Friday, February 26, 2010

Michael Hoffman challenges editor of The Angelus

The reader may be interested in following the reactions by revisionist scholar, Michael Hoffman, to an article which appeared in The Angelus Magazine, December, 2009. That article, entitled Saint of the Sanhedrin was penned by one Scott Montgomery. Following is a link to this piece in its entirety:

Mr. Hoffman wrote a letter to the editor of The Angelus, Fr. Marcus Heggenberger, Jan. 26, 2010. He points out, quite convincingly, I feel, how flawed and erroneous is Montgomey's basic thesis, i.e. that the rabbi Gamaliel, as a disciple of the Pharisee Hillel, was much influenced by the teachings of the latter, whose allegedly more enlightened interpretation of Mosaic Law eventually led this Jewish leader and former high priest Gamaliel to the Catholic Faith. St. Paul himself, so Montgomery affirms, was, in turn, influenced by Gamaliel, under whose feet Paul sat for seven years, receiving instruction and formation, so Montgomery infers, for future Christian apostleship. Read Hoffman's letter as reprinted below:

January 26, 2010

Dear Fr. Heggenberger

In the December, 2009, Angelus you published an article by Mr. Scott Montgomery, “Saint of the Sanhedrin” (pp. 29-34). Do you have a policy in place for fact-checking assertions made in the Angelus by authors you publish? I did not see any evidence of fact-checking by Mr. Montgomery’s editor in the article in question.
This article contains very serious errors and its tenor is one with the judaizing absurdities of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. On the strength of one erroneous and insupportable statement in the 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia (“It was the method of the school of Shammai rather than that of Hillel which Christ condemned”), Mr. Montgomery spins a tale remarkably consonant with the teaching of Orthodox Judaism concerning Hillel the Pharisee.
Mr. Montgomery goes so far as to impart the following fabulous enormity concerning Hillel: “...he served as an instrument of Heaven.”
Judaism in projecting its public image, like The Angelus, projects the face of Hillel the merciful, though he was by no means as kind, just, sweet, compassionate, decent and virtuous as the legends portray him. In its actual practice and beliefs, Judaism combines characteristics of both Hillel and Shammai who form one of the exegetical early zugot or "pairs," and as a pair they reflect a central unity on those key dogmas which will brook no dissent. Here is an instructive indication of the rabbinic mentality as symbolized by the figure of Hillel: "Hillel is described as a man of great humility who in his pursuit of peace was even prepared to depart from the truth (Bezah 20a)."
Hillel is a symbol of the deceit which Judaism regards as necessary to advancing its power: for the sake of an ulterior motive the preeminent Pharisee departs from the truth. With this in mind, how should we regard the statement that Hillel reduced the entire Oral Law to the clean and simple crystalline lines of one requirement? "To a heathen who came to him to be converted on condition that he teach him the entire Torah 'while standing on one foot,' Hillel replied, 'What is hateful to you, do not unto your neighbor, this is the entire Torah, all the rest is commentary."
But this is a Big Lie. Judaism's thousands of laws and rules binding on Judaics are not "commentary," they are halacha and the failure to keep them can result in calamities ranging from birth defects and death in childbirth, to the delaying of the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah) and the imposition of the "iron fist of gentile oppression." If the golden rule, as embodied by Hillel was the chief law of Judaism from which all other rabbinic laws flowed, and all the rest of Judaism's positive and negative laws "constituted mere commentary," the min and the apikorsim would not be beaten and killed, and their books would not be banned, hanged and burned. Since "our neighbor" does not want these things done unto him, if this were Judaism's rule of law, the rabbis would not visit these things upon doubters and dissidents. The tale of Hillel's "wise and benevolent" distillation of the essence of Judaism is tailor-made to appeal to western ideals and is often retailed to the goyim as part of Judaism's introductory mythology. Hillel serves his purpose within the rabbinic semiotic by acting as poster boy for the Kabbalistic pillar of chesed. But the rule of Shammai, the pillar of gevurah, also forms a significant part of the reality of Orthodox Judaism, even though Hillel is put forth as the more prominent (and dominant) of the two. In truth, they are complimentary, as the mystical Kabbalah compliments the bureaucratic Talmud, thesis/antithesis — "pairs" produce the synthesis that is Judaism in all of its indissolubly connected, subterranean minutiae.
