book review

"Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist" - Review

Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist Brant Pitre

Douobleday 240 pages

Once or twice a year I read a book that rocks my world.  This was one of them.  This is a super review of sorts; a bunch of resources, videos, and links are included.

How would the Jews at the time of Jesus viewed his actions at the Last Supper and His words about the Eucharist?

It's hard for a twenty-first century Christian to hear the words and actions of Christ with the ears of the Jews who heard and saw them firsthand.  Dr. Brant Pitre attempts to accomplish just that in "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist".  He gives you the eyes and ears of a first century Jew using the Bible and ancient Jewish tradition.  Seeing the Eucharist from this perspective is like suddenly seeing 3D after living your entire life in two dimensions - mind blown.

Dr. Pitre looks at the Eucharist through the Old Testament and various sources of Jewish tradition; the Targums, Babylonian Talmud, and Mishna are various collections of ancient commentary, oral traditions, and Bible commentaries from Jewish rabbis between 600 BC and 220 AD.

The book focuses chiefly on the New Exodus, the New Passover, the Manna, and the Bread of the Presence.  Dr. Pitre unpacks each of these perspectives on the Eucharist by first looking to the Old Testament and then drawing from the extra-biblical traditions of ancient Rabbis.

Bread of the Face

By far the two biggest takeaways for me are the sections on the Manna and the Bread of the Presence.  The Bread of the Presence is remarkably hard to miss in its connections and implications with the Eucharist.  An accurate translation of the Bread of the Presence is literally the "Bread of the Face" and was kept in the tabernacle the Jews had in the wilderness during the exodus (Leviticus 24:1-9) along with the Ark of the Covenant and the golden lamp stand, known as the Menorah.

The Bread of the Face was kept on a golden table, or altar, and veiled when brought out of the tabernacle (Numbers 4:1-15).  It was kept with flagons of wine (Exodus 25:29) and the bread and wine were eaten by the Levitical priests every Sabbath day (!).  The Bread of the Presence was a "perpetual due" that would be continually "before the Lord" as a "covenant forever".

According to Rabbinic tradition, the bread changed once it was brought into tabernacle, as Dr. Pitre explains:

"...certain rabbis believed that something special happened to the Bread of the Presence when it was offered by the priests as a sacrifice to God.  Before the bread was brought into the Holy Place to be offered in sacrifice, it could be laid on a marble table.  But after the bread had been consecrated to God by the priests, it had to be laid on a golden table..." (pg. 128)

Also, when the Temple in Jerusalem was built and pilgrims would travel for miles to celebrate Passover, Pentecost, or the feast known as Tabernacles, the Bread of the Face would be removed from the Temple so pilgrims could see it:

"They [the priests] used to lift it [the Golden Table] up and exhibit the Bread of the Presence on it to those who came up for the festivals, saying on them, 'Behold, God's love for you!' (Babylonian Talmud, Menahoth 29A)" (pg. 130-131)

The connections here to the Eucharist, as we know it now in our experience as Catholics, are just ridiculous.  What more love does God have for us than giving us His body on the cross and in the Eucharist?  Doesn't it make sense that this sign of the "covenant forever" would continue after Christ, to be eaten on the Sabbath?  Isn't it a sign of God's "presence" here on earth with His people and in His "temples"?

There were at least two chapters in the book when I felt the sections drawing from the writings of the rabbi's were redundant and hard to trudge through.  Sometimes there wasn't much incentive to read those parts except to see that the rabbis agreed with how Dr. Pitre interprets the Eucharist through the Old Testament.  Despite those couple instances, the book is very easy to read and hard to put down.


Like a Scott Hahn book, Dr. Brant Pitre uses the Old Testament to explain the Catholic faith in ways that leave you screaming "Why have I never heard this before?".  Dr. Pitre answers the question "why did early Christians so easily believe in the Real Presence?" in a very convincing and unique way.

This book would be a time-bomb to give to a protestant and great for those who think Mass is boring or don't understand the Real Presence of the Jesus in the Eucharist.  This book is a must read and I highly recommend buying multiple copies to give away.

Resource Goodness

You can read the first chapter of this book here.  Also check out Dr. Brant Pitre's website with links to talks and other books by him.

You can get an outline of Dr. Brant Pitre's talk on Jesus and the Jewish roots of the Eucharist here.  Download and save the pdf by right clicking and clicking "save as".  This outline gives you a bird's eye view of the book and would be great for presenting this content to an RCIA class or other study group at your church.

You can also listen to an hour long talk by Dr. Pitre on this topic (and most of the content of the book) here.

Video Goodness




### I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, through the Blogging for Books program.  I was not required to write a positive review and I receive no other compensation for this review other than the book.

Buy Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist here!

"God, Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer" - Review

"God Help Me: How to Grow in Prayer" Jim Beckman Servant Books 168 pages

This short book by Jim Beckman is one of the few life changing books that I have gone back to multiple times, read cover to cover multiple times, and even used it for a high school small discipleship group several times.

Jim balances intense practicality with brief punchy stories that put flesh on the ideas contained in this short blueprint on prayer.  It is based on Ignatian spirituality and specifically St. Ignatius' rules for discernment of spirits and his advice concerning consolation and desolation in prayer.

