I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jesus in Genesis: 3 typological pictures of Christ

Church history has taught us the dangers and determent of over-allegorizing biblical texts. Good exegesis will always allow scripture to determine the proper bounds and application of typologies in OT texts and the corresponding antitypes in the NT. Early church fathers Origen (A.D.185 – 254), Clement, and others of the Alexandrian school developed what is known as the quadriga, a four fold hermeneutic which produces a crass allegorical understanding of every text, particularly in the OT. Such forced spiritualizing of the scriptures earned Origen the scathing reputation: “Origen is the origin of all error.”

However there were contemporaries of these men which maintained a method of interpretation that was analogical to that of the NT writers themselves. One such man was Irenaeus of Lyons (A.D. 130 – 200). Irenaeus served and studied under Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. In his work titled Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching (somewhere between 175 and 189), he enjoins his reader to hold to the Rule(or Analogy) of Faith (κανών), which taught that all the scriptures (e.g. OT) must be understood in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the preaching (and writings) of the Apostles. This comports with the plain reading of Paul in II Cor.3:14-16, where he says that the OT can be rightly understood only “in Christ,” and by his “Spirit.”

The Reformation put a strangle hold on an overly-allegorical reading of the OT with the doctrine of Sola Scriptura; “scripture must interpret scripture.” This was perhaps the most detestable article to arise out of the Protestant exodus from Rome’s captivity. Nothing challenged the Roman papacy’s authority as much as the naked truth of the word of God and its rightful rule over the traditions and imaginations of men.

Nevertheless, there is certainly a place for the typological reading of many OT passages. In fact, many would be nonsensical without their “spiritual” materialization in the NT. In I Cor.10:11 Paul makes clear that much of the concrete, historical realities recorded in the OT often had a not-yet fulfillment that propelled the fullest understanding of their meaning into the future time of the NT, the church age, and even the consummation. The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “God having provided some better thing for us, that they (the OT saints) without us should not be made perfect.”

Last, but certainly most important, is the need to emulate Jesus’ own Christo-centric reading of the OT. In Lk.24:25-27, 38-47 Jesus upbraids his disciples for their failing to see himself in “all the scriptures” (v.27). As well, in Jn.5:39, 46 Jesus explains that he is the object of the Mosaic writings (no doubt this would include Genesis as our Lord believed in the Mosaic authorship of Genesis, this fact is clear in a number of passages. Therefore, the impious notion of a documentary hypothesis [which cannot be evidenced beyond pure conjecture], promulgated by certain scholarship is contrary to Jesus’ own understanding of the OT, and a grievous position to hold). Cf. Ps.40:7; Heb.10:7.

In keeping with Jesus’ Christo-centricity, the early church’s Rule of Faith, and the historical safe guard of the reformed Protestant’s Sola Scriptura, I have selected for my “pictures of Jesus in Genesis:” 1) Adam 2) Melchizedek and 3) a Christophany/ Abahamic typology in Gen.18.

Type 1: Adam

I. Adam’s type – Jesus’ antitype (scriptural basis)

Paul, an expert in OT exegesis to say the very least, affirms in Rom.5:14c, Jesus’ antitype fulfillment of Adam saying, “... (Adam) who is the figure (τύπος, lit. type) of him that was to come.” The antithetical nature of the typological connection is also explicit in I Cor.15:22, “in Adam all die – in Christ all live.” No one before, between, or after; for Paul ALL is bound up in either the first and/or second Adam. From a diachronical view of redemption, God has dealt publicly with only two men – Adam and Christ.

II. Concerning the Solidarity of Humanity

In unity: Bound up in both the loins (physical) and nature (meta-physical) of the first Adam was all of humanity; every person that would follow him by means of natural generation. Therefore, much of the course of man and his world would be determined by the actions of the first man, Adam (Rom.5:12; 8:21-22 cf. Acts 17:27). By the Man’s fall, humanity’s unity with its Creator, itself, and its world became disintegrated, alienated, shattered, and corrupt. Therefore, in antithesis to what the first Adam did, Jesus, the last Adam (I Cor.15:45) not only reconciled a new humanity to its God on the cross (Eph.2:11-16), but also reconciled all peoples (“the twain become one;” representative in the two categories of Jew/Gentile vv.14-15). Thus restoring the solidarity, harmony, etc of humanity -- “in Christ Jesus...his blood...in his flesh...that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross... (vv.13-16).” Therefore, “in the regeneration” of all things (Mt.19:28) Christ’s work reverses and restores mankind’s unity, peace, and fellowship with each other and with God (also see: II Cor.5:19).

