The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Read Judg 6:1-24. When the LORD calls Gideon, Israel

a.   has been at peace for forty years.
b.   is beginning to fear for its safety.
c.   is being oppressed by the Midianites.


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Gideon defeats the Midianites. Read Judg 8: 22-35. What happened next?

a.   After Gideon died, the people betrayed the LORD again.
b.   Gideon became the king of Israel and ruled for forty years.
c.   Gideon was completely faithful to the LORD all his days.

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The most extensive collection of traditions in Judges is about Samson. Samson

a.   commands the largest army in Israel.
b.   defeats the Philistines once and for all.
c.   engages in a series of individual exploits.

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The stories about Samson are different from the stories of the other judges. Samson never commands an army. He never rescues Israel from the Philistines, although he does defeat some of them in battle. He was remembered as having begun the eventual victory against the Philistines, a people who settled in Israel around the same time as the Jews. Most scholars say that Judg 13-16 contain several traditions about Samson that have been combined.

The first tells of his auspicious birth and consecration to the LORD. Read Judg 13.

The second recounts the first of Samson's heroic exploits. Read Judg 14:5-6. Later in the story Samson kills thirty men by himself.

The third relates more of Samson's feats of great strength. Read Judg 15:14-20.

Finally, chapter 16 concludes the story of Samson. Read Judg 16. <<

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Modern biblical scholars think that the first three chapters in Genesis

a.   consist of stories compiled from diverse traditions.
b.   should be read as ''newspaper truth.''
c.   were written at the same time by one human author.

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According to the Holy Father and bishops in communion with him [CCC 289], thinking that the first three chapters in Genesis consist of stories compiled from diverse traditions

a.   by itself moves you farther from Christ.
b.   does not by itself move you farther from Christ.
c.   may by itself move you farther from Christ.

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Thinking that the first three chapters in Genesis consist of stories compiled from diverse traditions does not affect your union with Christ, and it certainly solves a lot of problems that crop up if you assume that those chapters come from a single source.

However, for some people, thinking that the first three chapters of Genesis are a compilation of different traditions actually reinforces their unbelief, their lack of faith. Essentially their reasoning is, if God did not literally whisper the words of Genesis in Moses's ear, then Genesis can not be God's literal Word. There are a lot of origin stories, from all over the world. This fact proves to some people that none of these origin stories are true. So for them, the ''true meaning of the Bible'' is that the Bible is not true.

Here's a familiar question: But how can we tell who is right? For instance, how can we really be certain that the first three chapters of Genesis are not merely one more compilation of origin stories from traditions, but are special, unique, more than just that, and the true Word of God?

a.   Due to the fact that all truly intelligent people agree about what the first three chapters of Genesis mean, we know that a committee of very smart people with university degrees will find the true meaning of the first three chapters of Genesis every time.
b.   Even though history shows that we do not necessarily find the true meaning of the first three chapters of Genesis on our own, Christ himself continues to give man what he needs to study the first three chapters of Genesis through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
c.   Since people have been disagreeing about what the first three chapters of Genesis mean for thousands of years, we can't ever really be certain who is right when people disagree about the true meaning of the first three chapters of Genesis.

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Even though the first three chapters of Genesis may have had diverse sources (and thus may not have had any unified human origin), we know that what they teach about the meaning of existence, and about the origin and purpose of the universe and of man, is non-contradictory, unified, and true because

a.   all the most intelligent people in the world universally think this.
b.   Christ himself verifies this through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
c.   they are the only origin stories that mankind has ever heard.

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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.

First and Second Kings completes the series of books called by modern scholars the ''Deuteronomistic History'': Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. They say these six books, as they hand on ancient traditions between the death of Moses and the beginning of the exile, weave into their account a common theological viewpoint, the same one as in Deuteronomy. According to most modern scholars, what is this common theme that runs like a thread through these six books?

a.   Faithfulness to the LORD leads to well-being and success; unfaithfulness to him leads to punishment and ruin.
b.   Having more than one wife is a great offense against the LORD; it must be stopped or punishment will follow.
c.   The LORD forbids the taking of slaves and the slaughtering of prisoners in battle; he will punish transgressors.

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Read 1 Kings 2:1-4. On his deathbed David tells Solomon

a.   that he should be clever enough not to oppress the people as he rules.
b.   that if he is faithfully obedient to the LORD his kingdom will continue.
c.   to slaughter anyone who has transgressed against the law of God.

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Read a famous passage, 1 Kings 3:1-28. For ages to come, Solomon was renowned for his great

a.   power.
b.   wealth.
c.   wisdom.

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Read 1 Kings 11:1-13. Solomon is unfaithful to the LORD

a.   by having many wives.
b.   by overtaxing the people.
c.   by worshiping false gods.

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1 Kings 12:1-20 records the split of the kingdom into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Read 1 Kings 12:1-20. Knowing what you know about the thinking of the writers of 1 and 2 Kings, what is the ultimate reason for this split?

a.   Jeroboam was clever and resourceful.
b.   Rehoboam was inept and greedy.
c.   Solomon had been unfaithful to the LORD.

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According to the basic message of 1 and 2 Kings, unfaithfulness to the LORD would inevitably lead to a short life for the king and ruin for the kingdom. Also according to 1 and 2 Kings, all the kings of Israel (the northern kingdom) did what is evil in the sight of the LORD and thus suffered the consequences of their infidelity. Read 1 Kings 15:33. Baasha reigned as king of Israel for twenty-four years and was able to hand on his kingdom to his son. According to most scholars, is this completely consistent with the message conveyed by the writers of 1 and 2 Kings?

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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Many modern scholars note that 1 and 2 Kings is a history written by those who already know the fates of both the northern and the southern kingdoms. Unlike the kings of Judah, who (more or less) were able to maintain a continuous succession of kings each able to trace his lineage back to the house of David, the kings of Israel often succeeded each other through murder, and were not able to maintain a consistent family dynastic line (a house).

For example, read 1 Kings 16:8-13. Baasha's son is murdered after two years as king, and the house of Baasha is ended. Also of course, the northern kingdom was completely destroyed over a hundred years before the Exile, which the writers of 1 and 2 Kings also knew.

So, the sacred author of 1 and 2 Kings may not even have cared that Baasha himself seems to have had a very successful reign in human terms, and died knowing that his son would continue the line. The point may have been the general fate of the northern kingdom.

On the other hand, 1 and 2 Kings may be taking the attitude that Baasha was literally if only eventually punished for his own sins by what befell his son. Many scholars think that this second alternative, the ''literal punishment'' idea, was at least part of the sacred author's intended meaning. >>

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1 and 2 Kings certainly takes the attitude: faithfulness = good things happen; unfaithfulness = bad things happen. Is that the Catholic position? Given that the most innocent, sinless, and faithful man who will ever live died horribly on the Cross, the attitude taken by 1 and 2 Kings can only be seen by Catholics as one stage on the journey toward understanding the mystery and the consequences of sin, understanding that can only be complete with reference to Christ himself. [CCC 388]
So, what really happens to those who turn away from God? Catholics can look to the Fall for the true answer. Our first parents showed us exactly what the truth is. You really are free. You are not forced to move closer to Christ. You really can move away from him.

If moving farther from Christ is what you really want to do, then you really will get exactly what you want. <<

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If you are faithful to Christ your whole life,

a.   nothing painful or bad will ever happen to you.
b.   you will have a long life and much happiness.
c.   you will have intimate union with him forever.

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