The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Read 2 Kings 18:1-8. Knowing what you know about the basic message conveyed by 1 and 2 Kings, what do you think is going to happen to Hezekiah and the kingdom of Judah during his reign?

a.   It will never become clear what happened.
b.   The LORD will preserve his people from all harm.
c.   The LORD will punish his people's unfaithfulness.


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Read 2 Kings 18:9-12. During Hezekiah's reign, what happens to the northern kingdom of Samaria?

a.   It achieves a remarkable resurgence.
b.   It defeats the Assyrian army.
c.   It is destroyed by the Assyrians.

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The Rabshakeh is a leader of Assyria under king Sennacherib. Read 2 Kings 18:28-37. What does the Rabshakeh say to Hezekiah's kingdom of Judah?

a.   Hezekiah has no real trust in the LORD.
b.   Hezekiah's trust in the LORD is misplaced.
c.   Hezekiah's trust in the LORD will be rewarded.

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Hezekiah seeks consolation from the prophet Isaiah. Read 2 Kings 19:14-37. What happens?

a.   The Assyrian army is slain by the LORD and retreats.
b.   The Assyrian army lays siege to Jerusalem and captures it.
c.   The king of Assyria is used by the LORD to punish Judah.

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Josiah purifies and restores the temple desecrated by his predecessor, and the book of the law is found. On reading it, Josiah wonders: does the law of our fathers call down upon us a blessing, or curse us because we have strayed so far from the holiness of faithful obedience that it calls us to? Josiah calls on the prophetess Huldah to interpret. Her response: the law will be both blessing and curse. Read 2 Kings 22-23:1-27.

Read 2 Kings 24-25. Now re-read 2 Kings 25:27-30. It was an ancient custom for a new king to grant amnesty to prisoners. It is historically possible that Jehoiachin was actually released by the new king of Babylon. Some commentators see this ending to 1 and 2 Kings as a glint of hope - the house of David had not quite been snuffed out, and in fact is honored. The Catholic Church looks at Jesus and sees the complete fulfillment and completion of the promise God made to the house of David. <<

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The books

Song of Songs

occur just before or just after the Psalms?

a.   Just before.
b.   Just after.

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In the Old Testament, wealth and power were usually seen as

a.   a terrible curse.
b.   morally wrong.
c.   signs of God's favor.

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Read Proverbs, Prov 15:33. ''Humility goes before honor'' is an idea that was

a.   not at all immediately obvious to the Jewish people.
b.   obvious to the Jewish people from the time of Abraham.
c.   partially obvious to the Jewish people from the time of Abraham.

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In the ancient Near East, when a city or a nation was conquered, the invaders usually executed the wealthy and the powerful. When Babylon conquered Israel, the wealthy and powerful were either executed on the spot, or brought back to Babylon as slaves. The only Israelites who escaped were those too poor to bother about. Read Zephaniah, Zeph 2:3. Scholars see Zeph 2:3 as the beginning of a new turn in Israel's reflections about what God was calling them toward. What is this new idea?

a.   the humbled, the poor, and the lowly are the ones who will be saved.
b.   the Messiah will come to save the people of Israel from their slavery.
c.   there is only one God, the LORD, who created the heavens and the earth.

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The ''remnant of Israel'' is a powerful image of those Jews who stay true to God, or return to him, after a disaster. Read Is 10:20-21. Scholars say that Isaiah 41:14-17 was written at a different historical period than Is 10, and addresses as the ''remnant of Israel'' those who will return from the Exile in Babylon. Read Is 41:14-17 now. How is the remnant of Israel referred to there? As:

a.   the clever and learned.
b.   the poor and needy.
c.   the rich and powerful.

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In CCC 710, the Holy Father and bishops in union with him teach the following:

''In God's plan, the Exile already stands in the shadow of the Cross, and the Remnant of the poor that returns from Exile is one of the most transparent prefigurations of the Church.''

The Catholic Church, rich in her Lord's sacramental presence, still journeys in poverty in this fallen world, and awaits her Lord's second coming on the Last Day, when the world will at last be completely whole again, fully able to manifest and join with the holiness of God. Then at last, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, the poverty of this world will be ended. <<

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The exile in Babylon eventually ended. Scholars believe that the book of the prophet Zechariah was written after the exile ended. Yet the promised savior has not yet come, even after the exile has ended, because Zech 9:9 (read it now) foretells his coming and states that he will belong to

a.   the clever, the learned.
b.   the humble, the meek.
c.   the wealthy, the powerful.

