Typology/Symbolism/Biblical Parallels

The New Elijah

In a technical, but fascinating piece in the Catholic Biblical Quarterly, John C. Poirier observes that Jesus is the true Messiah Priestly Elijah figure. And further, that interpretations that have viewed Elijah as merely a prophet has led to “unnecessary complications in the text.” As central proof to this priestly role of Elijah is the “matter of Elijah’s defeating the 450 prophets of Baal with a superior sacrifice on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:20-35), a showdown that involved Elijah’s performing undeniably priestly duties.” This, then, has some implications to the Lucan account in chapter four (16-30) where Jesus’ life is put at risk. If Jesus is the Elijianic figure, the priestly fulfillment of Elijah, the one who is the greater priest who pleases God, as Elijah pleased God with his sacrifice against the 450 Baalite prophets, then the “violent reaction to what Jesus says about Elijah and Elisha has nothing to do with any sort of insularity or anti-Gentile sentiments…but rather with Jesus implying that the Nazareth crowd is the antitype to Israel of Elijah’s and Elisha’s day.” In other words, the Nazarenes were like the “apostatized public of Elijah and Elisha’s day.” But the end of the story is also Elijianic. Jesus escapes the tyranny of the crowd, like Elijah “slipped through the grip of Ahab and Jezebel (cf. John 8:59).”

The Intent of Biblical Stories

Eric Auerback (Mimesis, 14-15) writes that the intent of biblical stories:

“is not to bewitch the senses, and if nevertheless they produce lively sensory effects, it is only because the moral, religious, and psychological phenomena which are their sole concern are made concrete in the sensible matter of life. But their religious intent involves an absolute claim to historical truth. . . . Without believing in Abraham’s sacrifice, it is impossible to put the narrative of it to the use for which it was written. . . . The world of the Scripture stories is not satisfied with claiming to be a historically true reality—it insists that it is the only real world, is destined for autocracy . . . The Scripture stories do not, like Homer’s, court our favor, they do not flatter us that they may please us and enchant us—they seek to subject us, and if we refuse to be subjected we are rebels.”

{Thanks to Jim Hamilton}

Samson and the City Gates

Jim Jordan writes in his Judges Commentary that Jesus has “destroyed the gates of hell, leaving the kingdoms of Satan wide open for conquest by the Church.” When the tomb was opened on the third day it left not only an exposed grave, but also an exposed babelic kingdom.

Word, Sacrament, Gospel, and Sacred Violence

There is a liturgical pattern that is inherent in the word of the Lord. In Samson’s narrative, the gospel first comes in word, that is: accept this offer to be incorporated into Yahweh’s bride. But the consequence and negative sanction of rejecting the word of the gospel is a sacramental action.  Whereas in word we hear in sacrament there is action. We eat and drink. Negative sacraments also function similarly in sacred violence. In rejecting messiah figures, you are ultimately rejection the Messiah-Man, Jesus Christ. When word is rejected, sacraments are applied. In negative sacraments, Yahweh’s enemies are eaten altogether. They are put under his feet.

The Third Day

Jim Jordan is right to assert that the third day is the day of “preliminary judgment.” The third day is the day of production.  As James puts it: “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Vegetation and life spring forth from the ground to show forth God’s creative work. Similarly on the third day, from the ground came the true fruit, Jesus Christ who rose from the grave victorious. Biblically, the works of the third day–when found pleasing– are vindicated on the day of rest (seventh day). Jesus’ resurrection was the pleasing aroma springing forth from the ground and vindicated by the Father.

Samson, the Better Riddler

Common to Egyptian mythology is the sphinx. The sphinx was the mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human head. Those who could not answer his riddles were eaten by this Egyptian creature. Samson comes along and changes puts flesh into this myth. He not only tears the Egyptian sphinx in two but also tells a better riddle; a riddle, which they cannot solve on their own.

Warrior Messiah

Leithart continues his response to Witherington by noting:

 I can agree that Jesus’ victory is the “antithesis” of the victory expected by many Jews.  But Jesus remains a warrior Messiah, which is exactly what we would expect from the Old Testament.  All the warrior figures of the Old Testament – the Seed of the Woman, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Samson, David – are paradoxical figurae Christi

From Bread to Wine

Jim Jordan observes:

“Biblical liturgies, and for us this means the Lord’s Supper, encapsulate the sequence of biography and history. Because we have rejected God, we have also rejected the life He has planned for us, both individually and as churches, cultures, and world history. Biblical rites are designed to insert us back into God’s guidance of our lives, to plug us back into God’s true history so that our lives and cultures can develop properly.”

James B. Jordan, From Bread to Wine, Toward a More Biblical Liturgical Theology. Available from www.biblicalhorizons.com

{Thanks to Mike Bull}

Galilee and Jerusalem

Concerning Galilee, I observed in my Easter sermon:

After they confirm the empty tomb, they are sent to Galilee. Matthew tends to place emphasis on Galilee. The reason he does so, is to contrast it with Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place where Jesus meets rejection and death, but Galilee is the place where Jesus finds peace.[1] According to one commentator, it is the place where “the light dawns.”[2] Jesus is taking them to a new place; a place of safety and refuge, as they begin to live in light of His resurrected presence.

Following the service, Jim Jordan observed that Jerusalem is also Egypt, and Galilee is in northern Israel, also indicating the contrast.

My wife observed also that Galilee is mentioned in this account as another evidence that the gospel is going to all the nations of the earth.

[1] See Matthew 4:12-16.

[2] France, 407.


It occurred to me that the earthquakes indicate the dismantling of the Old World system where death and the devil ruled. The earthquake served as a tearing apart (the veil, certainly) of the order that was once predominant. The earthquake (seismos) indicated the shaking up of the old system, and its reverberations led to its ultimate destruction. Something new will be built in its place. The New World emerges from the empty tomb.