The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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The Old Testament never uses the word Father to refer to God in his eternal relationship to his only Son, Jesus. This meaning of God's Fatherhood is ''unheard-of'' [CCC 240] in the literal meaning of the books of the Old Testament. This central truth of the Catholic faith is only revealed by Jesus himself, as he calls God his Father and reveals that he is the Son who is in intimate communion with the Father and who alone reveals the Father to men.

Of course, reading the Old Testament as if the sacraments were real and the New Testament were true will reveal additional meaning in the Old Testament, but in its literal sense, the Old Testament does not speak of God as Father of his only-begotten Son. <<


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The Holy Father and the bishops in communion with him profess [CCC 239] that God is

a.   like a mother in his tenderness and intimacy.
b.   Mother in her tenderness and intimacy.
c.   not at all like a mother in any way.

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God is Father. He is LIKE a mother in his tenderness and intimacy, but he is Father. However, though he is Father, ''He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: no one is father as God is Father.'' [CCC 239]

Many academics and theorists have recently been contending that God should be called ''Mother'' or ''Father-Mother,'' or at least, ''God,'' and not ''Father.'' Others have pointed out a tiny problem with this argument: Jesus addresses God as ''Father'' exclusively. For Jews, ''Father'' is one title for the LORD. For Catholics, Father is a CRUCIAL name: God is eternally Father in relation to his only Son. [CCC 239]

Other scholars have contended that while Jesus used ''Father'' exclusively to address God, the Jewish people sometimes called God Mother. This too is not true. There are times when the Old Testament says God is like a mother, but that is all.

The scholarly evidence from people's names is definitive. Children in the ancient societies around Israel were often given a name referring to a god: ''My father is [the god] Samas'' is one real name that was used; ''My mother is Samas'' is another. People in the societies around Israel were perfectly capable of attributing motherhood/sisterhood, etc., or masculine equivalents, to a god, even to the same god, in the names that people gave their children; it was not a strange concept at all.

Yet this is NEVER done in the normative religious culture of Israel. Never is a feminine name associated with God. Even the GIRL'S names say (for example), ''My father/brother/king is the LORD.'' This is true throughout the entire Old Testament. >>

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The pious people of Israel were absolutely clear that the LORD was Father, not mother. It was not as if they didn't realize that a god might be called ''mother'' or some other feminine name. They weren't ''oppressed'' by their culture into thinking that a god had to have a masculine name. Everybody knew that a god might have a feminine name. But the LORD did not have a feminine name; this was clear to them.

The false gods frequently had sex - with each other, with cattle, etc. The Old Testament ridicules this. In the Old Testament, even before Jesus reveals him fully, God is Father in a way that is completely beyond sex - but he is Father nevertheless.

Please don't be like Marcion. Don't decide who God ''really'' is and then get mad when the Pope and bishops in communion with him don't see it your way. Many important people are now saying that calling God Father is ''oppressive'' and ''sexist.'' They are moving farther from Christ. You can trust not only our Lord, who himself teaches you to say, ''Our Father,'' but also the uncounted generations of the faithful people of Israel who bestowed names on their children associating them with the LORD as Father, and never mother. God is mysteriously, but really, Father. <<

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Read Lev 17:10-14. The blood of a living creature not metaphorically but literally is its

a.   death.
b.   life.
c.   sin.

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Leviticus commands the Jewish people not to eat blood. They are not to become one with the life of another creature. In the ancient Hebrew way of thinking, life is not a process or some other abstraction. Life literally is physical blood, the substance that pours out of an animal after it is sacrificed. The physical blood is literally the creature's life. Eating its blood would make you one with its life - a life that belongs to God, not you.

Read Mathew, Mt 26:27-28. Only God himself, the source of life, could give the command to eat blood. Moreover, it is his own blood that is to be eaten. The invitation of Jesus to drink his blood is not metaphorical. It is the extraordinary invitation by God to literally become one with his own life.

What is drunk is the blood of the (new) covenant. Thus it is not only God's blood but also the blood of a covenantal sacrifice, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. The invitation of Jesus to drink his blood is therefore also the invitation by the Lamb of God to literally become one with his sacrificial death on the Cross. <<

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Because Catholics have the sacraments and the New Testament,

a.   the Old Testament tells them inaccurate things about Christ.
b.   their understanding and appreciation of the Old Testament only increases.
c.   they can ignore the Old Testament as merely a stage in God's plan.

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The New Testament has to be read

a.   by trivializing the Old Testament.
b.   in the light of the Old Testament.
c.   without regard for the Old Testament.

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Early Catholic teaching

a.   ignored the Old Testament as much as possible.
b.   made constant use of the Old Testament.
c.   trivialized and denigrated the Old Testament.

