Coverage Areas:  National |  South Carolina |  Aiken |  Beaufort |  Charleston |  Columbia |  Greenville |  Myrtle Beach |  Rock Hill
Menu

Jews and the Old Testament

Q: Do Jewish people call the first part of the Bible the Old Testament?  (Charlotte, NC)

A: I’m very grateful to receive this question. Oftentimes, unintentionally, Christians can offend their Jewish neighbors by saying that they “only believe in the Old Testament.” While this might be a good summary of the Christian viewpoint, it can come across as derogatory or condescending to a Jewish believer.

For a follower of Judaism, the collection of these specific holy books is not the Old Testament. It’s their sacred library and is properly called the TaNaK. The word is a summary of the three major parts of the library: the Torah (“T”), the Nevi’im or prophets (“N”) and the Ketuvim or Writings (“K”). Since ancient Hebrew has no clear vowels, two a’s were added so that TaNaK could be pronounced.

And so, knowledge and respect can go a long way. Refer to the TaNaK to your Jewish friends or co-workers and you’ll probably make some new best friends.

 

Q: Was the relationship between Mary and Joseph celibate? If yes, why?  (Hilton Head, SC)

A: Yes, without question, the witness of the Gospel books and Church tradition has always attested to the celibate marriage of Mary and Joseph. Sometimes a misreading of the Bible can contribute to misunderstanding. For example, in Matthew’s Gospel we read that Joseph: “And he knew her not until she brought forth her firstborn: and he called his name Jesus” (1:25). It would seem that Joseph “knew her” (the biblical expression for sexual intercourse) and that a “first-born” would indicate a second-born, etc. But here’s why a study of the Bible is very important.

First, the expression “until” is often used as an idiom in the Bible. There are many examples, but let’s look at when Jesus used it in telling us: “I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). Obviously, Jesus isn’t going to leave after the age. The idiom actually means the opposite of what it indicates. The Lord is saying he will be with us forever. In a similar way, the use of the idiom here actually indicates that Joseph did not know Mary and never did.

The use of the title first-born actually seems to confirm this reality. The first-born son bore the obvious title as a legal designation according to the Law of Moses. Since God spared the first-born sons of Israel during the Passover, every first-born son was consecrated and belonged to him. If there were no other siblings, it would be very important to stress that a son was the first-born (and such a title would not have indicated other sons or children). If other children were present, it would have been clear that the eldest son was the first-born and such an emphasis would not have been as necessary.

These explanations can help us to understand the celibate marriage between Mary and Joseph. With this understood, it’s worth stressing the reason why their celibacy is important. The Church does not stress their celibacy because somehow sexual activity is dirty or defiles a person’s sanctity. Rather the Church teaches about their marital celibacy in order to emphasize the holiness of Jesus Christ. Our Lady’s ever-virginity stresses the inviolate nature of God’s holiness, so much so that her body remained untouched even after the birth of her son, who is also the eternal Son of God.

Father Jeffrey Kirby is administrator of St. Joseph Church in Chester and Our Lady of Grace Church in Lancaster. Email him your questions at askfrkirby@gmail.com.

 




  • Diocesan Events Calendar
    View All Events
    Oct 20All Day Teacher Workday
    From the Calendar of Bishop England Charleston
    7:00 pm Mision y Correspons. #2
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil
    7:00 pm Bishop presiding Confirmation - Our Lady of the Rosary - Greenville
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    Oct 218:30 am Diaconate Formation Class
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Diocese of Charleston Native American Catholic Heritage Celebration
    From the Calendar of Native American Ministry
    12:00 pm Native American Heritage Celebration - Our Lady of the Rosary- Mass at noon followed by luncheon
    From the Calendar of Bishop's Office
    Oct 228:30 am Diaconate Formation Class
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    2:00 pm Permanent Diaconate Ordination
    From the Calendar of Diaconate
    Oct 23 End of 1 Qtr. ( 45 days)
    From the Calendar of St. Michael School Murrells Inlet
    Red Ribbon Week
    From the Calendar of St. Michael School Murrells Inlet
    NO SCHOOL - Fall Break
    From the Calendar of St. Mary School Greenville
    Early Dismissal
    From the Calendar of St. Peter School Columbia
    2:00 Dismissal
    From the Calendar of St. Joseph School Columbia
    Red Ribbon Week
    From the Calendar of St. Joseph School Columbia
    Faculty In-service
    From the Calendar of St. Martin de Porres School Columbia
    Faculty In-service
    From the Calendar of St. John Neumann School Columbia
    End of 1st Nine Weeks
    From the Calendar of St. Anthony School Florence
    Book Fair
    From the Calendar of Holy Trinity North Myrtle Beach
    Quarter 2 Begins
    From the Calendar of Christ Our King Mount Pleasant
    7:00 pm Mision y Correspons. #1
    From the Calendar of Pastoral Juvenil