The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Just like St. Augustine [CCC 119], whether you're a Catholic or not, in order to read the Bible and to start figuring out what it truly means, you have to begin by deciding

a.   whether the sacraments of the Catholic Church are real.
b.   whether you are intelligent enough for the task.
c.   which scripture scholars are the best.


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If the sacraments of the Catholic Church are real, then

a.   Christ the Head acts through his Body and Bride, the Catholic Church, and himself protects the true meaning of the Bible.
b.   Catholics have no disagreements about what the Bible means, since Christ the Head acts through his Body the Church .
c.   the full meaning of the Bible is revealed, and all questions about the meaning of the Bible have already been answered.

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Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the meaning of the Bible is perfectly protected, because in and through the sacrament of Holy Orders, by the power of the Holy Spirit,

a.   bishops become more holy than anyone else living at the same time.
b.   bishops become a great deal more intelligent than any other men.
c.   the Son of God himself protects the Church, his Body, his Bride.

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You couldn't ask for a more reliable protector of the meaning of God's Word than

a.   the best scholars of the time.
b.   the holiest saints of the time.
c.   the Word of God himself.

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The Catholic Church freely admits that if the sacraments are not real, then

a.   she has no authority whatever to say what the Bible means.
b.   she still protects the true meaning of the Bible.
c.   the judgments of her bishops are still the most reliable guide.

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Considering how truly rotten - let alone dense - some bishops, and even some popes, have been over the centuries, if the sacraments are not real, then by now, the Catholic Church would have made some fatal error. Mere human beings can not be ''lucky'' in their judgments, two thousand years in a row.

You should be told that a lot of people think that's exactly what happened. Since the sacraments aren't real (these people say), the Catholic Church's luck ran out a long time ago. A long time ago, they say, the Catholic Church started teaching error, not the truth about what the Bible means.

Thus, both sides, Catholics and everyone else, say it comes down to the Church's sacraments. Are they real? Everything about the Bible changes, if they are. <<

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Catholics believe that Christ

a.   continues the mission he entrusted to his apostles, and continues to be literally alive and present to his Church, in and through the Catholic Church and her sacraments, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
b.   died a long time ago, but some people still tell stories about what he was like when he was alive, gather together in prayer to celebrate those long-ago memories, and try to follow his example.
c.   is not literally around to influence things any more, but sent the Holy Spirit to specially guide each person individually, so that no truly sincere, nice person ever gets the wrong idea about Jesus and what he taught.

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Catholic bishops, when they act in union with the Pope, are able to act in the person of Christ himself by the power of the Holy Spirit, and therefore with certainty protect the true meaning of the Bible, as long as those bishops

a.   are the holiest and most intelligent people of their time.
b.   have validly received the sacrament of Holy Orders.
c.   make decisions that most experts think are correct.

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Read Gen 22:1-19. The literal sense of this passage appears to be given in Gen 22:15-18. Abraham, who is willing to trust God with what is nearest and dearest to him, his son Isaac, in return receives God's superabundant blessings. The Catholic Church sees in Isaac at this sacrifice a type of Christ, because the victim to be offered to God

a.   is completely innocent.
b.   is not the beloved son of a completely faithful father.
c.   will feel no pain.

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Most scholars find in Gen 22:1-19, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac,

a.   acceptance of the human sacrifices performed by Israel's neighbors.
b.   hesitancy about the human sacrifices performed by Israel's neighbors.
c.   rejection of the human sacrifices performed by Israel's neighbors.

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''In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.'' [Gen 1:1]
''In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'' [Jn 1:1]

Hidden - though certainly not directly stated - in the very first line of the Bible is the truth that God's Son was there ''in the beginning.'' We can only find this genuine truth in the words of the book of Genesis when we read the Old Testament

a.   as if the sacraments were not real and the New Testament were not true.
b.   knowing that the sacraments are real and the New Testament is true.
c.   not knowing whether the sacraments are real or the New Testament is true.

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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.

