Okay, I’ll admit it: Sometimes (well, mostly all the time) I skimp on my reading of the Old Testament. I want to learn more about Jesus, so I keep turning to the Gospels, or other books of the New Testament.
However, I know that I’m missing some of the most remarkable ways of learning about Jesus from the writings of the Old Testament.
If I need any incentive for reading the Old Testament, all I have to do is look at the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 24. In this chapter, two of Jesus’ disciples (Cleophas and probably Luke) are traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus in utter amazement. They had just heard that Jesus’ tomb was found empty and guarded by an angel.
While they’re walking to Emmaus, they encounter a stranger, who enters into their conversation. The stranger, of course, was the Risen Christ … but they didn’t recognize him. They poured out their amazed hearts to Him.
In response, Jesus says,
O foolish, and slow of heart to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things that were concerning him. (Lk 24:25-27)
In other words, Jesus provided an Old Testament Bible Study for two of his greatest disciples.
Did you catch that? The Old Testament announced Jesus. Jesus is IN the Old Testament. We just need to know where to look, to “unlock” the Scriptures. As I believe St. Augustine said, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.”
This idea that the Old Testament “conceals” the revelation of Christ is called typology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church helps to explain this method of Bible Study:
St. Paul actually uses the word “type” when talking about the relationship of Adam to Christ (Rom 5:14) – “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”
128 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.
129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself. Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament. As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.
130 Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.” Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.
The Beginning Apologetics series (by Jim Burnham and Fr. Frank Chacon) deal with typology in Book 7: How to Read the Bible. In it they write, “Typology reveals how Christ and His Church are foreshadowed in the OT.” Let me give you some specific examples of typology:
- Jesus teaches how Jonah was a foreshadowing of Christ, a type of Him (Matt. 12:40) – “He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.'”
But, this only scratches the surface of the typology. I think I’ll start another series (that, like the others, I’ll never get around to finishing), this time on Typology. Look forward to it.
In the meantime, let me just finish up this post by concluding the story from Luke’s Gospel about the disciples on the road to Emmaus. The two disciples asked Jesus to stay with them, citing the late hour; and they invited Him to eat with them.
And he went in with them. And it came to pass, whilst he was at table with them, he took bread, and blessed, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him: and he vanished out of their sight.
And they said one to the other: Was not our heart burning within us, whilst he spoke in this way, and opened to us the scriptures?
And rising up, the same hour, they went back to Jerusalem: and they found the eleven gathered together, and those that were staying with them, saying: The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way; and how they knew him in the breaking of the bread. (Lk 24:29-35)
That’s an interesting phrase, that — “They knew him in the breaking of the bread.”
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for helping me to discern you in the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist (1 Cor 11:26-30).
****NOTE about the art in the post: The artist is one of my most favorite artists, Caravaggio. The painting is Supper at Emmaus. If you want to see more of Caravaggio’s art, Caravaggio.com has got them all. Check it out.