The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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God reveals himself to man

a.   but only in his deeds.
b.   but only in his words.
c.   in his words and deeds.


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God manifested himself to our first parents

a.   from the very beginning.
b.   only after their Fall.
c.   sometime before their Fall.

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After the Fall, God

a.   abandoned man to his dreadful sins by speaking words of eternal doom.
b.   buoyed our first parents up with the hope of salvation by promising redemption.
c.   was hidden and silent so that man could not find him for a very long time.

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Read Gen 3:15. The Church sees in this verse God's promise to our first parents. God immediately continues to reveal himself to them even after their Fall. God promises that the ''seed'' of the woman (mankind descended from Eve) will eventually gain the victory over the powers of evil.

A further and the fullest meaning in this passage is typological and thus relates to Christ. In fact this passage is called the ''Protoevangelium'' (''first gospel''). [CCC 410] Christ is the new man, the New Adam, who by his obedience will superabundantly make up for Adam's disobedience and thus decisively and forever defeat the powers of evil. Just as the Church sees Christ present ''in the beginning,'' she sees God promise Adam and Eve, immediately after the Fall, that Christ will come to deliver mankind from death and all the other powers of evil.

Also, many Fathers and Doctors of the Church have seen the woman announced in the Protoevangelium as Mary. [CCC 411] Christ is the ''seed'' of Mary, the new Eve. (Thus, there are many pictures and statues of Mary crushing the head of a serpent under her heel). <<

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Immediately after the Fall, what happens? After the first sin of Adam and Eve, ''the world is virtually inundated by sin.'' [CCC 401] Read Gen 4: 1-16 to find out the very next thing recounted by Genesis as happening after the Fall.

Next, Gen 4:17 - 6:10 describe the ''generations'' (the ancestors) of Noah, which takes the story from Cain to Noah. Skim that passage now. Now read Gen 6:11-12. In [CCC 401] the Holy Father and the bishops describe the world as virtually ''inundated'' (flooded) with sin after the Fall. (Flooded, get it? Apparently, even bishops make puns, if for a holy purpose.) <<

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The Old Testament documents God's desire for an intimate and unbreakable relationship of love (a covenant) with man, in spite of man's repeated rejections of God. Repeatedly God makes covenants with man. God made covenants with all three men mentioned below. Who came first?

a.   Abraham.
b.   Moses.
c.   Noah.

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Read Gen 6:13 - 9:17. The Catechism notes [CCC 701] that the Church sees typological meanings in this passage. In particular, the waters of the flood refer symbolically to

a.   Baptism.
b.   Christ.
c.   Mary.

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The waters of the flood, which brought death, also resulted in the covenant of special closeness and life made by God with Noah and with all living creatures. By the waters of Baptism which are poured over us, we are baptized into Christ's death, which brings us union with him, and eternal life.

Also, Noah releases a dove which returns with a sign that the earth was again habitable. The Church sees in this dove a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who again appears when Christ comes up from the waters of his baptism.

Noah himself has been seen as a type of Christ, the faithful man God works through to save the world from death. <<

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Here is one opinion about the literal sense of Gen 6:13 - 9:17. The conclusion of the passage is the making of the covenant between God and Noah, and this completes and gives the full meaning of the literal sense of what came before. God promises that death, which flooded the whole world on account of man's sins, will never be completely victorious.

The account thus reinforces the Protoevangelium. A man, Noah, defeats the death threatening the whole world, by faithfully and obediently cooperating with God's plans. Significantly, Genesis takes pains to show that Noah can trace his lineage directly to Eve (thus, he is a man who literally is a ''seed'' of the woman). However, and also very significantly, Noah is not a pagan ''hero,'' a man who defeats death by his own powers or actions. God alone does that.

Further, notice how great an emphasis is placed on establishing that Noah and his kin were just a few people in an entire world otherwise utterly given over to sin. Yet, small as their number was, God certainly noticed them. Their faithfulness literally saved the world, and prompts even greater tenderness from God, a tenderness that he extends far beyond Noah to all men who come after him.

Noah, his faithfulness, and the covenant God made with him, are so important that Gen 4:17 - 6:10 outlines the ''generations'' (all the ancestors) of Noah. He and his ancestors live to immense ages, befitting a family of long and continuing heroism and great faithfulness to God. Notice also that God plainly makes a covenant not just with Noah but, through him, with all men and even with all living beings. Noah's faithfulness changes the whole world for the better.