First and Second Kings completes the series of books called by modern scholars the ''Deuteronomistic History'': Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. They say these six books, as they hand on ancient traditions between the death of Moses and the beginning of the exile, weave into their account a common theological viewpoint, the same one as in Deuteronomy. According to most modern scholars, what is this common theme that runs like a thread through these six books?

a.   Faithfulness to the LORD leads to well-being and success; unfaithfulness to him leads to punishment and ruin.
b.   Having more than one wife is a great offense against the LORD; it must be stopped or punishment will follow.
c.   The LORD forbids the taking of slaves and the slaughtering of prisoners in battle; he will punish transgressors.

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Read 1 Kings 2:1-4. On his deathbed David tells Solomon

a.   that he should be clever enough not to oppress the people as he rules.
b.   that if he is faithfully obedient to the LORD his kingdom will continue.
c.   to slaughter anyone who has transgressed against the law of God.

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Read a famous passage, 1 Kings 3:1-28. For ages to come, Solomon was renowned for his great

a.   power.
b.   wealth.
c.   wisdom.

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Read 1 Kings 11:1-13. Solomon is unfaithful to the LORD

a.   by having many wives.
b.   by overtaxing the people.
c.   by worshiping false gods.

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1 Kings 12:1-20 records the split of the kingdom into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Read 1 Kings 12:1-20. Knowing what you know about the thinking of the writers of 1 and 2 Kings, what is the ultimate reason for this split?

a.   Jeroboam was clever and resourceful.
b.   Rehoboam was inept and greedy.
c.   Solomon had been unfaithful to the LORD.

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According to the basic message of 1 and 2 Kings, unfaithfulness to the LORD would inevitably lead to a short life for the king and ruin for the kingdom. Also according to 1 and 2 Kings, all the kings of Israel (the northern kingdom) did what is evil in the sight of the LORD and thus suffered the consequences of their infidelity. Read 1 Kings 15:33. Baasha reigned as king of Israel for twenty-four years and was able to hand on his kingdom to his son. According to most scholars, is this completely consistent with the message conveyed by the writers of 1 and 2 Kings?

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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Many modern scholars note that 1 and 2 Kings is a history written by those who already know the fates of both the northern and the southern kingdoms. Unlike the kings of Judah, who (more or less) were able to maintain a continuous succession of kings each able to trace his lineage back to the house of David, the kings of Israel often succeeded each other through murder, and were not able to maintain a consistent family dynastic line (a house).

For example, read 1 Kings 16:8-13. Baasha's son is murdered after two years as king, and the house of Baasha is ended. Also of course, the northern kingdom was completely destroyed over a hundred years before the Exile, which the writers of 1 and 2 Kings also knew.

So, the sacred author of 1 and 2 Kings may not even have cared that Baasha himself seems to have had a very successful reign in human terms, and died knowing that his son would continue the line. The point may have been the general fate of the northern kingdom.

On the other hand, 1 and 2 Kings may be taking the attitude that Baasha was literally if only eventually punished for his own sins by what befell his son. Many scholars think that this second alternative, the ''literal punishment'' idea, was at least part of the sacred author's intended meaning. >>

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1 and 2 Kings certainly takes the attitude: faithfulness = good things happen; unfaithfulness = bad things happen. Is that the Catholic position? Given that the most innocent, sinless, and faithful man who will ever live died horribly on the Cross, the attitude taken by 1 and 2 Kings can only be seen by Catholics as one stage on the journey toward understanding the mystery and the consequences of sin, understanding that can only be complete with reference to Christ himself. [CCC 388]
So, what really happens to those who turn away from God? Catholics can look to the Fall for the true answer. Our first parents showed us exactly what the truth is. You really are free. You are not forced to move closer to Christ. You really can move away from him.

If moving farther from Christ is what you really want to do, then you really will get exactly what you want. <<

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If you are faithful to Christ your whole life,

a.   nothing painful or bad will ever happen to you.
b.   you will have a long life and much happiness.
c.   you will have intimate union with him forever.

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