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The patriarchs are

a.   Abraham, his son Isaac, Isaac's son Jacob, and Jacob's twelve sons.
b.   Adam, his son Abel, Noah, his descendent Abraham, and Moses.
c.   Moses, his brother Aaron, and the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah.

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The Church teaches [CCC 130] that the saving events of the Old Testament, such as the calling of Abraham and the other patriarchs, and the exodus from Egypt, ''were intermediate stages'' in God's plan. These Old Testament events

a.   have lost their own value in God's plan.
b.   have not lost their own value in God's plan.
c.   never had substantial value in God's plan.

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Christ himself

a.   ignored the Old Testament as much as possible.
b.   made constant use of the Old Testament.
c.   trivialized and denigrated the Old Testament.

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According to the Catechism [CCC 203], the ''name'' of a person in biblical times

a.   expresses his essence and identity and the meaning of his life.
b.   is given by his family as a way to indicate his status in society.
c.   says little about his eventual role in God's plans for man.

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The Hebrew name ''Jesus'' means

a.   ''Holy is God.''
b.   ''God is near.''
c.   ''God saves.''

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Sin is ''rejection of God and opposition to him.'' [CCC 386] In other words, the reality of sin means that

a.   God is real and man has actual freedom to move toward him or away from him.
b.   God is real but man has no actual ability to reject God and move away from him.
c.   ''sin'' is an outdated name for flaws, weakness, mistakes, unjust structures, etc.

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Man can come to understand the reality of sin clearly [CCC 387]

a.   by his unaided reason.
b.   only with God's help.
c.   with very little problem.

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One way that the Catholic Church reads the Old Testament is as a long, slow story of the people chosen by God, seeing the true nature of sin more plainly.

Here is the nature of sin: Sin is real. It is the rejection of God, holiness himself. Sin is universal. All men are afflicted by sin. Only God, holiness himself, can restore man's lost holiness. Only by invoking God's holy name can man be saved from sin.

Only the Jewish people could discover the reality of sin; for man can not see it clearly on his own. [CCC 387] There is a certain irony in the fact that it is God's revelation of himself to the Jewish people that gradually intensifies their sense of sin. By the overwhelming light of his perfect holiness, they came to see their sin more clearly.

As God came closer and closer to the people of Israel, they saw his holiness. As he revealed his holiness, he also revealed that he wanted them to be holy. Read Leviticus, Lev 19:1-2. And yet, as they increasingly desired to be holy, they began to see the mystery of sin: that man seemingly can not resist rejecting and opposing God in ways both large and small. >>

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Read Ps 51:1-12. The psalmist has learned that sin is always an offense against God: ''against thee, thee only have I sinned.'' Thus only God can forgive sin. Furthermore, only God, holiness himself, can restore holiness in man, holiness that man rejected, refused, and abandoned by sin. Sin kills something in man that man can not bring back to life. Only the Creator God can ''create in me a clean heart'' and ''restore to me the joy of thy salvation.''

In the Catechism the Catholic Church professes that the Law given Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex 20-24) is a principal means by which, over the centuries, God gradually makes the people of Israel more aware of his great holiness, and thus, of their sins. The God who alone saved the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt also desires to save them from a far greater evil: their sin. In this way Israel gradually learned to invoke God's name as Redeemer [CCC 431], and began to hope for the Messiah [CCC 708].

For the Catholic Church, here is the surprising and unprecedented fulfillment of these long yearnings: the Messiah is the Redeemer God. The presence of the Redeemer God (''God saves'') among men is also the very person of the Messiah, who perfectly accomplishes the mission for which the Father sends him.

For Catholics, the entire Old Testament can be read as a slow unfolding of man's longing for Jesus, a deepening longing, by means of an ever greater awareness of the horror of sin, for the name of ''God saves'' to become flesh and dwell among us. <<

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First, you need to realize that the name ''Isaac'' means ''laughter.'' Next, you need to know that Isaac was Abraham's son, by whom God kept his promise to Abraham to give him offspring. Now you can have a little laugh when you read Gen 18:1-15 (yes, now).

Actually, the preceding sentence was also a little joke. Gen 18:12-15 says in effect that Sarah had a little ''laugh'' - and of course, she did! In this way, God had the last laugh, and when God has the last laugh, everyone else is also delighted. On the serious side, the meaning [CCC 706] is that God keeps his promise to Abraham

a.   against all human hope.
b.   as Abraham knew he would.
c.   by Abraham's powers.

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The ''minor prophets'' are twelve short prophetic books (many are just a few chapters long) that are grouped together in the Old Testament. They are:


Within the Old Testament, the ''minor prophets'' are grouped together right at the

a.   beginning.
b.   middle.
c.   end.

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