The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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Historians tell us that ''Hellenization'' (Greeks called themselves ''Hellenes'') occurred throughout the known world at the time of the Maccabees. Hellenization was the adoption of Greek language, customs, and practices by other societies. Greek philosophy, science, and art were widely recognized as being important and valuable, and the Greek language was the international language of the day.

Just for example, many Jews (along with people in many other societies of the time) took Greek names, and the Jewish scriptures were translated into Greek. Some Jews actively encouraged Hellenization. Others actively resisted it. Many Jews probably just accepted it.

However, a turning point came when the Greek-speaking rulers of Judah began to force Hellenization on the Jews, especially after one ruler looted the Temple and turned it into a shrine to the Greek god Zeus. A partially-successful armed resistance by some Jews developed. This armed resistance was

a.   ignored by the Maccabees.
b.   led by the Maccabees.
c.   opposed by the Maccabees.


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Most scholars agree that 1 Maccabees itself indicates that most Jews of the time joined the Maccabees in resisting Greek rule.

a.   Yes.
b.   No.
c.   Maybe.

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1 Maccabees records that the Maccabean resistance to Greek rule was

a.   military and also political.
b.   military but not political.
c.   political but not military.

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Although neither 1 nor 2 Maccabees is part of the sacred scriptures of the Jews, Jews remember the retaking and then the restoration of the Temple under Judas Maccabeus at the feast of

a.   Hanukkah.
b.   Rosh Hashanah.
c.   Yom Kippur.

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The first of the Maccabees, Mattathias, is near death, and delivers a testament that sums up much of the teaching of the Maccabees. It emphasizes faithfulness to the covenant with God and the eventual reward for faithfulness. Read 1 Macc 2:49-69.

The rededication of the Temple is recounted in 1 Macc 4:36-59. This rededication is celebrated every year at the feast of Hanukkah. Read 1 Macc 4:36-59.

Most scholars note that 1 Maccabees, while focusing on the Maccabees as heroes, does mention the negatives: their political and diplomatic machinations, their occasional military defeats, and the fact that most of them were eventually killed in battle or assassinated. In 1 Maccabees, God is seen to work through capable but flawed men. >>

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2 Maccabees focuses on the time of Judas Maccabeus, when both the Temple and its worship were under attack from within and without. 2 Maccabees clearly remembers the time as a time of great crisis for the Jewish people and their relationship with God. Extremes of both faithfulness and violence - even gore - are featured in its account, as are martyrdoms.

The Catholic Church remembers the story of seven martyred youths and their martyred mother in 2 Maccabees and reads it at Mass. The Church remembers them for a number of reasons, including of course their faithfulness to God in spite of brutal torture. The Church also sees these martyrs as professing a belief in a God who creates out of nothing, and in the resurrection of the dead. Read 2 Macc 7.

Also note that this chapter reveals that martyrdom is not a waste. In a mysterious way, the death of martyrs has the effect of ending suffering and allowing the people to come closer to God. Re-read 2 Macc 7:37-38. <<

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The books

First and Second Chronicles

are often thought of as a unit because

a.   they give the history of the people of Israel after Moses's death until the Exile.
b.   they give the history of the people of Israel from Abraham to Moses's death.
c.   they trace Israel's history from King David until the rebuilding of the Temple.

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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.

1 and 2 Chronicles covers the kings from David to the Exile - the same ground covered by 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. According to many scholars, the basic viewpoint of 1 and 2 Chronicles

a.   is exactly the same as 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.
b.   is very different from 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.
c.   slightly differs from 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.

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1 Chronicles

a.   faithfully records David's sinful lust for Bathsheba.
b.   makes only passing mention of David's sins and difficulties.
c.   portrays David as the perfect model of the ideal king.

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Regarding Solomon's numerous foreign wives and his worship of their false gods, 2 Chronicles

a.   condemns it.
b.   excuses it.
c.   never mentions it.

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Regarding the entire existence and history of the northern kingdom of Israel that separated from the house of David, 1 and 2 Chronicles

a.   condemns it.
b.   excuses it.
c.   never mentions it.

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David is flawed but faithful - David is always faithful. Solomon is wise but eventually unfaithful - Solomon is always wise and worthy. It is important not to fall into traps when comparing Samuel and Kings with Chronicles. Like Samuel and Kings, Chronicles is the true Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. Chronicles can not be ''less true'' than Samuel or Kings - or vice-versa.

There is no ''real'' Bible hidden in the Vatican that harmonizes and reconciles what seem to us to be differences among the books and passages in our real, true, inspired Bible as it actually exists.

In fact, we may have questions about the Bible that no one on earth - no pope, no bishop, no scholar, no saint - can answer to our satisfaction. This is normal. Scientists in all fields always have questions that they do not know how to answer. The physical world remains true even when men have a question about how it works that they can't answer. >>

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Actually, having questions is better than normal. It is a good thing. If scientists and other scholars had no questions left to answer, the world would be totally boring and there would no longer be any reason for them to go to work in the morning.

Questions about the Bible - even questions no one yet knows the answer to - are normal, and no threat to Catholic faith or to the truth of the Bible. The Bible remains true even when men have a question about its meaning that they can't answer.

If the Holy Spirit has not led the Holy Father and bishops in communion with him to a definite judgment, we have the freedom to do our best with any questions we may have about the Bible - as long as we do not explain away parts of the Bible, call some parts less ''true'' than other parts, or do anything else contrary to the defined true meaning of the Bible or of the Catholic faith. The work of scholars can help us.

Many scholars say that Samuel and Kings were written before and during the Exile, and that Chronicles was written at a later time, after the Exile and after the return to Jerusalem.

They also say that Chronicles was written with a different purpose in mind: to give new hope and a new direction to the people by emphasizing that Israel's earliest kings were truly faithful and good and can be models of faithfulness for the people in the present, and to show that worship under the re-established law in a rebuilt Temple in a rebuilt Jerusalem, under the leadership of the priests, is the key to faithful obedience to the LORD. <<

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The first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles are devoted to

a.   a genealogy from Adam to Abraham to those who return from the Exile.
b.   an account of David's hidden early years in his father's house.
c.   wars between the people of Israel and the surrounding peoples.

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Read 1 Chronicles, 1 Chr 16:1-36, a beautiful canticle of praise to the LORD. The presentations in 1 Chronicles 10-29 are devoted to

a.   David.
b.   Saul.
c.   Solomon.

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Many scholars have stated that 1 and 2 Chronicles emphasize many things that would be important and favorable to

a.   kings of Israel.
b.   priests of the Temple.
c.   slaves of the wealthy.

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Read 1 Chronicles, 1 Chr 10:13-14. Many modern scholars say that this account of the reasons for Saul's downfall is typical of the difference in emphasis between Chronicles and books such as Samuel and Kings in that Chronicles always

a.   carefully preserves memories of both the good and bad points of the person.
b.   presents an absolutely straight-line progression from unfaithfulness to downfall.
c.   refuses to make a judgment about the ultimate meaning of the person's deeds.

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2 Chronicles is an account of the reigns of Solomon and kings after him, and concludes with

a.   the decree of Cyrus that ends the Exile in Babylon.
b.   the destruction of Jerusalem and Exile in Babylon.
c.   the secession of the northern kingdom.

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The Catholic Church sees [CCC 53] that God communicates himself to man

a.   all at once.
b.   gradually.
c.   never.

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As he more and more reveals himself and his plan for man, God

a.   completely reveals himself in his Son.
b.   never reveals himself completely.
c.   remains hidden from us until the end.

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