The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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When Israel returned to Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple, they

a.   kept covenant with God with imperfect purity thereafter.
b.   kept covenant with God with perfect purity thereafter.
c.   kept no further covenant with God thereafter.


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''The Twelve Tribes of Israel'' traditionally traced their ancestry back to the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel). The division into twelve tribes was not hard-and-fast and it is not clear how many distinct ''tribes'' remained by the time of Solomon. It is clear that after the death of David's son Solomon, many tribes under a new king formed a separate ''northern kingdom'' of Israel, splitting from the ''southern kingdom'' of Judah. The Old Testament depicts Solomon's son, his successor as king, as inept and greedy. In any case, he was unacceptable to the northern Jews.

The Old Testament accuses the northern kings of faithlessness, not only of setting up new altars and priests, but also of worshiping the false gods of the peoples around them. However, it also accuses Solomon himself of worshipping the false gods of his many foreign wives. Also, it appears that some prophets (for example, Amos and Hosea) lived in the north.

Clearly, not all people in the north turned from the LORD, nor was the southern kingdom blameless. Many differences between north and south were political, or emphasized differing parts of their covenant with the LORD. Some scholars see the north as following an older tradition based on the covenant made at Mount Sinai with Moses, with the south basing its following of the LORD on a personal covenant he made with the house of David, and on worship at the Temple at Jerusalem.

The kingdom of Israel (which soon became known as Samaria, after its capital) lasted a long time: about two hundred years. It was conquered and destroyed by Assyria around 722 BC. The Assyrians then deliberately ''mixed'' the remaining population, importing many other people (with their gods) into the region. This was intolerable to pious Jews. Several historians believe that many priests of the northern kingdom fled to the south at the time of the destruction of the northern kingdom, and over time vigorously contributed both to religious reforms in the southern kingdom, and to the writing of books such as Deuteronomy. >>

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The Old Testament records conflicts and warfare between Samaria and Judah while both kingdoms were active, between the province of Samaria and the Jews returning to Jerusalem after the Exile, and active shunning of Samaritans by returning pious Jews, who regarded Samaritans as impure because they had intermarried with non-Jews. Even in the time of Christ pious Jews still preserved a deep religious enmity by never deliberately setting foot in Samaria.

The southern Kingdom of Judah lasted until the Exile into Babylon (587 BC). In 538 BC, Jews were allowed to return. Though many scholars think that the process was slow and sporadic, Jews gradually resettled Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple. Although Jews also eventually settled in many places throughout the known world, even at the time of Christ they remained as a people in the land, mostly under various foreign rulers.

The Catholic Church sees God's selection of the Twelve Tribes, on whose faith he founded his people, as a type or pre-echo of Jesus's selection of the Twelve Apostles, on whose faith the Lord established his Body and Bride, the Catholic Church. <<

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First recall that 10,000 BC is farther back in time than 1 BC. When the Babylonians conquered Israel they completely destroyed the Temple and (to stifle all resistance) killed or carried off every person of power, prominence, or influence. The Exile in Babylon lasted about 50 years and it can be dated with precision from records. The Exile of about 50 years occurred in the period

a.   800 to 700 BC.
b.   700 to 600 BC.
c.   600 to 500 BC.

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There are - literally - hundreds of references to Jerusalem in the Bible. It is the city of the great king David, the capital of David's kingdom, the city where the wise king Solomon built the great Temple of God, the place where God dwells among his people, the center of the worship of the people of Israel.

Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed, and its inhabitants were exiled for generations. This destruction, exile, return, and rebuilding, especially of the Temple and of religious practices, is also a very important part of what ''Jerusalem'' means in the Old Testament.

This theme of ''exile and return'' is seen by the Church as a type or figure of our journey from the fallen world to the New Creation in Christ. By the Fall man was exiled from the Garden. He is given a new home, sacramentally already real in the Catholic Church, which is fulfilled in the kingdom Christ will initiate when he comes again.