Judaism's commitment to the Torah SheBeal Peh (oral law) as the guarantor of authentic understanding of the written Torah (SheBichtav) was institutionalized, contemporary with the repudiation and crucifixion of the Messiah of Israel, by Hillel, the much touted, supposed good Pharisee. In the Tannaitic period that led to the writing of the Mishnah (first two centuries A.D.), the earliest halachic midrashim (legal exegesis) were formed on the basis of a solution Hillel devised to a problem in the cognitive psychology of Judaism: how to persuade a Jewish audience of the correctness of one's Scriptural interpretation. Hillel was unable to convince his fellow Jews on the basis of the Scriptures alone. Prefacing one's remarks, as Jesus did, with "It is written" was insufficient for the followers of the religion of the Pharisees. In the fateful step of institutionalizing the heretofore oral tradition by writing it down as the proto-Mishnah, Hillel established his credentials and established his school of interpretation by invoking the oral tradition which he had received from his Pharisaic mentors — Shemayah and Avtalyon — from which formed Judaism's early labyrinthine hermeneutical system of methodology (which would grow ever longer and more complex over time), the middot of sevenfold classification, based on ultra-meticulous syntactical and phraseological lawyer's minutiae. These seven rules soon morphed into thirteen (as devised by Rabbi Ishmael) and then thirty-two (as devised by Rabbi Eliezer ben Jose ha-Galili, a disciple of Rabbi Akiba) and like a cancer, have never ceased exploding in number and complexity since then. Yet, this is supposed to be the Pharisaic method that Jesus did not condemn, what The Angelus terms, “the holy and balanced system of observing the Old Law established by Hillel...” (p. 30)
Shmuel Safrai points out (in The Literature of the Sages, Part One, p. 164) that in the Talmud's Gittin Tractate, the Talmud nullifies the Biblical teaching concerning usury and money-lending: "Hillel decreed the prozbul for the betterment of the world. The prozbul is a legal fiction which allows debts to be collected after the Sabbatical year and it was Hillel's intention thereby to overcome the fear that money-lenders had of losing their money."
In terms of permissible sex with a male child, the age of nine is a determining factor in Judaism, no matter what the gender of the pederast, whether an adult woman, or an adult man. In Babylonian Talmud (BT) tractate Sanhedrin 69b, it is argued that a woman having sex with a boy less than nine is an act that is exempt from punishment (and therefore permissible), and does not render her a zonah (prostitute) or disqualify her from a marrying a Judaic priest, because sex with male children less than age nine is not considered sex. The actual reference in BT Sanhedrin 69b is to sex between a mother and her own son. If her son is less than nine years-of-age, then it's rabbinically permissible for her to engage in it with him. While the school of Shammai objected to her being eligible to marry a priest, they were overruled by Maimonides and the other penultimate halachic decisor, Rabbi Karo, in the Shulchan Aruch; but the original ruling exempting the incestuous molesting mother from punishment and disqualification, which came to be accepted as halakha by the majority, was made by Hillel, the "good Pharisee" who allegedly has "so much in common with Jesus." Yet here's that "good Pharisee" establishing the utterly depraved and barbaric principle that sex between a mother and her son does not actually qualify as sex, if the son is less than nine years-old (cf. Judaism Discovered, pp. 424-425).
Your author has accepted Judaism’s highly deceptive cover story about Hillel and disseminated it to the readers of The Angelus, who are led to believe that Hillel was “an instrument of Heaven.” I am reasonably familiar with rabbinic propaganda but I am not accustomed to encountering such brazen propaganda in the pages of a traditional Catholic magazine where it will mislead thousands.
To this is added highly speculative conjecture which The Angelus puts forth concerning the patrimony of Simeon and the fundamental benevolence of Phariseeism as conveyed by Gamaliel to Saul of Tarsus, which leaves Mr. Montgomery in the predicament of having to explain how it was that Saul mercilessly persecuted Christians and may have had a hand in the murder of St. Stephen when he had been taught such exemplary Pharisee ethics as a youth. The origin of the legend about Simeon being the son of Hillel, though ascribed to various Church Fathers, is actually derived from a rabbinic source, the Pirke Avoth, which is completely unreliable.
Finally, Mr. Montgomery imagines that St. Paul was taught the Gemara (the second section of the Talmud) when he was fifteen years of age. The Gemara, however, would not be written for at least another two centuries after Paul.
In “Saint of the Sanhedrin,” The Angelus presents rabbinic delusions as fact and promotes the wicked Pharisee Hillel as a virtual holy man of God. The great confusion among traditional Catholics concerning Judaism will only be exacerbated by the farrago you have published, to the detriment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the understanding of the faithful. It is my prayer that you will somehow undo the damage that has been wrought.

