The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face [Ex 3:4-6] because [CCC 208]

a.   faced with God's presence, man discovers his own insignificance.
b.   God was very possibly going to hurt him or injure him.
c.   he needed to humiliate himself in God's presence out of fear.


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Be sure you understand what Moses's fear and his sense of insignificance was - it was the knowledge that he was a sinner, and that God is holy [compare CCC 208]. God's holiness, not his power over us, is what makes us feel insignificant before him. We feel insignificant before him because his absolute holiness reveals the sin in our hearts. Yet because God is so much greater than our hearts, he can forgive us, once we see that we are sinners before him.

Moses, like all fallen men, can not ''come near'' the holiness of God [Ex 3:5]. The Holy Father and the bishops note [CCC 2777] that ''Only Jesus could cross that threshold of the divine holiness.'' Yet Jesus's sacrifice on the Cross purifies our sins and brings us into the Father's presence [CCC 2777]. >>

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Also note that Moses (like us) is far too fallen and stupid to recognize the extent of God's holiness, and his own sinfulness, entirely on his own. Moses ''turned aside to see'' the burning bush, because it was so fascinating and mysterious. After Moses ''turns aside,'' then God can call Moses to him, and in his holiness also call Moses's attention more directly to the fact that God is truly holy, and Moses is not.

Only when we become fascinated with God, ''turn aside'' to him, and then hear his call and answer it, can we begin to face him, and see ourselves as we are. Even then, only with his help can we see how holy he truly is, and how sinful we are.

God at once, but also gradually, reveals his holiness, the extent of man's sin, and man's need for a savior. The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism that God taught Moses himself even more about God's holiness and man's sinfulness by then giving him the Law on Mount Sinai (Ex 20-24). The Church professes that the Law given Moses on Mount Sinai is a principal means by which, over the centuries, God gradually makes the people of Israel more aware of their sins. In this way Israel gradually began to hope for the Messiah [CCC 708]. In Jesus alone can man cross the threshold of the divine holiness. [CCC 2777] <<

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The Catechism [CCC 208] teaches that God's presence in the midst of the burning bush that is not consumed reveals something important about what God's presence is like. God's presence is

a.   boring and useless.
b.   fascinating and mysterious.
c.   repulsive and horrifying.

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God is holy. His holiness is beyond our comprehension. Other than the Mother of God herself, who was redeemed
from the moment of her conception and remained without sin her whole life long [CCC 491-493], by comparison with God's perfect holiness, the greatest saint is merely a sinner. Here CCC 209 is worth quoting in full:

''Out of respect for the holiness of God, the people of Israel do not pronounce his name. In the reading of Sacred Scripture, the revealed name (Yhwh) is replaced by the divine title 'LORD' (in Hebrew, Adonai, in Greek, Kyrios). It is under this title that the divinity of Jesus will be acclaimed: 'Jesus is LORD.''' <<

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Ex 3 recounts 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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CCC 2575 is a beautiful teaching on Ex 3 from the standpoint of prayer: what prayer is, what the course of our prayer will be like, and what God's responses will be. Read CCC 2575 now. <<

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The books

First and Second Maccabees

occur just before or just after the Psalms?

a.   Just before.
b.   Just after.

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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 believe that the book of Baruch originated

a.   among Jews living late in the exile in Babylon or after the exile ended.
b.   prior to the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile in Babylon.
c.   with Jeremiah's secretary, Baruch, during the exile in Babylon.

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Baruch's six chapters are concerned with:

- exiles and their faithfulness to the Temple and its worship in Jerusalem (read Bar 1:1-7)

- inculcating an understanding that the exile was a proper punishment for sin (read Bar 1:13)

- pleas for deliverance (read Bar 2:13-15)

- instruction to learn wisdom and follow the Lord (read Bar 3:9 and Bar 3:35-4:2)

- words to Jerusalem that her mourning will end (read Bar 5:1-6)

- (in chapter 6) strengthening faith by attacking and ridiculing the worship of idols, using the form of a letter from Jeremiah. <<

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Re-read Gen 3. The meaning of Gen 3 (that's Genesis, Chapter 3 to those who aren't lucky enough to be in this course) is that

a.   it may be a story, but it nonetheless conveys the truth that the Fall was a real event.
b.   it definitely is a story that should be read as a story, not as a description of a real event.
c.   it is absolutely not any sort of story but is an exact, precise account of a real event.

