Two of the four gospels mention in their account of the Triumphal Entry that Jesus rode upon a colt “on which no one has ever yet sat” (Mark 11:2; see also Luke 19:29). The colt is a fulfilment of prophecy (Zechariah 9:9), but what’s the significance of a new colt? Perhaps it alludes to Jesus’ divine control over nature, similar to the calming of the storm (Mark 4:35-41). More likely, it calls back to the Old Testament, where only those animals who had never known a yoke were fit for divine service (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3). In calling for this kind of animal, Jesus is asserting the divinity of his mission, and possibly hinting at his coming atonement for sins– he too was to be a sacrifice without blemish.
Joshua 5:13-6:27 is full of intertextual echoes. Continue reading “Intertextual Ricochet”
Psalm 72:9, speaking of the Davidic king, says “May desert tribes bow down before him, and his enemies lick the dust!” It’s not the only time that God/Israel’s enemies are cursed in this way. Isaiah 49:23 and Micah 7:17 both refer to enemies licking dust, and Isaiah 65:25 tells us that “dust shall be the serpent’s food.”
I’ve written before about how the Old Testament is to be read in light of the New. The Bible isn’t just some book of random stories that can be taken out of context and smushed together in new formations like pieces of an Erector Set. Rather, it’s one story, and it’s parts relate to each other in the ways they were intended by God to do. The task for us is to discern how.
Some Palm Sunday reflections, for which I am indebted to Jason DeRouchie.
When Jesus came into Jerusalem the week before Passover, the word of his coming spread before him such that a large crowd gathered to welcome him in, believing he would deliver them from Roman occupation and restore the kingdom to Israel. So Jesus rode into town, to fulfill what was written, which, as John put it (John 12:15), was as follows:
Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!
John is mostly quoting from Zechariah 9:9, with a paraphrase here and there. Here’s the text in Zechariah, with the exact words used in John bolded:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
So it looks like John left out the parallel second line, the “to you” in the third line, and then the longer description of the manner of the king’s coming at the end. But he didn’t paraphrase the beginning– he just up and changed it from “rejoice greatly” to “fear not.” Why?
The phrases “fear not,” “daughter of Zion,” and “king.” only appear together in one other place– Zephaniah 3:14-17:
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion;
shout, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;
he has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
you shall never again fear evil.
On that day it shall be said to Jerusalem:
‘Fear not, O Zion;
let not your hands grow weak.
The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love.;
he will exult over you with loud singing.’
The passage in Zechariah, which contains the specific prophecy about the donkey’s colt, is largely about God’s judgment of the nations and his deliverance of Israel. God is high and lifted up, the king over the whole earth, the divine warrior– that’s the sort of language used. The king is coming, yes, and coming to save, but he seems rather transcendent and terrifying in Zechariah, particularly in the verses following 9:9. In Zephaniah, the king comes to Israel and stands in her midst, singing over her and telling her not to be afraid. The transcendent God has become the immanent God.
It’s possible that John conflated these two passages accidentally. But I think John is smarter than that. I think that in noting the fulfillment of Zechariah he intended to tell his readers just what kind of king it was who fulfilled the prophecy. There will come a day when Jesus will come on a war horse (Revelation 19:11). But not today. Today the king comes on a donkey, sitting with children and telling his people not to be afraid.
On Friday he will be for us– he will be a priest for us, a sacrifice for us, becoming sin for us, being God and man for us. But today he is the immanent God. Emmanuel, God with us.
Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
Just some more thoughts on Exodus 17, typology, and rocks (There are a few of my favorite things).
Moses struck Yahweh on the rock at Horeb with the staff of judgment, and water poured out for the people. A centurion struck I AM on calvary’s cross with a spear, and water and blood poured out for the life of the church. Jesus told Simon “little rock” Bar-Jonah that he (Jesus) would build his church on the rock of Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ– and then he went and got struck for the life of the world. The Church’s one foundation– her precious cornerstone– is the rent Rock of ages. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the wind blew and beat on that house,” and no dice. It’s a firm foundation.
Looks like weakness to the world. But to us who are being saved, it is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Unless you fall on this rock and break, it will fall on you and crush you. The confession of the church is the Rock rejected by men but chosen by God and precious. Let us look on him whom we have pierced.
Duly Noted: Intertextuality
In March I posted a few different methods of note-taking, and at that time I held out hope that I would post more in the future. Well, the future is here.
In Doug Wilson’s book Heaven Misplaced he mentions a method he uses for seeing the use of the Old Testament in the New. Every time he comes across a New Testament quotation of the Old Testament, he highlights the quotation and writes the Old Testament reference in the margin next to it. Then he flips to that reference in the Old Testament, highlights the same quotation, and writes the New Testament reference. For example, he might highlight Matthew 2:15 in the NT and write “Hosea 11:1” in the margin, and then flip to the OT, highlight Hosea 11:1 and write “Matthew 2:15” in the margin there.
There are a few benefits to this method. First, while many study Bibles will cross-reference the Old Testament verse where it is quoted in the New, not as many reference the New Testament verse in the Old. This allows you to see both, and to see the explicit connections between New and Old at a glance. Second, it allows you to identify patterns in the way that New Testament authors draw from the Old Testament; by glancing through 1 Corinthians in my Bible, I can see that Paul quotes from Isaiah more than any other OT book in that letter, a fact which may or may not be significant. And third, it raises some big questions about the use of the Old Testament in the New. When you begin to highlight the exact words of the Old and the New, you find that the New Testament authors sometimes change words (this isn’t a translation issue, or an issue of the transmission of the Hebrew through the Septuagint; sometimes words are legitimately changed by the Apostles), that they sometimes leave out words and phrases, that they sometimes add words and phrases, and that they sometimes splice different passages together into one.
A few examples:
- Ephesians 4:8 says “Therefore it says, ‘When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men,'” citing Psalm 68:18. Psalm 68:18 says “You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men” (emphasis mine). It looks as if Paul took the quotation and changed a word to make it fit his argument.
- Ephesians 5:14 says “Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'” This appears to be stitched from several verses, possibly including Isaiah 26:19, 60:1, and Luke 1:78, but there isn’t one text which this is quoted from. It seems as though Paul was ‘quoting’ a theme from the Old Testament, rather than specific words.
- 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 says “Then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?'” The first line– “Death is swallowed up in victory” is taken from Isaiah 25:8, but the second half is from Hosea 13:14.
Now, care needs to be taken here. In writing this post I saw several passages where the English Bible seems to record a discrepancy, but in fact the difference is due to the fact that the New Testament authors were quoting from the Septuagint, as in Romans 11:9-10, Hebrews 8:8-12, and Hebrews 10:37-38.
I’ve seen a lot of connections between the Old and New Testaments since I started with this method, and I hope you will as well. Let me know what you find.