The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Melchizedek is venerated in all the liturgical traditions of the Catholic Church as a type of Christ himself, the king of Salem (Jerusalem) who is also the high priest. Yet Melchizedek's very name states that the Canaanite god Zedek was his king!

How can it be that someone who does not even know that the LORD is God can be a saint?

First, in Melchizedek's time, God's ''name'' was not very well-established in the world. Abram himself had not yet received his own covenantal name, Abraham. In Melchizedek's day, the whole world was still waiting for God to reveal himself more clearly.

Second, not once in the passage does Melchizedek say or do anything against the LORD.

Third, to the contrary, everything he says and does gives great honor to God.

Saints love God and come close to him with the clarity available to their time and place. Please read CCC 58. Melchizedek is a saint. >>


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Since Melchizedek's day, of course, God has made it possible for his saints to receive and respond to him with greater and greater clarity. In the fullness of time, God has revealed himself completely to the world in his only Son, Jesus, who continues his work by the power of the Holy Spirit, in and through his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church.

It is the witness of the whole Catholic Church that Melchizedek saw God, loved him, and honored him with a clarity and intimacy so extraordinary for his time that it prefigures the work of Christ himself, but Melchizedek's level of clarity is not good enough for you. You have - as he did not - the additional clarity and intimacy provided by the teachings and worship of the Catholic Church.

The covenants given by God are the only means by which men may draw near to God. Those in our time who ''through no fault of their own'' [CCC 847] do not know Christ and his Church may yet move closer to Christ through the Old Covenant [CCC 839] or, as Melchizedek did, through the covenant with Noah [CCC 58].

However, anyone who moves toward words or deeds that contradict the sacraments or the firm teachings of the Catholic Church is definitely not moving closer to Christ. Things have happened since Melchizedek's day!

Since Melchizedek's day, God has made Abraham the ''father of a multitude of nations,'' appeared in the burning bush to Moses, freed Israel from slavery at the Passover, and given Moses the Law on Mount Sinai, and a child has been born ''in Bethlehem of Judea,'' [Mathew 2:1] ''a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.'' [Luke 2:11]

All men of good will draw near to loving intimacy with God in and through the covenants. There is no other way for man to be with God except in and through the very specific covenants God has established. God must (and does) find man and offer man intimate union with himself.

You have the advantage of the intimacy of the perfect and complete covenant, the New Covenant that Jesus himself has established by his sacrifice on the Cross with his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church. In the Eucharist, by the power of the Holy Spirit whom he sent, Jesus makes present to all men of all times and places the New Covenant in his blood, the covenant of complete and perfect intimacy with God.

Since you know about the New Covenant and have been joined, in and through the sacraments, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the most intimate possible way to Christ and his Bride, the Catholic Church, that covenant of supreme intimacy is the covenant through which you must continue to draw near to Christ. You have been joined to the perfect intimacy of the New Covenant. For you, a lesser intimacy will no longer do. <<

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Here are three different strategies. None of them are ''mindless belief'' - all three use your ability to discover, to figure out, and to decide. However, the three strategies are still very different, as you will see. In CCC 119, the bishops united with the Holy Father quote St. Augustine: "But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me." Using this hint, which strategy do you think St. Augustine and other Catholics might recommend as best?

a.   Decide that the sacraments are real, discover who Christ is, and then figure out what the Bible means.
b.   Discover what the Bible means, figure out who Christ is, and then decide if the sacraments are real.
c.   Figure out who Christ is, discover what the Bible means, and then decide if the sacraments are real.

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The sacraments of the Catholic Church

a.   are more important than Christ.
b.   help us to know Christ as he really is.
c.   prevent us from knowing who Christ really is.

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The following three answers are all at least partially correct. However, if you had to pick just one, then you would say that a sacrament is best described as

a.   a reminder of the risen Christ.
b.   a symbol of the risen Christ.
c.   a work of the risen Christ.

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Starting points are important. A lot of people who have respect for the Bible have had trouble with the idea that the Pope and the bishops of the Catholic Church united with him - and nobody else - protect the true meaning of the Bible. [CCC 100] Catholics do not have trouble with this, because, like St. Augustine, they have a different starting point. What starting point do Catholics take? Catholics decide

a.   what the Bible means after realizing that the sacraments are real.
b.   whether the sacraments are real in terms of our idea of the Bible.
c.   whether the sacraments are real in terms of our idea of who Christ is.

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Man can find the true, real meaning of the Bible

a.   using his own abilities and knowledge, and entirely on his own.
b.   but only with the help of the sacraments of the Catholic Church.
c.   only very imperfectly, because men always make mistakes, and disagree.

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The Catholic Church teaches all men that the meaning of the Bible

a.   can be separated from the reality of the sacraments.
b.   can not be separated from the reality of the sacraments.
c.   has nothing to do with the reality of the sacraments.

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Apart from the sacraments of the Catholic Church, the meaning of the Bible

a.   can not be known.
b.   can only partially be known.
c.   is completely unknowable.

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Note: Do NOT restate the incorrect answers to this question. Only the correct answer has meaningful content.

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.

The New Testament quotes or refers to passages in the book of Deuteronomy about how many times?

a.   200.
b.   300.
c.   400.

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Many modern scholars believe that Deuteronomy weaves together many legal traditions from far older times in the life of the Jewish people in order to

a.   ensure that the Jewish people would continue to be curious about them.
b.   provide a new pattern of life for the Jewish people after a great crisis.
c.   reinforce the value of traditional institutions such as the monarchy.

