Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper

by Brant Pitre

Other authorsScott Hahn (Foreword)
Hardcover, 2011



Call number

234.163 PIT



Call number

234.163 PIT




Examines the Last Supper from a Jewish perspective, describing Passover during the time of Jesus Christ and the meaning behind his Eucharistic words, and discussing ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of Presence.


Image (2011), Edition: Reprint, 228 pages

Original publication date



0385531869 / 9780385531863


(51 ratings; 4.4)

User reviews

LibraryThing member DubiousDisciple
Ever wonder how the Eucharistic teachings of the New Testament evolved? Where did Jesus get the idea for his Last Supper ritual? How did Paul think to tie this ritual to his theology of atonement? Why does John’s Gospel emphasize so strongly the Paschal Lamb? Why were the church fathers so adamant about tying the Eucharist to the Passover?

Because the Sacraments have deep Hebrew roots. I have studied a little about the pagan influences on the ceremony of bread and wine, this concept of “eating the body” and “drinking the blood,” but never delved much into its Hebrew side … other than to imagine how bizarre it must have appeared to God-fearing Jews, who had been taught since childhood never to ingest blood. Pitre digs into scripture and Judaic writings, and his research is fresh, scholarly, and easy to digest. If I can find more Pitre books, I’m going to snap them up.

Absolutely fascinating, and critical to Pitre’s conclusion, is a chapter in his book about the “shewbread” (showbread), what Pitre calls the “Bread of the Presence.” This bread, kept fresh in the Holy of Holies at the back of the Temple, shares a table with the libation flask, and thus links to the wine offering. Judaism has long connected the bread and the wine, back to the days of the very first priest, Melchizedek. But this holy bread carries with it a certain symbolism, understood by every Jew each time it was carried out for their viewing at the major festivals. Jesus references this “Bread of the Presence” (the presence of God, if you haven’t already guessed) directly in the Gospels, and it forms an important basis for understanding Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper.

One interesting conclusion Pitre reaches is that Jesus never finished the Passover meal with his disciples! The fourth and final cup of wine, which each participating Jew shared during the Passover celebration, was never drunk. Instead, Jesus drank this final cup just moments before his death. Pitre thus brings the theological meaning of Jesus’ timing to life in a most intriguing way.

Pitre writes from a conservative Catholic perspective, as seems appropriate. (I'm no scholar of current-day religious practices, but who finds more ritualistic meaning in the Eucharist than the Catholics?) He does lean toward a Roman Catholic understanding of the bread and wine, though he avoids the word "transubstantiation" in favor of the baggage-free phrase "reality of Jesus' presence in the Eucharist." But I guarantee Christians of all denominations will enjoy this one.
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LibraryThing member jaredbyas
In essence, Pitre's two goals are this: describe the Jewish roots of the Lord's Supper and then prove that this connection supports the teaching of the Catholic Church on the subject (Transubstantiation). I think he did a good job with the first goal but I personally found his arguments for the second unconvincing.

But it's important to recognize the purpose of Pitre's book. It is obvious from his subtitle and introduction that it is written with the average reader in mind. And it was a valiant effort (for example, his explanation of the common terms and literature on pp. 18-19 are very helpful), even though I think that many in my congregation would still find it a bit "over their heads."

All that to say, many might complain by his lack of footnote support but I appreciate the cleaner style. However, with that said, if you aren't going to footnote things, then you have to make your argument stronger in some other way. And this is where Pitre simply falls short. On at least a few important occasions, he makes assumptions that cannot be made unless you are already convinced of his arguments.

The content of the book is structured around the Exodus and the Passover and how Jesus considered himself the “new Moses” who brings the “new Passover” and the “new manna.” This is the “Jewish roots of the Eucharist” spoken of in the title. I think this part of the book really does help the average reader grasp some of the interesting and helpful connections between the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), Jewish tradition, and what Jesus was doing. Pitre does a great job with describing the connections between these things. But when it comes to what these connections mean, Pitre’s arguments seem to come up a little short.

Before I critique anything I want to be clear that this really is a good book to describe some important cultural background that sheds much light on how Jesus saw himself and his ministry. As a Protestant pastor, I must make two confessions. First, I did not read this book with a Catholic view of the Eucharist. But second, I did read this book hoping to better understand the Catholic view of the Eucharist. But I found myself simply unable to follow the connections Pitre was trying to make.

