Possessing both a Bachelor of Arts in history and a continued passion for the subject, I constantly remind myself to view persons and events in a large historical context. According to the English poet John Donne in his poem No Man is an Island,
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
No person lives in isolation free from the influences of others humans and world events. Viewing connections between the Old and New Testaments is no different. Events and characters throughout the history and religious development of Judaism forged the way for the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ. Throughout the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. series, I have portrayed that contextual reading is not merely a preferred, but an essential component to understanding and unlocking the fullness of Jesus’ gospel message. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism)…. Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.105 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.106 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New (CCC 123, 129).
Today I wish to share the relationship between the famous Old Testament prophet Elijah and how he is a predecessor and prefiguring of John the Baptist.
1. Tackling Tyrants: Elijah and John the Baptist both faced wicked monarchs in their respective times. The Old Testament prophets vehemently opposed the evil ways of Queen Jezebel and King Ahab. In 1 Kings 21, Elijah was able to get the king to repent of and humble himself before the Lord.
Similarly, John the Baptist squared off against an evil ruler as well—King Herod. Standing up to the king, John was loud in Herod’s lusting after and seeking to marry his brother’s ex-wife Herodias. The prophet’s continual condemnation of Herod’s evil led to John’s beheading.
2. Desert Dudes: Both prophets spent enormous amounts of time praying and fasting in the desert. According to 1 Kings 19:1-14, Elijah flees to the desert to escape the wrath of Queen Jezebel after he destroyed the prophets of the idol Ba’al. The prophet spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness. His period of fasting culminated with his famous encounter with God in the stillness and quite voice.
Fast forward to the New Testament and John the Baptist lives in a similar manner. Matthew 3 tells of John preaching in the desert of Judea—clothed in camel hides and
eating locusts. His speech against false worship is similar is tone to Elijah. The Baptist chastised the Pharisees and Sadducees by saying,
You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.f 10Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.
3. Harbinger of Greatness: As profound and mighty prophets both Elijah and John the Baptist were in their own regard, they ultimately paved the way for someone greater to follow—Elisha and Jesus respectively. Elisha’s superiority is exemplified in providing greater miracles and ultimately being a foreshadowing of Jesus himself. The successor of Elijah, healed lepers, multiplied food, and resurrected the widow’s son. All of these miracles are things Jesus performed—simply on a grander manner.
The liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church places the feast day of John the Baptist on June 24th. It is interesting to note that this placement is close to the summer solstice and the time of the year where the day slowly starts to grew less and less. Christmas, the birthday of Jesus, occurs after the winter solstice. During the darkest periods of the year, there exists hope on December 25th as the daylight is increasing. John the Baptist tells us his role in salvation history. The prophet states, “He must increase while I must decrease!” (John 3:30).
John also defers to Jesus in Mark 1:7-8 when he says, “And this is what he proclaimed: ‘One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.'”
Today I will close with an excerpt from a sermon by St. Augustine for the Feast of St. John the Baptist. I found it while praying the Liturgy of the Hours. For more information on this amazing ancient public prayer of the Catholic Church please feel free to visit http://www.divineoffice.org.
(Sermo 293,1-3: PL 38, 1327-1328)
The Church observes the birth of John as a hallowed event. We have no such commemoration for any other fathers; but it is significant that we celebrate the birthdays of John and of Jesus. This day cannot be passed by. And even if my explanation does not match the dignity of the feast, you may still meditate on it with great depth and profit. John was born of a woman too old for childbirth; Christ was born of a youthful virgin. The news of John’s birth was met with incredulity, and his father was struck dumb. Christ’s birth was believed, and he was conceived through faith. Such is the topic, as I have presented it, for our inquiry and discussion. But as I said before, if I lack either the time or the ability to study the implications of so profound a mystery, the Spirit who speaks within you even when I am not here will teach you better; it is the Spirit whom you contemplate with devotion, whom you have welcomed into your hearts, whose temples you have become. John, then, appears as the boundary between the two testaments, the old and the new. That he is a sort of boundary the Lord himself bears witness, when he speaks of “the law and the prophets up until John the Baptist.” Thus he represents times past and is the herald of the new era to come. As a representative of the past, he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared to be a prophet while still in his mother’s womb. For when yet unborn, he leapt in his mother’s womb at the arrival of blessed Mary. In that womb he had already been designated a prophet, even before he was born; it was revealed that he was to be Christ’s precursor, before they ever saw one another. These are divine happenings, going beyond the limits of our human frailty. Eventually he is born, he receives his name, his father’s tongue is loosened. See how these events reflect reality. Zechariah is silent and loses his voice until John, the precursor of the Lord, is born and restores his voice. The silence of Zechariah is nothing but the age of prophecy lying hidden, obscured, as it were, and concealed before the preaching of Christ. At John’s arrival Zechariah’s voice is released, and it becomes clear at the coming of the one who was foretold. The release of Zechariah’s voice at the birth of John is a parallel to the rending of the veil at Christ’s crucifixion. If John were announcing his own coming, Zechariah’s lips would not have been opened. The tongue is loosened because a voice is born.
