The Old Testament contains matters that are "imperfect and provisional."


Saturday, 8/16/14

Ezekiel wrote that the Lord came to him insisting that the people stop using the old proverb: “Fathers have eaten green grapes, and their children’s teeth or set on edge.” The proverb will have more punch for you if as a kid you had the experience of stealing and eating sour grapes. It would have set your upper and lower teeth grinding against each other. (I don’t know what it would be with false teeth.)

The people’s proverb about eating unripe grapes had been their way of reading the  small print following on the listing of the First Commandment. Chapter Twenty of Exodus states, “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness on the children of those whom hate me, down to the third and fourth generations.”

But in today’s first reading, as a reversal of that, God  instructed Ezekiel to tell the people that “if a man is virtuous he will surely live, but if he is not he will not live.”

We see here one part of the Old Testament contradicting what is said in another. This would be a problem for you if you were a person who believed that every word of the Bible comes straight from God. But as Catholics we believe that every book of the Bible also had a human author, and that at time God allowed that author to slip in his or her faulty views.

Our “Constitution on Divine Revelation” that was approved by all the bishops, says it this way in paragraph 15: “These books, even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional, nevertheless show us authentic divine teaching.” 

Many Old Testament lessons were tailored to the limited understanding of their authors and to the understanding of the people of their time.  

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