The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church

Introduction for the New User
in seven short parts

Welcome! Here are a few hints for making OTHCC easy to use and beneficial for you.

Part 1: Display Size

First, note that the size of the font that OTHCC displays is larger than normal. This is meant to make it easier for you or your group to read each item in OTHCC and concentrate on it, but it might not be the right size for you. Don't worry! The font size can easily be changed.

In Netscape, click on the 'View' menu and "Increase Font" or "Decrease Font" as desired. In Internet Explorer, click on the 'View' menu, then move the cursor over "Text Size," and click on a size from "smallest" to "largest."

Internet Explorer will remember your choice of font size and use it the next time you run it. Therefore, if you use Internet Explorer, you may have to go to the 'View' menu and change the size of the display font back and forth as you move between OTHCC and your other browsing (the default size is 'medium').

OTHCC is extremely interactive. You are not supposed to just sit there, so you may as well get in the swing of things. Try adjusting the font size now to see if you like a smaller or larger size better. (Begin by clicking on the 'View' menu).

Part 2:  How to use OTHCC

First of all, to use this course, you need a good Catholic Bible and a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You will be referring to both constantly.

There are 102 chapters in OTHCC. Here is part of Chapter 29 to show you how to use OTHCC. Material printed in color is explanatory and does not actually appear on the page as you will see it. All the links you see are disabled in this demonstration EXCEPT for the answers - try them out!

Sample Page: Beginning of Chapter 29

The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church

 <    >   All Chapters  <-- Links to other chapters

Chapter 29 contains items 561- 580 . . .

{574}     Down     Up  <-- Links to other items in this chapter

The word ''psalm'' comes from the Greek word meaning

a.   giving glory, honor, and praise to God.
b.   plucking a musical instrument with the fingers.
c.   praying intimately by oneself or together.

Down       Up    <-- Links to other items in this chapter

You answer the questions in OTHCC by clicking on the letters 'a', 'b', or 'c'. The answers are 'live' in this demonstration, so click on a letter and see what happens! (After answering any OTHCC question, click on the 'Back' button to return to the item you were working on).

Down       Up      <-- After finishing an item, it is easiest to click on 'Down' or 'Up' to go on to the next (or the previous) item in the chapter.

Why? Because there is a certain amount of blank space between each item (so that the other items in the same chapter do not distract you while you are reading), and you are quickly going to get tired of scrolling down through that blank space to find the next item. Click on 'Down', and there you are at the next item.

Each chapter (except the last) contains 20 items. Some items are short (as this sample question is), but others can continue for several paragraphs.

When you get to the end of a chapter you will again see links that will take you to other chapters. Clicking on ' < ' will take you to the previous chapter, ' > ' takes you to the next chapter, and 'All Chapters' takes you to the Table of Contents:

<    >    All Chapters     <-- Links to other chapters

Sometimes a thought will continue over more than one item. When this happens, you will see two >> at the end of an item. They're not a link, just an indication that there's more to come:

This means that the thought is continued in the next item. >>

(clicking on 'Down' will take you to the next item)

At the end of this item the thought is complete. <<

You now know how to move around in OTHCC. At the end of this page is a link that will take you right to Chapter 1. Before you go there, here's some general information that you should read before starting the course.

Part 3:  What is an "incremental approach"?

This course does not assume that you know anything about the Bible in general or the Old Testament specifically. However, if you have never read and studied any adult-level books before, then you should probably wait until you have before attempting this course. Although this book introduces the Old Testament as if it were new to the student, the student new to learning should not attempt it.

In this course you will read from every book in the Old Testament and from many sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. You will answer over a thousand short questions, and read hundreds of short "lectures'' (usually a few paragraphs long - the longest is about 20 paragraphs).

Many, many textbooks are very difficult to learn from because no one took enough time and trouble to make the subject matter look easy. This book uses an ''incremental'' approach. It breaks very complex ideas into tiny, tiny pieces that even a complete novice (such as yourself) can handle.

Then it allows your mind to encounter all these little bits a little at a time, over a long period of time. The result is that, little by little, some pretty sophisticated ideas will start to seem obvious to you. You will have done all the work necessary to understand them - but you won't have been forced to do it all at one time.

At first, you may be nervous that this book won't be 'challenging' enough. You probably haven't had much experience with an incremental approach before, so it may bother you that some of the initial questions will seem pretty simple. They won't even be about the Old Testament.

Be patient. First of all, OTHCC really will start from zero. OTHCC will begin by teaching you how to use it, how to find passages in the Bible and in the Catechism, and so forth, so there are some preliminary questions that do that.

Second, there is much initial content to work through that is highly important both to a deeper understanding and to protecting your faith. You live in an advanced technological economy in which very sophisticated thinking goes on all the time. You should not be introduced to the Old Testament as if it were a holy card. You need to have at least an introductory grasp of some very complex ideas.

Just be patient, and learn what OTHCC has to teach you. At item 229 you will begin to read from the Old Testament in earnest. From item 344 on you will be reading from it constantly.

Eventually, after hundreds and hundreds of items, you may start to think that you are seeing an item again. This is normal. You will indeed eventually re-encounter many items again, to give the concepts in them a better chance to sink in.