When John was preaching the Lord’s coming he was asked, “Who are you?” And he replied: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The voice is John, but the Lord “in the beginning was the Word.” John was a voice that lasted only for a time; Christ, the Word in the beginning, is eternal.
Thank you God for the strong and passionate witnesses to the truth in the persons of Elijah and John the Baptist!
Premiering in 1970, the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber merged with the biblical story of an Old Testament patriarch to form one of the more popular musicals of all-time—Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. I remember seeing this musical during my elementary years at the Catholic school I attended. If it were not for this musical I may not have come to appreciate the significance of the patriarch Joseph. Usually he is overshadowed by other Old Testament figures like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. What I hope to achieve today is to show that Joseph is every-bit as important as those other figures and has much more in common with Jesus than I used to think.
Before I get into the specific ways that Joseph is a prefiguration of Jesus I will rely on the catechism to remind us about the importance of reading the Bible as a whole and through a typological lens. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 130, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.” Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.”
Because of the sheer amount of typological examples of Joseph as an Old Testament Christ-like figure I am going to be succinct in my commentary on the examples. I want to be sure to demonstrate the various passages in Genesis that foreshadow Jesus’ life in the Gospels.
- Beloved Son: Along Joseph had 10 older brothers he was the first born son of Jacob’s favored wife Rachel. Because of this, Jacob took up a penchant for Joseph and gifted him with an expansive coat that eventually drove his siblings to become jealous. Similarly, Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. God the Father states in Mark 1:11, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
- Sojourn to Egypt: Both Joseph and Jesus resided in Egypt caused by a traumatic event. The former ended up in Egypt after being sold into slavery and the latter fled to that country with the Holy Family to avoid King Herod’s massacre of the infants.
- Rejected by Own People: Joseph’s brothers ridiculed him about his dreams and threw him a pit to die after stealing his coat given to him by Jacob. Likewise, in Mark 8:31 predicted the same type of rejection would happen to Jesus.
- Faced Temptation: Genesis 39:1-12 details the temptation to commit adultery with his master’s wife. The Gospels portray the temptation of Jesus by the devil during his 40 days in the wilderness. Both men refused to be weathered by such enticement.
- Stripped: Joseph was stripped of his robe in Genesis 37:23 and Jesus was stripped of his garments in Matthew 27:28.
- Plot to Kill: The brothers of Joseph planned to kill him in Genesis 37:18 and Jesus’ adversaries in the scribes and Pharisees schemed his demise as well
- Traded for Silver: According to Genesis 37:28 the Midianite traders sold Joseph into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. The trade value to finalize the treacherous transaction for Jesus’ death was steeper at 30 pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:14-15).
Joseph is a commonly overlooked Old Testament figure when it comes to hinting toward Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God as a masterful teacher knew that humanity learns best in stages and progressively taught truth through Scripture and Tradition. The more and more example of typology we notice between the Old and New Testament greater intimacy will flourish better the two halves of the Bible. I leave you with the words of St. Jerome to reflect on, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”
With this being the 8th installment in the Why Catholic Must Have Bible A.D.D. series, I have tried to publish every post on a Wednesday. The reason I do this is because traditionally the pope makes a weekly Wednesday address to keep the faithful updated. Circumstances outside of my control caused me to push publication to today. In lieu of this absence of alignment with the papal Wednesday address, I want to reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church to remind us the importance of typologically reading the Scriptures. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 128, “The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” Simply put, the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament.