In Representation/Headship: Rom.5:12-21 reveals the federal headship of the respective representative Adams. For all men, by nature of existence and means of ordinary generation stand under the curse of Adam’s public act of rebellion – this is the common lot of humanity; born a covenant breaker and confirming their identification with fallen Adam through their own self-determination and independence from God’s rule (5:12). Nevertheless, in Jn.3, Jesus explains that natural generation is not the end all, but simply the necessary precondition of spiritual re-generation (also see Paul’s own birth/rebirth, cf.Gal.1:15). This re-generation is then the prerequisite for coming under, and being identified with the headship of Christ, Adam’s antitype. This is the heart of Rom.5. Humanity’s solidarity with Adam can also be found in first century Jewish Apocryphal writings, see: II Baruch 54:19. As well, man’s individual responsibility before God, see: Wisdom of Solomon 1:12-13, 16.

It should also be noted that Paul plainly sees this identification with the second Adam (Jesus), and the benefits of his representation to be inextricably connected to Christ’s body, the church (Eph.1:22-23; 5:23f; Col.1:18). Unity with Him creates unity with them (his people I Jn.1:6-7; 2:8-11; 3:10-16)!

The Headship of first Adam’s act brings: Sin, Condemnation, and Death.
The Headship of the Second Adam’s act brings: Righteousness, Reconciliation, and Life.

III. In Official Administrations

The Subjugation of Creation – Old/New: The very first command given to Adam after creation was to “subdue it...dress it and keep it” (Gen.1:28; 2:15). The “dressing” and “keeping” together elucidate the “subduing” of the whole of creation, yet was specific to the Garden itself, therefore causing the Garden’s expansion to encompass the entire creation. To “dress” the Garden would entail cultivation, manipulation, and co-fabrication; bringing it into subjection for man’s good and God’s glory. The “keeping” carries heavy connotations of guarding, protecting, and tending, all of which if having been diligently pursued, would have been part of Adam’s jurisdictive and authoritative office to supplant and banish the beguiling serpent from the Garden. Graciously, Yahweh promised the undoing of Adam’s failing to “keep” (Gen.3:15), and “finished” it centuries later by the second Adam (Jn.19:30). Thus, the work of Christ inaugurated the “new creation” wherein the righteousness that was to permeate the Garden will be realized in full; wholistically at Christ’s return (II Pet.3:13; Rev.21) and individually upon the “putting off of the old man (Adamic nature)” and the “putting on of the new man (Christ-like nature), in one’s regeneration (II Cor.5:17; Eph.4:22-24; Col.3:9-10).

The Three Offices: Both the first and second Adams were to be Prophet, Priest, and King. Adam, as prophet, was to interpret creation after God and speak to those under his headship, therefore, communicating to man on God’s behalf. Second, as priest, he was to sanctify the creation to God’s glory as his privileged service and worship. Lastly, as king, he was to rule over creation as God had instructed. In these three offices, Adam, the man faithfully executing these offices, would have been exhibiting the fullest expression of the creaturely image and likeness of his Maker, Yahweh; yet he failed in all three capacities.

The second Adam fulfilled these offices without measure, being then the apex of both the image and likeness of God in mankind. Being made in the “likeness of man” (Phil.2:7; cf.Jn.1:14) he, as the Man, perfectly restored the image of God for man, which is ascertained by regeneration and faith (II Cor.4:4).

IV. In Miscellaneous Symbolism

As Adam was born of virgin soil, so Jesus was born of the virgin by special generation of the Spirit. Adam’s fellowship with Yahweh in the Garden is semblable to Jesus’ corum Deo relationship with the Father, which permeates John’s gospel; from prologue to epilogue. The sign of Adam’s sin would entail “thorns.” That which cursed the first man crowned the last Man. It was fitting that Adam’s disobedience concerning the “tree” would likewise be undone by Jesus’ act of obedience “on the tree.” Adam sinned in the Garden, Jesus sanctified himself in a garden. As Eve, bone of bone and flesh of flesh to Adam was borne from Adam’s side, it follows that the “Bride” of the second Adam would be borne of that which flowed from his side; “blood and water” (see: Paul, Eph.5. Paul’s typological use of this makes the church the antitype of Eve, not Mary, Mother of our Lord – contrary to Roman Catholic Tradition). In Adam is nakedness and shame, in Christ we are clothed!