From the Heart

A real eye opener was Jim's point that we can only offer two things to prayer, only two things we do determine whether we are praying "well", and they are consistency and honesty.  We can only show up consistently and be completely honest and open with God, everything else is up to him.

Another of several huge foundational take-aways from this book is the map of our heart (borrowing from Fr. John Horn, S.J. whose explanation is included in the appendix) that is laid out to help us see the different levels our thoughts or affective movements can come from.

When we were reading this book in a high school discipleship group, I drew my own version to show the teens.  Surface, or level 1, feelings or thoughts are transient and superficial, easily swayed by external stimuli.  The thoughts and feelings on level 2 are fundamentally psychological feelings that are more complex and have to do more so with our personal psychology and the way we might uniquely perceive or react to a situation.  Level 3 of the human heart is the level of spiritual experience.  This is were the Holy Spirit moves in us and God's voice is heard.  The Holy Spirit is dwelling within us and moves us to perceive spiritual truths at the very center of our hearts.

One of Those Life Changing Books

This book should be required reading for most Christians.  Jim gives you so many simple tools and lays such a complete foundation for prayer that throughout the book things are clicking and you find yourself excited to put it down and get to the nearest chapel.  Read this book once a year.

If you want to know how to discern the voice of God in prayer from the devil's voice or your own, to understand the basic rhythm of prayer is (acknowledge, relate, receive, respond), learn how to discern and deal with consolation and desolation, and begin experiencing a type of prayerful relationship with God that makes a difference in your life - READ THIS BOOK.  It's a short read, only about 120 pages without reading the appendixes (which are great as well).


###Do you know any other good books on prayer I should read?

"One Body, Many Blogs" - Review

I love the elegance of this little ebook compiled by TJ Burdick who is also one of the many contributors.  TJ asked several successful Catholic bloggers one question "In your opinion, what are the 'ten commandments' that Christian bloggers should keep in mind while pressing on in their digital mission?"  This question combined with a diverse group of Catholic bloggers creates a broad range of blogging advice ranging from profound to profoundly hilarious.

The contributors include T.J. Burdick (, Deacon Greg Kandra (The Deacon’s Bench), Lisa Hendey (, Devin Rose (St. Joseph’s Vanguard), Kevin Knight (New Advent), Frank Weathers (Why I Am Catholic), Jeff Miller (The Curt Jester), Katrina R. Fernandez (The Crescat), Brandon Vogt (, Marc Barnes (BadCatholic and, and Susan Windley-Daoust (Ironic Catholic).

If you are a Catholic blogger this ebook will give you some good food for thought, and if you are considering starting a blog this ebook will give you a good foundation of blogging principles to start from.

So check out the One Body, Many Blogs website and buy the book here.  All the proceeds go to support the San Jaun Diego Academy, a Catholic immigrant school in Michigan.

My Favorite Commandments from the Ebook

TJ Burdick 5. Jesus should be your only focus Think of your blog as a way to portray your relationship with Christ so that society can understand that relationship. People are looking for truth and the best way they can find it is by living it vicariously through your blog. In order to do that, they must be able to connect with your writing. Make your posts relatable and the truth seekers on the web will find the Truth of Christ in your words. If He is interested, Jesus will make your work known. If not, then know that He is content with having it for Himself.

Deacon Greg Kandra VIII. Pray. Before any post, any comment, any reaction, take a moment and take a deep breath and offer a quick prayer for heavenly intercession and guidance. The act of blogging can really be a kind of prayer, if we work at it. And: I think we should.

Marc Barnes 1. Don’t suck. There is a tendency within the Christian world to think the work we do will be good work, if only we do it for God. This is not true. Whatever work we do will be good work if and only if we do it well. Truly “writing for God” is not something lackadaisical. It does not come with holy feelings. Writing for God means harnessing the intellect, making full use of the talents He endows us with, seeking inspiration in Him, and producing excellent writing, in both style and content. Anything less is no service to God, no matter how well we think we are witnessing, giving testimony, or whatever Christian euphemism we want to use to disguise the fact that we can’t be bothered to make something awesome.

The Vatican 1. Silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning... In speaking of God’s grandeur, our language will always prove inadequate and must make space for silent contemplation. Out of such contemplation springs forth, with all its inner power, the urgent sense of mission, the compelling obligation “to communicate that which we have seen and heard” so that all may be in communion with God (1 Jn 1:3). Silent contemplation immerses us in the source of that Love who directs us towards our neighbours so that we may feel their suffering and offer them the light of Christ, his message of life and his saving gift of the fullness of love.

From Pope Benedict XVI, Message of His Holiness for the 46th World Communications Day, Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization. May 20, 2012

Devin Rose 1. Pray before writing each post. Is this a good post? Are you trying to just be sensational or jump on the latest Catholic blogosphere buzz to get more visitors? Discern whether what you are planning to write about is helpful or not.

Susan Windley-Daoust 2. Don't take it too seriously. It's just a blog. Really, it's your scribbles on whatever came to mind that you self-published on a computer. That's it. Any thoughts of how you will change the face of the culture or Catholicism or liturgy or politics is probably prideful wish-fulfillment. Humility is the queen of the virtues, right? It's a BLOG, not Homer's Odyssey.