St. Paul and the Eucharist

One of the central themes in all of Christendom is that of unity.  Though there are many denominations Christians everywhere consider themselves to be in the family of God.  However within the Catholic Church we have something that the other denominations do not.  We have the body, soul, and divinity of Christ present with us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic Church we are a family, and in that family there are disagreements.  However when we receive the Eucharist we are submitting to our Lord and we become one with Him and with each other.  This unity is important in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  This is a nice introduction.

During the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys he founded the church in Corinth.  The community seemed to have a problem with individuality, but it is not what we think individuality to be.  This was not someone expressing their personality, but individuals who were selfish and put themselves before the welfare of the community.  Laurance states “Many of the Corinthian Christians believe that all that is important is to know the fact of their salvation, and that this fact liberates them from duties of love to their fellow Christians or even to Christ (Laurence, Page 71). There was an individual who was fornicating with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  This is bad enough, but the church did nothing to correct the issue.  This vital issue had the potential of ending the young church.  They were taking each other to court instead of working things out internally (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).  How does this look to the unbelievers around them?  They were not setting themselves about and living the example of Christ and their beloved Apostle Paul.  There were many other things wrong with the church, but when it came to the Eucharist.  Many within the church strayed from what they believed and received in an unworthy manner.

Paul is begins his lesson by reminding the Corinthians of Christ.  Laurance states “Contrary to all worldly wisdom and all expectations, God’s power is manifested in Christ’s humbling of himself and finally acceptance of death (Laurance, page 71).”  As previously stated the Corinthians were worrying about their own desires and seemed to forget about the fundamentals of the Gospel.  We are to act like Christ, and they were doing everything but that.

Christ loved us so much that He humbled himself and died for our sin.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of this and the duty to love others more than yourself.  This is important in preparation to receive the Eucharist.  In mass we offer each other a sign of peace and we pray for each other.  It is in these prayers and offerings of peace that we humble ourselves and place ourselves at the service of others.  Paul was trying to emphasize the importance of this in proper Christian living.

To go along with this the Corinthians were not coming together properly to celebrate the Eucharist.  1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 says “When you meet in one place, then it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”  Those that were well off in the world were flaunting it in the faces of those that had nothing.  This had the effect of making those less fortunate feel ashamed and it brought disgrace on the Church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  Paul, as a disappointed father, tells them he is ashamed.  Laurence states in plainly “To celebrate it (Eucharist) in a context of selfishness and division is to violate its very nature, to reject Christ who at the Last Supper and in his death shared himself completely.  Such a violation results in condemnation rather than blessing (Laurance, page 72).”

One could get the feeling from reading Paul’s letter that the community was in peril.  Someone was concerned enough to leak this information to Paul, and he swiftly wrote this epistle condemning their behavior.  Paul does this is a way that a father corrects a child.  He does it with love and he is trying to teach them by example.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us, that the Eucharistic meal is one which is firmly rooted in family.  In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  After performing the first mass at the Last supper our Lord was betrayed.  He was whipped, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet.  To take this lightly one may as well be at the scene of the crucifixion with a hammer in hand.  We gather to remember that the Lord gave Himself for us and we are to follow His example by giving ourselves to each other.  If a member of the church lost a loved one then we all did.  If a member of the church is sick we are to all pray.  We are to help each other get to heaven, not step all over each other so we can get there first.

Paul reiterates the point of the Eucharist as a means of bringing the community together in 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34.  These verses read “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so your meetings may not result in judgment.  The other matters I shall set in order when I come.”  Remember that there were certain members of the congregation that were using the church meeting as their own personal buffet.  This passage is not saying that one should not feed someone who is hungry, but is saying that everyone should get a portion of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the high point of the church meeting.  We recall how unworthy we are to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God to forgive us of our shortcoming and fill us with His grace.  We ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ask the same of us.  Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that we are in this race together, and is beneficial and necessary that we help each other as a family.

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Reference

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:26 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 New American Bible

Laurance, John D., S.J., ED.  Introduction to Theology. (Revised Second Edition)  Boston:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

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Why Are There 27 Books In The New Testament?

There are many things that may come to an individual’s mind when it comes to sacred scripture.  Some may ask why there are so many translations.  Some may wonder if the Bible as we know it fell from the sky at Pentecost.  However many have questions on how we have the books we have.  For sure it was long and arduous process, but it was one guided by the Holy Spirit and the church.