Almost all of my problems came from Chapter 4, called “The Manna of the Messiah.” On page 101 Pitre states, “It is widely recognized by New Testament scholars- Protestant and Catholic alike – that Jesus is speaking here (and by here, he means Jesus sermon in John 6) about the Eucharistic food and drink that he will give the disciples at the Last Supper.” From this point in the book until the end, Pitre simply assumes that almost any mention of bread is now the literal bread of the Last Supper. This is a hinge in Pitre’s argument and it would be super helpful if he proved his point rather than relying on a plea to authority, “It is widely recognized.” That’s not good enough – especially because in John 6 Jesus explicitly says, “I am the Bread of Life.”

But he continues to build his entire argument based on the assumption that when Jesus speaks about bread in John 6, he is speaking about the literal bread he will break with the disciples at the Last Supper. But it seems obvious that the bread in John 6 is not literal since again Jesus says that he himself is the bread of life. This is just like Jesus declaring himself living water in the context of literal water and calling himself the Temple (“tear it down and in three days I will raise it up”) in the context of the literal Temple. It seems more likely that Jesus is simply changing the expectations of a literal “new manna,” and a literal “new Temple,” to the fact that he himself fulfills those expectations in his own person and work. He is the new manna, no need to look for actual bread. He is the new Temple, no need to look for a physical building.

Then he says “From a Jewish perspective, if the Eucharist of Jesus is the new manna from heaven, then it can’t be just a symbol.” Exactly. But he has not yet proven the “if.” I would argue that the “new manna from heaven” is NOT the Eucharist of Jesus but is Jesus himself. I do not doubt that Pitre has many more arguments up his sleeve for connecting the sermon in John 6 to the Lord’s Supper, I am just left unconvinced and disappointed that he didn’t use more arguments in this chapter. It really needed it.

As I said, this is a good read and I recommend it. If you are a Catholic, you probably don’t need convinced of the reality of transubstantiation and will really benefit from the Jewish background Pitre provides. If you are a Protestant, you probably won’t be convinced of the reality of transubstantiation but you too will benefit from the Jewish background.
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LibraryThing member allenkeith
This is great book to gain the depth and breadth view of the Holy Eucharist in the Christian church as Christ intended and as Roman Catholicism programs in theology and in practice.
LibraryThing member vpfluke
This is a well-written andd well-argued book about the Jewish origins of the Eucharist. The passover is significant and Pitre indicates five steps of the passover, 1) Choose an Unblemished Male Lamb, 2) Sacrifice of the Lamb, 3) Spead the Blookd of the Lamb, 4) Eat the Flesh of the Lamb, 5) Keep the Passover as a "Day of Remembrance." Pitre shows the passover was celebrated somewhat differently before the destruction of the Temple and this is important in understanding the Last Supper as the New Passover. Pitre sees a direct connection between the Bead of the Presence (found in Exodus and Levitus) and the Last Supper of Jesus. Pitre sees the symbolism of the four cups at the pssover follows the progress through the worship of the mass, introduction, scripture, eating of meal, and concluding rites (use of Psalm 116 and 118) as the sacrifice of thanksgiving. A lot of fuel for thought. The book has an imprmature without going beyond the real presence to trnssubstantiation.… (more)
LibraryThing member charlescf
This is one of the best popular theology books I've ever read. Dr. Brant Pitre has a very crisp, readable style, and he presents his information in a very logical, organized sequence. The subject matter of this book is how the Blessed Sacrament is foreshadowed and anticipated in three key ideas of the Old Covenant: the Passover sacrifice, the providence of manna from Heaven, and the Bread of the Presence. In addition to using Hebrew scripture from the Old Testament as well as Gospel teachings from the New, Dr. Pitre also uses extra-Biblical Jewish traditions to help expound the way Jews would have understood Christ's words. This is a magnificent book, and I hope Dr. Pitre writes on this in the future, perhaps with an even deeper look into the Eucharist.… (more)
LibraryThing member sullijo
Brant Pitre has done an excellent job of summarizing for readers the scriptural and historical connections between the Eucharist and the Jewish faith.

