The Old Testament in the Heart of the Catholic Church
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In the Catechism the bishops united with the Holy Father

a.   apologize for the terms ''Old Covenant'' and ''Old Testament''
b.   avoid the terms ''Old Covenant'' and ''Old Testament''
c.   use the terms ''Old Covenant'' and ''Old Testament''


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In the Catechism the bishops united with the Holy Father teach that Christianity

a.   has a closeness and a link to the Jewish faith unlike any other.
b.   must treat the Jewish faith the same as any other religion.
c.   should have less respect for the Jews, since they rejected the Messiah.

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In the Catechism the Holy Father and the bishops teach that both Jews and Christians await the Messiah. What's the difference in their waiting?

a.   For Jews, the Messiah remains hidden until the end of time.
b.   Jews will be condemned by the true Messiah on the last day.
c.   The true Messiah will turn out to be someone besides Jesus Christ.

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''Christ'' is just the Greek word for ''Messiah.'' ''Christ Jesus'' is another way of saying ''the Messiah, Jesus.'' In the Catechism the Holy Father and the bishops teach that the Jewish waiting for the Messiah ''is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.'' [CCC 840] That sounds important. What does it mean?

a.   An added element of dramatic suspense in the Jewish people's waiting for the Messiah is that they do not know Jesus, nor understand that he is the Messiah.
b.   The Jewish rejection of Jesus is like a drama, in which, on the Last Day, the Jews will be condemned by the very Messiah they did not know.
c.   The real history of the world is the story of the dramatic struggle between the Old and New Covenants, until finally the Old Covenant loses.

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The Old Testament is more like a library than a book. The Old Testament is actually a collection of separate books, all written before the time of Christ. Almost certainly, these books were not written by only one human author or at the same time. In fact, the books in the Old Testament were probably written over hundreds of years.

In all, 46 specific books make up the Old Testament - no more, no less. Out of all the writings ever written, these specific 46 books, and these alone, all belong together in the Old Testament. We know that these specific 46 books are the only and exact ones that belong in the Old Testament because

a.   over a long period of time, Catholic bishops in union with the Pope gradually came to agree about which books truly belong in the Old Testament.
b.   there is a special book in the very back of the Bible that tells us which books are absolutely supposed to be in the Old Testament, and which are optional.
c.   two great saints, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, agreed about exactly which books belonged in the Old Testament, and which did not.

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Since you know that all questions in this text have only one best answer (and therefore, that the other two possible answers are definitely wrong), you now know that St. Jerome (who prepared the standard Latin version of the Bible used by the Church for many centuries) and St. Augustine (a brilliant scholar himself, and a bishop) disagreed about which books really belonged in the Old Testament and were the true, inspired Word of God. (Yes, until the Church makes a firm decision, even saints can, and sometimes do, disagree).

In 382 AD, St. Jerome's boss, Pope Damasus I, published a list of the books in the Bible that included 46 inspired books in the Old Testament. St. Augustine and his brother bishops in Africa also decided to use the same version. This was the version of the Old Testament gradually accepted by all Catholic bishops of the world. <<

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Note: Do NOT restate the incorrect answers to this question. Only the correct answer has meaningful content.

The Catholic Church has used the Old Testament for many, many centuries with exactly the same books it uses today, no more and no less. However, so that no doubt would arise in anyone's mind, the bishops in union with the Holy Father solemnly and definitively affirmed those 46 books, no more and no less, to be the true and inspired Old Testament in the year

a.   746 AD.
b.   1146 AD.
c.   1546 AD.

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For a long time it hardly seemed necessary to solemnly list which books were in the Bible, since there they all were, in the Bible that was being used every day by the Church. Then the Council of Florence (1438-1445) repeated Pope Damasus's list verbatim. However, the early Protestant reformers argued (in effect) that the Church had for centuries been including some books that did not belong in the ''real'' Old Testament. So, in 1546, the Council of Trent (the Catholic bishops of the world in union with the Holy Father, meeting at Trent, Italy) definitively taught that the 46 books - no more and no less - which the Church had been reading from for generations, make up the true and inspired Old Testament, and they listed them. The bishops and the Holy Father reaffirmed this definitive judgment during the First Vatican Council (1870), and do so again in the Catechism [CCC 120]. <<

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How do we find out whether the 46 books in the Old Testament - no more and no less - really are the inspired Word of God?

