The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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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.

Most modern scholars think that First Maccabees, unlike Second Maccabees,

a.   admits that Judas Maccabeus suffered occasional defeats and was killed.
b.   denies that Judas Maccabeus suffered occasional defeats and was killed.
c.   never mentions any of the defeats of Judas Maccabeus or his death.

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1 and 2 Maccabees is the story of events that occurred while the Jews were living under the rule of

a.   Greek-speakers, about 200-100 BC.
b.   the Romans, after about 60 BC.
c.   the Persians, about 500-400 BC.

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Historians tell us that ''Hellenization'' (Greeks called themselves ''Hellenes'') occurred throughout the known world at the time of the Maccabees. Hellenization was the adoption of Greek language, customs, and practices by other societies. Greek philosophy, science, and art were widely recognized as being important and valuable, and the Greek language was the international language of the day.

Just for example, many Jews (along with people in many other societies of the time) took Greek names, and the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek. Some Jews actively encouraged Hellenization. Others actively resisted it. Many Jews probably just accepted it.

However, a turning point came when the Greek-speaking rulers of Judah began to force Hellenization on the Jews, especially after one ruler looted the Temple and turned it into a shrine to the Greek god Zeus. A partially-successful armed resistance by some Jews developed. This armed resistance was

a.   ignored by the Maccabees.
b.   led by the Maccabees.
c.   opposed by the Maccabees.

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Most scholars agree that 1 Maccabees itself indicates that most Jews of the time joined the Maccabees in resisting Greek rule.

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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1 Maccabees records that the Maccabean resistance to Greek rule was

a.   military and also political.
b.   military but not political.
c.   political but not military.

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Although neither 1 nor 2 Maccabees is part of the sacred scriptures of the Jews, Jews remember the retaking and then the restoration of the Temple under Judas Maccabeus at the feast of

a.   Hanukkah.
b.   Rosh Hashanah.
c.   Yom Kippur.

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The first of the Maccabees, Mattathias, is near death, and delivers a testament that sums up much of the teaching of the Maccabees. It emphasizes faithfulness to the covenant with God and the eventual reward for faithfulness. Read 1 Macc 2:49-69.

The rededication of the Temple is recounted in 1 Macc 4:36-59. This rededication is celebrated every year at the feast of Hanukkah. Read 1 Macc 4:36-59.

Most scholars note that 1 Maccabees, while focusing on the Maccabees as heroes, does mention the negatives: their political and diplomatic machinations, their occasional military defeats, and the fact that most of them were eventually killed in battle or assassinated. In 1 Maccabees, God is seen to work through capable but flawed men. >>

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2 Maccabees focuses on the time of Judas Maccabeus, when both the Temple and its worship were under attack from within and without. 2 Maccabees clearly remembers the time as a time of great crisis for the Jewish people and their relationship with God. Extremes of both faithfulness and violence - even gore - are featured in its account, as are martyrdoms.

The Catholic Church remembers the story of seven martyred youths and their martyred mother in 2 Maccabees and reads it at Mass. The Church remembers them for a number of reasons, including of course their faithfulness to God in spite of brutal torture. The Church also sees these martyrs as professing a belief in a God who creates out of nothing, and in the resurrection of the dead. Read 2 Macc 7.

Also note that this chapter reveals that martyrdom is not a waste. In a mysterious way, the death of martyrs has the effect of ending suffering and allowing the people to come closer to God. Re-read 2 Macc 7:37-38. <<

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Will God ever make another covenant? [CCC 66]

a.   Maybe.
b.   No.
c.   Yes.

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First recall that 10,000 BC is farther back in time than 1 BC. When the Babylonians conquered Israel they completely destroyed the Temple and (to stifle all resistance) killed or carried off every person of power, prominence, or influence. The Exile in Babylon lasted about 50 years and it can be dated with precision from records. The Exile of about 50 years occurred in the period

a.   800 to 700 BC.
b.   700 to 600 BC.
c.   600 to 500 BC.