This point is worth a little emphasis. It turns out that neither constant repetition (e.g., doing 35 long-division problems in a row) nor a 'thematic' approach in which a topic is 'covered' once and then dropped, are the best for learning.

It turns out that working through an idea again (after some time has passed) greatly helps to increase your understanding. When you work through an OTHCC item again, you will be able to use what you've already learned to see more deeply into the thought (or the passage from Sacred Scripture or from the Catechism) that the item calls your attention to.

Eventually you will reach item 2036, the item that begins, ''You have reached the last item in this book.'' It will be one last review of the book of Malachi (the last book in the Old Testament). Then you'll be done.

Part 4:  Slow and steady wins the race.

This electronic book presents to you an actual course of study. It uses a very carefully-developed sequence of items to teach you quite sophisticated material, a little at a time, over a long period of time. That is, the sequence in which items are presented to your mind is part of the educational method of this course.

The sequence of items is also part of the devotional aspect of this course. As you work through the items of this text, you will have the opportunity to dwell on aspects of Sacred Scripture - perhaps even pray about them. This is a slow and quiet process that can not be rushed, and should not be rushed.

Normally, therefore, you should not skip around in this course. Allow the content of this course to be presented to your mind in the gentle sequence that will help you gradually learn the material easily and deeply.

However, some people like to flip through books, read the last chapter first, or just approach the material the way that they think best. It is unreasonable to expect people to turn off this preference like a faucet.

Obviously, you can go absolutely anywhere in OTHCC and do whatever you please. You don't even have to answer a single question.

Try to trust the quiet, unhurried method of this course instead. If you do learn to trust it, you will be rewarded with many, many opportunities for learning, reflection, and devotion along the way.

As the course proceeds, soon you will be continually reading, learning from, and reflecting on passages from every book in the Old Testament, and from the Catechism. As a result, there is a good chance that both your understanding and your faith will deepen.

Of course, you may also wish to return to particular pages in this course that you might want to read, or work through, again.

OTHCC is not difficult, but it is different. Slow and steady wins the race.

Part 5:  Facing the fact of errant biblical scholarship

There are three more important topics that need to be discussed briefly before you start. First, in order to teach you about the Old Testament, it is necessary for this book to include more content than just content about the Old Testament, because there is a very deep trouble in scripture scholarship today.

In a nutshell, the problem is this. Catholics read the Old Testament knowing that the sacraments are real and that the New Testament is true. However, most people who now study the Old Testament for a living, including the Catholics, find that professionally impossible to do.

They are not trying to be evil or nasty. They just don't know how to combine their faith and their profession in an intellectually consistent way.

These people are very, very smart, and most of them know more languages than you can count, so don't you be trying to solve this problem for them, or start to think that it is not really a deep and very serious problem.

Maybe someday when you're a famous scripture scholar, you can help them. For now, just be aware that some of the items in this book will help you understand this problem better, and will help keep that problem from interfering with your own study of the Old Testament.

Part 6:  Facing the fact that all of us are only human

The second point is more or less a warning. This book takes the position that, while it is vital to trust - really trust - what the Holy Father and bishops in communion with him teach about the meaning of the Bible, it is also probably a good idea to learn to be just a little wary, first of yourself and your opinions, but also of both bishops and 'experts'.

Only Jesus, the Word of God himself, by the power of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent, can (and does) protect the true meaning of the Bible, and he does this perfectly despite any weaknesses, frailties, or sins of the ordained ministers of the Catholic Church. This is a very important and very deep truth that you will learn much more about in the course.

However, to learn it you will also have to learn about the human frailties of scholars, and even of bishops. So, if you don't want to know that Catholic bishops have at times been fools, heretics, and even murderers, or that ''inclusive language'' is a perfect example of an academic craze that triumphed with the flimsiest of arguments, then this may not be the book for you.

Part 7:  How to benefit from OTHCC's questions

Third, the questions in this course are not meant to test you. They are meant SOLELY to teach you. To learn what each question has to teach you, restate the entire contents of the question before going on to the next item.

For example, a question reads:

2 + 2 =

a.  2
b.  4
c.  6

'Restating' the full contents of that question means saying something like, ''2 + 2 = 4; it does NOT equal 2, and it does NOT equal 6.''

According to some of the most fundamental results in cognitive science, that moment when the full meaning of a question is present to your mind is a truly magical moment. It is the moment when you begin to really learn the meaning and to understand it.

After you answer a question, restating its entire contents will make present to your mind that magical moment when you learn the most quickly, broadly, and deeply. Create those unique, magical moments of intense learning for yourself, by reflecting on and restating to yourself the entire contents of every question. Remember: this course will never test you, on anything.

This course teaches you THROUGH its questions. Use them to learn. Don't just 'answer' them. Restate, reflect, ponder, even pray if you wish. Take your time. It's not a race.

If you ever want to read this Introduction again, you can go to 'All Chapters' (the Table of Contents) from any OTHCC chapter and click on the link to the Introduction.

Also, if you are a teacher or other advanced intellectual-type person, you can read the Preface, which you can also get to via 'All Chapters.' There you will find words like 'epistemological' and 'hermeneutic,' an explanation of why this book is the way it is, and how best to teach it to a class.

If you ever need to uninstall OTHCC, the file uninstall.txt in your OTHCC folder will tell you how to do that.

God bless you and have a wonderful time!

John Kelleher

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