Question

Good morning Father Angelo,

forgive me if I allow myself to write to you, but I would like to tell you that the Talmud is by no means a text that corresponds to the Old Testament.

Why Christianity is not a religion of the book

Jews’ sacred text is the Bible, which they call TaNaK, that is the collection of Torah, (the law, or way, or teaching), Nevi’im (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (the Writings). To say that the sacred text of the Jews is the Talmud is a bit like saying that our sacred text is the Catechism.

I apologize if I seem inappropriate or not very humble: my only intention is to be brotherly helpful.

I seize this opportunity to thank you for your precious work, of which I am an avid reader, and to wish you well for the Holy Week and Easter. I remember you in my prayer and I ask you to pray for me, so that, God willing, I can become a priest and be able to put my life in the hands of the Lord.


Response from the priest

Dear brother,

1. regarding the religions of the book I wrote: “As a book Muslims have the Koran, Jews have the Talmud (which roughly corresponds to our Old Testament), Christians have the Bible”.

The word roughly makes it clear that it is not exactly the same, but substantially it is.

In fact, it is true what you say about the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, which correspond – roughly in this case too – to the texts of our Old Testament.

But the Talmud collects all the texts considered sacred by Judaism, verse by verse, it fixes their canon and adds the comment of the rabbis, who vouched for the authenticity of the interpretation.

They did all this work to preserve the sacred text from any alteration, established strict rules for the transcription of the codes, took note of  the various interpretations and also specified the pronunciation of the text.

2. To make its importance clear, it has been said that the Talmud is for Jews what, according to Catholics, the Tradition is compared to the Scriptures.

For us Catholics and for the Orthodoxs too, it is the Tradition that gave us the sacred books. It is according to the Tradition that the canon of Scripture has been established.

The Magisterium itself vouches for the interpretation of the Scriptures according to the Tradition.

3. However, it should be specified that for Catholics the Tradition is an essential constituent of the Revelation together with Sacred Scripture.

While the Talmud, apart from the sacred text it contains, is not inspired like the sacred texts.

It should also be noted that Jews, as well as the first Protestants, considered inspiration as an external dictation, with single words, single letters and punctuation.

For this reason the Talmud is considered to be inspired in a derived way.

And if its authority is such as to indelibly fix not only the canon of the books, but also the individual words, the separate letters and the interpretation of the text, it is understandable why we can talk  about derived inspiration.

4. It should also be noted that when Jesus refers to the norms of the ancients he refers to this extremely rigorous interpretation, which the scribes traced back even to Moses.

Jews regard the Talmud as the oral Torah, revealed to Moses on Sinai and verbally transmitted, from generation to generation, until the Roman conquest.

It was fixed in writing only towards the 5th century AD.

So the least we can say is that the Talmud is not to the Torah what the Catechism is to the Bible.

The Catechism may be compared to the Talmud only to a very small extent.

5. The answer that I provided and to which you are referring was intended to challenge the claim that Christianity is one of the religions of the book.

As a way to simplify things I said that the Talmud is roughly the inspired book for the Jews.

I couldn’t say that their book is the Bible, because it also includes the New Testament.

It didn’t seem enough to me to mention the Torah only (which includes the other writings you mentioned). Because beside the written Torah they had the oral one.

6. This is why it can be said that the Talmud “is one of the sacred texts of Judaism” (see Talmud on Wikipedia).

The Catechism, however authoritative, is not a sacred text.

7. Thank you for what you wrote because it allowed 

me to specify what I wanted to say and also the substantial character of the Talmud.

I am pleased to know that you are a regular reader of our site and that you are preparing for the priesthood.

I gladly assure you of my prayers for this too.

Indeed, in this regard, I am happy to let you know that for several years a visitor has been requesting me to celebrate many Masses (on average four or five a month) for our visitors.

You are among them too. This too is a great act of charity.

When I will celebrate them I will remember you as I remember the one who asked me to do  this precious service.

I too give you the best wishes for a Holy Easter, full of peace and grace.

I bless you.

Father Angelo

original post is available in Italian