One rule that was used to determine inclusion of the twenty seven books was linkage to an Apostle, or apostolic origin.  In the first three centuries after the church started there were many books bearing the name of various Apostles.  As an example there was the Gospel of Thomas, Luke, Peter, and the proto gospel of James.  In addition to these there were several hundred Acts and Apocalypses.  Some of these writings were spurious and contradicted the Gospel being preached by the church.

Apostolic origin does not mean that it has to be written by an apostle, but that an Apostle “stands behind writing in such a way that the essential teaching is preserved within it (Nichols, page 104).”  This would explain why the Gospel of Luke was included in the canon.  Great care was made to ensure that writings had apostolic backing, and if they did not they were denied canonical status.

Another rule that was used in determining if a book was worthy of the canon was its conformity to the faith of the church.  Would a collection of Holy writings from any religion be deemed authoritative if they contradicted each other?  The answer to the question is obvious.  The church used great care in determining that the twenty seven books in the canon were in compliance with what the church taught.

The church was able to do this by utilizing the oral tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.  As a Nichols documents “around 190 a bishop in Antioch stopped people from using the Gospel of Peter on the grounds that its author did not regard the human body of Jesus as real (Nichols, page 104).”  The church teaches that Christ was a real person, divine, and bled on the cross.  This writing taught that Christ was a spirit that entered into a man that was being crucified.  There were many writings like this floating around, and since they did not pass the test of orthodoxy they were not included in the canon.

Thirdly the writing had to be valued by the church that was respected for its own Apostolic origin (Nichols, page 104).  Perfect examples of this are the Epistles of Saint Paul.  There is little doubt that these writings are his for he states at the end of letters that he wrote them with his own hand.  Also he wrote them to churches that he started and they knew him very well.  These churches preserved these letters and read them in their liturgies.

Using these three criteria, the fathers of the church started to develop the New Testament.  The letters of Paul were among the first to be recognized in 90 ad and were being assembled in small collections.  The four Gospels were decided on around the year 200.  There were various canons proposed, but the Pauline letters and the four gospels seemed to have staying power.  Other books such as Revelation and Hebrews were battled over.  Some areas of the church accepted them and others did not.  There were also books with no apostolic link that were considered such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Clements letter to the Corinthians.  However they did not meet the criteria previously discussed and were denied canonical status. Through many debates and hefty quarrels we know that the canon was final by the end of the fourth century (Nichols, Page 105).

 

References

Nichols, Aiden. The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Guest Post: Typology in the Bible

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

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I’m often told that I’m the spitting image of my dad, less about 30 years. And not just because I’m his lookalike. The similarities continue through our interests, tastes, and even career. By all accounts, I’d imagine any fair observer might look at the two of us and think, “Yup. That makes sense.”

Many people approach the Old and New Testaments of the Bible looking for a similar resemblance. The Old Testament tells us of God creating the universe, calling Israel to be His people, and leading them into the days of Christ. The New Testament tells us about Jesus and His ministry, provides us with instruction on how to live a Christian life, and even gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship. Yet sometimes people struggle to see how the two connect.

There are many different ways in which we can relate the two testaments, but I would like to focus on just one right now. As St. Augustine put it eloquently: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”1 The study of this relationship between the Old and New Testaments is called Typology.

What is Typology?

Typology is the study of how various things in the Old Testament prefigured what was later fulfilled in the New Testament. And these “things” we call types (from the Greek typos). Scripture Scholar Scott Hahn describes a type as a, “real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.”2

In this light, we see in the Old Testament not only the progress of salvation history, but many divine analogies to greater New Testament realities.

The New Adam
We see this in St. Paul’s description of Adam as a type of Jesus. He explained that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14, emphasis added). Paul viewed Jesus as a new Adam. Among many other similarities, they were both born in a state of original innocence, they both faced off with Satan, and they both impacted the whole of humanity.

Though with this comparison we can see just how superior the new Adam is when compared to the old. The first Adam failed where Jesus succeeded. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom 5:15).

Other Types of Types
Not all types refer to Jesus. As I plan to demonstrate in future articles, typology can be applied to other things in the New Testament.

We can see an example of this when the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament tabernacle as a, “shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb 8:5). (Or click here to see an example of Eve as a type of Mary).

It’s important to note, as Hahn said earlier, that a type is always inferior to its fulfillment in the New Testament. What was once a shadow is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament.

Learning from the Master

Some might be interested to hear that this method of reading scripture isn’t new. Christians have seen the typological relationship between the Old and New Testaments for centuries. And for good reason too. Jesus himself read the Old Testament in this way.