He begins by outlining Jewish expectations for the Messiah -- in the process, making a compelling case that far from a militaristic messiah, many Jews were awaiting a more spiritual savior in line with Moses. Pitre then makes connections between the Passover and Exodus events, Jewish worship centered on the Ark of the Covenant, and traditional Christian beliefs concerning the Eucharist.

In the penultimate and most speculative section of the book Pitre offers a compelling case for reading the Last Supper as an "interrupted" Passover Meal. Pitre argues that the "fourth cup" which would traditionally have ended the Passover Meal was delayed until the final moments of Jesus' crucifixion.

(Interestingly, Pope Benedict XVI argues against a strict reading of the Last Supper as a traditional Passover meal in his Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem To The Resurrection. However, as that book is not an exercise of the pope's magisterial authority, we are free to glean insights from both books.)

This is an excellent book that further bridges the oft-misunderstood connections between Christianity and its Jewish roots. Pitre is to be commended for his contribution to that work.
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LibraryThing member mbaland
This was a very well written book: not a lot of fluff, logical and linear in its construction, and in depth yet very readable. Pitre effectively conveyed what he set out to. Additionally, I appreciate that he writes the book for the benefit of Catholic or Protestant alike, without the discrimination he has experienced (as indicated in the introduction). One of his points throughout the book was supporting transubstantiation. I wasnt fully convinced of the necessity of the doctrine of transubstantiation based on his arguments, but I also have respect for his high view of the Eucharist. I personally learned a lot about the Jewish roots of the Eucharist: things that seem as plain as day, and things that I think I probably should have known before, but Pitre spells it out in a clear and cogent manner.

Contents include: Jesus as the new Moses and the new Exodus, Jesus as the new manna, Jesus as the Showbread, and Jesus postponing the fourth cup of the passover meal to include his own death in his new interpretation of the passover. After reading this book I felt a significant increase in understanding of the connection between the Old and New Testaments.

Summary: A very well written book that clearly notes points related to Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.
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LibraryThing member andrewguidrozii
“Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper” by Brant Pitre

In this new book, Dr. Brant Pitre does an excellent job illuminating the parallels as well as the differences from Jewish worship at the time of Christ to the actions of Christ and the beginnings of Christianity.

Dr. Pitre puts worship and the hopes of a coming Messiah in the perspective of a Jewish person living at the time of Christ. He describes the worship at the first Passover, the rituals of worship during the Exodus, and goes on to the Passover rituals followed at the time of Christ. The details here are not the type of things the typical Catholic would know about Jewish worship and tradition. Even more intriguing was the anticipation by Jews of a "new Exodus" in relation to the coming of the Messiah. Dr. Pitre's easy to read, straight forward style helps tie these details together to the "new Passover" worship found in Christianity.

Some of the connections between the Passover rituals to the Catholic mass have been touched on in other books. But this book does a tremendous job of bringing all of the related items together in one, well organized place. In Dr. Pitre's closing discussion, he details just where you can find references to the Passover and the Last Supper/Eucharist in other texts including the writings of the Early Father's of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as writers in Jewish and Protestant faiths. Detailed notes for further reading follow in the back of the book with references to Pope Benedict XVI, Thomas Aquinas, and Justin Martyr as well as a veritable "Who's Who" of scripture scholars.

The book has an introduction by well known Catholic writer Scott Hahn as well as a Nihil Obstat and an Imprimatur. Dr. Pitre has degrees from the Notre Dame University in Indiana and is currently a professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning about the Jewish roots of Catholic worship as well as anyone wanting to have a better appreciation of the Real Presence within the Eucharist. I believe it will also aid many in a better understanding of the celebration of the Catholic mass.
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LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a fascinating, meaty-yet-readable book on the Last Supper.

Pitre takes Jesus’ Jewishness seriously as he examines just what his Last Supper would look like through Jewish eyes. In a way, he reminds me of what Kenneth Bailey did in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. The Lord’s Supper (or Communion, or Eucharist) has been so ritualized, it’s difficult to see what sort of impact it would have made on a group of disciples who gathered to celebrate the feast of Passover.

