The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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A theory held by some Jews was that a (good) king could unify the laws, the people, and the army, making a nation stronger, more just, and better able to defend itself. Read 1 Sam 8. What does the LORD say?

a.   The people may have a king because a king will make the nation stronger.
b.   The people may have a king even though it shows their lack of faith.
c.   The people may not have a king because it shows their lack of faith.


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Read 1 Sam 9:27-10:1. The anointing of Saul with oil

a.   caused Saul to become deeply troubled and concerned.
b.   showed that the spirit of the LORD has come upon Saul.
c.   was a mistake because Saul was not to the people's liking.

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Saul is gifted and well-accepted by the people, but he proves unacceptable to God. Samuel then anoints David. Now there are two anointed kings of Israel at once! 1 Sam 16 - 2 Sam 5 (you don't have to read all of these chapters unless you want to) tell the story of Saul's pursuit of David, David's increasing favor with everyone, even with Saul's own children, Saul's eventual death in battle against the Philistines, the death of Saul's last heir, and David's acceptance as king by all of Israel. <<

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Read 2 Sam 7:1-17. This passage was interpreted by the Jewish people as

a.   a false glorification of kingship over the former times when judges ruled.
b.   a perpetual covenant made between the LORD and king David and his sons.
c.   of little significance in the life and history of the people of Israel.

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Read 2 Sam 7:18-29. The Catholic Church [CCC 2579] sees this passage as

a.   a model of prayer.
b.   important to Jews alone.
c.   of no importance.

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The destruction of Jerusalem and the Exile in Babylon caused the Jewish people to reflect more deeply on the promises God made to them, including the promise he made to David, of an everlasting kingship. (After the Exile, Israel no longer was ruled by its own king descended from David).

The Catholic Church professes that the Old Testament has a history in which God gradually reveals the fuller meaning of his promise to David of a kingdom as a promise of a universal kingdom for all men. This universal kingdom, secure forever, is the New Covenant, the union of Christ and his Church.

Jesus is the ''King of the Jews'' [read Mark 15:26], from the tribe of Judah and a true son of David [read Mathew 1:1], the King who from the Cross establishes the kingdom of the New Covenant in his blood. <<

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In spite of his success and wealth, David does what is displeasing to God. He has sexual relations with Bathsheba, the wife of his general Uriah, gets her pregnant, and arranges for Uriah to be killed in battle. The prophet Nathan is sent to show David his sins. Read 2 Sam 11-12:25. David does repent, and thus re-confirms his faithfulness to God. However, are there still consequences to David's sins against God? Solomon, we know, does grow up to be king. What does the rest of Second Samuel tell about two of David's sons, the half-brothers Amnon and Absalom?

a.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Absalom kills Amnon in a revenge-killing, then plots against David until Absalom is killed in battle.
b.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Absalom kills Amnon in a revenge-killing, then succeeds David until Solomon is ready to assume the throne.
c.   Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom's sister, Amnon peacefully assumes the throne from David, followed by Absalom, who is followed by Solomon.

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There are many religions whose initial assumption is that covenants offered by God to man are unnecessary or even irrelevant. These religions assume that if man is sufficiently clever, dedicated, nice, saintly, sincere, etc., then man can draw near to God on his own. Please remember that man can not draw near to God on his own. The Fall by our first parents prevents this forever.

The covenants are not metaphors. They are not ''stories'' about how man draws near to God under man's own power. They are the actual means by which God reveals himself to man and offers an actual, intimate union with himself to actual, living men. That is, in a mysterious way, if men draw near to Christ, they have always and at all times done so in and through the particular covenants that God has made.