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There are - literally - hundreds of references to Jerusalem in the Bible. It is the city of the great king David, the capital of David's kingdom, the city where the wise king Solomon built the great Temple of God, the place where God dwells among his people, the center of the worship of the people of Israel.

Jerusalem, the holy city, was destroyed, and its inhabitants were exiled for generations. This destruction, exile, return, and rebuilding, especially of the Temple and of religious practices, is also a very important part of what ''Jerusalem'' means in the Old Testament.

This theme of ''exile and return'' is seen by the Church as a type or figure of our journey from the fallen world to the New Creation in Christ. By the Fall man was exiled from the Garden. He is given a new home, sacramentally already real in the Catholic Church, which is fulfilled in the kingdom Christ will initiate when he comes again.

Now read in the New Testament, the book of Revelation, Rev 21:1-4, to see that our Lord's death and resurrection has created not only a new heaven and a new earth, but a new Jerusalem, the holy city where God will now dwell among his people forever, without fear of any further destruction. Here Jerusalem is a type both of the present sacramental reality of the Bride and Body of Christ, the Catholic Church, and what she will become on the last day, the kingdom of God's people. [CCC 117] <<

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The bishop of Rome (the Pope), and other Catholic bishops in union with him, have the absolutely unique ability to protect the true meaning of the Bible (for instance, when they tell us exactly which books belong in the Old Testament) ONLY because

a.   bishops are much smarter and better educated than anyone else.
b.   bishops are much more spiritually enlightened than anyone else.
c.   Christ protects his Church in and through the sacrament of Holy Orders.

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Marcion had an idea of who Christ ''really'' is. Then he looked at the Old Testament, and compared it to his idea. When the Old Testament didn't fit his idea of Christ, his solution was to take the Old Testament out of the ''real'' Bible.

In essence, St. Polycarp and other bishops of the time told Marcion that he had it backwards. The fact that the Old Testament is the true Word of God is telling us many important things about who Christ really is.

We should not start with our idea of Christ and compare the Old Testament to it. We should start with the truth of the Old Testament, and then we can better know and come close to Christ. >>

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Here's another historical fact: many people have tried to judge the reality of the sacraments of the Catholic Church in terms of their idea of who Christ is. If the sacraments don't seem to fit their idea of who Christ is, then their solution is to take the sacraments out of ''real'' Christianity.

Yet from her beginnings the Catholic Church has professed that Christ is actually, really present in and works through his sacraments, and that this reality is an absolutely crucial part of who Jesus Christ really is.

In essence, the bishops are saying that the fact that the sacraments of the Catholic Church are real is telling us many important things about who Christ really is. We should not start with our idea of Christ and compare the sacraments to it. We should start with the reality of the sacraments, and then we can better know and come close to Christ.

The surest way to really know Christ - the real Christ, the whole Christ - is to BEGIN with the reality of the sacraments.

This is similar to what St. Augustine meant when he said, ''But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me.'' Once St. Augustine knew in his heart that Christ continues his work in and through the Church and her sacraments, then he could truly know and believe in Christ and his Gospel. [The bishops quote St. Augustine's remark in CCC 119] <<

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When someone teaches or believes that the sacraments of the Catholic Church are not real, then

a.   there is a chance he could be correct.
b.   we know that he is going to Hell.
c.   what happens to him can be known only by God.

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In the Catechism the bishops united with the Holy Father teach that Christianity

a.   has a closeness and a link to the Jewish faith unlike any other.
b.   must treat the Jewish faith the same as any other religion.
c.   should have less respect for the Jews, since they rejected the Messiah.

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In the Catechism the Holy Father and the bishops teach that both Jews and Christians await the Messiah. What's the difference in their waiting?

a.   For Jews, the Messiah remains hidden until the end of time.
b.   Jews will be condemned by the true Messiah on the last day.
c.   The true Messiah will turn out to be someone besides Jesus Christ.

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