A reader writes:
Are the Old Testament Prophets considered saints? And, if so, why aren’t they spoken of with the title of St Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. I thought they were raised from the netherworld by Christ after His crucifixion and brought into heaven.
Anyone who died in God’s friendship before the time of Christ is now glorified with Christ in heaven, so they are saints in that sense.
For some reason, however, the custom of referring to Old Testament figures as saints never developed in Christian circles. This is a matter of linguistics and devotion more than theology, though.
With a few exceptions, we also don’t know for a fact which Old Testament figures made it to heaven and which didn’t. That, however, wouldn’t have been the reason that the custom didn’t arise. Most of the saints who are in the Roman Martyrology got there because of popular acclaim, not because of a papal intervention. Since the Old Testament presents many of these people as if they were God’s friends (even if we don’t have knowledge of the very ends of their lives in omst cases), there was certainly as much evidence for regarding them as saints as many in the Christian age who were canonized by popular acclaim.
I suspect that part of the reason early Christians didn’t acclaim them in this way is that they weren’t viewed as examples for us as directly as people living in our own age. They seemed more distant from us in a certain way because of the age in which they lived.
It also may be partly because–as revered figures from the Old Testament–their salvation was never really questioned, and so there was no push to have the recognized as saints. The approval that the Old Testament seems to give them may have been considered approval enough, so there was no need to get them extra recognition.
(The latter would also apply to those in the New Testament, but they’re closer to us in time; as dwellers in our own age, they’re more direct examples for us to follow.)
This is all just speculation, though. I don’t think we can say with certainty what the reasons were that the custom of who get’s called a saint developed as it did.