The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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The pope, a mere man, and bishops in communion with him, can protect the meaning of the Bible not because they have the power to make up the New Covenant as they go along, but because they participate, by their sacramental ordination, in that New Covenant, the highly specific reality of intimate union that Christ has made with his Catholic Church.

Holy Orders is a sacrament, a work of Christ himself. To draw all men closer to him, Christ speaks the 'name' of things, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in and through the judgments of the pope, and bishops in communion with him. Absolutely nothing about them qualifies them for this task. It is a task that is IMPOSSIBLE for them to do, but only Christ.

When Christ, the New Adam, spouse of his beloved Bride and Body, the Catholic Church, acting in and through the solemn judgments of the pope and bishops in communion with him, speaks the 'name' of something, then ''that is its name.''

A genuine physical and spiritual reality now exists, and that reality is eternally part of the union of Christ and his Bride. From then on, nothing can change that reality, ever, not even another pope. >>


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One example of this is that even the pope has no ability to make a man not a priest. Under special circumstances a priest can be 'laicized,' (released from his promises as a priest and forbidden to act as a priest), but he remains a priest.

Christ himself spoke a new 'name' for that man on the day he was ordained, and now, it is literally true that even the pope can't change that 'name.'

One day, a bishop laid hands on that man and said, ''You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.'' From then on, part of that man's 'name,' part of his essence and identity, part of the meaning of his life, became 'priest.' No one can ever change that, not even the pope.

So, even if some horribly sick or evil future pope said (for example) that there were only six sacraments, that still would not make it so. A long time ago, Christ spoke the 'name' of the number of his sacraments. If even a pope can't make a priest not a priest, if even a pope can't change the 'name' of even one man whom Christ has given the name priest, then a pope can certainly not change the 'name' of the number of the sacraments. Christ has spoken that 'name,' and it is forever.

Throughout the centuries, popes and bishops make many judgments that are NOT solemn and forever. They also make judgments that might one day be declared to be solemn and forever but aren't yet. Both kinds of judgments may well be changed by future popes and bishops - or they might not.

Remember also that while Christ, Truth Himself, who always speaks truly, will never, ever turn his back on a single part of the specific truth of the New Covenant as we have it and know it now, nonetheless, Christ is also the font of all the good surprises that will ever be. Thus, we may put no limits on what Christ might teach us in the future.

After all, the apostles were absolutely flabbergasted by the resurrection. That was the greatest, most beautiful surprise that they had ever experienced. So, more great, beautiful surprises may await us as Christ works by the power of his Holy Spirit in and through the Catholic Church to draw us closer to him.

Christ can deepen our understanding of himself and of his union with his Catholic Church. The reality of that union is staring us in the face, but we will never grasp it completely. There's no telling what wonderful surprises await us as Christ leads us to a deeper understanding. >>

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Still, it is important to remember: the reality of the New Covenant as we specifically have it and know it now is forever. One day, you might wake up in a very bad mood and say that the Old Testament is not part of the ''real'' Bible. Even I might say that.

Our saying that won't make it so. It won't change the reality of Christ's very specific physical and spiritual union with his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church. Whatever any of us says, there the Old Testament will still be, still part of that forever reality. <<

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The twelve books of the ''minor prophets'' beginning with Hosea are traditionally placed together at the very end of the Old Testament. These books are called ''minor'' because they are

a.   all short in length.
b.   more conventional.
c.   of lesser importance.

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The Old Testament documents God's desire for an intimate and unbreakable relationship of love (a covenant) with man, in spite of man's repeated rejections of God. Repeatedly God makes covenants with man. God made covenants with all three men mentioned below. Who came first?

a.   Abraham.
b.   Moses.
c.   Noah.

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Read Gen 6:13 - 9:17. The Catechism notes [CCC 701] that the Church sees typological meanings in this passage. In particular, the waters of the flood refer symbolically to

a.   Baptism.
b.   Christ.
c.   Mary.

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The waters of the flood, which brought death, also resulted in the covenant of special closeness and life made by God with Noah and with all living creatures. By the waters of Baptism which are poured over us, we are baptized into Christ's death, which brings us union with him, and eternal life.

Also, Noah releases a dove which returns with a sign that the earth was again habitable. The Church sees in this dove a symbol of the Holy Spirit, who again appears when Christ comes up from the waters of his baptism.

Noah himself has been seen as a type of Christ, the faithful man God works through to save the world from death. <<

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Here is one opinion about the literal sense of Gen 6:13 - 9:17. The conclusion of the passage is the making of the covenant between God and Noah, and this completes and gives the full meaning of the literal sense of what came before. God promises that death, which flooded the whole world on account of man's sins, will never be completely victorious.

The account thus reinforces the Protoevangelium. A man, Noah, defeats the death threatening the whole world, by faithfully and obediently cooperating with God's plans. Significantly, Genesis takes pains to show that Noah can trace his lineage directly to Eve (thus, he is a man who literally is a ''seed'' of the woman). However, and also very significantly, Noah is not a pagan ''hero,'' a man who defeats death by his own powers or actions. God alone does that.