Father Heggenberger responded on February 17, 2010:

Dear Mr. Hoffmann,

In response to your letter of January 26,2010 I quote from the article "Gamaliel" on
Ecclesiastical tradition maintains that Gamaliel had embraced the Ckristian faith. His tolerant attitude toward the Early Christians is explained by this. According to Photius, he was baptized Saint Peter and Saint John, together with his son, and with Nicodemus: The Clementine literature suggested that he maintained secrecy about his conversion, and continued to be a member of the Sanhedrin, for the purporse of covertly assisting his fellow-Christians. The Roman Catholic Church views him as a Saint, and listed him in the Roman Martyrlology: It is said that in the 5th century, by a miracle, his body had been discovered, and taken to Piza Cathedral.

The Jewish account maintains that he remained a Pharisee until his death. There is little historical
evidence concerning Gamaliel's religious persuasion later in his life, so after 1956 he stopped
being listed in the the Roman martyrology. However, not appearing in the martyrology does not mean that he
no longer is considered a saint by the Church. Once someone is canonized (considered a saint in Heaven)
they cannot be "un-canonized." Contemporary Jewish records continue to list him first among the Sanhedrin
but it is of note that he is not listed in the train of transmission of the oral tradition, which may indicate that/
was suspected of adhering to another oral tradition, that of the Christians.

In your letter of January 26, you try to involve "The Angelus" in all sorts of questions related to Judaism, like "the Talmud nullifies the Biblical teaching concerning usury and money-lending" or " In terms of permissibable sex..." or "absurdities of Pope John Paul IIand Pope Benedict XVI."

With all these questions, which are apparently of interest to you, neither "The Angelus" in general, nor the incriminated article, in particular, has anything to do.

The article of Mr. Montgomery simply says that there were tendencies in Judaism which were open to the Gospel. It is like saying that the arrival of the Three Magi was the first announcement of the conversion of the Gentiles, I've never heard that someone had the odd idea to infer from this Catholic interpretation of Holy Scripture that the Church Fathers wanted to justify idolatry.

Your accusations are wrong, Mr. Hoffmann, 'The Angelus" does not try to replace the Bible with the Talmud, (you would be much better qualified for that by the way) but as a simple priest of the SSPX I say: what is good enough for the Church Fathers and for the Catholic Encyclopedia, is good enough for me. I do not think, therefore, that this makes me suspicious of heresy.

God bless

Mr. Hoffman responded, in turn shortly after:

Dear Fr. Heggenberger

I am in receipt of your reply to the concerns I raised in my letter of Jan. 17 with regard to the December, 2009, Angelus essay by Scott Montgomery, "Saint of the Sanhedrin" (pp. 29-34). With all due respect, it must be said that your reply is inadequate and constitutes an evasion.
Never once in your letter can you bring yourself to mention Hillel, when it was Hillel, not Gamaliel, who was the main focus of my concern that the Angelus has
published perverse adulation of this vile Pharisee, repeating rabbinic propaganda about Hillel and lauding him as a figure worthy of the admiration of Catholics.
Part of the evidence I presented has been contemptuously dismissed as “all sorts of questions related to Judaism...With all these questions, which are apparently of interest to you, neither ‘The Angelus’ in general nor the incriminated article has anything to do.”
In order to maintain this notion that facts are irrelevant to the substance of the article you published, you quote me as writing, “The Talmud nullifies the Biblical teaching concerning usury and money-lending.” But you omit my next sentence: "Hillel decreed the prozbul ...a legal fiction which allows debts to be collected after the Sabbatical year and it was Hillel's intention thereby to overcome the fear that money-lenders had of losing their money." Hillel, who the Angelus believes was a good Pharisee, nullified the Biblical law against usury in support of money-lenders. How is it that this damning fact is supposedly of concern only to this writer? It is your magazine that exalts Hillel. I demonstrated Hillel’s grave transgression and the folly of upholding Hillel as a paradigm of an alleged good Pharisee. How then can his record of transgressions be of no interest?
You allege that another irrelevancy is my reference to “permissible sex.” Once again, you omit the context — I mentioned “permissible sex” in connection with a specific charge against Hillel: his establishment of the depraved and disgusting halachot (legal principle) that sex between a mother and her son does not actually qualify as sex, if the son is less than nine years-old — yet you dare to assert that these matters have nothing to do with The Angelus or the article in question, when it is The Angelus that honors this evil man. You claim that “Mr. Montgomery simply states that there were tendencies in Judaism that were open to the Gospel.”
Au contraire, Mr. Montgomery went far beyond any such simplicity when he asserted that Hillel “served as an instrument of heaven.” You are unwilling to take any responsibility for this outrageous mendacity; you evade it, and you appear to have no intention of correcting it in any future issue of The Angelus. Apparently
you do not even intend to correct easily demonstrable errors, such as Mr. Montgomery’s assertion that St. Paul learned the Gemara from Gamaliel, when in fact the Gemara did not even exist at the time of St. Paul.
Even in your focus on Gamaliel to the exclusion of Hillel, you blunder. You should know that Wikipedia is not a reliable scholarly source for establishing the verity of much of anything. Wikipedia refers to the “Clementine Literature” as the basis for its spurious claims about Gamaliel. Are you aware that this “Literature” comprises one of the pseudepigraphic legends? This particular legend fantasized that Gamaliel became a Christian, but there is absolutely no proof for this claim. The sole primary source for this fantasy is the spurious Recognitions of Clement, a book which contains a mix of pagan philosophy and a curious theology attributed to St. Peter.
The notion that Gamaliel was benevolent in part because he was the teacher of Paul (Acts 22:3) is also a fallacy. Gamaliel was the teacher of Saul, the wicked persecutor of Christians who went on to convert to Christ and become the saintly Apostle Paul. When he was Saul, the pupil of Gamaliel, he may even have had a hand in the murder of St. Stephen. Can we absolve Gamaliel and the Mishnaic teachings which he imparted to Saul by imagining they had no role in Saul's iniquity?
Moreover, there has been a surfeit of wishful thinking concerning Gamaliel's statement of neutrality toward Christians (Acts 5:35-39), which may have been nothing more than a display of sly Pharisee caution. How can anyone assume that Gamaliel’s neutrality was pleasing to God, or that it marked Gamaliel as a future Christian? Jesus said, "I would you were hot or cold" (Rev. 3:16). Gamaliel was neither.
You state that, “The Angelus’ does not try to replace the Bible with the Talmud....” You then cast a strange aspersion on my good name and reputation by adding, “you would be much better qualified for that by the way.” Do you mean to say that it is this writer who favors the Talmud over the Bible? If so, where in my entire oeuvre is there one line I have written that you can adduce for your charge? Your statement is as reckless as the “Saint of the Sanhedrin” essay you published without fact-checking; a blunder you compound by referencing
Wikipedia, a notoriously unreliable Internet “encyclopedia” often consulted by persons too lethargic to engage in authentic research.
You write, “Your accusations are wrong...I say: what is good enough for the Church Fathers and for the Catholic Encyclopedia, is good enough for me.” But Reverend Father, there is nothing in the Church Fathers that supports the claims The Angelus makes for Gamaliel, and as for the Catholic Encyclopedia, you have only troubled to consult the 1913 version. The 1967 Catholic Encyclopedia, which is not online, does not validate anything Mr. Montgomery has written about Gamaliel or Hillel. In fact, the latter work correctly indicts Hillel as the source for the Pharisaic teaching that permitted divorce on trivial grounds, and which was the basis for the attempted entrapment by which the Pharisees hoped to ensnare Jesus (Matthew 19: 3-9). Hillel taught against restricting divorce to sexual immorality: "The school of Hillel says: [He may divorce her] even if she cooked his food poorly” (Mishnah, Gittin 9:10). It was with Hillel’s doctrine on divorce that Jesus was confronted. You and your writer must be surprised that Jesus rebuked rather than embraced the Pharisees for this doctrine, since it emanated from the very Pharisee whom The Angelus exults as “an instrument of heaven.”
You dismiss the need for scholarship in these exegetical matters, yet you and Mr. Montgomery are sadly confused and decidedly ignorant of the subject matter. I repeat what I wrote to you on January 26: “The Angelus presents rabbinic delusions as fact and promotes the wicked Pharisee Hillel as a virtual holy man of God. The great confusion among traditional Catholics concerning Judaism will only be exacerbated by the farrago you have published, to the detriment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the understanding of the faithful. It is my prayer that you will somehow undo the damage that has been wrought.” I am still waiting.
Jesus Christ was not a party to the modern Vatican mania for finding something — anything — allegedly positive in the Pharisees. In our time this fad is intended to curry ecumenical favor with the rabbis. Whether intentional or not, the Angelus article “Saint of the Sanhedrin” is of this tenor. It is an expression of the
modernist zeitgeist. “Servility to the Sanhedrin” would have been a more apt title. I beseech you to make amends and correct this most unfortunate disservice to your readers, without further delay.

Sincerely in Christ,
Michael Hoffman


  1. Mr. Hoffman is giving you the benefit of his vast knowledge on this subject and points out the factual errors in this article, and all you can say is that there are some things in Judaism that are good. Well, the devil sometimes tells the truth, but how can he get you to heaven. Everyone knows why this article was published in the Angelus and in the Daily Catholics. It was published because they have extreme contempt for God and for the Catholics they "shepard."