Now read in the New Testament, the book of Revelation, Rev 21:1-4, to see that our Lord's death and resurrection has created not only a new heaven and a new earth, but a new Jerusalem, the holy city where God will now dwell among his people forever, without fear of any further destruction. Here Jerusalem is a type both of the present sacramental reality of the Bride and Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, and what she will become on the last day, the kingdom of God's people. [CCC 117] <<

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The Bible, including the Old Testament, was not written all at once. The writings that eventually were recognized by the Catholic Church as the true Word of God were probably written over many hundreds of years. The historically more recent writings in the Bible

a.   infrequently depend upon earlier ones.
b.   never depend upon earlier ones.
c.   often depend upon earlier ones.

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When later writings in the Bible refer to earlier ones, they

a.   always quote the earlier passage directly.
b.   may not quote the earlier passage directly.
c.   never give the earlier passage a new meaning.

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When later writings in the Bible refer to earlier ones, they

a.   always give the earlier passage a new meaning.
b.   may give the earlier passage a new meaning.
c.   refute the meaning of the earlier passage.

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In a sense, the Bible often remembers itself, and deepens and expands its own meaning. Here are some passages, just in the Old Testament, that refer to the house of David, and which gradually look forward to the coming of a universal kingdom, secure forever.

Nathan prophesies that David will have a ''house;'' that is, a dynastic succession, ''secure forever.'' Read 2 Sam 7:1-16. Read 1 Chron 17:1-15 - the same prophecy, in a slightly different form. Now read Ps 89 in its entirety. The prophecy is recalled, but with a considerable change from the original, as the psalmist reflects on the promise in the light of the extinction of the kingdom of Judah at the Exile.

Read Jer 30:4-9, which announces the return of the kingdom of David. Read the book of Daniel, Dan 2:31-45, paying special attention to verse 44. Here the kingdom promised has become universal.

That the Old Testament reads, and in a sense re-reads, itself in the cited passages is not disputed by most scholars. Of course, what these readings and re-readings mean is only fully available to Catholics, for whom the sacraments are real and the New Testament is true.

The Catholic Church professes that the Old Testament has a history in which God gradually reveals that the completion of his promise to David is the promise of a universal kingdom in Christ for all men.

Jesus is the ''King of the Jews'' [Mark 15:26], from the tribe of Judah and a true son of David [Mathew 1:1], the King who from the Cross establishes the New Covenant, the union of Christ and his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church.

In the New Covenant in his blood, the Catholic Church is the sacrament of the universal kingdom, secure forever. In this kingdom all men may in Christ find a perfect intimacy with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

This kingdom of mankind's full intimacy with Christ will come to completion at the end of time, but the Lord makes it really present even now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to all Christians of all times and places [CCC 1368], especially and in the fullest sense in the Eucharist. [CCC 1374]<<

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Read 1 Kings 17. Elijah is the ''father'' of the prophets [CCC 2582]. The prayer of Elijah to God for the widow's son

a.   confirms the faith of the widow in God.
b.   reveals Elijah's great power to the widow.
c.   shows that it is stupid to ask God for something.

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In early times the Israelites used the term ''Baal'' of the true God, as is evident from certain names of persons and places, such as Baal-perazim (2 Sam 5:20). Later, Scripture gives the name ''Baal'' to any one of several false gods. The ''Baal'' here means one of those. Now read 1 Kings 18:17-40. Mount Carmel is remembered

a.   as the mountain on which God gave Moses the law.
b.   as the place of a decisive test for the faith of the people of Israel.
c.   as the occasion where Elijah wrestled with a messenger of God.

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The Catechism teaches that ''fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions,'' and that a certain event in the Old Testament ''was a 'figure' of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches.'' [CCC 696] What was this very significant event?

a.   A great fire breaks out in the desert and changes people's lives.
b.   Fire from heaven consumes the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.
c.   God gave Adam and Eve the gift of fire in the Garden of Eden.

