Brant Pitre's, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper, is a work of immense and approachable scholarship. It is a constructive theological treatise that surely will influence how Catholicism understands itself and specifically its place in relation to Judaism.
Pitre has written the kind of book that we prize. It is an American style theological treatise. That means it is written with the intent that an average educated Catholic can read and follow its premises and arguments. We'd say that this book is a masterwork of concision and clarity, two rarities in the theological universe.
Pitre connects the dots between Passover and the Eucharist (see p. 180) because he had to do this to satisfy himself. There can be no better motive for writing a tome.
Pitre is utterly honest, as shown when he says things like this, "...one the tasks of a theologian is to be a good thief -- that is, to 'steal' from the boundless treasure of Jewish and Christian tradition and use these riches to shed light on the mean of the Scriptures (page 172)." He does much more in the book. Pitre tells a credible story of his own amazement and discovery. And guess what? He seems to understand the essence of the Eucharist and explains it with greater clarity and context than we have ever seen.
Along the way, if you take this journey of discovery with Pitre, you will encounter a good many details of Judaic text and ritual, aspects of Christian history that most scholars do not know or cannot adequately explain. Pitre presents these with great facility.
Bottom line, this is a book that takes with reverence the scholarship and theology of the past and builds upon it with creativity and lucidity. What more could one want?
Here is the publisher's summary:
In recent years, Christians everywhere are rediscovering the Jewish roots of their faith. Every year at Easter time, many believers now celebrate Passover meals (known as Seders) seeking to understand exactly what happened at Jesus’ final Passover, the night before he was crucified.
Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist shines fresh light on the Last Supper by looking at it through Jewish eyes. Using his in-depth knowledge of the Bible and ancient Judaism, Dr. Brant Pitre answers questions such as: What was the Passover like at the time of Jesus? What were the Jewish hopes for the Messiah? What was Jesus’ purpose in instituting the Eucharist during the feast of Passover? And, most important of all, what did Jesus mean when he said, “This is my body… This is my blood”?
To answer these questions, Pitre explores ancient Jewish beliefs about the Passover of the Messiah, the miraculous Manna from heaven, and the mysterious Bread of the Presence. As he shows, these three keys—the Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence—have the power to unlock the original meaning of the Eucharistic words of Jesus. Along the way, Pitre also explains how Jesus united the Last Supper to his death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
Inspiring and informative, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist is a groundbreaking work that is sure to illuminate one of the greatest mysteries of the Christian faith: the mystery of Jesus’ presence in “the breaking of the bread.”