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.   We study the tradition of the Catholic Church's judgment on the matter, and if the Church has at some point in her history come to a firm judgment, we can trust the judgment as that of Christ himself.
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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How can we be certain that we are not moving away from Christ when we choose between various ideas about which books ''really'' belong in the Old Testament?

a.   Due to the fact that all truly intelligent people agree about which books belong in the Old Testament, we know that a committee of very smart people with university degrees will find the books that really belong.
b.   Even though history shows that we do not necessarily find the ''real'' contents of the Bible on our own, Christ himself continues to protect the true contents of the Bible through the sacrament of Holy Orders.
c.   Since even great saints have disagreed about exactly which books belong in the Old Testament, we can't ever really be certain who is right when people disagree about which books belong in the Old Testament.

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If you think that the Catholic faith is owned by whoever happens to be the Holy Father and bishops in communion with him at any given time, and so therefore they can say anything they want and that would make it real, then you are very seriously mistaken.

The Catholic faith is a specific reality, not an idea. It is the New Covenant, the actual, specific union of Christ with his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church, and through her, Christ's actual, specific union with all men and with the whole world. Mere men can not bring that reality into being, nor change it in any way.

That is a lucky thing for us. Fallen man apart from Christ, not only weak but also sinful, turns from God at almost every opportunity. If the reality of the New Covenant, Christ's union with his Church, depended on us and on what we do, then the New Covenant would have disintegrated a long time ago.

All men always have the freedom to turn away from the reality of the New Covenant. Still, it is a very good thing that no power in heaven or on earth, and certainly no man, can EVER destroy the reality of the New Covenant. >>

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The pope, a mere man, and bishops in communion with him, can protect the meaning of the Bible not because they have the power to make up the New Covenant as they go along, but because they participate, by their sacramental ordination, in that New Covenant, the highly specific reality of intimate union that Christ has made with his Catholic Church.

Holy Orders is a sacrament, a work of Christ himself. To draw all men closer to him, Christ speaks the 'name' of things, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in and through the judgments of the pope, and bishops in communion with him. Absolutely nothing about them qualifies them for this task. It is a task that is IMPOSSIBLE for them to do, but only Christ.

When Christ, the New Adam, spouse of his beloved Bride and Body, the Catholic Church, acting in and through the solemn judgments of the pope and bishops in communion with him, speaks the 'name' of something, then ''that is its name.''

A genuine physical and spiritual reality now exists, and that reality is eternally part of the union of Christ and his Bride. From then on, nothing can change that reality, ever, not even another pope. >>

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One example of this is that even the pope has no ability to make a man not a priest. Under special circumstances a priest can be 'laicized,' (released from his promises as a priest and forbidden to act as a priest), but he remains a priest.

Christ himself spoke a new 'name' for that man on the day he was ordained, and now, it is literally true that even the pope can't change that 'name.'

One day, a bishop laid hands on that man and said, ''You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.'' From then on, part of that man's 'name,' part of his essence and identity, part of the meaning of his life, became 'priest.' No one can ever change that, not even the pope.

So, even if some horribly sick or evil future pope said (for example) that there were only six sacraments, that still would not make it so. A long time ago, Christ spoke the 'name' of the number of his sacraments. If even a pope can't make a priest not a priest, if even a pope can't change the 'name' of even one man whom Christ has given the name priest, then a pope can certainly not change the 'name' of the number of the sacraments. Christ has spoken that 'name,' and it is forever.

Throughout the centuries, popes and bishops make many judgments that are NOT solemn and forever. They also make judgments that might one day be declared to be solemn and forever but aren't yet. Both kinds of judgments may well be changed by future popes and bishops - or they might not.

