I am constantly amazed at how many things are hinted at in the Old Testament (OT), and then fulfilled and ‘perfected’ in the New Testament (NT).
One of the ‘official’ ways to describe this is by using the terms ‘type’ and ‘anti-type’. A ‘type’ is an event (or thing, or person) in the OT which points to an upcoming fulfillment in the NT. The ‘anti-type’ which occurs in the NT, is the ‘type’ made perfect.
To me, the term ‘anti-type’ is a bit confusing, because it seems to be a ‘negative’ word – but it’s just the ‘removal of the shadow’ so you can see the ‘real thing’ that God wanted to share with us all along.
There’s a very good reason that has God revealed things to us this way. The fact is that we could not possibly have grasped all that he wanted to share with us ‘in one sitting’. It would be like trying to drink from a fire hose at full blast – an impossible task. Therefore, he gave us a chance to ‘get familiar’ with certain ideas or concepts, so that when we saw them fulfilled – we could drink them in and fully appreciate them.
There are dozens of major ‘types’ in the OT, and possibly hundreds of minor ones.
One example of a ‘type’ is Moses receiving the divine law from the mountain of Sinai. The perfected ‘anti-type’ is Jesus delivering the ‘completed’ divine law during the Sermon on the Mount. Both are ‘divine law coming from a mountain’, and both are legitimate and important, but the ultimate fulfillment is always greater and more powerful than the original ‘type’.
Another example: For the sake of righteousness, Abraham is willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac (OT) – and in the fulfillment, God is willing to sacrifice his only son, Jesus – for the sake of righteousness. And if we read the story of Abraham and Isaac carefully, we see even more clues. The statement that ‘God himself will provide the lamb’ (Gen 22:8), and then catching sight of the lamb in the thicket (Gen 22:13).
The Old always points to the New — and the New always completes, amplifies, and perfects the Old.
This type/anti-type phenomenon is one of the things that make Bible Study so exciting for me. For example, there is a passage in Isaiah that is an incredible foretelling of the Passion of Christ. It is the fourth ‘Servant Song’ of Isaiah, and is called the ‘Song of the Suffering Servant’.
Every time I have the honor of reading this passage as a lector, I am deeply humbled. All you have to do to understand this passage is to replace the words ‘my servant’ (or ‘him’ or ‘he’) with the name ‘Jesus’. Most amazingly, keep in mind that the Book of Isaiah was written roughly 700 years before Christ was born.
An excerpt from the Song of the Suffering Servant (Is 52:13-53:12):
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured,
while we thought of him as stricken,
as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins,
upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole,
by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way,
but the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth;
Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers,
he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away,
and who would have thought any more of his destiny?
When he was cut off from the land of the living,
and smitten for the sin of his people,
A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers,
though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.
(Yet it was the will of the Lord to bruise him, he has put him to grief)
When he gives his life as an offering for sin,
he shall see his descendants in a long life,
and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days;
Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.
Therefore I will give him his portion among the great,
and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty,
Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked;
And he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.
Again – this passage was not written after Christ’s Passion – but 700 years before. God needed to ‘get us ready’ to understand the most miraculous sacrifice of all time. The sacrifice that makes way for our redemption. The sacrifice that allows us to be forgiven again, and again, and again, and again…
Now, for one last ‘type/anti-type’ – and it has to do with the celebration that is coming up this weekend. The celebration of ‘The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ’, otherwise known as ‘Corpus Christi‘ which in Latin means ‘the body of Christ’.
The Old Testament ‘type’ shows up in the Book of Exodus, where huge masses of Israelites have been set free from Egypt (with a little help from God). Now stop for a moment. I know that you are familiar with the story – but have you ever wondered about the logistics of feeding hundreds of thousands of people — for forty years — in a desert? Well, God handled it – and his answer was the supernatural food called ‘manna’. The ‘manna’ miraculously appeared each morning so that the people could gather this bread-like substance and sustain themselves on their journey.
The ‘anti-type’ — or fulfillment, amplification, and perfection of the ‘manna’ — is the Eucharist. The miraculous food that God offers to his people to sustain them for their journey. “Take, eat; this is my body.” (Matthew 26:26)
Make sure you remember one important thing that I mentioned earlier. Nowhere – and I mean nowhere - in the Bible is there a ‘New Testament fulfillment’ which is less than the Old Testament ‘type’. The fulfillment is always greater than the original hint. Therefore, if the manna was clearly supernatural sustaining food, there is no way that the Eucharist is ‘just a symbol of the Last Supper’, or a ‘nice way to remember what Jesus did for us’. The Eucharist is supernatural food, it is Corpus Christi – Christ’s body, blood, soul, and divinity – offered freely to us in the hope that we can ‘join with him’, and ‘be sustained by him’ in the most intimate way possible.
Through a last-minute change in schedule, I get the honor to lector this weekend at the 11am Mass – the Mass that celebrates Corpus Christi. If you pay attention to the first reading, you’ll notice that it is from Exodus – and the exact section where Moses reminds the people that God miraculously fed the Israelites in the desert with manna, ‘a food unknown to your fathers’. The second reading and the Gospel go on to the manna’s fulfillment – the Eucharist.
So, when you receive the Eucharist this weekend — say ‘Amen’ with as much energy and gratitude as you can muster. The church walls are able to withstand great echoes.