- Name: According to St. John Chrysostom in his 27th homily on Hebrews, “The name of Joshua [Jesus], was a type. For this reason then, and because of the very name, the creation reverenced him. What then! Was no other person called Jesus? [Yes]; but this man was on this account so called in type; for he used to be called Hoshea. Therefore the name was changed: for it was a prediction and a prophecy. He brought in the people into the promised land, as Jesus [does] into heaven; not the Law; since neither did Moses [bring them in], but remained without. The Law has not power to bring in, but grace”. In fact the Hebrew form of the name Joshua is Yehoshua and is translated as “God saves”—the same meaning as the name of Jesus!
- Leading to Promised Land: When I looked up the Old Testament reference to Number 13:16 that St. John is referring to I found something interesting. In the delineation of the spies to be selected to scout the Land of Canaan, the original name of Joshua was Hoshea. Number 13: 16 states, “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.” Without the Catholic understanding of seeing the Old Testament prefiguring and preparing for the New Testament, I would totally miss this minor and seemingly vapid sentence. Joshua’s name is changed to show that he is elected to eventually do something the greater than Moses—lead the Israelites into the Promised Land! Along with leading the Israelites to the land of milk and honey, Joshua is another example of God preparing us for the coming of Jesus. Jesus’ leads humanity toward the Promised Land of Heaven with his victory over death. Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman points out how Joshua is a type of Jesus in his Sermon 12: Joshua a Type of Christ and His Followers. Like Joshua saving the harlot Rahab through mercy, Jesus too saves sinners that have faith in him and ask for forgiveness (Sermon 12 no. 2).
- Significance of The Twelve: Twelve is a significant number throughout the Bible—there were 12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles chosen as the first priests by Jesus. Within the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua, hearing the word of God, Joshua urges 12 priests to take up a memorial stone from the Jordan River as a memorial of the covenant with God. Relating to the connection with the number 12 between Joshua and Jesus I will rely on the guidance of another saint. According to St. Gregory of Nyssa, “The people of the Hebrews, as we learn, after many sufferings, and after accomplishing their weary course in the desert, did not enter the land of promise until it had first been brought, with Joshua for its guide and the pilot of its life, to the passage of the Jordan. But it is clear that Joshua also, who set up the twelve stones in the stream , was anticipating the coming of the twelve disciples, the ministers of Baptism (On the Baptism of Jesus Christ).
- Warrior: Along with leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Joshua led the charge toward conquering the Canaanites people. Joshua was a warrior! Likewise, Jesus battled evil as well—mostly notably in a spiritual donnybrook with Satan in Matthew 4. Jesus conquered sin and death just like Joshua conquered anything the stood in the way for the Israelites homecoming!
Joshua is one of my favorite Old Testament figures that typologically foreshadow Jesus Christ. Once again God in a surprising turn of events rises up an individual to receive the baton of holiness from arguably the greatest Old Testament prophet ever—Moses! Another thing I learned in my research of Joshua as a type of Christ is the name-change in Numbers 13:16. I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I have gleaned from the saints and the catechism on the connections between Joshua and Jesus.
Approximately 70-75% of the earth’s surface is covered with water and water makes up about 70% of the human body. Water is arguably the most important natural resource in the entire world. All life depends on it. On the other hand, water may be a terrifying life changing force when it comes in the form of hurricanes, floods, or blizzards. Because of the universal nature of water, it is not surprising that H20 plays a central role in the Bible as well.
Today we are going to explore the watery events in the Old Testament that foreshadowed the New Testament sacrament of Baptism. Drawing from both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, I will focus on the two major aquatic events that prefigure baptism. Finally I will explain how the destructive powers of water superbly describe our faith life.
- Great Flood of Genesis: Genesis 7 tells of a large flood that covers the earth after 40 days of continual rain. Whether or not a literal flood covered the entire earth or if it was a localized deluge does not matter. What is important is the symbolism used and the ways the Early Church Fathers interpreted this event as a prefiguration of the sacrament of Baptism. According to St. Justin Marytr in chapter 138 of his Dialogues with Trypho,
You know, then, sirs, that God has said in Isaiah to Jerusalem: ‘I saved you in the deluge of Noah.’ By this which God said was meant that the mystery of saved men appeared in the deluge. For righteous Noah, along with the other mortals at the deluge, i.e., with his own wife, his three sons and their wives, being eight in number, were a symbol of the eighth day, wherein Christ appeared when He rose from the dead, forever the first in power. For Christ, being the first-born of every creature, became again the chief of another race regenerated by Himself through water, and faith, and wood, containing the mystery of the cross; even as Noah was saved by wood when he rode over the waters with his household. Accordingly, when the prophet says, ‘I saved you in the times of Noah,’ as I have already remarked, he addresses the people who are equally faithful to God, and possess the same signs.
