Joshua and Jesus

“And afterward Joshua read all the words of the law, blessings and curses, according to all that is written in the book of the law. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the aliens who resided among them.”  (Joshua 8:34-35)

Jean Danielou in his book FROM SHADOWS TO REALITY: STUDIES IN THE BIBLICAL TYPOLOGY OF THE FATHERS notes that for Origen (The most prolific biblical commentator and theologian of the 3rd Century –  some of his teachings were condemned in later centuries by the Church as heresy) there is a typology in the Joshua 8:34-35 passage.   This typology if very obvious in the Septuagint which refers to Joshua as Jesus, using the same name that is applied to the Christ:

“Joshua reading the law is the type of Jesus explaining the Law and the Prophets to his disciples at Emmaus, and it brings home to us that we understand the Law only when Jesus himself explains it and we find him in it: ‘I think that when Moses is read to us, the veil of the letter is lifted by the grace of the Lord and we begin to understand that the Law is spiritual…’” (p 282).

Origen understands Joshua’s “reading” not as simply reading aloud but as explaining the meaning of the text for the people to enable them to actually keep Torah.   Reading Torah – explaining its meaning and offering help for keeping Torah – was the didactic purpose of rabbis.  The conflict of Jesus as rabbi with the other rabbis comes over Christ’s interpretation of Torah.  [Jesus asks the teachers of Torah:  “have you not read…?  (Matthew 12:3, 5; 19:4; 22:31).   He is not asking them about reading aloud, but rather is asking ‘how do you understand and what do you teach about the text….?”].   Christ is ‘reading’ to His disciples Torah whenever He teaches them.   Origen accepts the typology  already common in his day which sees Joshua being a type of Christ:

Jesus and Moses

“Jesus it is who reads the Law, when he reveals the secrets of the Law.  We, who belong to the Catholic Church, do not reject the Law of Moses, but receive it if and when it is Jesus who reads it to us. For it is only if Jesus reads the Law in such wise that through his reading we grasp its spiritual significance, that we  correctly understand the law.  Do not think they have grasped the meaning who could say: ‘Was not our heart burning within us when he opened to us the Scriptures, and, beginning at Moses and the Prophets and expounding them all show that they wrote of him.’ … By linking Joshua’s reading of the Law with Jesus’ reading to the disciples of Emmaus, Origen … emphasizes the profound continuity of the Old Testament, the Gospel and of the interior Christ who instructs each disciple.”

It is Jesus who reveals to us the meaning of the Old Testament texts.  We cannot understand the Old Testament apart from Christ.  To be faithful disciples of Jesus we must read His Gospel teachings Christologically and Christocentrically.    Those denominations and scholars who advocate reading literally the Old Testament without any reference to Christ are in fact emptying the Old Testament Scriptures of their full power.  We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16) and should use it!

St. Paul with Old Testament Teachers of the Law

4 thoughts on “Joshua and Jesus

  1. Yes, I agree. Only through the light of Christ can we understand the entirety of God’s word. I have read Jewish commentaries on the Tanakh, so I can testify that what you say is true.

  2. Pingback: 120130–George Hach’s Journal–Monday | George Hach's Blog

  3. Pingback: 120213–George Hach’s Journal–Monday | George Hach's Blog

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