How to help at CCD with Old Testament


I was recently given the task of sitting in on a small group of middle school kids who are working on the Faith and Life Series. Their “teacher” is my son who is only 15 and he uses the teacher’s manual as a guide.

The reason I am sitting in is that the group was getting too loud and off-topic.

Now the group is asking me all sort of questions. The hardest one is the general issue of how to interpret the Old Testament. We are going through the story of Jacob and Esau now and the kids are saying: “Did this really happen?” “Is this story true?” My son said we cannot take literally many of the stories of the bible but we need to learn them anyhow, but now the kids are saying, “Why do we have to learn the Old Testament then?”

I don’t know how to accurately answer what parts of the Old Testament should be taken literally or not, and I don’t know how to explain why it is important to know the Old Testament (in a way a 7th grader can understand.)



Convertgirl (Jane)

I suggest getting the book “And God Said What?: An Introduction to Biblical Literary Forms” by Margaret Ralph, published by Paulist Press. This book is used in many Catholic parish scripture education classes and has answers to the questions you mention. I’m sure you could easily adapt the answers to the CCD students.

:confused: Where is the trained Catechist who is supposed to be in charge of this group?

My recommendation would be that you and your son both go for the Catechist training that your Diocese puts on, as soon as possible.

Hi Jane! :wave:

I think there’s a couple of positive things you can do. You may have to first do a little damage control on your son’s original blanket statement about the stories in the Bible in may or not being true. While the earlier (pre-Abraham, Genesis 12) stories can be looked at as literary devices that are nonetheless meant to impart real truths, the rest of the Old Testament is meant for us to understand as salvation history, and that’s the way we should take it. While it is true that history as the ancients understood it was not written with the supposed accuracy that we write history these days (that’s a complex subject that they can learn in college), it is still presented to us as history and should be taught and understood as such.

Secondly, you can tell them that the OT is important because it is God’s inspired word to us. He gave it to us for a some good reasons, namely, to reveal himself to us in time as the one, true God. He did this through the chosen people, the Jews, so they could reveal him to the rest of the world-- which means us. Also, the OT is a preparation, a groundwork laid, for the coming of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. It is pretty much impossible to fully understand Jesus-- who he was, what he came to do-- unless you have a decent familiarity with the Old Testament. One way you can demonstrate this is to have them look at their NT’s and note the number of OT citations (either quoted or in the footnotes).

Another way to show them this is to show them some clear examples of how Jesus was foreshadowed in the OT by various people, places and events. These are called “types” and if you can show them some of these, you can really make both the OT and NT come alive for them.

In Matthew’s Gospel, for example, you can pick out many parallels between Moses and Jesus. In 1 Corinthians, St. Paul compares Jesus, the Savior, the New Adam, with the old Adam who lost our justification before God. And Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves was foreshadowed by a similar miracle by the great prophet Elisha in the OT, except Jesus’ miracle is so much more amazing than it’s OT type, that it proves how much greater Jesus is than anyone that ever came before him. There are many more other types that can be pointed out.

Hopefully taking this approach will help you with your students. Next time you guys teach this class, be sure to study up on the OT. Next time you’ll be ready!

Hope that helps. :slight_smile:

Official documentation that might help can be found in paragraphs 121 thru 123 of the Catholic Catechism, and paragraphs 14 thru 16 of Dei Verbum:

“Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,” the books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love: these writings "are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way. (CCC 122)

The principal purpose to which the plan of the old covenant was directed was to prepare for the coming of Christ, the redeemer of all and of the messianic kingdom, to announce this coming by prophecy (see Luke 24:44; John 5:39; 1 Peter 1:10), and to indicate its meaning through various types (see 1 Cor. 10:12)…These books, though they also contain some things which are incomplete and temporary, nevertheless show us true divine pedagogy. These same books, then, give expression to a lively sense of God, contain a store of sublime teachings about God, sound wisdom about human life, and a wonderful treasury of prayers, and in them the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way. Christians should receive them with reverence. (DV 15)

The trick would be conveying this information in an age appropriate manner.


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