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The Catholic Church affirms that Deuteronomy, along with the rest of the Pentateuch, is connected with Moses. However, Catholics are not required to profess that Moses himself wrote Deuteronomy. Many modern scholars suggest that Deuteronomy has a ''frame story''; in other words, Deuteronomy pictures Moses solemnly speaking to the Jewish people four last times, just as they are preparing to enter the land promised to them. Read Deut 1:1-8. Read Deut 4:44-49, 5:1. Read Deut 29:1-2. Read Deut 33:1. Within this ''frame story'' Deuteronomy gives its teaching

a.   of faithful obedience to the laws of the covenant.
b.   that God is sorry he created the heavens and the earth.
c.   that Israel will surely be destroyed because of its sins.

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In Deuteronomy, and elsewhere in the Old Testament, the ''obedience'' required of man by God is strongly associated with - is virtually synonymous with -

a.   blind evil.
b.   faithful love.
c.   terrible slavery.

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Many scholars have said that much of Deuteronomy takes a form similar in language and style to that of an ancient treaty or covenant between a superior ruler and an inferior nation. In the addresses in Deuteronomy Moses typically

- reminds the people of how the LORD saved them with power
- makes a plea for obedience
- gives the laws by which the covenant can be kept
- renews the promise of life in the land IF the covenant is kept

''Horeb'' in Deuteronomy is Mount Sinai, the place where God first gave Moses the law. Now Moses and the people are in Moab, just prior to entering the land that God promised. Read Deut 29:1. Here Deuteronomy reveals that the law Moses gives in Deuteronomy

a.   cancels the law he received from God on Mount Sinai.
b.   continues the law he received from God on Mount Sinai.
c.   supersedes the law he received from God on Mount Sinai.

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Read Deut 5:1-6:3. The Ten Commandments are given

a.   as the commands of an insane and jealous dictator who does not understand reality.
b.   as the means to keep the covenant and thus live intimately with God in happiness.
c.   to harm the people and make them endure perpetual suffering because of all their sins.

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Human nature being what it is, there may come a time when obeying one of the Ten Commandments temporarily seems intolerable, or even insane, to you. Please don't let these thoughts of the moment lead you to think that God gave the Ten Commandments to harm you, or that he gave them because he doesn't understand the real you. The Catholic Church confirms the view of Deuteronomy: not wishing to follow the Ten Commandments always means that God is just fine, and it's you who are temporarily confused.

You protest that you personally could never become so confused that you begin to ''think'' (using the term loosely) that sin is actually a good idea?

The sacrament of Penance will still be there after you wake up and remember how wrong you are about that. <<

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Read Deut 6:4-25. What is the meaning and purpose of the laws given in Deuteronomy? They

a.   have no actual meaning, but are arbitrary symbols of faithfulness.
b.   have no actual purpose, but nonetheless we can trust the LORD.
c.   were given so that the people could remain in the life of the LORD.

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Read Deut 6:4-5. Read Mathew 22:35-40. Quoting Deuteronomy and then Leviticus, Jesus ties together the whole law in two commandments. Here we briefly discuss another topic, a small but somewhat interesting point regarding the translation of Deut 6:4. Some translations say, ''The LORD our God is one LORD.'' Others say, ''The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.''

What's the difference? Many scholars now think that ''the LORD alone'' better reflects the original context of this text. What is that context? That there were many gods, the LORD being one of them. So, the ''literal sense'' might be, ''although there are many gods, the LORD alone is our God.''

Of course, over time the Jewish people themselves gradually understood these very ancient texts in a further way. They gradually understood that there was an additional reason that their devotion to the LORD had to be so strict and faithful: the other gods did not actually exist. They were illusions.

What the best of these scholars seem to be noticing when they point out the differing translations of Deut 6:4 is that time itself can be holy, if it passes in the presence of God. By means of God's presence with them in time, the Jewish people first gradually learned to distinguish the LORD from false gods, and then gradually learned that the false gods are illusions, empty shells, not alive at all.

Was all that time learning more clearly who the LORD was wasted?

Only if time spent with God is wasted. <<

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Some scholars have said that Deut 27:9-10 is a key to understanding Deuteronomy. Read Deut 27:9-10 now. These scholars say that this passage reveals that the people of Israel are to obey God's laws as set down in Deuteronomy

a.   because the LORD has graciously entered their history, made them his people, and offered them a life of faithful love.
b.   because in this way they can bargain God into giving them the land and all the other things they want.
c.   or else the LORD is going to wreck their cities, destroy the Temple, and kill every single one of them.

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A siege occurs when a city is surrounded by an army that can not take it directly and tries to bombard it or starve it into surrender. There are passages in Deuteronomy which many scholars think show that the ancient laws and traditions were collected together and edited into the book of Deuteronomy first during the siege of Jerusalem by Babylon, and also after Israel's defeat and Exile. They say that Deut 28:47-68 may depict some of the actual gruesome sufferings and sins of the siege of Jerusalem and the Exile. But what does Deuteronomy consistently say is the true reason for these horrible things? Read Deut 28:47-68 and then answer.

a.   Israel's leaders were simply not smart enough to make the proper military alliances.
b.   Israel was disobedient to the LORD by failing to faithfully keep covenant with him.
c.   Israel was a weak and unimportant kingdom that was crushed like so many others.

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