Happy New Year! Here’s my latest column for Catholic Insight magazine, a review of Taylor Marshall’s The Crucified Rabbi. Give yourself a gift this Christmas, and read this book!
“The Crucified Rabbi” reviewed by Cale Clarke
Does the Pope wear a yarmulke?
That query, along with many others, is answered by Taylor Marshall in his new book, The Crucified Rabbi: Judaism and the Origins of Catholic Christianity (Saint John Press, 2009, www.crucifiedrabbi.com).
Marshall, a former Episcopalian priest in the United States and current PhD. Student at the University of Dallas, had his interest in Catholicism piqued by an encounter with a rabbi during a hospital visit. The rabbi told Marshall of a Jewish tradition that invoking the name of a suffering individual’s mother in prayer draws God’s mercy upon that person.
Marshall, who had a developing devotion to Mary, saw the connection between this Jewish belief and Mary’s role as mother in the household of God. For Marshall, looking at Christianity from a Jewish perspective became a key to unlocking other treasures of the Catholic faith – spiritual riches which became Taylor’s, too, when he and his family converted in 2006.
Marshall notes that the Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses the connection between the Old Covenant and the New. In fact, it states that a Catholic should gird one’s faith with a “better knowledge of the Jewish people’s faith and religious life” in order to better understand Catholicism (CCC 1096). And that is exactly what Marshall sets about doing.
Two chapters alone are well worth the price of the book: “Jewish Messiah, Catholic Christ”, and “Jewish Kingdom, Catholic Church”. Here Marshall deals with an important question: If Jesus truly fits the profile of the Messiah, then why haven’t the majority of Jews recognized him as such?
First, it must be pointed out that many Jews have accepted “Yeshua” (Jesus) as Moshiach – beginning, of course, with the Blessed Virgin, and all of the Apostles, including Saint Paul, a former rabbi himself. Peter’s Pentecost sermon, recorded in Acts 2, netted thousands of Jewish converts for the fisherman in a single day (p. 45). Latter-day conversions are not rare, either: the former chief rabbi of Rome, Eugenio Zolli, for one, not to mention the hundreds of thousands today who have become “Messianic Jews” or “Hebrew Catholics”.
But despite the fact that Jesus fulfills over three hundred specific messianic prophecies of the Old Testament (a valuable list of which constitutes an appendix in The Crucified Rabbi), many Jews continue to “look for another” (cf. Matt. 11:3). One reason why, says Marshall, is that Jesus has not, despite the impressive list of fulfilled messianic prophecies, fulfilled all of them, such as those having to do with a final state of world peace. But Catholics realize that Jesus will accomplish the remainder at his second coming.
Marshall mentions an interesting Jewish belief that sheds light on this: “After studying the twelfth chapter of Zechariah, some rabbis concluded that there would be two different Messiahs. The first they call Messiah ben Joseph (“Messiah son of Joseph”)…a suffering, humiliated Messiah who would prepare the way for the second Messiah…Messiah ben David (“Messiah son of David”)…an apocalyptic Messiah who will reunite the children of Israel around him, march into Jerusalem, vanquish God’s enemies, and reestablish the Kingdom of God on earth…For the Christian on the other hand, there are not two Messiahs, but one Messiah who comes to earth twice” (p. 46). Jesus, as both the adopted son of Joseph and descendant of David, will fulfill every expectation.
Such sparkling insights appear on almost every page, as Marshall deftly compares various features of Judaism to their Catholic counterparts: the priesthood, vestments, holy days, marriage, and saints, to name but a few. Saint Augustine’s dictum, “The New Covenant is in the Old, concealed; the Old Covenant is in the New, revealed” is on full display in Rabbi. The result is a clear vision of what many Hebrew Catholics see in the Catholic Church, right down to the architecture of a local parish, with its tabernacle and altar of sacrifice: it is Judaism with the Messiah having come; it is the true religion made accessible to everyone.
This was God’s plan from the beginning, as he affirmed to the father of the Jewish people, Abraham: “And by you and your seed shall all the families of the earth bless themselves” (Gen. 28:14). As Marshall notes (p. 28), “This is why the New Testament begins with what has bored most readers…for centuries: a genealogy…’The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham’ (Matt. 1:1)”. Jesus is the promised seed of Abraham who blesses not only his fellow Jews, but all nations. The scope of his salvation is universal – “Catholic”.
So, does the Pope wear a yarmulke? I’m not telling – you need to read The Crucified Rabbi yourself to find out. Hats off to Taylor Marshall for writing it.