Category Archives: Typology

Ezra 6:22, Darius King of Assyria? Error or Typological Biblical Theology?

Time was slipping away from me yesterday, so some parts of the sermon manuscript got passed over. For instance, in Ezra 6:22, the king of Persia, Darius, is referred to as “the king of Assyria.” Here’s how the part of the manuscript that got skipped read:

Ezra isn’t confused here about the identity of the king (cf., e.g., 1:2 “of Persia,” 3:7 “of Persia,” 4:3 “of Persia,” 5:13 “of Babylon,” 6:14 “of Persia,” 7:1 “of Persia”). The point of the reference to Assyria is the linkage of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia, all of which represent the evil empire over against the kingdom of God. Those who oppose Israel are identified with one another, just as Ezra identifies his own generation with the generation who returned to the land and successfully rebuilt the temple.

Ezra knows that Darius is king of Persia and calls him that in Ezra 4:24, “until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” It’s possible that calling Darius the king of Assyria in 6:22 is merely an incidental way of referring to the territory or realm that was first ruled by Assyria, then Babylon, then Persia. But even that incidental conflagration has significance for our understanding of what Ezra took for granted.

I’m inclined to think that Ezra intentionally refers to Darius as king of Persia in 4:24 then as king of Assyria in 6:22 to make a point. Similarly, he has referred to Cyrus as king of Persia in 4:5 only to call him king of Babylon in 5:13.

The point Ezra is making by referring to King Darius of Persia as the king of Assyria in Ezra 6:22 represents a profound, yet subtle, biblical theological move that reflects the typological identification of Assyria, Babylon, and Persia. The enemies of God and his people are distinguished from one another, but at the same time they are identified with one another because they are, in a sense, all the same.

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Review of Joel Kennedy’s The Recapitulation of Israel

Joel Kennedy. The Recapitulation of Israel: Use of Israel’s History in Matthew 1:1–4:11. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.257. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008. 264pp. 9783161498251. $105.00 (paper). Published in Bulletin for Biblical Research 20.2 (2010): 268-69.

This book is a revision of a dissertation supervised by Francis Watson at Aberdeen. The subject of the book is “the Christological use of Israel’s history in Matthew 1:1–4:11” (3), and its “primary focus . . . is examining Israel’s history and the recapitulation of it in Matthew” (17). Though Kennedy defines “recapitulation as a particular subset of typology,” he thinks “at this point in the discussion, it appears best to step aside from trying to defend typology as a legitimate label for Matthew’s work” (21). He states that typology needs “further refinement,” and therefore his study avoids “the term typology and seek[s] to strictly examine Matthew’s text itself in regard to recapitulation” (22). Kennedy states, “The term most apt in describing [the] utilization of Israel’s history in Matthew is recapitulation, which includes repetition, summing up, representation, and embodiment” (23).

After the Introduction, Chapter 2 looks at Matthew’s Genealogy (Matt 1:1–17). Kennedy passes over Matthew 1:18–25, moving directly to what he refers to as the “Passive Recapitulation of Israel’s History” in Chapter 3 (Matt 2:1–23). Chapter 4 then treats the “Active Recapitulation of Israel’s History” (Matt 3:1–4:11).

Kennedy’s treatment of Matthew’s genealogy first discusses the multilinear and unilinear genealogies in the Old Testament, then proposes that unilinear genealogies can also be teleological when they aim to highlight a key figure at the climactic end of the genealogy, such as the genealogy in Ruth that concludes with David. He then shows that genealogies are compressed narrative summaries. All this sets up a useful discussion of the way Matthew uses the genealogy to present Jesus as the recapitulation of Israel. The sense in which Israel’s history is “passively” recapitulated is that Jesus relives and repeats it in the events that happen to him as a child. Kennedy reads Matthew 2 from the perspective that it is narrating the new exodus. Chapter 4 then discusses the baptism and testing of Jesus.

