The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Be sure you understand what Moses's fear and his sense of insignificance was - it was the knowledge that he was a sinner, and that God is holy [compare CCC 208]. God's holiness, not his power over us, is what makes us feel insignificant before him. We feel insignificant before him because his absolute holiness reveals the sin in our hearts. Yet because God is so much greater than our hearts, he can forgive us, once we see that we are sinners before him.

Moses, like all fallen men, can not ''come near'' the holiness of God [Ex 3:5]. The Holy Father and the bishops note [CCC 2777] that ''Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness.'' Yet Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross purifies our sins and brings us into the Father's presence [CCC 2777]. >>


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Also note that Moses (like us) is far too fallen and stupid to recognize the extent of God's holiness, and his own sinfulness, entirely on his own. Moses ''turned aside to see'' the burning bush, because it was so fascinating and mysterious. After Moses ''turns aside,'' then God can call Moses to him, and in his holiness also call Moses's attention more directly to the fact that God is truly holy, and Moses is not.

Only when we become fascinated with God, ''turn aside'' to him, and then hear his call and answer it, can we begin to face him, and see ourselves as we are. Even then, only with his help can we see how holy he truly is, and how sinful we are.

God at once, but also gradually, reveals his holiness, the extent of man's sin, and man's need for a savior. The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism that God taught Moses himself even more about God's holiness and man's sinfulness by then giving him the Law on Mount Sinai (Ex 20-24). The Church professes that the Law given Moses on Mount Sinai is a principal means by which, over the centuries, God gradually makes the people of Israel more aware of their sins. In this way Israel gradually began to hope for the Messiah [CCC 708]. In Jesus alone can man cross the threshold of the divine holiness. [CCC 2777] <<

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The Catechism [CCC 208] teaches that God's presence in the midst of the burning bush that is not consumed reveals something important about what God's presence is like. God's presence is

a.   boring and useless.
b.   fascinating and mysterious.
c.   repulsive and horrifying.

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God is holy. His holiness is beyond our comprehension. Other than the Mother of God herself, who was redeemed
from the moment of her conception and remained without sin her whole life long [CCC 491-493], by comparison with God's perfect holiness, the greatest saint is merely a sinner. Here CCC 209 is worth quoting in full:

''Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel do not pronounce his name. In the reading of Sacred Scripture, the revealed name (Yhwh) is replaced by the divine title 'LORD' (in Hebrew, Adonai, in Greek, Kyrios). It is under this title that the divinity of Jesus will be acclaimed: 'Jesus is LORD.''' <<

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Ex 3 recounts a theophany. A theophany is

a.   a fire that does not seem to go out.
b.   a theology of divine visitations.
c.   a visible appearance of God to man.

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CCC 2575 is a beautiful teaching on Ex 3 from the standpoint of prayer: what prayer is, what the course of our prayer will be like, and what God's responses will be. Read CCC 2575 now. <<

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Read Ex 6:2-9. This is obviously a pivotal moment, with rich, complex meaning - much of which should be clear to you now. Here we focus on a different matter. In this passage, for what purpose does God want his people Israel to be free from Pharaoh? So that they can

a.   go into the wilderness a short while and hold a feast to him.
b.   occupy the land he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
c.   receive gifts of jewelry and clothing from the Egyptians.

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Read Ex 5:1-3. In this passage, for what purpose does God want his people Israel to be free from Pharaoh? So that they can

a.   go into the wilderness a short while and hold a feast to him.
b.   occupy the land he promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
c.   receive gifts of jewelry and clothing from the Egyptians.

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Modern scholars think that the book of Exodus combines several traditions, some perhaps written, others oral. Ex 5 and Ex 6 show this well. It is also pretty clear to these scholars that the book of Exodus is not a newspaper. All senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal sense [CCC 116]. However, the literal sense is what the human authors intended to convey, and the human authors of Exodus probably did not intend to convey a newspaper - that is probably not the ''literal sense'' of Exodus. <<

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Because the book of Exodus probably conveys what the human authors intended through traditional forms, not in the form of a modern newspaper,

a.   there is no need to conclude that the Exodus itself was made-up.
b.   we should be wary of assigning the Exodus itself any reality.
c.   we should remember that the Exodus itself was unreal.

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Read Ex 12. This is a description of the Passover and of the last of the ten Plagues that God sent to make Pharaoh allow the people of Israel to leave Egypt. In the paschal lamb, the Catholic Church has always found a type of Christ. The Exsultet, a proclamation sung most solemnly at the Easter Vigil, attests this:

''This is our passover feast
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.''

