Tuesday, 19 March 2013

The New Testament's Theological 'Magic'

You can't escape it - all of us wonder some times how on earth the NT gets it's interpretations of what is happening in the OT - regardless of how strong an OT-NT continuity theology we have.

But I've noticed, doing in depth readings of the patriarchs - that the NT theological commentaries are extremely profound, but not un-understandable. They just need you to read the stories and discuss them with people over and over again...

Here's my current 'suppose-d' enlightenment of Jacob's faith by Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11:21
 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, leaning (or bowing in worship) over the head of his staff.  

Now if you read the OT text - there is absolutely no mention of Jacob's staff when he did the criss-cross blessing in Gen 48 (at least not that I've seen)

Genesis 48:1-14   After this, Joseph was told, "Behold, your father is ill." So he took with him his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.  2 And it was told to Jacob, "Your son Joseph has come to you." Then Israel summoned his strength and sat up in bed.  3 And Jacob said to Joseph, "God Almighty(1 )appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me,  4 and said to me, 'Behold, I will make you fruitful and multiply you, and I will make of you a company of peoples and will give this land to your offspring after you for an everlasting possession.'  5 And now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are.  6 And the children that you fathered after them shall be yours. They shall be called by the name of their brothers in their inheritance.  7 As for me, when I came from Paddan, to my sorrow Rachel died in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still some distance(1 )to go to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem)."  8 When Israel saw Joseph's sons, he said, "Who are these?"  9 Joseph said to his father, "They are my sons, whom God has given me here." And he said, "Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them."  10 Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, so that he could not see. So Joseph brought them near him, and he kissed them and embraced them.  11 And Israel said to Joseph, "I never expected to see your face; and behold, God has let me see your offspring also."  12 Then Joseph removed them from his knees, and he bowed himself with his face to the earth.  13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel's left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel's right hand, and brought them near him.  14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). 

The criss-crossing thing we kind of can get from understanding Jacob's own blessing by Isaac - so he wants to avoid that mistake again

Yet where is the staff?

However, if we consider Jacob's entire life... we see...
1. Gen 32:10 - when he left his home all he had was his staff
2. Gen 32b - he is made to limp
3. From that we can assume - he now had to lean on his staff
4. His quotations at the end of his life - Gen 48-9 are all about Jesus as 'Shepherd'

Thus the whole dimension of his life transforms from an independent 'grasper' into one that leans, or trusts in the shepherd ....

So as he does the criss-cross blessing, the Hebrews author 'visualizes' him leaning on his staff 

So it is a profound theological deduction about his faith - written in from a deep understanding of his life and the processes he went through to become the man of faith - the great patriarch 

I'm sure if we read the OT deep enough, all the other NT quotations will become just as 'easily' visible to us

1 comment:

Nicolai said...

Septuagint seems to read 'staff' in Gen 47:31. That throws up more questions than answers, though.