Each of these ideas are explored:

1. The Last Supper was the inauguration of the new exodus. The Jewish people were longing for freedom from Roman oppression—they longed to see the promises of the prophets realized. In order for a new exodus to happen, there had to (presumably) be a new Passover. That’s precisely what the Lord’s Supper is.

2. The Last Supper was a new Passover. Pitre delved into the Passover story of Exodus 12, explaining how it was celebrated in Exodus, in the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day, and how it differs from today’s Seder meal. Jesus identified his body and blood with the Passover sacrifice, effectively reinterpreting Passover itself.

3. The Bread of the Last Supper is like manna—divine food. Here’s one area where the book shines. Pitre made a number of connections between manna and the bread of the new covenant that I had never thought of before. I would challenge his understanding of “daily bread” from the Lord’s prayer (according to Eugene Peterson in Eat This Book, it’s more “Wonderbread” than “supersubstantial bread”). Still, that’s a minor quibble.

4. The Bread of the Last Supper (and the wine) is related to the Old Testament’s Bread of the Presence. Again, Pitre makes a number of substantial connections here between the Face of God in the Showbread and the body of Jesus in the Eucharist.

5. Perhaps the most interesting chapter (albeit confessedly the most speculative) was the idea that Jesus didn’t finish the Passover meal until he took the bitter wine just before his death on the cross. The fourth cup was drank after his sacrifice was effectively finished.

These chapters are all very well reasoned. Any pastor would do well to brush up on his Bible by reading this book in advance of Easter. Many of the points have already worked their way into my own preaching.

My only problem with the book is Pitre’s desire to defend the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. In the introduction, he relates a gripping and tragic story about being grilled on this doctrine. Then, throughout the book, there are subtle as well as not-so-subtle interjections on why a Jewish understanding of the Last Supper supports traditional Roman Catholic doctrine.

I’m sure it’s my Protestant sensibilities speaking, but understanding the Jewish roots of the Last Supper is no slam-dunk defense of transubstantiation. Pitre admits near the end that most of these thoughts have been around since the early church fathers. I don’t see any new information in this volume that would sway my understanding one way or another.

Whether you’re Protestant or Catholic, this book will inspire your Lenten reflections en route to Easter.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided at no cost through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program.
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LibraryThing member gmicksmith
Pitre describes the Jewish roots of the primary Christian rite, the Eucharist. The work is solidly grounded in contemporary scholarship although the audience intended to benefit from the text is a broader one. The audience for this work is the person who would like to know more about the topic but Pitre is not assuming the reader is familiar with scholarly debates about Eucharistic practice.

The work can be favorably compared to a book along the lines of John Dominic Crossan's, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. Pitre has successfully contextualized early Christian practice regarding the Eucharist and can be read profitably by a wide variety of people interested in religion.
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LibraryThing member hermit
In this book Dr. Pitre intent is to help the reader understand the Jewish roots of the Holy Eucharist, the Real Presence. This book was written for the layman and a wide audience. Nothing in this book is new to any student of biblical studies at even the basic level. If you were raised Roman Catholic and taught your Catechism in the U.S.A. this subject matter will be very familiar to you. At least until 1988 for I have not seen the approved lesson plans and supporting documents since then.

Dr. Pitre has used the Holy Bible, Jewish tradition, and ancient Jewish writings some of which the lay person should read with caution. For though he seems to use this research to gather a framework of what Jewish life and traditions were like at the time of Jesus he also uses such books as the Talmud. Though the insight gained from older writings gives us a frame work to see why some people acted as they did to the ministry of Jesus. The Talmud is a book written long after the time of Jesus and consist of passed down rabbinic tradition. If you read the Talmud remember that it detracts from the Bible and will give the reader an insight on how those traditions go against Christianity.

As to the Holy Eucharist, the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church prepared following the Second Vatican Council, which is quoted in this book , states where the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “is the substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.” Before this in 1551 the Council of Trent definitively declared: "Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly his body that he was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of his blood.”