Take the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’ followers were walking on the road to Emmaus shortly after reports of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread. The two encounter Jesus on the road, but they didn’t recognize him. The three talked for a while, and we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). How great of a Bible study would that have been!

Now remember, at this time there was no New Testament. They were still living it. The “scriptures” referred to the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament, Jesus showed “the things concerning himself.”

Why Study Typology?

Some may think of typology as a highfalutin method of biblical study reserved for academics in halls of higher education. And no doubt it could be. But the value of typology is more than that. It’s how the first Christians approached the scriptures. It’s how Jesus himself approached the scriptures.

By reading the New Testament in light of Old Testament types, a whole new dimension of the Bible opens up to us. We can see the brilliance of the divine analogies that were made so long ago. So much of Biblical history spells out the heavenly realities that we now know in the Christian era. And we can use these Old Testament types to shape our understanding of Christian doctrine.

Last, but certainly not least, typology allows us to approach the Bible with a new appreciation as we see the handy-work of a master storyteller unfold.

 

Sources

  1. St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch 2.73; and Catechism of the Catholic Church 129.
  2. Hahn, Scott W. Hail, Holy Queen: the Mother of God in the Word of God. Image Books, 2006, pp. 23.

 

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Grace and Liberation

In the New Testament there are many passages that speak of grace as liberation.  Sin is a plague that has overtaken the world, and it enslaves us (Stevens 9).  We are born in original sin, and though that is washed away through the sacrament of Baptism, concupiscence remains.  Concupiscence is the tendency to still drift toward sin.  This concept of liberation is seen in Romans 5:17 where St. Paul writes, “because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (NRSV).  St. Paul states this again in Romans 7:6 where he says we are no longer slaves and held captive.

In bestowing grace, the Blessed Trinity looks to the bounty, or freedom of the one who receives (Hardon).  In the grace of God, we discover our true freedom.  When we have a new life in Christ the destructive power that evil had over us is no more (Stevens 10).  Some may call this being born again, and it is a concept that is discussed frequently throughout the New Testament.  When we have this new birth the bonds that held us captive to sin are now shattered.  Just as God gave life to Adam in the garden of Eden, we are given new life through grace (Stevens 11).  Adam sinned, and through his sin death came into the world.  Through Christ we are free from that and we can live.  Regarding this Charles Journet writes, “Since the soul of Christ is so close to the person of the Word, grace finds there its true home, and there unfolds itself in perfect freedom” (Journet 2.12).

This liberation is also much more than being free from the bonds of sin.  Liberation in the New Testament grace established a union between the Christian and Christ (Stevens 17).  This is open to all men who are seeking the light of Christ and not seeking the attachment to sin (Stevens 17).  Grace is thus liberation because it breaks the bonds of death and united us fully to the source of life.

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Works Cited

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Stevens, G. The Life of Grace. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1963. 1-65. Print.

Questions and Christological Development

Children are full of questions.  They are beautiful little creatures as babies who make cute sounds.  When they reach the toddler age they start to ask more questions.  When they reach the age of five or six the questions come at a rapid-fire pace.  This happens as their brains develop, and they are starting to learn and investigate the word around them.  As a child asked many questions to learn, the Church did something similar when developing a proper Christology.  The role of questions in the development of New Testament Christology is something that cannot be underestimated.  In his book, Jesus:  A Portrait, Gerald O’Collins examines seven key questions that helps establish who Jesus was.

The questions that O’Collins discusses in his section titled “Jesus the Questioner” come from the Gospel of John.  John is laid out in such a way that it makes a clear statement about the divine nature of Christ (O’Collins 202).  The first questions that Jesus poses in the Gospel in found in John 1:38. Jesus simply asks Andrew “What are you looking for?” (NRSV). In the early Church they were striving to understand Christ in a deeper way.  It is important to note that when these questions were being asked the whole New Testament had not been formally compiled.  So, looking solely to scripture would not have been possible, but apostolic tradition played a big role in the process.  We are all looking for something, and that something is the savior.  Jesus asks this question in such a way that he is not forcing himself on anyone but challenges us (O’Collins 203).

The above question is only one that Christ asks in the Gospel of John.  The following are the remaining six questions:

Will you also go away (John 6:67)?  Do you believe this (John 11:26)?  Do you know what I have done for you (John 13:12)?  Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Phillip (John 14:9)?  Woman, why are you weeping?  Whom are you looking for (John 20:15)?  Do you love me (John 21:15-17)?