This book makes an important contribution to the discussion of the use of the OT in the New. More work like this needs to be done, looking at the larger patterns and frameworks in the OT and then examining how these are used in the New. This goes far beyond citation formulas, verbal quotations and allusions, and other connections that are established at lexical levels. The kind of work that needs to be done, like Kennedy’s, is only possible from reading the texts in their original languages, gaining a thorough knowledge of the stories and patterns, and then engaging in slow reflection on textual connections. Too much work on the use of the OT in the New has been done without respect for OT context. Too many assertions have been made by NT scholars (and OT scholars too) whose conclusions betray simple failure to understand what either the OT or NT author was doing.

My only complaints about the present volume have to do with the way it tries to avoid the issue of typology. The attempt to circumvent the issue fails because though the word “typology” is avoided, the term that is used, “recapitulation,” is presented as a subset of typology. I cannot find a statement that differentiates between the two, nor do I see appreciable distinctions between what Kennedy calls “recapitulation” and what Allison, for instance, calls “typology” (Kennedy briefly summarizes Allison, with approbation, on p. 21). Connected to this is Kennedy’s dissatisfying decision to pass right over Matthew 1:18–25. The thesis of my essay (“The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18–23,” in Built upon the Rock, ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner [Eerdmans, 2008], 228–47) fits perfectly, it seems to me, with Kennedy’s thesis, and he cites other essays from Built upon the Rock, so he had access to the volume. Perhaps the sticking point was the word “typology,” but in the absence of clear discrimination between that term and “recapitulation,” it seems that one word is merely standing in for the other. Many people have reservations about typology as a method of interpretation, but I do not think that using a different term for the same thing will alleviate those concerns. These complaints registered, let me say that this is an enjoyable and insightful volume that moves in a productive direction. Kennedy models an interpretive approach that will yield sound conclusions regarding how the New Testament authors understood the Old and presented their work as its fulfillment.

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And If We Refuse We’re Rebels

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.”

HT: A. Philip Brown II, Hope Amidst Ruin, 28 n. 23.

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Dale Allison on Jesus as the Embodiment of God’s Will

This is just a plug for anyone interested in typology to go read Dale C. Allison Jr.’s fascinating essay, “The Embodiment of God’s Will: Jesus in Matthew,” in the volume Seeking the Identity of Jesus.

This is an essay that will repay careful study, and I expect to cite it a number of times.

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Revelation 2:12-17, Repent of Nicolaitan Teaching

Sermon audio from yesterday morning (link fixed) here: Revelation 2:12–17, Repent of Nicolaitan Teaching

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Was Joseph a Type of Christ?

I think so, and I try to prove it in this essay: “Was Joseph a Type of the Messiah? Tracing the Typological Identification between Joseph, David, and Jesus,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 12.4 (2008), 52-77.

The gist of my article is this: From the reuse of key words and phrases (linguistic connections) and from parallels in significant event sequences (historical correspondence) we can see that the author(s) of the narratives concerning David in Samuel deliberately sought to point their readers to the narratives concerning Joseph in Genesis. Thus, the author(s) of Samuel saw Joseph as a type of David, and the two play similar roles in the outworking of salvation history. We find the same kinds of linguistic connections and parallels in event sequences between the narratives about Joseph and the narratives about Jesus, and Jesus fulfilled everything to which both David and Joseph pointed (escalation). Thus, Joseph was first a type of David, and then both Joseph and David were types of Jesus. In my judgment, this provides the necessary textual warrant to demonstrate both historical correspondence and escalation from Joseph through David to Jesus.

For the details, check out the essay: “Was Joseph a Type of the Messiah? Tracing the Typological Identification between Joseph, David, and Jesus.”

Here are my other attempts to exposit the typological interpretation practiced by the biblical authors in the Old and New Testaments:

The Typology of David’s Rise to Power: Messianic Patterns in the Book of Samuel,” a Julius Brown Gay Lecture presented at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,” March 13, 2008.

The Virgin Will Conceive: Typological Fulfillment in Matthew 1:18-23,” in Built upon the Rock: Studies in the Gospel of Matthew, ed. John Nolland and Dan Gurtner, 228-47. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

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