The author is trying to help the reader understand the framework of society in which Jesus lived and taught while during his ministry. And how those Jews who were following the traditions and teachings of Judaism at that time may have interpreted His words and actions. Unlike the author who uses rabbinic tradition Jesus actually reproves the scribes and Pharisees preaching that they have made void the commandment of God for their tradition. Dr. Pitre should have used the Old Testament and New Testament to make his point and not the teachings that Jesus himself admonished. Despite any shortcomings the book is very easy to read and has some points of interest.
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LibraryThing member moses917
In Brant Pitre’s new book, “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist” is a new work of good biblical scholarship and theology concerning unlocking some of the secrets of the Lord’s Supper according to Pitre. Dr. Brant Pitre is professor of sacred scripture at Notre Dame Seminary and well known catholic author, speaker and theologian. In this book Pitre sets out to establish that the bread and wine in the Eucharist are literally flesh and blood. It is a well known catholic doctrine known as transubstantiation in Catholicism. It proposes this is proven when looked at historically through the use and reading of first the Bible and other ancient Jewish sources.

I do agree that a return to study the Jewish roots of Christian theology is necessary and very useful when studying the ordinance of the Lord’s Table since many Christians due fail to see the unity of the Old and New Testaments. Also too many Jews mistakenly suppose Christianity represents an out right denial and rejection of their tradition. As the title of this work states it sets out to remedy this problem.

Pitre provides a framework to view the last supper as a new Passover in light of the Jewish hopes for a new exodus. This can be logically seen when one is familiarized with the story of the exodus from Egypt to the rise and fall of the Davidic Kingdom. Also when one has read the prophets and understood the prophecies of the reuniting of the Jewish people including the lost ten tribes. This would we accomplished under the new Kingdom under a new King David by one who is a greater prophet than Moses. Pitre builds this theological framework through scholarly research and the bringing together of notable works written by Catholics’, protestants, and Jewish scholars.

I enjoyed and found interesting Pitre’s use of rabbinical sources such as the Mishna and the Babylonian Talmud. Although Pitre's perspective is Catholic he gives a fair presentation of the material then in the final couple of chapters he emphasizes his view as the properly interpreted view in light of his interpretation of the scripture.

He main proposed argument was that eating the Passover lamb was necessary during the original Passover or the firstborn son would have died even if the lamb’s blood was on the doorpost. Even though this assumed fact is not explicit in the book of exodus. In this the author is implying that with Jesus being the Passover Lamb then the Passover was not completed by the sacrifice of the lamb alone, the flesh had to be consumed. Then the literal meaning of when Jesus said, “This is my flesh” would be necessary.

Even though I think Pitre’s arguments for transubstantiation are not convincing it doesn’t negate me from recommending this work as an excellent read. It is a book with a good argument for the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist written by a good scholar. It was presented in a non abrasive tone that would make it an excellent read for both Catholics and even Protestants who would like to know more about the catholic tradition of the Lord’s Supper.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided at no cost through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer’s program.
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LibraryThing member idj
I'm going to have to admit to having difficulty getting to this book. Not that it isn't good, in fact, it's so good that it's hard to put down. I've just been delayed by so many other good books that I'm already immersed in!

This book is a terrific book. My thoughts are still muddled about it as there is so much 'meat' that it would take an essay as long as one of the chapters to be able to discuss it properly. Because of its topic it will be of more interest to Catholics and those of related faiths who share the belief in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. The author is an scholar and writes a book with scholarly content in a very readable, and very engrossing style. It is often hard to put this type of work in a book that the average layman will want to read, but he does it very well indeed.

The Eucharist is central to the Catholic faith, and Mr. Pitre takes the reader through the Jewish sources, the tradition and history, that lead up to the 1st century Christian concept of Eucharist and the Real Presence. He ties together the Passover lamb tradition and belief with the Paschal Lamb belief of the Church, and how the one tradition leads to the other belief. He is showing that the Catholic tradition is simply a fulfillment of the Jewish tradition, and that the Eucharist has become the new Passover in the Christian faith. He shows how Jesus' actions at the last supper are in agreement with the tradition of Passover and that this act is now Passover for believers. He then links this new Passover with the Resurrection and the new life at the end of life.

I love this book. The author writes in an incredibly readable fashion. I can understand why the foreword was written by Scott Hawn. There's no doubt that these younger theologians who write for the average lay person must get to know each other. They're writing in a new way for the body of the Christ, in a way that the average Catholic can understand their faith, without the jargon and difficult concepts that have been presented in the past.

