Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Types of John

Mark Twain famously noted (or so I am told) that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. The same can be said of the events recorded in Sacred Scripture. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.”

Sometimes, the writers of the New Testament books explicitly link figures to their Old Testament types. In the case of John the Baptist, Jesus says that “he is Elijah who is to come” in Matther 11:14.

The Church also makes clear in the selection of Advent readings for December 19 that it considers Samson a type for John. It might be more accurate to say that the wife a Manoah is a type for Elizabeth. Both were barren, until God decided to bless each of them with a son. In both cases, the son of the blessing was set aside by God for a special purpose. The similarity between Samson and John is limited, however. By Christian standards, Samson is hardly a model of righteousness. Reading Judges 14-16 is downright scandalous by today’s standards, with Samson smiting Philistines hip and thigh with the jawbone of an ass and visiting prostitutes.

A stronger type for John might be found in the prophet Samuel. His mother, Hannah, was barren until the Lord heard her prayers. “The Lord remembered her; and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, ‘I have asked him of the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 1:19-20) As soon as the child was weaned, he was taken to Shiloh to minister to the Lord, in the presence of Eli the priest. Samuel would go on to receive the prophetic call and then to anoint David, the youngest son of Jesse, to be king after Saul is unfaithful. Similarly, John will baptize Jesus, whose legal father, Joseph, was of the house of David.

Ya gotta love the ways in which Scripture rhymes!

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