To this day, the Jewish people see the Passover as a living memorial of the covenant God makes with them. The Passover is given solemn memorial by them every year. CCC 1340 adds:

''By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.'' <<

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Read Ex 19-20. This is the giving of the covenant and the law to Moses in the theophany on Mount Sinai. (Note that Ex 20 also gives, as part of the law, one form of what are now known as the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 5 gives another.) Although of course Exodus is a rich and complex book, since you have already read Ex 1-3, and Ex 6, you now probably have enough of its meaning to understand the following passage from the Catechism, CCC 62:

''After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God, the provident Father and just judge, and so that they would look for the promised Savior.'' <<

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The word ''typology'' has a special meaning within the Catholic Church. Typology is

a.   hegemonic privileging of meaning by an oppressor religious culture.
b.   seeing in God's works in the Old Testament a pre-echo of the works of his Son.
c.   the art of trivializing the literal sense of the Old Testament until it vanishes.

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When referring to persons or events in the Old Testament, the word type refers to a person or event with typological meaning. The Church has often seen Moses as a type of Christ. Why?

a.   He approached God by taking off his shoes and hiding his face, and protesting that he was not worthy to do his work.
b.   He led his people from slavery to freedom and gave them the law, the means by which they could keep covenant with God.
c.   He petitioned the great Pharaoh, king of the earth, for freedom, and watched as God sent plagues to make Pharaoh comply.

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Moses's position in the Old Testament is unparalleled. He is the human key both to the Exodus by which God freed Israel, and to the covenant that God made with Israel on Mount Sinai that gave the Law by which Israel still lives. As CCC 61 implies, Moses is a saint recognized by all the Catholic Church's liturgical traditions. You should look very carefully at the incorrect answers to the preceding question, to understand more deeply just how far above even the great Moses Christ reveals himself to be.

Finally, you should read in the gospel of John: Jn 8:51-58. Now you know the full weight of Jesus's ''I AM'' in that passage. <<

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The Old Covenant is the Christian name for the covenant by which God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt and, on Mount Sinai and through Moses, gave them his law. The Church teaches that the Old Covenant is

a.   the final covenant before the New Covenant established by God's only Son.
b.   the oldest covenant of all the covenants that God has made with man.
c.   the only covenant of all the covenants that God has made with man.

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You now know that the Holy Father and bishops profess that, in effect, there are even ''older'' covenants than the Old Covenant, which also remain in force and are not revoked. Creation itself is the beginning of the covenants, followed by the covenant with Noah. Thus too, the Old Covenant with Israel begun with Abraham remains in force and has never been revoked, the Jews remain a people chosen and delivered by God in the Exodus, and their observance of the Law he gave them on Mount Sinai through Moses does keep the covenant God made with them and ''prophesies and presages the work of liberation from sin which will be fulfilled in Christ.'' [CCC 1964] <<

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Israel is the name for

a.   a tribal people in Sumeria.
b.   the people descended from Jacob.
c.   the synagogue in Jerusalem.

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In the Old Testament, the word ''house'' can mean just ''house,'' but it also has a special meaning. ''House'' can mean an entire family with all its members - but not only including its living members, but also both the family's ancestors and its descendants. This is the meaning of the phrase ''house of Israel'': all the people descended from Jacob (Israel), or ever to be descended from him. Now read Psalm 135 (Ps 135).

You now know the meaning of Ps 135:4 (Psalm 135, verse 4), (read it again) and the verses that the Psalm concludes with, Ps 135:19-21 (read them again).

As you know, the Holy Father and the bishops hand on to us the truth that Creation is inseparable from the covenants. Now read Ps 135:5-14 again. Notice how Psalm 135 expresses this truth. The God of Creation is the God who desires an unbreakable and intimate bond with Israel and with all mankind. <<

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Read Gen 14:11-24. Scholars tell us that the name ''Melchizedek'' means ''Zedek [a god] is my king.'' The god Zedek was the highest god among the people of Canaan. Melchizedek would have been priest of that ''God Most High'' (Zedek).

However, notice that Abram himself (Gen 14:22 - read this verse now) is clear that ''God Most High'' is the LORD.

Is ''Zedek'' the true name of God Most High?

a.   Maybe.
b.   No.
c.   Partly.

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