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US Jewish-Catholic dialogue examines religious authority

Catholic World News - May 25, 2011

Representatives of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs and the National Council of Synagogues met on May 17 to discuss “Sources of Authority in Catholicism and Judaism.”

“One of the obvious differences between our two faith communities is that while no one rabbi or religious body can speak for all Jews, the Church has a ‘Magisterium’ made of bishops in communion with the pope, whose interpretation and application of the word of God can be binding on all Catholic believers,” said USCCB official Father James Massa.

Rabbi Avram Reisner, professor of ethics at the University of Maryland, noted that only between 200 B.C. and A.D. 70 did Judaism have a body analogous to the Magisterium: the Sanhedrin. He asked, “Is it any coincidence that the Christian community emerges from Judaism precisely at the time when such a body of authoritative teachers is in place for the parent religion?”

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  • Posted by: Larry K. - May. 25, 2011 6:14 PM ET USA

    I'm surprised at Rabbi Reisner's omission. From 589 AD to 1040 AD, there was a chief rabbi, called a "Gaon" (plural "Geonim") in Babylonia. He was basically the supreme court of appeal; rabbis from all over the world would write to him if they encountered a question of Jewish law that they were unable to solve themselves. Obviously it's not exactly like the Catholic magisterium, but neither was the Sanhedrin -- both are analogous in some ways.

  • Posted by: Cornelius - May. 25, 2011 7:55 AM ET USA

    Okay, Rabbi Reisner, let's assume it's not a coincidence. Indeed, the growth of the new Christian faith is an area in which "coincidence" is the least plausible type of explanation. What does this lack of coincidence mean? What was God's plan here, vis-a-vis the Sanhedrin?

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