It is interesting to point out that traditional Baptismal fonts were built in an octagonal structure to represent the eight souls saved in the Genesis Flood. The number eight in ancient times is a number associated with eternity. A second way the Genesis flood foreshadowed Baptism is the dove Noah sent out to test the subsiding of the waters in Genesis 8:10. Cardinal Jean Danielou states that this reference is a foreshadowing of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus in the form of a dove in the Gospels. Lastly, the Church Father Tertullian viewed the saving wood of the ark as prefiguring the wood of the Cross by which Jesus dies for our salvation.
- Crossing of the Red Sea: Aside from the Genesis flood, the most common typological Old Testament event that foreshadows Baptism occurs in Exodus. Here the Crossing of the Red Sea by the Israelites represents a freedom from slavery [they were under the rule of the Egyptians]. Using Moses as an instrument of His power, God parts the Red Sea and allows the Israelites to leave slavery while at the same time destroying the Egyptian army that tries to chase after them. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1220 declares, “But above all, the crossing of the Red Sea, literally the liberation of Israel from the slavery of Egypt, announces the liberation wrought by Baptism: You freed the children of Abraham from the slavery of Pharaoh, bringing them dry-shod through the waters of the Red Sea, to be an image of the people set free in Baptism.”
Baptism Kills. Tying the previous two examples together, the common thread is that Baptism represents a type of death—this sacrament KILLS original sin and makes us ADOPTED sons and daughters of God! St. Paul states it best, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Our process in becoming a new creation starts with the sacrament of Baptism. What is more, the Greek word βαπτίζω [Baptism] translates to submersion under water. When I hear the verb submerge the image that is usually associated in my mind relates to drowning or death. In a real sense a spiritual death occurs—death to one’s sins, namely original sin. I do not think it was a coincidence either that the Gospel writers placed Jesus’ baptism at the beginning of his public ministry. The submersion of Jesus in the baptismal waters of the Jordan River prefigures his death on the Cross and the death to self we are all called to partake in!
When I taught Old and New Testament at a Catholic High School, I developed this phrase of “Catholics Must Use Bible A.D.D.” to describe how Catholics should read the scriptures. This is my second installment of what I hope to be a regular series for this blog. What I mean by Bible A.D.D. is necessary to understand the Scriptures, is that we need to read New Testament passages in light of the Old Testament and vice versa. We should not isolate Scripture passages in order to decipher their meaning. However, we need to be careful to avoid a Biblical A.D.H.D. in which we too quickly scan over passages without understanding the context of the Bible as a whole.
Today’s topic will consider how the prophet Elisha foreshadowed Jesus Christ. This will be demonstrated via biblical typology. Biblical typology is defined as follows, “when a person or an event in the Old Testament foreshadows a person or an event in the New Testament”. I will outline three ways that Elisha foreshadows Jesus.
- Miracle of Multiplication of Food: In 2 Kings 4:42-44, Elisha− through the grace of God− feeds 100 people by way of multiplying the bread. Jesus performs a similar miracle in John 6. Aside from the parallels in the actual miracles themselves, both Elisha and Jesus receive the bread from an unnamed individual (see 2 Kings 4:42 and John 6:9).
- Healing of Lepers: Elisha heals the soldier Naaman in 2 Kings 5:9-10 through his command to have the leper wash in the Jordan seven times. Jesus also performs the same type of healing miracle, but as with most typological reading everything the Son of God does is greater than the Old Testament type (i.e. Elisha)—here Jesus heals 10 lepers.
- Preceded by a Great Prophet: Both Elisha and Jesus were heralded in by a great prophet Elijah and John the Baptist respectively. Interestingly enough, St. Luke draws a connection between these prophets when he says, “It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17 NASB). What is most important is that both prophets point us toward Christ.
Elisha was a holy man of God who prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. He is one of many types that foreshadow and prepare us for the Incarnation. I will continue to post examples of this typological approach to reading the Scriptures. Please also be aware that today’s writing in no way limits the connections between Jesus and Elisha to three items alone. Feel free to post any questions you have about this topic and our Christian tradition of reading Scripture through a typological lens.