Edited Under Fr. Leonard Feeney M.I.C.M. — Saint Benedict Center
CATHOLICS, THE BIBLE, AND THE JEWS
On the fifteenth of this month, the Church commemorates one of her most brilliant and faithful daughters: that sage among the wise virgins, Saint Teresa of Avila. Looking out over sixteenth-century Europe, from the heights of Catholic Spain, Saint Teresa saw the Protestant Revolt gaining ground. She saw the rending of Christendom and, amid the pieces, the multiplied troubles that awaited the Church. She could only conclude that the times were evil ones, indeed. And, after meditating on this conclusion, Saint Teresa made the following entry in her Autobiography: “All the evil in the world comes from ignorance of the truths of the Holy Scriptures in their simplicity, of which not one iota shall pass away.”
Taking advantage of Saint Teresa’s wisdom, American Catholics will find that no current evil in their world can be resolved so immediately in terms of the Bible as can the problem of the Jews. In the light of Holy Scripture, there is revealed, and divinely so, the complete Catholic answer to the Jewish question.
The Seed of Abraham
Realizing the power of the Bible, the Jews have consciously promoted the notion that they are the “people of the Book,” the Scriptural “chosen people.” The truth, as the Bible plainly tells it, could not be more contrary.
The Jews were the chosen people of God’s revelational plan, but it is the central theme of the Bible to explain how ungrateful a people they proved to be in their privileged position; how contemptuous and murderous they were toward the prophets God sent them; how patient God was for centuries with them, until, finally, sending His Divine Son and seeing Him mocked, rejected, and crucified by the Jews, God turned His blessing of the Jews to a curse. The seventeen prophetic books of the Old Testament had repeatedly foretold that God would do this. The entire New Testament confirms it as done.
The nature of this curse, as revealed by Our Lord’s own words in the Gospel, is twofold: it cuts the Jews off from their previous holy tradition and it establishes them in a new and hateful status. In chapter eight of Saint Matthew, Our Lord tells the Jews that all connection with the few faithful Jews of the Old Testament is now denied them. “Many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven: But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
In that exterior darkness, according to Our Lord’s further words in Saint John, the ejected Jews are not to be left fatherless. They, who were once the children of Abraham, now become the sons of the Prince of Darkness. “If you be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me,” says Jesus to the Jews. “You are of your father, the Devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and he stood not in the truth … ”
The curse on the Jews brought the corollary election of the Gentile nations. The “many” who in fulfillment of Our Lord’s prophecy would come “from the east and the west” are the armies of responsive Gentiles who have heeded the message of the Apostles, believed that Jesus was the promised Christ, and so joined themselves to that holy tradition that God established with Abraham, two thousand years before the Incarnation.
The Christian faithful who fill and over-flow the places forfeited by the Jews, become now truly the rightful beneficiaries of the promise made to Abraham. It is in this profound sense that Pope Pius XI proposed his much-abused statement, “Spiritually, we are Semites.” The Holy Father had no intention of saying (as the Judaeophiles would have it) that Catholics are one in spirit with present-day, Christ-despising Jews. Pope Pius XI was reiterating the Scriptural truth that, by spiritual means, through Faith and the incorporation of the Holy Eucharist, Catholics have supplanted the Jews as the “chosen people,” and they now claim for their ancestry the great names of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It is in this spirit that the Church, the new Israel, prays in all her public worship. And it was in this same spirit that Our Blessed Lady prayed in her New Testament canticle, the Magnificat, when she referred to all the faithful as “Abraham and his seed forever.”
The Gospel Under Fire
A few years ago, when Jews everywhere sat back to count the blessings that the second World War had reaped for them, a very prominent New York rabbi, Dr. Mordecai Kaplan of the Jewish Theological Seminary, wrote a book called The Future of the American Jew. Things looked good to Dr. Kaplan, but not universally. There was one area that worried him: the sizeable Christian area. “The Christian Church,” he wrote, “from its very inception, sought to justify its repudiation of Judaism by vilifying the teachings of Judaism and branding the Jews as deicides. The role of the Jewish people in history, according to orthodox Christian tradition, has been that of anti-Christ.”
