Why are there no Old Testament Saints?

Many of the people introduced in the New Testament are now venerated as saints in the Catholic Church. But what about the Old Testament? Why don’t we refer to Moses, Abraham, or Isaiah as saints? Diane called The Patrick Madrid Show to ask.

This is a great question, responded Patrick. He explained, “There’s a bit of a nuance here that I should state: there are plenty of saints in the Old Testament and they are referred to in Hebrews chapter 11.”

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In this chapter, many Old Testament figures are mentioned by name, as well as their holy deeds.

“The writer to the Hebrews goes through a whole list of these very well-known, very saintly figures. Abel, for example, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Sarah, and the list goes on. And what’s interesting—by the time he gets down to the end of this sort of like a hall of fame, these heroes, he talked about how many of them died,” said Patrick.

“Some were tortured and would not accept deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others endured mockery, scourging, even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, sawed in two, put to death at sword’s point.” Hebrews 11:35-37

The author of this Letter to the Hebrews explains that the world was not worthy of these holy men and women, yet because they died before Christ, they did not immediately receive their eternal reward.

“Yet all these, though approved because of their faith, did not receive what had been promised. God had foreseen something better for us, so that without us they should not be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40

Patrick draws our attention to the last verse of the chapter, where the author links these holy people to us, we who have received the “better things” through Christ. They are not completely out of luck, since “without us they should not be made perfect.” Patrick explains that this means they are with us and are made perfect—in other words, they are now saints enjoying their heavenly reward. And as we know, after Christ died he went to gather up the souls of those Old Testament figures who had died and were awaiting the reopening of heaven, so they are with Him in eternity.

I know what you’re thinking: if they are in heaven, why have none of them been canonized by the Catholic Church?

“That’s an interesting question,” says Patrick, “and I don’t know that I have the answer for it except to say that the Church has never canonized as a saint Moses, for example, or Abraham. And I wonder if the reason for that is because there’s no question but that they are saints. Scripture attests to it.”

So maybe the Church has not bothered to canonize the prophets and patriarchs from the Old Testament because there is no need.

“In a way, I think it would be superfluous,” Patrick states.

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.