So, how long does the covenant God made with Noah last? The Holy Father and bishops united with him teach [CCC 71] that the covenant with Noah remains in force until

a.   the covenant with Abraham.
b.   the covenant with Moses.
c.   the end of time on the last day.

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According to the Catechism [CCC 56], the covenant with Noah

a.   makes humanity's division into many nations salvific.
b.   overcomes divisions and makes the human race unified again.
c.   saves the human race part by part, while it is still divided.

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The covenant with Noah, which extends to all men and all living creatures, remains in force until the Gospel, the New Covenant in Christ which completes and fulfills all covenants, is universally proclaimed at the end of time. [CCC 58] <<

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The Protoevangelium (''first gospel'') is

a.   the first two chapters of the gospel according to St. Mathew.
b.   the account of Creation that makes up the first two chapters of Genesis.
c.   the promise of redemption made to our first parents after the Fall.

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Will God ever make another covenant? [CCC 66]

a.   Maybe.
b.   No.
c.   Yes.

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There are many religions whose initial assumption is that covenants offered by God to man are unnecessary or even irrelevant. These religions assume that if man is sufficiently clever, dedicated, nice, saintly, sincere, etc., then man can draw near to God on his own. Please remember that man can not draw near to God on his own. The Fall by our first parents prevents this forever.

The covenants are not metaphors. They are not ''stories'' about how man draws near to God under man's own power. They are the actual means by which God reveals himself to man and offers an actual, intimate union with himself to actual, living men. That is, in a mysterious way, if men draw near to Christ, they have always and at all times done so in and through the particular covenants that God has made.

Religions which implicitly assume that the particular covenants offered by God to man are unnecessary for union with God are simply mistaken. The one God, the Most Holy Trinity, has revealed himself as a personal God who offers an intimate, personal union with himself to man through covenants. The ''gods'' of other religions are, quite simply, not real. They do not exist. The true God directly intervenes in history and offers specific, particular covenants to man. >>

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The Catholic Church professes that all of the covenants are completed and given their full beauty and meaning in the New Covenant between Christ and his Bride, the Catholic Church. In the New Covenant God reveals himself completely and offers complete, intimate union with himself in and through the particular intimate union between Christ and his Catholic Church.

In the fallen world the summit of this union is the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is very important to remember that the sacraments, just like the covenants, are not a metaphor for something else. Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist is not a metaphor. In a mysterious but completely real way you actually receive our Lord himself. You can not experience his presence the way you will in heaven, but he is as close to you in the Host as he would have been had you been walking right next to him in Galilee. >>

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Jesus Christ is the Father's full revelation of himself. ''Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything: there will be no other word than this one.'' [CCC 65]

In and through Christ's union with his Church, man now has the perfect and complete covenant. Like all the covenants, it is particular - there are no ''generic'' covenants. Yet unlike the other covenants, it is both universal and complete. In the Eucharist man shares in the very life of God, and thus can freely be in intimate union with God forever.

This union with God in and through the Eucharist is completely free. Jesus forces no one to be close to him in his sacraments. But covenantal union with God through the Eucharist is also completely real. As a baptized Catholic, you have the possibility of a special intimacy with Christ that God wishes all men to share. You may receive him in the Holy Eucharist. <<

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Read Gen 11:1-9. In [CCC 57] the Holy Father and the bishops teach that God ''confused the languages of all the earth'' and thus prevented men from building the tower and city of Babel because

a.   God was divinely jealous of man's powers and did not abide them.
b.   the truth is that man is not meant to know the mysteries of God.
c.   the unity that fallen man can forge entirely on his own is perverse.

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Some scholars have said that the name ''Babel'' refers to the real city of

a.   Babel.
b.   Babylon.
c.   Nineveh.

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Babylon was the capital of a great and powerful ancient empire. The Babylonian ziggurat (a kind of giant pyramid with steps and an altar at the top) may have been the model for the tower of Babel. (It also may not have been). However, as the story itself makes clear, it was the building of the entire city of false unity, not just the tower, that offended God. Men ''left off building the city,'' not just the tower. <<

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The Holy Father and the bishops teach [CCC 57] that humanity now experiences a disunity that is

a.   ''cosmic, social, and religious.''
b.   ''illusory and unreal.''
c.   ''total and complete.''

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copyright (c) 2001 John Kelleher. All rights reserved.