Allusions To The Joseph Narrative In The Synoptic Gospels And Acts: Foundations Of A Biblical Type -- By: Nicholas P. Lunn

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 55:1 (Mar 2012)
Article: Allusions To The Joseph Narrative In The Synoptic Gospels And Acts: Foundations Of A Biblical Type
Author: Nicholas P. Lunn


Allusions To The Joseph Narrative In The Synoptic Gospels And Acts:
Foundations Of A Biblical Type

Nicholas P. Lunn

Nicholas Lunn is translation consultant for Wycliffe Bible Translations UK and resides at Alfriston, Rectory Lane, Wallington, Surrey SM6 8DX, United Kingdom.

I. Introduction

In the exegetical tradition of the church, the typological character of the Joseph narrative is historically firmly established. During the patristic period, expositors of Scripture drew out the more obvious parallels, and sometimes less obvious ones, between the life of Joseph and that of Jesus. John Chrysostom, for example, in his homilies on Genesis described Joseph’s sufferings at the hands of his brothers as “a type of things to come, the outlines of truth being sketched out ahead of time in shadow.” 1 Chrysostom, it should be noted, was schooled at Antioch, the centre of the more literal approach to biblical exegesis in comparison with Alexandria.2 While this former school was noted for its attention to matters of grammar and history, its exponents nonetheless practised a moderate form of typology.3

It was the Alexandrian school, associated especially with the figure of Origen, that frequently tended to take typology too far. With respect to Joseph, not just the major events of his life, but even some of the minor details were treated typologically. Thus for Caesarius of Arles, the multi-colored coat given Joseph by his father represented the church composed of those from diverse nations.4 In Joseph’s first dream, Ambrose of Milan interpreted the sheaf that stood upright, to which the other sheaves bowed down, as indicative of the resurrection of Christ.5 This more extreme form of typology often passed over into allegory. Typology and allegory, though seemingly similar to many in the modern age, were in fact

quite distinct exegetical categories.6 Allegory viewed the words of the text to be like shells containing hidden meanings, which once perceived, the literal meaning could to all intents and purposes be discarded. In the strict practice of typology, however, the literal sense was still meaningful and primary. Yet as the patristic age progressed, the allegorical method became more prevalent and came to dominate the church’s exegesis for over a thousand years.

It was the sixteenth-century Reformati...

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