DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     December 16, 1999     vol. 10, no. 239


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      Every day we present a short point that helps bring into focus the treasures of the Roman Catholic Church that comprise the great Deposit of Faith.

      It is no secret that over the past thirty years fewer and fewer know their Faith and it shows with the declining number of vocations, parish participation and attendance at Holy Mass. We have the new Catechism of the Catholic Church but for the common man, the one brought up on sound bites and instant gratification, it is more of a text book and that in itself prompts them to shy away from such a tome. So what's a loyal Catholic to do in evangelizing to fellow Catholics and understand their Faith? Our answer: go back to basics - to the great Deposit of Faith. We have the Baltimore Catechism which, for unknown and ridiculous reasons, was shelved after Vatican II. We have the Holy Bible but there are so many newer versions that the Douay-Rheims and Confraternity Latin Vulgate in English versions, the ones used for so long as the official Scriptural text authorized by the Church, seem lost in a maze of new interpretations that water down the Word. This is further complicated by the fact there are so few Douay-Rheims editions in circulation though it is available on the net at DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE. We have so many Vatican documents available at the Vatican web site and other excellent Catholic resource sites that detail Doctrine, Dogma and Canon Law. We have the traditions, and the means of grace but how do we consolidate all these sources into one where it is succinct and easy to understand? We have the perfect vehicle. It is called "My Catholic Faith", now out of print, that was compiled by Bishop Louis Laravoire Morrow and published by My Mission House. This work ties in Scriptural references, the Sacraments, Dogmas, Doctrines, Traditions, Church documents, Encyclical and Papal decrees to clearly illustrate the Faith in simple, solid and concise terms that all can understand and put into practice. We will quote from this work while adding in more recent events and persons when applicable since the book was written in the late forties during the pontificate of Pope Pius XII. We also quote from the Catholic Almanac published by Our Sunday Visitor for the Roman Curial offices and from Old Testament Confraternity Edition and New Testament Confraternity Edition of the Saint Joseph New Catholic Edition of the Holy Bible.

    Nothing in Holy Mother Church's teaching has changed and therefore we feel confident that these daily "points of enlightenment" will help more Catholics better understand their faith, especially those who were not blessed with early formation of the faith in the home and their parish school. Regardless of where any Catholic is in his or her journey toward salvation, he or she has to recognize that the Faith they were initiated into at the Sacrament of Baptism is the most precious gift they have been given in life.


Part Three: The Penteteuch

        The Pentateuch is substantially the work of Moses. It is a closely knit literary unit and was originally conceived as one work written for a single purpose, vix., to keep before the Israelites the memory that God had called them to be His chosen people and had entrusted them with the promise of the Messiah.

        The Pentateuch was divided in the course of time into five parts or books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It begins as a kind of universal history of mankind (Gen. 1-11), but quickly limits itself to an account of the immediate ancestors of the Hebrews (Gen. 12), and finally becomes in the following books (Exodus-Deuteronomy) the history of the Hebrews up to the time of the conquest of the Promised Land.


        Genesis, therefore, is the introduction to the history of Israel. Its purpose is evident. By a careful selection of material, the author shows how God's omnipotence and loving c are bring about the formation of the people whom He had chosen in a special manner as His "inheritance." He Himself is to rule over them. Their leaders, judges, prophets and kings are to be merely God's representatives.

        Genesis (50 chapters) covers the period from the creation of the world to Joseph's death in Egypt. At this point Exodus takes up the narrative of Israel's sojourn in Egypt. The main divisions of Genesis are: I. The Primitive History (Gen 1, 11-26). II. The Patriarch Abraham (Gen. 11, 27-25, 18), III. The Patriarchs Isaac and Jacob (Gen. 25, 19-36, 43). IV. The History of Joseph (Gen. 37, 1-50, 26).


        The second book of the Pentateuch is called Exodus from the Greek word for "departure," because the central event narrated in it is the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. It continues the history of the chosen people from the point where the Book of Genesis leaves off. It recounts the oppression by the Egyptians of the ever-increasing descendants of Jacob and their miraculous deliverance by God through Moses, who led them across the Red Sea to Mount Sinai where they entered into a special covenant with the Lord.

