From Noah’s Baptism to Jesus’ Crucifixion: A Study in Typological Escalation

fishJesus is the goal of redemptive history. In Ephesians 1:10 Paul observes that God has “[made] known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him.” In Galatians 4:4, Paul has the same eschatological view in mind: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son . . .” And Hebrews too observes the climactic arrival of the Son of God: “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son . . .” (1:1). In short, the apostles, as model interpreters, understand all redemptive history to be leading to Jesus.

Consequently, it is not surprising to find that the typological structures of the Old Testament escalate until they find their telos in Jesus. In other words, Scripture begins with glimpses of the pre-incarnate Christ and gradually adds contour and color to the biblical portrait of the coming Messiah.

Over time, such glimpses of grace are developed and made more concrete as the types (i.e., events, offices, and institutions of the Old Testament) repeat and escalate. One prominent event that is repeated in the Old Testament is that of “baptism.” As Peter observes in his first epistle, baptism corresponds (lit., is the antitype, or fulfillment) to Noah and his life-saving (make that humanity-saving) ark (1 Pet 3:20). It is this typological thread that I want to consider here. It is my aim to show that not only do Old Testament “types” prefigure Christ and his work of salvation, but they also grow in intensity and efficacy as the Incarnation of Christ nears. Continue reading

Fern-Seed, Elephants, and Pseudo-Scholarship, or Another Reason Why I Love C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis said that he was no theologian, but somehow whenever he commented on the subject, his reflections bear wit and wisdom, and thus they bear repeating.

Such is the case with a quote that comes from Lewis’s Fern-Seed and Elephants. In addressing a number of Cambridge students, hear Lewis wise counsel on the subject of historical-criticism in biblical studies.  Speaking on the historical reality of Jonah, he writes,

Scholars, as scholars, speak on [the miraculous] with no more authority than anyone else.  The canon ‘If miraculous [then] unhistorical’ is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it… Whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics.  They seem to me to lack literary judgment, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading… These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves.  They claim to see fern-seed and can’t even see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight” (C. S. Lewis, Fern-Seed and Elephants (Glasgow: Fontana, 1975) 109, 111; quoted in by T. D. Alexander in “Jonah and Genre,” Tyndale Bulletin 36 (1985) 35-59; quoted by O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Prophets, p. 252, fn. 71.)

Though ad hominem and laced with British sarcasm, Lewis’ point is dead on. Why bother listening to the speculative criticism of biblical scholars, when they waffle on the extant text sitting before them.

May we be those who spend our time in the text, and little time behind the text. May we search the Scriptures for the delightful purpose of behold the majestic oaks and taste the abundant fruit of God’s holy Word; and may we forsake the fruitless and impossible task of determining how the forest grew.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss