As Judaism was founded on the twelve Patriarchs of Israel, so Christianity is founded on the twelve Apostles.

Friday, 5/3/13

Today we celebrate the feast of two lesser-known Apostles, Philip and James. We were not left the biographies of each of the twelve Apostles, because for the early church their personalities did not matter. What mattered was that Christianity was at least the equal of Judaism. Judaism could boast of being founded on the twelve sons of Jacob who gave their names to the twelve tribes of Israel. The Book of Revelation insists that Christianity too was founded on twelve patriarchs, on the twelve apostles.  

In the Bible the holy city of Jerusalem is presented as the entire people of God. Jerusalem includes the people of the Old and New Testaments. Chapter Twenty-One of the Book of Revelations uses the image of the wall of the heavenly Jerusalem to show us that the two testaments actually fit together. In 21: 12 we read, “It had a massive high wall with twelve gates . . . on which the names were transcribed of the twelve tribes of Israel.”  Two verses farther on we read, “The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation on which were inscribed the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

The Second Vatican Council told us that we do not need to accept everything in the Old Testament as factual. Paragraph 15 of the Constitution on Divine Revelation states, “These books, even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional, nevertheless show us authentic divine teaching.”

Neither should we take everything in the New Testament as factual. Paragraph 12 of the Constitution on Divine Revelation tells us that rather than just reporting facts, the sacred writers used something like poetic license. It says, “Truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetic and poetical texts.”

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