Remember also that while Christ, Truth Himself, who always speaks truly, will never, ever turn his back on a single part of the specific truth of the New Covenant as we have it and know it now, nonetheless, Christ is also the font of all the good surprises that will ever be. Thus, we may put no limits on what Christ might teach us in the future.

After all, the apostles were absolutely flabbergasted by the resurrection. That was the greatest, most beautiful surprise that they had ever experienced. So, more great, beautiful surprises may await us as Christ works by the power of his Holy Spirit in and through the Catholic Church to draw us closer to him.

Christ can deepen our understanding of himself and of his union with his Catholic Church. The reality of that union is staring us in the face, but we will never grasp it completely. There's no telling what wonderful surprises await us as Christ leads us to a deeper understanding. >>

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Still, it is important to remember: the reality of the New Covenant as we specifically have it and know it now is forever. One day, you might wake up in a very bad mood and say that the Old Testament is not part of the ''real'' Bible. Even I might say that.

Our saying that won't make it so. It won't change the reality of Christ's very specific physical and spiritual union with his one and only Bride and Body, the Catholic Church. Whatever any of us says, there the Old Testament will still be, still part of that forever reality. <<

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The following six questions refer to this imaginary scenario (but something like it might indeed happen some day). As always, as you answer the questions, pay attention to the wrong answers also. Try to figure out why they are definitely incorrect. First of all, you need to know that there really is a book of Malachi in the Old Testament, but no ''Second Malachi.'' Here is the imaginary scenario:

Archaeologists discover an ancient and previously unknown book written before the time of Christ, which they call ''Second Malachi.'' They prove that, around 125 AD, a genuine early Catholic community with a validly-ordained bishop venerated a copy of ''Second Malachi'' as the inspired Word of God, regularly used it in the community's liturgies, and truly believed it to be part of the Old Testament. Now on to the questions. <<

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The newspaper headline reads, ''Forty-Seventh Book In Old Testament Found!'' A forty-seventh book in the Old Testament is

a.   extremely possible.
b.   just barely possible.
c.   simply impossible.

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A Catholic priest who studies the Bible for a living says that ''There is no reason that we could not seriously consider adding Second Malachi to the Old Testament. After all, a faithful early Christian community used it and believed it to be part of Sacred Scripture.'' This priest is making a mistake because

a.   There is no way that a truly faithful Christian community could ever have used and venerated some other book besides the 46 books in the Old Testament.
b.   The Pope and bishops in communion with him first need to discuss the issue thoroughly with people who study the Bible for a living.
c.   The Pope and bishops in communion with him have already solemnly ratified the Church's ancient tradition that there are 46 books in the Old Testament.

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A Catholic nun writes a scholarly article stating that ''Second Malachi should be included in the Old Testament. It gives a powerful and authentic witness to the Spirit's presence, and is plainly the inspired Word of God.'' This sister's statement could not be correct because

a.   The archaeologists made a mistake when they said that an early Christian community considered the book to be the inspired Word of God.
b.   The Pope and bishops in communion with him are the only ones able to determine which books are inspired and belong in the Bible.
c.   This nun is only one person - many more people would have to agree with her before the book could be considered the true Word of God.

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Someone points out that the early Catholics who venerated ''Second Malachi'' as the inspired Word of God did so with the support and approval of their bishop. This

a.   does not mean that their bishop was leading them away from Christ.
b.   means that their bishop was leading them away from Christ.
c.   proves that their bishop did not properly consult with the bishop of Rome.

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A Catholic commentator writes a column that is eventually published in many newspapers across the country, warning ''Vatican officials'' that any failure to include Second Malachi in the Old Testament would tell the world that ''the Roman Church is making a typically crude attempt to silence the authentic voice of yet another Christian community - this time one that existed long ago.'' To this you reply, ''How can the Catholic Church...

a.   ''... continually fail to see how severely she has been oppressing other Christian communities?''
b.   ''... not follow her Lord whose Spirit has already led her to discern which books belong in the Old Testament?''
c.   ''... once again risk the displeasure of the entire world over this really minor point about the Bible?''

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