Questions in the Bible are not an obtuse thought or a New Testament invention.  Many questions are asked, and many truths and commands are conveyed through their use (O’Collins 202).  Christ was God incarnate, came to earth, and started asking questions.  O’Collins brilliantly states, “The God who says to Adam ‘Where are you?’, and to Job ‘I will question you’, has come among us and slips at once into the divine habit of asking questions” (O’Collins 202).

Likewise, the Church followed the example of its founder and started asking questions.  These questions led to inquiry, scriptural exegesis, and a deeper consultation of Sacred Tradition.  Because of questions there were various heresies that popped up.  Some of these, such as Arianism, were very popular and lasted longer than anyone would have thought.  These heresies also brought up more questions about the nature of Christ, and the Church was forced to answer more questions.  This led to a better understanding of Christology and served as the foundation for our understanding today.  Questions were vital in this process.

Works Cited

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013.  Print

Resist The Devil

Where do the wars and where do the conflicts among you come from?
Is it not from your passions that make war within your members?
You covet but do not possess.
You kill and envy but you cannot obtain;
you fight and wage war.
You do not possess because you do not ask.
You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly,
to spend it on your passions.
Adulterers!
Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God?
Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world
makes himself an enemy of God.
Or do you suppose that the Scripture speaks without meaning when it says,
The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy?
But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says:
God resists the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.

So submit yourselves to God.
Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.
Cleanse your hands, you sinners,
and purify your hearts, you of two minds.
Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning
and your joy into dejection.
Humble yourselves before the Lord
and he will exalt you.-James 4:1-10

The letter of James is a book that is challenging.  It is a book that calls us to action, and the passage today is no exception.  St. James is blunt and to the point.  He is basically saying that we have conflict because we want what someone else has.  We want it so bad that it starts to take over our mind.  We think about it so much that we become resentful and start to justify doing wrong to the person.  Think about that.  You may have done that.  I know I have.  He then talks about humility and resisting temptation.  The reason that this is here is no accident.  Humility and resisting temptation will help us avoid covetousness.  This will help build stronger relationships and community among believers.

Satan knows what we like and he knows what makes us tick.  He will do everything in his power to make you stumble.  He will make you feel that someone doesn’t deserve what they have to the point that you wish harm on the person.  He will make you want to look at that porn site one more time because you aren’t hurting anyone.  He will make you do any number of things and will help you justify them.  He is called the father of lies for a reason.  Resist the bitterness, envy, and strife.  Be humble and resist the snares of the devil.  Remember to rest in Christ and be humble and he will lift you up.

 

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Your first task is to be dissatisfied with yourself, fight sin, and transform yourself into something better. Your second task is to put up with the trials and temptations of this world that will be brought on by the change in your life and to persevere to the very end in the midst of these things.
–St. Augustine

The Ten Commandments, Part Two

6.  You shall not commit adultery

This command prohibits sexual activity with any person other than one’s spouse, and also any emotional connection as well.  This command also extends to masturbation as it turns the sexual gift into a selfish act. It protects the dignity of the sacramental marriage, prohibits divorce, and encourages a chaste life.  Regarding this command the catechism states, “They are contrary to the moral law. the sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion” (CCC para 2390).  This command helps us remember that our bodies, though a gift from God, are also a gift to our spouses.  Our spouse may be going through a situation, such as a medical condition, that would not allow sexual activity.  This reminds us that marriage is much more than sex, but a union with that one person.  It reminds us that our sexuality is gift to be given freely to our spouse.

7.  You shall not steal.

This command prohibits the unlawful taking of one’s property.  Two examples are stealing physical property and intellectual property.  This command tells us to treat others how we want to be treated and promotes the fair treatment of all.  It also helps us to treat the poor virtuously as not to take advantage of their situation and steal the time that they have with their families.  The command tells us to treat every person with dignity, and the catechism echoes this when it states, “respect for human dignity requires the practice of the virtue of temperance, so as to moderate attachment to this world’s goods” (CCC para 2407).  One situation that is dealt with daily is in regard to social media.  Someone may post something that is insightful, but when it is posted it is now intellectual property.  It is ok to share the quotation, but not ok to post it without citing who said it.

8.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This command tells us to not be dishonest in any way.  Two examples are not to lie and not to gossip.  The command encourages us to be fruitful witnesses to Christ and the gospel.  It also tells us to denounce hypocrisy.  Regarding this the catechism states, “Since God is “true,” the members of his people are called to live in the truth” (CCC para 2465).  An example of how this command can be applied happens at places of employment throughout the world.  When someone has a juicy piece of gossip to tell we must resist the temptation.  To listen is to encourage, and the character of the person may never recover.