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The Eastern liturgies of the Catholic Church remember the day of the sacrifice on Mount Carmel very directly at the Eucharist, in which our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary is made present by the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Kings 18:37, Elijah prays, ''Answer me, O Lord, answer me,'' and the Lord comes with fire (to Catholics, a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit) to accept the offering. Elijah's exact words are repeated in the Eucharistic prayer of the Eastern liturgies of the Catholic Church, at the invocation of the Holy Spirit just prior to the consecration. <<

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Read 1 Kings 18:40. Elijah gives the order to kill every one of the prophets of Baal, and his order is carried out. This means that

a.   a great evil needed to be eliminated from Israel, and it was.
b.   no one was actually killed as the result of this confrontation.
c.   we are wrong today when we refuse to kill people who are anti-Catholic.

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Read 2 Kings 1:7-8. Elijah's appearance should remind you of a figure from the New Testament (First read Mathew 3:4 to get a hint):

a.   Jesus.
b.   John the Baptist.
c.   St. Joseph.

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Elijah was taken away from earth by a whirlwind. Read 2 Kings 2:9-12. There came to be a tradition that Elijah, who had not died, would return to announce the Messiah. Read Malachi, Mal 3:23 (Mal 4:5 in some Bibles). John the Baptist specifically says that he is not Elijah. Read John 1:19-21. However, Jesus himself says that he is! Read Mathew 17:9-13. Here is what the Catholic Church professes in CCC 718-719:

''John is 'Elijah [who] must come.' [Mt 17:10-13] The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of '[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.''' [Lk 1:17]

''John the Baptist is 'more than a prophet.' [Lk 7:26] In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the 'voice' of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John 'came to bear witness to the light.' [Jn 1:7] In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. . . . '' <<

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A Christian born in 1820 announces that he is a new prophet of God, who brings important messages directly from God. Is it possible that he could be correct?

a.   No, because the Holy Father and the bishops with him are the only true prophets.
b.   No, because the completion of the search of the prophets is Christ himself.
c.   Yes, although his prophecy would have to be approved by the Holy Father.

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As a Catholic, you really need to keep in mind that Christ did not bring a ''message'' to us. He is not someone who brings a message, an idea, or a concept ''about'' God to us. Christ is God's full and complete presence with us. The Catholic faith is not a ''message'' from God. It is the union of Christ's one and only Bride and Body, not with a ''message'' or an idea or a concept, but with the person of Christ.

There have been and there probably will continue to be people, even people who consider themselves to be Christians, who think that ''religion'' is about messages, ideas, or concepts. Catholics can only see this as a vast misunderstanding. Read CCC 719. The prophets' ''careful search'' [CCC 719] was for a person, not an idea or a message, and thus the cycle of prophets ended forever with John the Baptist, who saw with his own eyes the person that the whole world had been longing for, and recognized him to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. >>

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Almost from the beginnings of the Catholic Church some people have rejected Christ because the Church has consistently refused to say that God is an idea. These people just ''knew'' that ideas are ''obviously'' more lasting and important than any person. Therefore (they have said), this ''Jesus,'' who was plainly a person, may have brought us an important idea about God, but he could not possibly be God, let alone be God's entire and complete revelation of himself and presence with us.

Please be aware that there are still people living today who say very much the same things. They may even call themselves Christians.

Read CCC 208. God's presence is ''fascinating and mysterious.'' God's presence does not dampen human curiosity but rather inspires it. God's presence almost impels man to think unexpected new thoughts. Some of the greatest minds and writers in history have been Catholic saints, and they would be the last ones to tell you that ideas and concepts are trivial or otherwise unimportant. This course itself is proof that Catholics think that ideas are important. However, Christ offers you an intimate, personal union, not with a mere idea about him, but with himself, in and through your union with his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church.

Although we pray that God still saves them, throughout the centuries some people seem to have preferred union with an idea over personal, intimate union with Christ in and through his Catholic Church. Some people (at least from what human eyes can see) seem to have preferred their own ideas to God's fascinating and mysterious presence.

What choice will you make today? <<

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Read Ps 108:1. Read Ps 40:7-10. Read Ps 49:1-3. In biblical tradition, your ''heart'' is

a.   far removed from the place where you make your decisions.
b.   the hidden place where you are truly yourself.
c.   the shallowest and least trustworthy part of yourself.

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