Catholic Classroom: Old Testament Saints
Question: Is anyone from the Old Testament a saint?
The Church canonizes individuals who have lived lives of heroic virtue, followed Jesus, and are now in heaven. But what about the holy men and women of the Old Testament? Are they in heaven, and can we look to their example?
Generally, we do not refer to people from before the time of Jesus with the title of “saint.” However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church's liturgical traditions” (61). By his death and Resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven to these holy individuals. They are indeed saints. In the Western Church, we usually do not use the title of “saint” for these individuals simply because of the way that language and official recognition of saints have developed. Additionally, our capacity to imitate them is a bit different because of the fact that they lived before Jesus’ time.
Two of the clearest examples of Old Testament saints are Moses and Elijah, who appear with Jesus at the Transfiguration. We can assume from this that they are in heaven, and Scripture shows that they certainly led lives of heroic virtue. Other individuals from the Old Testament honored as saints include Abraham, Daniel, Isaiah, King David, and the seven Maccabees and their mother.
Many holy people served God faithfully before Jesus was born. His victory over death was so perfectly complete that he opened heaven to these people, and they are now recognized as saints. We can pray for their intercession, and we are blessed to have their holy example to follow.