I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the Eucharist - the origins of the belief and theology and the current thinking of theologians and Church historians. This is a book that will stay in my library and be re-read. That's the reason for the 5 star rating.
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LibraryThing member baroquem
Over the past few months, Dr. Pitre's book has received quite a bit of attention — and quite a few rave reviews — from the Catholic media and blogs. It's hard to know what to add at this point, since I have to agree with the consensus: this is a well-written and fascinating exploration of the connections between Jewish and Catholic ritual, between messianic expectations and the actions of Christ, and between the Old and New Covenants. While there were a couple of places where the attempt to connect the dots seemed a bit strained, most of the reasoning is quite good. This book sheds light on some fascinating ideas that have been forgotten by most Catholics, and it does so in a clear and straightforward style.… (more)
LibraryThing member morningrob
Pitre, Brant James. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper. New York: Doubleday, 2011.
This book by James Pitre discusses the Jewish roots of the Eucharist. The author gives a number of extensive elements of the context of the Lord’s Supper within Judaism. Pitre discusses the ways in which Jews understood elements of the Passover and how this can illuminate one’s understanding of the Eucharist.
While well-researched, there were a number of problems with this book. The author makes a compelling case, however, the data that he presents can be placed in different ways in which one can come to a different conclusion. For example, Pitre, pretty much ignores Paul’s understanding of the Eucharist. In addition, the author uses Catholic doctrine as proof of the original intent of the Eucharist. Pitre uncritically accepts the view of the Roman Catholic church, which reduces his argument. By the end of the book, it become more a treatise of the Catholic understanding of the Eucharist rather than an objective study. Finally, there is the narrative style of the book. There are many places where the author expresses unbelief that these common views were never taught to him. However, his unbelief is unbelievable. For example, Pitre express that he never knew that the Eucharist was based on a Jewish meal, even though he was a cradle Catholic. How the author could never attended a Seder meal where that was not pointed out either is implausible.
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LibraryThing member mietzner
Dr. Brant Pitre has given the church a great gift with this book. As the title suggests, the Eucharist was not an invention of Christ's, but has a much deeper history. Yet, it is not as if Christ didn't do something special, for He did indeed give a new meaning to something ancient. Pitre does all the work that you have always wanted to do in regards to the Old Testament and Midrash, and he does it well. What is so great about this book is that it feels like you already know all of this stuff, yet you are seeing it all new. The book also bears the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat, which might raise some issues for non-Catholics, but somewhat surprisingly, Pitre doesn't present what are so often seen as the marks of Catholic eucharistic theology. I do hope that the Catholic church will read this book and learn from it. There really is no theology of sacrifice to be seen here, which is usually so prevalent in Catholic theology. Great! Read this book!

The only problem with this book is that it seems to be too simple for the scholar, yet too complex for the average layman.
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LibraryThing member jd234512
Brant digs into a topic that I'm glad has been getting greater attention in recent dates. The Jewishness of Jesus is given thorough focus in this book as well as how its influence shapes the Eucharist. While much of what was in here is not incredibly new to me I appreciated having such a concentrated focus on a topic that is so deserving. Brant shows how crucial understanding 1st Century Judaism and the OT is to properly understand what Jesus taught and how it was understood. Definitely a worthwhile book adding to the conversation.… (more)
LibraryThing member larrydellis
Brant Pitre's book is a compelling read looking extensively at both the Old Testament and the Testament at the significance of God's miraculous provision for us tracing from the manna that he provided to the Israelites daily for forty years, the twelve loaves of showbread in the Temple, the establishment of the passover and connecting many parallels to the bread and wine that Jesus used at the last supper and moving us to our experiences of Jesus' real presence with us at the communion table at the Great Thanksgiving (Eucharist). The passover was not consummated with the killing of the sacrificial lamb, but with its consumption at a meal shared together. In the same manner Christian communion is not completed by the words of any pastor or priest; it is experienced only as we receive the bread and wind at the community table together. Pitre's extensive analysis of the Jewish Passover, supported by both the Scriptures and other important historical writings of that period is absolutely stellar. After reading this outstanding treatise, I dare say no one would believe the bread and wine at communion is only a symbol to help us remember Jesus' sacrifice for us; it is far more. Every Christian who wants to fully appreciate the long-term provision of God for his people should find this book an enjoyable, educational read.… (more)
LibraryThing member LA12Hernandez
This is an excellent book. Learning the Jewish background really helped me understand the Eucharist. As an RCIA sponsor I plan to have all my Catechumens and Candidates read this book and discuss it. Learning what the Jews expected from the Messiah really helped me to understand their reaction to Jesus. And what Jesus was dealing with when he established the Eucharist was an eye opener. Wonderful book I highly recommend it.… (more)
LibraryThing member ellynv
I heard of Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist by Brant Pitre and thought that it would be a great book - just not for me. Either it would be so complex that I would never make it past the first chapter, even while heavily caffeinated and sitting at an uncomfortable table in a suitably chilled room. Or it would just be a marvelous refresher course in that which I already knew. My only correct assumption was that it is a great book.