Further, notice how great an emphasis is placed on establishing that Noah and his kin were just a few people in an entire world otherwise utterly given over to sin. Yet, small as their number was, God certainly noticed them. Their faithfulness literally saved the world, and prompts even greater tenderness from God, a tenderness that he extends far beyond Noah to all men who come after him.

Noah, his faithfulness, and the covenant God made with him, are so important that Gen 4:17 - 6:10 outlines the ''generations'' (all the ancestors) of Noah. He and his ancestors live to immense ages, befitting a family of long and continuing heroism and great faithfulness to God. Notice also that God plainly makes a covenant not just with Noah but, through him, with all men and even with all living beings. Noah's faithfulness changes the whole world for the better.

So, how long does the covenant God made with Noah last? The Holy Father and bishops united with him teach [CCC 71] that the covenant with Noah remains in force until

a.   the covenant with Abraham.
b.   the covenant with Moses.
c.   the end of time on the last day.

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According to the Catechism [CCC 56], the covenant with Noah

a.   makes humanity's division into many nations salvific.
b.   overcomes divisions and makes the human race unified again.
c.   saves the human race part by part, while it is still divided.

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The covenant with Noah, which extends to all men and all living creatures, remains in force until the Gospel, the New Covenant in Christ which completes and fulfills all covenants, is universally proclaimed at the end of time. [CCC 58] <<

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A heresy is an idea that clearly conflicts with what the Catholic Church solemnly teaches. About a hundred years after Christ's death and resurrection (around 140 AD), a baptized Christian named Marcion (MAR-see-on) taught that Christ was the Son of God. This teaching is

a.   a truth handed on by the Catholic Church.
b.   a heresy contrary to Catholic teaching.
c.   an idea that is neither true nor false.

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Marcion also taught that there were two Gods, the God of the New Testament, who stays completely apart from the world but sent his Son, and a vain and angry God of the Old Testament, who created the sinful, material world we all must live in. This teaching is

a.   a truth handed on by the Catholic Church.
b.   a heresy contrary to Catholic teaching.
c.   an idea that is neither true nor false.

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Marcion taught that Christ was the Son of God. He also taught that God's Son, Christ, was sent by a different God than the one who inspired the Old Testament. Marcion's ideas were found by the Catholic Church to contradict the faith of the apostles. When Marcion continued to teach these things after being told that they contradicted the faith, he was expelled from the Catholic Church in 144 AD. This shows that

a.   absolutely everything in an idea has to be in direct conflict with what the Catholic Church professes in order for the idea to be a heresy.
b.   if something in an idea is determined by the Catholic Church to be in direct conflict with what the Catholic Church professes, it is a heresy.
c.   what matters is whether the most important idea is faithful to the Church's teachings, not whether some particular point contradicts the faith.

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In effect Marcion taught that the Old Testament was not part of the ''real'' Bible. His ideas were popular, and they had to be resisted very vigorously. This shows that

a.   it doesn't matter if someone has ideas that contradict the Catholic faith, as long as we all get along.
b.   it is important that the Catholic Church point out ideas that directly contradict her teachings.
c.   the world would have been the same, and everything would have been just fine, if Marcion's ideas had won.

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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.

Read Micah, Mic 1:1. The prophet Micah lived around 700 BC, at roughly the same time as

a.   Elijah.
b.   Isaiah.
c.   Jeremiah.

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Read Mic 3:1-4. Regarding the leaders of Israel, Micah is

a.   condemnatory.
b.   forgiving.
c.   unconcerned.

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Read Mic 5:1-4. This was interpreted as a prediction of the Messiah's birth in Bethlehem. Even the silence about the father of the child had significance for some early Christian writers.

Read Mic 6:3-4. These verses are echoed in the ''Improperia'' (reproaches) sung or read during the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday. <<

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Calling the Bible ''inspired'' means that the human beings who wrote the words of the Bible

a.   had divine insight into human nature.
b.   were brilliant beyond the ability of other men.
c.   wrote whatever God wanted written, and no more.

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Calling the Bible ''inspired'' means that

a.   God is the Person who wrote the actual words in the Bible.
b.   the human authors of the Bible are not true authors of the Bible.
c.   the human authors of the Bible perfectly cooperated with God's intentions.

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When the Catholic Church says that the Bible is ''inspired,'' she does not mean that God simply dictated the words of the Bible to the human authors. The human authors of the Bible are ''true authors'' who used their own words and abilities, but perfectly cooperated with God's intentions by the power of the Holy Spirit. [CCC 106] When the Church calls the Bible inspired, she means that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, when we hear or read the Bible in faith, we with absolute certainty receive the person God intended us to receive - the real, true Word of God, Christ. <<

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