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How do we know that that is the meaning of Gen 3?

a.   We look deep within ourselves, make certain that our hearts are pure, then pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, who will inform us by giving us a special feeling for the correct answer.
b.   If there is a tradition of the Catholic Church's judgment on the matter, we study that, or we find out if the present Holy Father, or the present Catholic bishops in union with him, have made a judgment.
c.   We study the works of the most distinguished scholars in the most reputable universities, carefully examine the evidence pro and con, and form a mature judgment based on the facts.

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The books

First and Second Samuel
First and Second Kings

are grouped together in the Catholic Old Testament. (The story of Ruth is included probably because it begins, ''In the days when the judges ruled...''). In relation to the Psalms, this unit of the Old Testament occurs

a.   before the Psalms.
b.   after the Psalms.

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Read 1 Kings 17. Elijah is the ''father'' of the prophets [CCC 2582]. The prayer of Elijah to God for the widow's son

a.   confirms the faith of the widow in God.
b.   reveals Elijah's great power to the widow.
c.   shows that it is stupid to ask God for something.

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In early times the Israelites used the term ''Baal'' of the true God, as is evident from certain names of persons and places, such as Baal-perazim (2 Sam 5:20). Later, Scripture gives the name ''Baal'' to any one of several false gods. The ''Baal'' here means one of those. Now read 1 Kings 18:17-40. Mount Carmel is remembered

a.   as the mountain on which God gave Moses the law.
b.   as the place of a decisive test for the faith of the people of Israel.
c.   as the occasion where Elijah wrestled with a messenger of God.

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The Catechism teaches that ''fire symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit's actions,'' and that a certain event in the Old Testament ''was a 'figure' of the fire of the Holy Spirit, who transforms what he touches.'' [CCC 696] What was this very significant event?

a.   A great fire breaks out in the desert and changes people's lives.
b.   Fire from heaven consumes the sacrifice on Mount Carmel.
c.   God gave Adam and Eve the gift of fire in the Garden of Eden.

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The Eastern liturgies of the Catholic Church remember the day of the sacrifice on Mount Carmel very directly at the Eucharist, in which our Lord's sacrifice at Calvary is made present by the power of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Kings 18:37, Elijah prays, ''Answer me, O Lord, answer me,'' and the Lord comes with fire (to Catholics, a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit) to accept the offering. Elijah's exact words are repeated in the Eucharistic prayer of the Eastern liturgies of the Catholic Church, at the invocation of the Holy Spirit just prior to the consecration. <<

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Read 1 Kings 18:40. Elijah gives the order to kill every one of the prophets of Baal, and his order is carried out. This means that

a.   a great evil needed to be eliminated from Israel, and it was.
b.   no one was actually killed as the result of this confrontation.
c.   we are wrong today when we refuse to kill people who are anti-Catholic.

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Read 2 Kings 1:7-8. Elijah's appearance should remind you of a figure from the New Testament (First read Mathew 3:4 to get a hint):

a.   Jesus.
b.   John the Baptist.
c.   St. Joseph.

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Elijah was taken away from earth by a whirlwind. Read 2 Kings 2:9-12. There came to be a tradition that Elijah, who had not died, would return to announce the Messiah. Read Malachi, Mal 3:23 (Mal 4:5 in some Bibles). John the Baptist specifically says that he is not Elijah. Read John 1:19-21. However, Jesus himself says that he is! Read Mathew 17:9-13. Here is what the Catholic Church professes in CCC 718-719:

''John is 'Elijah [who] must come.' [Mt 17:10-13] The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of '[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.''' [Lk 1:17]

''John the Baptist is 'more than a prophet.' [Lk 7:26] In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the 'voice' of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John 'came to bear witness to the light.' [Jn 1:7] In John's sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. . . . '' <<

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