9.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

This command tells us to not lust after someone else’s spouse or to look for sex outside of marriage.  This command encourages us to live a life of modesty and chastity.  We are to be chaste in the vocation in which we are called.  If we are single then we are chaste, and if married we have sexual relations with our spouse.  As the catechism states, “chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart” (CCC para 2520).  This command helps us make sound moral decisions by reminding us that we are set apart as a Christian people.  Temptation is all around us, and we may be attracted to someone who is married.  It reminds us to respect the marriage sacrament and the dignity of the individual.  They are much more than their looks.

10.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

This command tells to not be envious by the material possessions that some one has, and reminds to not be greedy.  The command reminds us that we are to keep God first and be thankful for the blessings that he has given us.  God has given us so much and we must remember that.  The catechism says it best when it states, “The economy of law and grace turns men’s hearts away from avarice and envy” (CCC para 2541).  This command plays out perfectly when looking at those who have been blessed with riches.  Many think that since they have much they won’t miss it if we take a little.  If we see them drop a $100 bill it is not okay to keep it.  This command reminds us to act uprightly with our fellow man, and what is theirs is theirs.  It keeps us from having bad thoughts and keeps us from breaking other commands.

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubleday Books.  New York, NY:  1995.  Print.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Dei Verbum: What is Divine Revelation?

In my years as a Protestant a topic of great passion was just how God reveals Himself to mankind.  Sola scriptura, or the Bible alone, was my battle cry for many years. However, once I started reading the early church fathers, something hit me.  These sound a lot like Catholic teachings.  After further research I found that there was a piece of revelation that I had ignored, but it was one that answers many questions. The purpose of the article is to go over how God reveals himself and to answer some of the very questions that I had in my faith journey.  This will be done with the aid of Dei Verbum, which was written at Vatican II.

What is divine revelation?  Through the mercy of God, He has decided to make His will known by various means.  This was necessary so that we can draw near to the Father, through the son, and with assistance of the Holy Spirit to participate in the divine nature (Dei Verbum, para 2).  The pattern of revelation is contained in the deeds and works of God that match His words.  God backed up his words and put into motion His plan for salvation history.  Evidence of God is everywhere and evident in all areas of creation, and preserves all things.  As a result, when Adam and Eve fell it was then that God set forth a plan for redemption instead of destroying creation and starting over.  What great love God has for us!

He initiated this plan through Abraham and fulfilled His promise of making Abraham a great nation.  After Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, “He taught this nation, through Moses and the prophets, to recognize him as the only living and true God (Dei Verbum, para 3).”  Through God’s work, He taught Israel to look for the messiah.  As St. John the evangelist tells us “the word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  God sent his son to tell the people about God’s love and how He works.  Through His son we are able to have life through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Obedience in faith should be our only real response to this revelation.  It is through this faith that we give of ourselves; we submit ourselves to God and enter into a relationship with Him.  We love Him because He first loved us and gave Himself for us.  He paid a debt we did not owe because we owed a debt we could not pay.  This is done only by the grace of God, and through the working of the Holy Spirit.  Through the gifts of the Spirit, our understanding of this revelation grows stronger and is understood in a more profound way.

Through the revelation of God we see that God is manifested not only through sacred scripture, but also in nature.  This is done through reason because man knows deep within his soul that there is something out there greater than himself.  Though he may not know what it is it is ingrained in all of us to understand that it was not accidental.  It is the teaching of the church that “these things themselves are not beyond the grasp of human reason, can, in the present condition of the human race, be known to all with ease, with firm certainty, and without the contamination of error (Dei Verbum, para 6).”

So far we have discussed a lot about sacred scripture.  The Church has taught from the beginning that the scriptures are the word of God.  As the word of God they are to be treated reverently and with the tradition of the church make up the full teaching of the Apostles.  The church has gone through great trial to deliver the proper scriptures to us.  According to the Council of Trent, there are forty six books that make up the Old Testament.  These books include Wisdom, Sirach, Tobit, Judith, and 1 and 2 Maccabees.  Our Protestant brethren do not acknowledge these books.  All Christian churches are in agreement with the books of the New Testament which is twenty seven in number.  We will now look deeper at the Old and New Testament which make up the written part of the tradition.