Starting with the most basic facts: Who was the Messiah? How was the Passover celebrated at the time of Jesus? ? How could a good Jew demand that his friends eat his body and drink his blood? Exactly what are we asking for when we pray for our daily bread

I thought I was fairly well versed in the fundamentals, but I must also acknowledge the part of me who was goofing off during Sunday school when some of the most basic groundwork for the understanding Christian faith was being presented. For example, somewhere along the line I had conflated manna with Marshmallow Fluff. (though Pitre explains manna comes from the Hebrew words - man hu - for “what is it?” So in one sense I was not too far off. “What is it?” My mother’s words exactly!) This was just one example of the sad gaps in my education which have persisted into adulthood.

I was humbled by how much I didn’t know. The extent of my knowledge of Passover - in spite of a college level course on a Jewish understanding of the New Testament - was mostly limited to all I could learn from the Maxwell House haggadah at a few religious studies department seders. The fact that Passover at the time of Jesus was “first a sacrifice and then a meal” is brought home in Pitre’s work in vivid detail. A blood sacrifice with an approximate two hundred thousand lambs sacrificed at the temple at the time of one Passover. Blood sacrifice. Lots of blood. With unblemished lambs slaughtered and roasted in a manner resembling crucifixion. “Jesus himself would have witnessed the “crucifixions” of thousands of Passover lambs in the Jerusalem Temple...which has the power to shed light on Jesus’ conception of his own fate.”[p. 64] This corporeal sacrifice was not complete until the lamb had been eaten.

I found my faith enriched as Dr. Pitre answered questions that I didn’t even know I had. What made the Last Supper different from all previous Passover meals? When exactly did Jesus drink the fourth cup of his last Passover celebration? “He has also just identified one of the cups of wine as his own blood, about to be poured out for the forgiveness of sins. In other words, Jesus implicitly identified himself as the new Passover lamb. The implication of this self-identification is sobering: by the time this new Passover is finished, Jesus will be dead. That’s what happens to Passover lambs. They don’t make it out alive.” [p. 164]

The “source and summit of the Christian life” [CCC1324] is heady subject matter and Dr. Pitre expounds on this profound mystery and makes it accessible while providing a riveting and enriching read. It requires a special genius to take something of such depth and explain it to a broad population with clarity. We who believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist - body, blood, soul and divinity - can benefit from this bit of a refresher/enrichment course. And those who don’t understand receive a well presented explanation.

In the Sunday School days of my Lutheran childhood, we sang that Jesus loves us and “this we know, ‘cause the Bible tells us so.” Yes it does. We just need to look. “…when it comes to the richness of the Christian tradition, many of its most profound insights into the Bible have not been lost, only overlooked by those of us who do not know them. They are there, present, just waiting to be discovered and realized anew.”
[p. 188] Thank you to Dr. Pitre for pulling together these insights and, in the process, weaving together a moving meditation on the sacred mystery of the Eucharist.

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a book that I will be revisiting during Holy Week, this year and in years to come. I would recommend it to many people - those with doubts, those looking for the words to explain the Eucharist to others and all of those who want to expand their knowledge and love of ‘the bread from heaven, containing within itself all sweetness.’
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