Religions which implicitly assume that the particular covenants offered by God to man are unnecessary for union with God are simply mistaken. The one God, the Most Holy Trinity, has revealed himself as a personal God who offers an intimate, personal union with himself to man through covenants. The ''gods'' of other religions are, quite simply, not real. They do not exist. The true God directly intervenes in history and offers specific, particular covenants to man. >>

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The Catholic Church professes that all of the covenants are completed and given their full beauty and meaning in the New Covenant between Christ and his Bride, the Catholic Church. In the New Covenant God reveals himself completely and offers complete, intimate union with himself in and through the particular intimate union between Christ and his Catholic Church.

In the fallen world the summit of this union is the sacrament of the Eucharist. It is very important to remember that the sacraments, just like the covenants, are not a metaphor for something else. Receiving our Lord in the Eucharist is not a metaphor. In a mysterious but completely real way you actually receive our Lord himself. You can not experience his presence the way you will in heaven, but he is as close to you in the Host as he would have been had you been walking right next to him in Galilee. >>

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Jesus Christ is the Father's full revelation of himself. ''Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect, and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything: there will be no other word than this one.'' [CCC 65]

In and through Christ's union with his Church, man now has the perfect and complete covenant. Like all the covenants, it is particular - there are no ''generic'' covenants. Yet unlike the other covenants, it is both universal and complete. In the Eucharist man shares in the very life of God, and thus can freely be in intimate union with God forever.

This union with God in and through the Eucharist is completely free. Jesus forces no one to be close to him in his sacraments. But covenantal union with God through the Eucharist is also completely real. As a baptized Catholic, you have the possibility of a special intimacy with Christ that God wishes all men to share. You may receive him in the Holy Eucharist. <<

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Read Ex 12. This is a description of the Passover and of the last of the ten Plagues that God sent to make Pharaoh allow the people of Israel to leave Egypt. In the paschal lamb, the Catholic Church has always found a type of Christ. The Exsultet, a proclamation sung most solemnly at the Easter Vigil, attests this:

''This is our passover feast
when Christ, the true Lamb, is slain,
whose blood consecrates the homes of all believers.''

To this day, the Jewish people see the Passover as a living memorial of the covenant God makes with them. The Passover is given solemn memorial by them every year. CCC 1340 adds:

''By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.'' <<

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Read Ex 19-20. This is the giving of the covenant and the law to Moses in the theophany on Mount Sinai. (Note that Ex 20 also gives, as part of the law, one form of what are now known as the Ten Commandments. Deuteronomy 5 gives another.) Although of course Exodus is a rich and complex book, since you have already read Ex 1-3, and Ex 6, you now probably have enough of its meaning to understand the following passage from the Catechism, CCC 62:

''After the patriarchs, God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law so that they would recognize him and serve him as the one living and true God, the provident Father and just judge, and so that they would look for the promised Savior.'' <<

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Read Ex 33:7-11. The ''pillar of cloud'' is a theophany. A theophany is

a.   a fire that does not seem to go out.
b.   a theology of divine visitations.
c.   a visible appearance of God to man.

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''The Twelve Tribes of Israel'' traditionally traced their ancestry back to the twelve sons of Jacob (Israel). The division into twelve tribes was not hard-and-fast and it is not clear how many distinct ''tribes'' remained by the time of Solomon. It is clear that after the death of David's son Solomon, many tribes under a new king formed a separate ''northern kingdom'' of Israel, splitting from the ''southern kingdom'' of Judah. The Old Testament depicts Solomon's son, his successor as king, as inept and greedy. In any case, he was unacceptable to the northern Jews.

The Old Testament accuses the northern kings of faithlessness, not only of setting up new altars and priests, but also of worshiping the false gods of the peoples around them. However, it also accuses Solomon himself of worshipping the false gods of his many foreign wives. Also, it appears that some prophets (for example, Amos and Hosea) lived in the north.

Clearly, not all people in the north turned from the LORD, nor was the southern kingdom blameless. Many differences between north and south were political, or emphasized differing parts of their covenant with the LORD. Some scholars see the north as following an older tradition based on the covenant made at Mount Sinai with Moses, with the south basing its following of the LORD on a personal covenant he made with the house of David, and on worship at the Temple at Jerusalem.