Type 2: Melchizedek

I. The Two Everlasting Priests

When looking at Melchizedek as a type, the words of W. Vischer ring truer than ever; “the Old Testament tells us what the Christ is; the New Testament tells us who he is.” (Vischer, W., The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ, vol. I, London: Lutterworth. 1949. p.7). The OT “what” is the priestly order of Melchizedek, the NT “who” is Christ. The priesthood of Melchizedek has been the subject of much critical speculation; his royal epithet “king of Salem” (Gen.14:18) – the locus of scholarly attention. In typical fashion, the liberals only adopt a literal rendering of scripture in the places where in best fits their general disparagement towards God’s revelation, such as in the title “king of Salem.” However, the geographical connotations in the epithet (e.g. Salem = Jerusalem) are supported by later writings such as the Targums, Qumranic literature, Josephus, and early rabbinical and Christian writings. Even Ps.76:2 makes equivalence between Salem and Zion (Jerusalem). Nevertheless, the writer of Hebrews gives the title its definition and import translating it: “king of peace.” Melchizedek, the proper name he translates “king of righteousness;” both titles being fit for our “faithful High Priest” (Heb.2:17).

Many opinions are also offered as to Melchizedek’s ontological status. It has been posited the he simply a mortal man and king (Pharisaical and later rabbinical Judaism as well as some conservative Evangelicals). Some thought he was an arch-angelic being like Michael (Essenes/Qumran). For many Evangelicals, to call the strange appearance of this kingly figure a Christophany would not be out of bounds. Given Abram’s newly acquired political rivals and the uncertainty of the future, viewing this as a Christophany could find a parallel in Isaiah’s beatific vision (Is.6 cf.Jn.12) of Christ’s Kingliness on his throne, in his glorious royal garb. Uzziah’s death brought Israel into political uncertainty and plight similar to that of Abram. Concerning Melchizedek’s cameo appearance, Bruce maintains that the author of Hebrews was using a rhetorical devise that he calls “arguing from silence” (Bruce, F.F., The Epistle to the Hebrews, NICNT, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 1964. pp.94, 136-38). This, says Bruce, is what the author does in Heb.7:3 (e.g. “without mother and without father...”); that these should not be taken literally, but figuratively. What ever the case, the author of Hebrews is sure to indicate that the type does not influence the antitype, but vise versa – “but made like the Son of God” (7:3b). The trust of the argument from Melchizedek being then, that Christ eternally exists, now resurrected and exalted to the right hand of God, serving as the High Priest whose ministry is perfect and unending, as Melchizedek’s was never reported to end.

II. Superiority – Melchizedek over Abraham/ Jesus over Mosaic-Levitical

The author of Hebrews gives the thesis of his argument for Jesus’ superiority as High Priest over the Levitical system in 4:14-16. Chapters 5-7 are the arguments for his thesis, with the climax found in chapter 7. The argument can be summarized as follows:

1. Melchizedek is greater than the patriarch Abraham (greater stature/ kingly)
2. Abraham tithed to Melchizedek (greater than Abraham – was his priest)
3. Levi, being in the loins of Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek
4. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than that of Levi
5. The Levitical priesthood would be usurped by a greater (Ps.110:4)
6. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not Levi
7. Melchizedek’s priesthood was sealed by the oath of God, and must come (Ps.110:4)
8. Levitical carnal/changing – Jesus’ eternal/immutable
9. Levites sinners – Jesus holy, undefiled
10. Therefore, Jesus is that Great High Priest, greater than the Levitical system, offering the Perfect sacrifice of his sinless Self.

III. Messiah/Priest Connection in the Pentateuch

Certainly not most crucial, but interesting nonetheless is Moses’ use of the Semitic root word for Messiah, masiah. In the Pentateuch, the word is never used as a noun proper, but rather as an adjective modifying the noun. It occurs only four times; every time it’s used it is modifying the noun “priest.” Several foci of Jesus’ earthly ministry concerned his priestly role are the “fulfilling all righteousness” at his baptism, in keeping with the Mosaic Law, and served as his priestly conformation. Also is Jn.17. Even the most scant reading of this text leaves no doubt that Jesus’ most pressing concern was his faithfulness towards the Father as both the Priest and the Lamb to be slain.

There is also the unmistakable parallel of “the priest of the most high God” delivering to God’s people the “bread and wine.”

Armed with only four OT verses (Gen.14:18-20; Ps.110:4) concerning this mysterious patriarchal figure, the author of Hebrews creates a scriptural, logically air tight case for Melchizedek’s typological foreshadowing of the eternal priesthood of the Lord Jesus.