Dr. Kaplan went on to blame the New Testament for much of the Jews’ troubles. And in this he joined a fashionable movement. For it has become, and remains, a smart thing with Amencan Jews to make public attacks on the New Testament — attacks that a prudent fear had heretofore kept within the bounds of synagogues and the Jews’ own, Jewish-read press. The following pair of statements are representative samples.
Mr. Leo Pfeffer, counsel for the American Jewish Congress, in his Beacon Press book, Church, State, and Freedom, writes: “To the Jewish child devoted to the religion of his fathers, the New Testament in its entirety is blasphemous for attributing divinity to a human being.”
Rabbi Julius Nodel of Portland, Oregon, in a speech reported by Portland’s leading newspaper, says: “The New Testament is a work of malicious libel and the story of events leading to the trial and crucifixion, a dragon seed from which has come misery, bloodshed, and suspicion.”
Despite their flaunted contempt for the New Testament, the Jews have managed to sustain among the Christian majority the notion that somehow Jewish belief is still Biblical belief, that the Jews still have a Scriptural faith, and that for this reason we must respect the synagogue. “Don’t Jews still believe in a Messias to come?” asks the credulous Christian. “And don’t they believe in the same Biblical Heaven and Hell that we do?”
The answer to both these questions is — no. And it is an emphatic “No!” as the subsequent Jewish testimony will verify.
Concerning the Messias: The Jews of today reject the notion of a personal redeemer who will be born of them and lead them to the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. The Jews believe that the whole Jewish race is to be elevated to a position of prosperity and overlordship and that, when this happy day arrives (the Messianic Age), they will have achieved all that is coming to them by way of savior and salvation. In his recent book, The Messianic Idea in Israel, Jewish theologian Dr. Joseph Klausner explains: “Thus the whole people Israel in the form of the elect of the nations gradually became the Messiah of the world, the redeemer of mankind.”
Concerning Heaven and Hell: A succinct summary of Jewish teaching on “life after death” was given in the May, 1958 issue of B’nai B’rith’s National Jewish Monthly. Under the caption, “What Can A Modern Jew Believe?” there appeared: “Judaism insists that ‘heaven’ must be established on this earth. The reward of the pious is life and happiness in this world, while the punishment of the wicked is misery on earth and premature death … By hitching its star to the Messianic future on this earth, Israel became the eternal people.” The article goes on: “The best Jewish minds have always held that a physical hereafter is a detraction from mature belief.” And the conclusion: “There is neither hell nor paradise, God merely sends out the sun in its full strength; the wicked are consumed by its heat, while the pious find delight and healing in its rays.”
The Unholy Scripture
No one should conclude from the above paragraphs that the tenets of modern Judaism are to be found only in the occasional comments of rabbis or in chance reports of Jewish magazines. When they rejected the doctrines of the Bible, the Jews took care not to leave themselves bookless. They have enshrined their entire religious and moral code, in all its naked blasphemy and foulness, in the pages of that teeming, reeking document, the Talmud.
First published, about 500 A.D., this supreme Jewish book consists of two main parts: the Mishna, or text, and the Gemara, or commentary. And to indicate how intoxicatingly to their taste Talmudic teaching is, the Jews have fashioned a proverb: “The Bible is like water, the Mishna like wine, the Gemara like aromatic liqueur.”
It is not necessary that a militant Catholic wade through the mud of the Talmud in order to be informed of its contents. Popes of the past have published a number of condemnations which indicate the nature of the book and outline the general objections. Further, there are detailed studies of the conflict between the Bible and the Talmud, done by Catholic scholars at the request of the Church, that give a complete picture of the Jews’ unholy scripture. One such book is L’Histoire et Les Histoires dans la Bible by the late Bishop Landrieux of Dijon, which was published at Paris in 1921. Writing on the Talmud, Bishop Landrieux makes the following acute summary.