The Old Testament is a collection of writings that have narratives about the creation of the world, the fall, and prophecies about the messiah.  In it we find a truth that becomes lost in some people’s minds.  “In his great love God intended the salvation of the entire human race (Dei Verbum, para 14).”  This was obviously plan B because our first parents fell from grace.  However in preparation for the salvation of all he chose a small nation.

God entered into a covenant with Abraham and made a great nation that is as numerous as the stars in the sky.  God revealed himself through words and deeds as the one true living God (Dei Verbum, para 14).  God chose Israel as a type of pet project to show himself and to teach them by experience.  In turn Israel would use this experience to teach other nations about God.  The books of the Old Testament are vital to the revelation that God gave man.  In the books we have life lessons and stories of hope that are still valid today.

Stories of hope and the patriarchs are great, but there is one theme that is overwhelming in the Old Testament.  That theme is the coming of Christ. The prophecies starting in Genesis 3:15 all thru the rest of the prophets prepare the people for the Son of God.  He was revealed in signs, little by little, to prepare the hearts and minds of the people. While some people find it very startling to see stories of violence these stories show the mercy of God. God had every right to terminate our existence, but the writings of the Old Testament show how merciful God is with humanity.

The Old Testament is a vital part of the liturgy of the church and should be a vital part of each individual’s biblical study.  There is a tendency to only read the New Testament, because some mistakenly think that is the only part of scripture that discusses Christ.  A closer look at the Old Testament shows that Christ is revealed throughout.  The new is hidden in the old and the old is fulfilled in the new.  There are several places where a working knowledge of the Old Testament helps explain things in the New Testament.  A good example of this in the letter to the Hebrews which discusses what the Hebrew priests do.

The New Testament contains autobiographies of our Lord (Gospels), writings of apostolic origin, and an early history of our church.  In these writings the saving power of God is manifested throughout. This Testament would be worthless without one thing, and that is Christ incarnated as the Word who dwelt among us.  The Son of God humbled Himself, took on human form and established the kingdom of God on Earth.  He revealed himself and the Father by performing various works and deeds to establish and show who He was.  His work on earth culminated in giving himself as the propitiation for the sins of all mankind.  When He ascended to Heaven He sent the Holy Spirit as a guide to teach the people through the ministry of the Apostles.

Christ alone has the words of eternal life; after all it was He that said He is the way, the truth, and the life.  The twenty seven books of the New Testament bear witness to these things.  From these twenty seven books the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John hold a special place for Christians.  It is in them that we find the words and teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From the beginning the church “has maintained the apostolic origin of the four gospels (Dei Verbum, para 18).  Matthew being written by the tax collector, Mark being written by Mark but dictated by Saint Peter, Luke was written by Saint Luke who was a companion of Saint Paul, and John by Saint John also known as the disciple that Jesus loved.

The church has taught with absoluteness that the four gospels historically and faithfully pass on what “Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men and women, really did and taught for their salvation, until he was taken up (Dei Verbum, para 19).”  After the Lord ascended into Heaven the Apostles spoke about what he did and said.  The Apostles were now blessed with the Holy Spirit and fully understood everything that the Lord had told them.

Each of the Gospels is written in its own form and style.  However it is important to note that the message of Christ in the Gospels is absolute, and the authentic message of Jesus was presented.  When Christ presented the apostles with the Great Commission they had no intention of writing down what the Lord had taught them.  Later on it became necessary to ensure that the truth about Jesus and His teachings were maintained within proper orthodoxy.

In addition to the Gospels we have other books in the New Testament, such as the writings of Saint Paul.  These writings were also done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  These writings involve things as proper Christian living, church order, and further clarification of the teachings of Christ.  These writings are great and further establish just want the Lord meant in certain areas, and preach about the saving power of Christ through His death burial, and resurrection.

Looking back on salvation history we can clearly see the plan of God from the beginning.  There is little doubt that our ancestors in faith, and the patriarchs of Israel went remember that God is always in control and knew that we could only handle small amounts of his revelation at one time.  Just as we need to prepare our souls to receive Holy Communion the souls of our ancestors needed to be prepared for Christ to come.

This happens by God revealing himself in His creation, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, and finally through Christ Himself and the teaching of the Apostles.  The gift of sacred scripture and the tradition handed on from the Apostles equips us to understand the revelation of God.  This understanding should put us in a state of awe, and render us speechless and teary eyed.  God has done great things for us.  Now let us do great things for Him.

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Works Cited

http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html

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