Type 3: Gen.18 Theophany, Christophany, and Abraham

I. True Theophany?

Chapter 18 begins with the words, “And the LORD (YHWH – Yahweh) appeared unto him (Abraham)...” It is clear that, by inspired hindsight, Moses knew that this appearance to Abraham was a corporeal revelation of none other than Yahweh; the Self-same One that later appeared to him at Mt. Horeb (Ex.3). What remains unclear is whether or not the Lord’s immediate audience understood who they were entertaining. To think that Abraham’s employment of the title “Lord” (Adonai) is sufficient reason to believe that he knew he stood before the living God would be anachronistic. Moreover, Abraham’s obeisance in v.2c – “and bowed himself toward the ground” – is another gesture that today we would understand as suitable humility only towards deity. Both the title and the action of bowing were quite readily use in Abraham’s culture towards other men, sometimes of equal, but generally of greater stature than themselves, whether political or religious. However, a closer analysis of the text reveals that it has all the ingredients for a true theophanic encounter, as well as Abraham’s knowledge of it as such.

After years of studying the topic of theophanies, Mark Rooker, professor of Hebrew and OT theology at SEBTS, offers six criteria for identifying this phenomenon – all of which Gen.18 meet. They are as follows:

1. Intro. description: 18:1
2. Divine self proclamation: “I will...” vv.10, 14b, 21, 28, 30-32, this 1st person singular pronoun’s actions is in conjunction with “LORD” (YHWH) vv.14, 17, 19-20, 22, 26, 33; all of which attributes the actions as divine works (e.g. realizing His covenant promise of the “seed” and judgment “of all the earth”).
3. Human fear: v.15
4. Divine presence: v.23, “And Abraham drew near... (the Lord)”
5. hieros logos – the holy word: vv.17-21
6. Concluding description: v.33

The most crucial criterion of theophany, according to Rooker, is number 5; the holy word. To this he says, “Even though the visual component in all these theophanies was important, if not awesome, the heart of the matter in each case was what Yahweh had to say.” The reason for this is that the appearance would be inexplicable without Yahweh’s divine interpretation of the event. Therefore, the key to this passage is to understand the Lord’s rhetorical self contemplation (vv.17-19) not as deliberating between two options with uncertainty, but rather to set up for the hieros logos (vv.20-21) – God’s interpretation of the visit. Without this “theophany,” the cataclysmic destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah would be nonsensical and meaningless throughout the unfolding of the rest of revelation. Rooker concludes, “An indirect outcome of the explanation of the theophanous events was God’s intention to reveal more of his personal nature (e.g. as Judge over all in this text). Through the effect of the divine appearances accompanied by the divine communication, God’s people ultimately learned more of God’s power and attributes.” (Rooker, Mark, “Theophany” pp.859-864 in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, Downers Grove: IVP. 2003. p. 863). It is the case then that this is indeed a theophany. It is also clear that Abraham saw it as such; three “men” moving on the wicked population of Sodom would have not seemed too threatening save One of were Yahweh, “the Judge of all the earth” (v.25). Also is the reiteration of Yahweh’s covenant promise to Abraham (v.10), the “visitor” claims He will accomplish and bring to pass the covenantal obligations owned by Yahweh (note that Paul, in Rom.9:9 considers this very meeting the place of the “word of promise”). It is a theophany, and Abraham knew it, but is it more?

II. Theophany or Christophany?

Around the time of Abraham (roughly 2000 B.C.), a man outside the city of Uz was crying out for a mediator, someone who would and could plead his pitiful case before God (Job 16:21). Further still, Job was desirous for a “written book” from his Maker in order to better understand his ways (31:35). The great thing for believers today is that we know and posses both of these, thus we have the “Book” and by God’s grace the illumination to see in the Bible the “Mediator” Job was seeking (I Tim.2:5; Heb.8:6; 9:15; 12:24). From this glorious vantage one may deduce that it was indeed the pre-incarnate Jesus that appeared to Abraham in Gen.18. Therefore, this Theophany is better a Christophany. This was more than a “picture of Jesus in Genesis,” this was the “presence of Jesus in Genesis!”

Passages on Jesus as the Judge of all are Is.11:4; Mt.21:40; 25:32; Jn.5:22, 27; 8:16, 26; 9:39; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom.2:16; 14:10; ICor.4:4-5; II Tim.4:1, 8; James 5:9; I Pet.4:5; Jude v.15; Rev.19:11.

III. Abraham the Type

Beside the presence of Jesus, the antitype, in this passage, there is also Abraham foreshadowing typologically the mediation that Christ administers on behalf of the people of God; the “righteous” (Gen.18:23-32, cf.Jn.17). Originally Abraham seemed to, when he began his pleading for the sake of 50 righteous, have high hopes for the witness of Lot with the Sodomite inhabitants. The account of Lots life following ch.18 demonstrates that Sodom had a larger impact on Lot and his family than they did it. This narrative is a concrete illustration of Peter’s dire warning in I Pet.4:18. Praise God for our Mediator!!!

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