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'anawim is the Hebrew word for the humble, poor, lowly, afflicted, meek of Israel. In the Old Testament there is a long, gradual development of the salvific meaning of the 'anawim. The Catholic Church sees many passages in Isaiah as showing clearly that the Messiah himself, while remaining the anointed one of God, priest, prophet, and king, will indeed belong to the poor. Read Is 61:1-2. Yet the Messiah will not only bring the poor ''good tidings.'' Read Is 53:1-3. The Messiah will himself be afflicted. The kingship of Jesus comes about through the Cross.

In her Magnificat, her great hymn of praise, Mary also shows that she too belongs to the poor.

Now read Luke 1:46-55. <<

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If man wants to know the full meaning of the Old Testament, then he

a.   can look it up in a special chapter at the end of the Bible.
b.   had better pray very faithfully and work very hard.
c.   should be very quiet and let the bishops tell him what it is.

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In any particular passage in the Old Testament, there

a.   can be a meaning that contradicts the meaning the human author intended to convey.
b.   can be more meaning there, even beyond the meaning the human author intended to convey.
c.   can not be more meaning there, beyond the meaning the human author intended to convey.

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Often, there is more meaning in a particular passage in the Bible, even beyond the meaning the human author intended to convey, particularly as seen in the light of the reality of the sacraments and the truth of the New Testament. For example, look at Gen 1:1 and compare it to Jn 1:1, as you did in a previous question. (Yes, you do have to go back and do that now). But all meaning starts with the truth of the literal sense of the passage. <<

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Genesis Exodus Leviticus Numbers Deuteronomy || Joshua Judges Ruth 1 Samuel 2 Samuel 1 Kings 2 Kings || 1 Chronicles 2 Chronicles Ezra Nehemiah || >> Tobit* << Judith* Esther 1 Maccabees* 2 Maccabees* Job


Proverbs Ecclesiastes Song of Songs Wisdom* Sirach* || Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations Baruch* Ezekiel Daniel || Hosea Joel Amos Obadiah Jonah Micah Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah Haggai Zechariah Malachi

The Old Testament books with a star * are not any more or less important than the others. The star indicates that the Catholic Church definitively professes and knows these books to be part of the sacred writings, the inspired Word of God [cf. CCC 120], but that they are specifically rejected by the Jewish people, and called ''apocryphal'' (of doubtful inspiration) by Protestants.

Most scholars consider the book of Tobit to be a story, not a historical account. Tobit is a faithful Jew living among pagans. Read Tob 1:1-3. Read Tob 1:5-6. Read Tob 1:16-17. The book of Tobit teaches that faithfulness to God includes

a.   giving money to the poor.
b.   restoring the Ark of the Covenant.
c.   vengeance toward enemies.

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Tobit becomes blind and prays for death. The woman Sarah has no husband because a demon, wanting her for himself, has killed seven prospective bridegrooms. She also prays to God for deliverance. Read Tob 3:7-15. Now read Tob 3:16-17. The readers of Tobit now know something that the characters do not. What is it?

a.   God is sending the angel Raphael to answer both their prayers.
b.   God is sending the angel Raphael to answer Sarah's prayers.
c.   God is sending the angel Raphael to answer Tobit's prayers.

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Tobit asks his son Tobiah (or Tobias) to travel to Gabael's house, so that Tobiah can have the money Tobit has saved there. Before Tobiah leaves, Tobit, expecting death, tells his son how to live. Read Tob 4:1-21. Now re-read Tob 4:21. Are these words of Tobit to his son apparently inconsistent with Tobit's own condition?

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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The angel Raphael becomes Tobiah's guide on the journey. Raphael tells Tobit and Tobiah that his name is Azariah (or Azarias) - a little white lie, because Azariah means ''the LORD is my help.'' (Raphael truly is there to be the LORD's help to them). Instructed by Raphael, Tobiah catches a fish that would have seized him, whose parts can heal the blind and drive away demons. Raphael also suggests that he marry Sarah, who is his relative (scholars think that at the time marriage between relatives was encouraged by some Jews). Read Tob 7-8. The wedding of Tobiah and Sarah occurs only after

a.   a wedding feast that lasted fourteen days, twice the normal time.
b.   a young lamb is sacrificed in the Temple precincts.
c.   their prayer to the God of the patriarchs and the God of Creation.

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