Friday, December 9, 2016

Fact-Checking the Torah -- Pranaitis

The most famous of the “four horsemen” is Justinas Bonaventur Pranaitis. Or the most infamous. Take your pick. He has two main claims to fame. For one thing, his testimony was the last nail in the coffin for the prosecution of the Mendel Beilis blood libel trial. Pranaitis was laughed out of court quite literally. Everything he said was proven to be false.
The reason the prosecution used him as a witness in that case was his second claim to fame, his 1892 thesis submitted to the Catholic academy (he was Catholic, not Russian Orthodox) in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was rejected because it misused scripture.
It was called Christianus im Talmude and it was supposed to prove that all Jews hate all Christians and believe it is a religious duty to kill them. Also Jews are required by Jewish law to obtain the blood of Christians to use in making Passover matso.
If you agree with Pranaitis about that, bluntly, you don’t know what you’re talking about. Don’t try to convince me you’re right. Not until you convince me that you have read the primary sources, Torah and Talmud, not in translation and not in commentary.
Pranaitis also wrote that Talmud refers to Jesus. That, too, is false. More than one scholar has agreed with that claim, and all of them fail to comment on the primary source. They always cite to an interpretation of the primary source. That violates the ground rules I set last week. Don’t argue with me on this until you can convince me that you have read Talmud in Hebrew and Aramaic, not in translation and not in commentary.
You can’t get away with this by failing to cite your sources. There is a standard set of citations used in this claim; I know where every single one of them is, and I know what they really say in Hebrew or Aramaic, not in translation and not in commentary. So I will know from the phrasing you use that you are not reading the primary sources, you are reading somebody who copied from somebody else and so on, back to the original claimant, whom I will discuss later.
Anyway Pranaitis was wrong when he said that Talmud refers to Jesus and so is everybody else who says so.
And it comes down to all the same problems that Philo has: mistranslations; mistaken statements about Jewish law; mixing up different historical contexts; and false equations between Christian scripture and Talmud.
Reading between the lines of the Beilis transcript, I find that Pranaitis presented his arguments about Talmudic references to Jesus, in a closed-door meeting in the evening of the 28th day of the trial, and that he was refuted by two Christians who had also refuted, in open court, the material Pranaitis presented in open court. That happened over 100 years ago. For you to believe Pranaitis puts you so far behind the times you can’t even see the 21st century.
Be mad. Be very mad at the people who have lied to you about this. But if you get mad at me, it will be a case of Freudian transference of anger from the person who lied, to the person who told the truth.

But wait, there's more
© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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