        These events were of prime importance to the chosen people, for they became thereby an independent nation and enjoyed a unique relationship with God. Through Moses God gave to the Israelites at Mount Sinai the "Law": the moral, civil and ritual legislation by which they were to become a holy people, in whom the promise of a Savior of all mankind would be fulfilled.

        The principal divisions of Exodus are: I. The Israelites in Egypt (Ex. 1, 1-12, 36). II. The Exodus from Egypt and the Journey to Sinai (Ex. 12, 37-18, 27). III. The Covenant at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19, 1-24, 18). IV. The Dwelling and Its Furnishings (Ex. 25, 1-40, 38).


        The name "Leviticus" was bestowed on the third book of the Pentateuch by the ancient Greek translators because a good part of this book consists of sacrifical and other ritual laws prescribed for the priests of the tribe of Levi.

        Continuing the legislation given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai, Leviticus is almost entirely legislative in character; the rare narrative portions are subordinate to the main legislative theme. Generally speaking, the laws contained in this book serve to teach the Israelites that they should always keep themselves in a state of legal purity, or external sanctity, as a sign of their intimate union with the Lord. Accordingly, the central idea of Leviticus is contained in its oft-repeated injunction: "You shall be holy, because I, the Lord, am holy."

        The main divisions of Leviticus are: I. Ritual of Sacrifices (Lev. 1-7). II. Ceremony of Ordination (Lev. 8-10). III. Laws regarding Legal Purity (Lev. 11;16). IV. Code of Legal Holiness (Lev. 17-26). V. Redemption of Offerings (Lev. 27).


        The Book of Numbers derives its name from the account of the two censuses of the Hebrew people taken, one near the beginning and the other toward the end of the journey in the desert (chapters 1 and 26). It continues the story of that journey, begun in Exodus, and describes briefly the experiences of the Israelites for a period of thirty-eight years, from the end of their encampment at Sinai to their arrival at the border of the Promised Land. Numberous legal ordinances are interspersed in the account, making the book a combination of law and history.

        The various events described clearly indicate the action of God, who punishes the murmuring of the people by prolonging their stay in the desert, at the same time preparing them by this discipline to be His witnesses among the nations.

        In the New Testament Christ and the Apostles derive useful lessons from such events in the Book of Numbers as the brazen serpent (John 3, 14f), the sedition of Core and its consequences (1 Cor. 10, 10), the prophecies of Balaam (2 Peter 2, 15f), and the water gushing from the rock (1 Cor. 10, 4).

        The chief divisions of the Book of Numbers are as follows: I. Preparation for the Departure from Sinai (Num 1, 1-10, 10). II. From Sinai to the Plains of Moab (Num. 10, 11-22), 1). III. On the Plains of Moab (Num. 22, 2-26, 13).


        The fifth and last book of the Pentateuch is called Deuteronomy, meaning "second law." In reality, what it contains is not a new law but a partial repetition, completion and explanation of the law given on Mount Sinai. The historical portions of the book are also a resume of what is related elsewhere in the Pentateuch.

        The chief characteristic of this book is its vigorous oratorical style. In a series of eloquent discourses Moses exhorts, corrects and threatens his people, appealing to their past glory, their historic mission, and the promise of future triumph. His aim is to enforce among the Israelites the Lord's claim to their obedience, loyalty and love.

        The events contained in the Book of Deuteronomy took place in the plains of Moab (Deut. 1, 5) between the end of the wanderings in the desert (Deut 1, 3) and the crossing of the Jordan River (Josue 4, 19), a period of no more than forty days.

        The Book of Deuteronomy may be considered the testament of Moses, the great leader and lelgislator, to his people on the eve of his death. Jesus Christ quoted passages of Deuteronomy in overcoming the threefold temptation of Satan in the desert (Matt. 4; Deut. 6, 13. 16; 8, 3; 10, 20), and in explaining to the lawyer the first and greatest commandment (Matt. 22, 35-39; Deut. 6, 4).

        The book is divided as follows: I. Historical Review and Exhortation (Deut. 1, 1-4, 33). II. God and His Covenant (Deut. 4, 44-11, 32). III. Exposition of the Law (Deut. 12, 1-26, 19). IV. Final Words of Moses (Deut. 27, 1-34, 12).

      Tomorrow: The Books of Judges, Joshua and Ruth

December 16, 1999       volume 10, no. 239


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