The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Some scholars think that ''life'' in Deuteronomy specifically means human life lived in intimate union with God. ''Good'' is then the ''blessing'' - all the consequences of this intimacy. ''Death'' therefore is human life apart from God. It is more than just physical death. All the terrible consequences of the refusal of intimacy with God is the ''curse'' - ''evil.'' Now read Deut 30:15-20, which many scholars consider to be the summit of Deuteronomy, the heart of its teaching. What is the entire purpose of Israel?

a.   To love the LORD.
b.   To be rich and successful.
c.   To be slaves of the LORD.


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Read Deut 30:1-14. Here Moses says that understanding the law and then actually following it is

a.   far beyond man's capacities.
b.   possible for the ordinary man.
c.   the job of a few saints.

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Deuteronomy is the great book of the law of the Old Covenant. Following her Lord who taught her this, the Catholic Church professes that while the law is ''holy, spiritual, and good'' [CCC 1963] it is imperfect and can not save man, because it can not remove sin. There is a deeper problem that the law can only reveal, but not heal. Something deep in man's heart has been wounded, turned away from God. On account of the sin of our first parents, every human being, save Mary the Mother of God herself [CCC 491-492], begins life with a wound in his heart that twists him away from God.

This wound is now part of man's fallen human nature and thus is utterly beyond man's powers to heal. [CCC 403-404] The fact of this deep wound and the whole mystery of the Fall and its effects can be seen clearly only in relation to Christ. [CCC 388]

It is the solemn profession of the whole Catholic Church that the New Covenant is absolutely necessary to the holiness of human life. For the Catholic, Deuteronomy reveals the truth, and yet a truth that is only fully revealed in Christ. An ordinary man can live a holy life. Being holy is not something too hard for him or too high above him. Yet this is possible only in and through the New Covenant established in the life and sacrificial death of Jesus and continually made re-present in the Eucharist. Now read CCC 2007 - 2011. <<

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Re-read Gen 3. The meaning of Gen 3 (that's Genesis, Chapter 3 to those who aren't lucky enough to be in this course) is that

a.   it may be a story, but it nonetheless conveys the truth that the Fall was a real event.
b.   it definitely is a story that should be read as a story, not as a description of a real event.
c.   it is absolutely not any sort of story but is an exact, precise account of a real event.

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How do we know that that is the meaning of Gen 3?

a.   We look deep within ourselves, make certain that our hearts are pure, then pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, who will inform us by giving us a special feeling for the correct answer.
b.   If there is a tradition of the Catholic Church's judgment on the matter, we study that, or we find out if the present Holy Father, or the present Catholic bishops in union with him, have made a judgment.
c.   We study the works of the most distinguished scholars in the most reputable universities, carefully examine the evidence pro and con, and form a mature judgment based on the facts.

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The books


occur before or after the Psalms?

a.   Before.
b.   After.

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What happens if the Church has made no firm judgment about the meaning of a particular passage in the Bible? As long as it does not contradict a truth known to the Church,

a.   anybody can have an opinion.
b.   only people who study the Bible for a living can have an opinion.
c.   only the Pope and bishops in union with him can have an opinion.

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The books

First and Second Chronicles

are often thought of as a unit because

a.   they give the history of the people of Israel after Moses's death until the Exile.
b.   they give the history of the people of Israel from Abraham to Moses's death.
c.   they trace Israel's history from King David until the rebuilding of the Temple.

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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.

By long common consensus, the book of Jonah is one of the most delightful stories in the Bible. It is a ''once upon a time'' story in which the LORD sends Jonah to convert the people of Nineveh to him. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, for a long time the most hated and feared enemy of the Jewish people.

The literal sense of Jonah appears to be a condemnation of both Jonah's and many Jews' feelings at the time of its composition. God's judgment does not fit the crime. He is merciful rather than exacting after repentance. No one should put limits on God's mercy, imagine that his mercy is necessarily limited to Israel, or imagine that no other people could ever turn to the LORD. Read the four short chapters making up the book of Jonah.

Our Lord himself made the time Jonah spent in the belly of the fish a type of his death and resurrection. Read Mathew 12:38-41. <<

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The books


cover the period from Creation up to

a.   the entry into the Promised Land.
b.   the giving of the Promise.
c.   the rise of King David.

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Read Gen 35: 9-15. Isaac's son Jacob is given a new name as part of the covenant God renews with him. It is

a.   Israel.
b.   Jacoboam.
c.   Jerusalem.

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The name ''Exodus'' means

a.   discover.
b.   going out.
c.   return.

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Read Ex 1 (the book of Exodus, chapter 1). In Egypt, the sons (descendants) of Israel (that is, the people of Israel) were being

a.   left alone to do as they wished.
b.   oppressed and extinguished.
c.   rewarded and honored.

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Read Ex 2. Moses is born and grows up as God

a.   abandons his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
b.   lets his people find their own way out of their misery.
c.   remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

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Read Ex 3. God calls Moses

a.   from the midst of a bush that burns without being consumed.
b.   from the midst of an earthquake that tore the temple veil in two.
c.   in a quiet whispering sound that only Moses could hear.

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God identifies himself to Moses. Whom does God say that he is?

a.   ''I am the God of the Egyptians, the friend of the most powerful people in the world.''
b.   ''I am the God beyond space and time, thus too holy and remote to work in time and space to help you.''
c.   ''I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.''

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Read Ex 3:13-15. God reveals to Moses that he

a.   has a name.
b.   has no name.
c.   is an anonymous force.

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The Holy Father and the bishops poignantly profess [CCC 203] God's loving revelation of himself in giving his name to Moses:

''A name expresses a person's essence and identity and the meaning of this person's life. God has a name; he is not an anonymous force. To disclose one's name is to make oneself known to others; in a way it is to hand oneself over by becoming accessible, capable of being known more intimately and addressed personally.''

In this passage in the Catechism we are probably also meant to see in this revelation by God to Moses and to God's people Israel a foreshadowing of God's complete revelation of himself in his only Son, the Word who ''handed himself over'' for our redemption. <<

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God gives Moses his name, in Hebrew, YHWH (''I AM HE WHO IS,'' ''I AM WHO AM,'' or ''I AM WHO I AM'') [CCC 206]. By giving his name God reveals that he is

a.   infinitely beyond anything we can comprehend and not a God who makes himself close to men.
b.   infinitely beyond anything we can comprehend and the God who makes himself close to men.
c.   not infinitely beyond anything we can comprehend but a God who makes himself close to men.

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God's name also reveals [CCC 207] that he

a.   exists only in the human mind and heart.
b.   is faithful from everlasting to everlasting.
c.   is the Christian name for the living universe.

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