The kingdom of Israel (which soon became known as Samaria, after its capital) lasted a long time: about two hundred years. It was conquered and destroyed by Assyria around 722 BC. The Assyrians then deliberately ''mixed'' the remaining population, importing many other people (with their gods) into the region. This was intolerable to pious Jews. Several historians believe that many priests of the northern kingdom fled to the south at the time of the destruction of the northern kingdom, and over time vigorously contributed both to religious reforms in the southern kingdom, and to the writing of books such as Deuteronomy. >>

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The Old Testament records conflicts and warfare between Samaria and Judah while both kingdoms were active, between the province of Samaria and the Jews returning to Jerusalem after the Exile, and active shunning of Samaritans by returning pious Jews, who regarded Samaritans as impure because they had intermarried with non-Jews. Even in the time of Christ pious Jews still preserved a deep religious enmity by never deliberately setting foot in Samaria.

The southern Kingdom of Judah lasted until the Exile into Babylon (587 BC). In 538 BC, Jews were allowed to return. Though many scholars think that the process was slow and sporadic, Jews gradually resettled Jerusalem and rebuilt the Temple. Although Jews also eventually settled in many places throughout the known world, even at the time of Christ they remained as a people in the land, mostly under various foreign rulers.

The Catholic Church sees God's selection of the Twelve Tribes, on whose faith he founded his people, as a type or pre-echo of Jesus's selection of the Twelve Apostles, on whose faith the Lord established his Body and Bride, the Catholic Church. <<

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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.

The Book of Sirach

a.   has no similarity to other wisdom literature in the Old Testament such as Proverbs and the book of Wisdom.
b.   is a review of the entire history of Israel from the time of Abraham to the time of the Maccabees.
c.   was used at length by the Catholic Church to present moral teachings to catechumens and to the faithful.

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Many passages from the book of Sirach are read in the liturgy of the Catholic Church.

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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One would describe the book of Sirach as being

a.   a short book of edifying stories.
b.   a lengthy collection of short teachings.
c.   a medium-length historical account.

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Read the Prologue or Foreword to the book of Sirach. This was written by the author's grandson and is not inspired, but is usually included because of its interest and its association with the book.

The book of Sirach has been an important resource for the Catholic Church for a long time. It was used to instruct catechumens in the specifics of a moral life (catechumens are those undergoing a time of instruction, prayer, and testing before baptism into the Catholic Church), and advice from Sirach was also frequently recommended to the faithful. Many passages from Sirach are read in the Church's liturgy.

Sirach proclaims the one God, the God of Israel, the creator of everything including wisdom, which is knowledge in thought and deed of the loving order in which God sustains his creation. ''Fear'' of the LORD is the ability to know that the LORD is present and to act accordingly - with awe and reverence toward him and his law. Read Sir 1:1-20. >>

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For examples of Sirach's teachings, read Sir 3:1-9, Sir 3:29-4:10, Sir 10:6-7, Sir 17:1-14, Sir 25:1-2.

To be fair, there are also teachings of Sirach that are not very helpful in the present age. For example, read the last verse of Sir 26. Business dealings of any kind are rarely mentioned in the Old Testament. Sirach is simply suspicious of them all - not very helpful advice to people who must live in a modern economy.

Also, Sirach contains teachings, for example on the general wickedness of women, that the Catholic Church actively rejects. The most infamous of these passages is Sir 42:14, which literally reads, "Better a man's evil than a woman's goodness." Now read CCC 369-373 and CCC 489.

A ''milder'' passage in the same vein is Sir 23:22-27. An adulterous woman - no mention of the man involved - is the worst thing ever. Read Sir 23:22-27. Some scholars have noted that Jesus himself answers this attitude in John 8:1-11 - the adulterous woman is forgiven, while it is her male accusers who become ashamed and walk away. Read John
8:1-11. >>

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