“It is a systematic deformation of the Bible … The pride of race with the idea of universal domination is therein exalted to the height of folly … For the Talmudist, the Jewish race alone constitutes humanity, the non-Jews are not human beings. They are of a purely animal nature. They have no rights. The moral laws which regulate the mutual relations of men, the Ten Commandments, are not of obligation in their regard. They oblige exclusively among Jews. With regard to the Goyim (non-Jews) everything is allowed: robbery, fraud, perjury, murder. When the Talmud became known, especially in the sixteenth century, thanks to the invention of printing, such indignation was aroused throughout the Catholic world that a General Jewish Assembly in 1631 gave orders that the most obnoxious passages should not be printed, but added that, ‘a little circle, O, should be put in place of the suppressed passages. This will warn the rabbis and the school-teachers that they are to teach these passages orally so that the learned among the Nazarenes (Christians) may no longer have any pretext for attacking us in this regard.’ In our day, the Talmud does not provoke either astonishment or anger among Catholics, because it is no longer known.”
Caught in the blazing light of Holy Scripture, the Jews thus disclose their true colors. They are, in our day, as remote in faith and tradition from believing Jews of the Old Testament as they are from believing Catholics. A gaping abyss divides them from Abraham and Moses, as surely as from St. Augustine and St. Francis Xavier. That abyss is the unrepented rejection and crucifixion of the Messias. As Saint John Chrysostom says in one of his Sermons Against the Jews, “It is not insignificant controversies that separate us, but the death of Christ.”
And because we are separated by this shattering event, we are totally separated. The Jews are strangers not only to our beliefs, but to our whole way of life. The fiction that our culture is a “Judaeo-Christian” one, and that the Jews are anxious to preserve it, has lured us to the verge of cultural collapse. The standards of justice, order, and morality that have made our civilization are rooted in Christian teaching; the Jews neither share those standards nor befriend them. “Is Western Civilization … worth saving?” asked Rabbi Stephen Wise, in the New York Times of December 7, 1930. “Or is it not the function of the Jew to bring about the supercession of that decrepit, degenerate, and inevitably perishing civilization, so-called?”
A stern realization of this Jewish hostility to Christendom has been the main motive behind the “anti-Jewish policies” of the Catholic Church. Since the Jews are so hopelessly estranged from the ways and purposes of Christian society, the Church has advocated complete segregation of the Jews from that society. Thus, in Catholic times, Jews were isolated in ghettos and relieved of all obligations of citizenship. They were forbidden to vote, to hold public office, to serve in the army; they could not teach in the universities, nor publish their Talmud, nor otherwise disseminate their infidel ideas. And when they went outside their ghettos, they were required to wear some distinctive badge, that Christians might know of their presence, and so be on guard.
The Protestant Revolt in the sixteenth century, and the consequent rise of Free-masonry, meant an end to these Catholic practices. For the Church ceased to be the mother and counselor of the men who were making the public policy of western nations. And as the Church’s influence has declined (and in inverse proportion as its influence has declined), there has arisen the power, open and asserted, of the Jews.
Against this rising Jewish tide, the Church can offer her children no surer refuge than the high, solid ground of Holy Scripture.
Scriptural teaching on the Jews has been grasped by no one so well as by those most attentive of all Scripture-readers, the Church’s canonized saints. Here is Saint Bernard, Doctor of the Universal Church, commenting on a text from the prophet Isaias:
“O intelligence coarse, dense and, as it were, bovine, which did not recognize God, even in His own works! Perhaps the Jew will complain, as of a deep injury, that I call his intelligence bovine. But let him read what is said by the prophet Isaias, and he will find that he is even less than bovine. For he says, ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel hath not known me, and my people hath not understood.’ (Isaias 1:3) You see, O Jew, I am milder than your own prophet. I have compared you to the brute beasts; but he sets you even below these.”