Talmud should be as well.

Sadly, the cardinal is promoting an anti-Semitic myth -- one that is easily debunked. According to Rabbi Gil Student (read here), the text cited in reference to this insult in fact has nothing to do with Jesus:

The Text
Mishnah Yevamot 4:18

R. Shimon ben Azzai said: I found a book of geneologies in Jerusalem and in it is written "The man Plony is a bastard."

This is claimed to be a reference to Jesus. However, this claim is patently ridiculous. The Mishnah was most likely referring to a famous person and, due to the lack of any practical ramifications, his name was left out by the compilers of the Mishnah. Plony is a biblical term used similar to John Doe today (cf. Ruth 4:1). The keeping of geneological records was very common in talmudic times so that regular Jews did not marry bastards and violate the biblical prohibition (Deuteronomy 23:3). Investigations into lineage and proclamations of bastardy were not uncommon (cf. Nehemiah 7:5; Talmud Kiddushin 70b-71a). There is no reason to assume that this refers to Jesus.

Gustaf Dalman rejects the assertion that this Mishnah refers to Jesus [Dalman, Die Worte Jesus (Liepzig: Hinrichs, 1898), p. 4 n. 2]. Similarly, RT Herford calls this suggestion "doubtful and probably unfounded" [Herford, "Jesus in Rabbinical Literature", The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 6 pp. 87-88]. Johann Maier calls it "odd speculation" [Maier, Jesus von Nazareth in der talmudischen Uberlieferung, p. 50]. All of this is cited approvingly by John P. Meier in his highly acclaimed A Marginal Jew, vol. I p. 108 n. 53. See also Avraham Korman's discussion in Zeramim Vekitot Beyahadut, pp. 348-349.

There are a myriad of such false quotes and deliberate distortions of talmudic texts floating around in print and on the internet, but rarely do they get the imprimatur of a senior cleric of a major religion. Before he takes his new post, the cardinal owes Jews an explanation and apology for perpetuating such a libel. He should be in the business of promoting harmony between Jews and Catholics, not sowing discord with anti-Semitic lies.

from The God Blog: Cardinal: Jews should change Talmud:

Cardinal Francis George, who will soon take over as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, recently sat down for a candid interview with John L. Allen Jr of the National Catholic Reporter. It's a wide-ranging Q&A, but I found what George had to say about Judaism and the Latin Mass to be the most interesting:

A related issue with the old Missal is the Good Friday liturgy, and specifically the prayer for the conversion of the Jews. Where do you think we are with that?

First of all, we have to clarify something, because there are two opinions and we've asked the Holy See to clear this up. During the Triduum [the end of Holy Week] you may not have a private Mass. So the first reaction is, well, that means you can't use the old Missal for the Triduum, so that's the end of that. Others come back and say no, that if you have a parish that is only Tridentine, then they would also have the Holy Week ceremonies from that Missal. I'm not sure that's permitted, and that's what we're asking.

If it is, would your preference be to use the language of new Missal for this prayer on Good Friday, even when people are celebrating the Tridentine rite?

If you're celebrating the 1962 Missal, that would involve changing the text of the prayer.

That can be done, yes?

Of course it can be done, and I suspect it probably will be, because the intention is to be sure that our prayers are not offensive to the Jewish people who are our ancestors in the faith. We can't possibly insult them in our liturgy … Not that any group has a veto on anybody's prayers, because you can go through Jewish texts and find material that is offensive to us. But if we're interested in keeping the dialogue strong, and we have to be, we should be very cautious about any prayer that they find insulting. 'They,' however, is a big tent. What my Jewish rabbi friend down the block finds insulting is different from what Abraham Foxman [national director of the Anti-Defamation League] finds insulting. Also, it does work both ways. Maybe this is an opening to say, 'Would you care to look at some of the Talmudic literature's description of Jesus as a bastard, and so on, and maybe make a few changes in some of that?'

No comments:


adamhollandblog [AT] gmail [DOT] com