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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Types of the Death of Christ. Isaac; Joseph; Jacob Against Simeon and Levi; Moses Praying Against Amalek; The Brazen Serpent.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XVIII. 3343 —Types of the Death of Christ. Isaac; Joseph; Jacob Against Simeon and Levi; Moses Praying Against Amalek; The Brazen Serpent.

On the subject of His death, 3344 I suppose, you endeavour to introduce a diversity of opinion, simply because you deny that the suffering of the cross was predicted of the Christ of the Creator, and because you contend, moreover, that it is not to be believed that the Creator would expose His Son to that kind of death on which He had Himself pronounced a curse. “Cursed,” says He, “is every one who hangeth on a tree.” 3345 But what is meant by this curse, worthy as it is of the simple prediction of the cross, of which we are now mainly inquiring, I defer to consider, because in another passage 3346 we have given the reason 3347 of the thing preceded by proof. First, I shall offer a full explanation 3348 of the types. And no doubt it was proper that this mystery should be prophetically set forth by types, and indeed chiefly by that method: for in proportion to its incredibility would it be a stumbling-block, if it were set forth in bare prophecy; and in proportion too, to its grandeur, was the need of obscuring it in shadow, 3349 that the difficulty of understanding it might lead to prayer for the grace of God. First, then, Isaac, when he was given up by his father as an offering, himself carried the wood for his own death. By this act he even then was setting forth the death of Christ, who was destined by His Father as a sacrifice, and carried the cross whereon He suffered. Joseph likewise was a type of Christ, not indeed on this ground (that I may not delay my course 3350 ), that he suffered persecution for the cause of God from his brethren, as Christ did from His brethren after the flesh, the Jews; but when he is blessed by his father in these words: “His glory is that of a bullock; his horns are the horns of a unicorn; with them shall he push the nations to the very ends of the earth,” 3351 —he was not, of course, designated as a mere unicorn with its one horn, or a minotaur with two; but Christ was indicated in him—a bullock in respect of both His characteristics: to some as severe as a Judge, to others gentle as a Saviour, whose horns were the extremities of His cross. For of the antenna, which is a part of a cross, the ends are called horns; while the midway stake of the whole frame is the unicorn. By this virtue, then, of His cross, and in this manner “horned,” He is both now pushing all nations through faith, bearing them away from earth to heaven; and will then push them through judgment, casting them down from heaven to earth. He will also, according to another passage in the same scripture, be a bullock, when He is spiritually interpreted to be Jacob against Simeon and Levi, which means against the scribes and the Pharisees; for it was from them that these last derived their origin. 3352 Like Simeon and Levi, they consummated their wickedness by their heresy, with which they persecuted Christ. “Into their counsel let not my soul enter; to their assembly let not my heart be united: for in their anger they slew men,” that is, the prophets; “and in their self-will they hacked the sinews of a bullock,” 3353 that is, of Christ. For against Him did they wreak their fury after they p. 337 had slain His prophets, even by affixing Him with nails to the cross. Otherwise, it is an idle thing 3354 when, after slaying men, he inveighs against them for the torture of a bullock! Again, in the case of Moses, wherefore did he at that moment particularly, when Joshua was fighting Amalek, pray in a sitting posture with outstretched hands, when in such a conflict it would surely have been more seemly to have bent the knee, and smitten the breast, and to have fallen on the face to the ground, and in such prostration to have offered prayer? Wherefore, but because in a battle fought in the name of that Lord who was one day to fight against the devil, the shape was necessary of that very cross through which Jesus was to win the victory? Why, once more, did the same Moses, after prohibiting the likeness of everything, set up the golden serpent on the pole; and as it hung there, propose it as an object to be looked at for a cure? 3355 Did he not here also intend to show the power of our Lord’s cross, whereby that old serpent the devil was vanquished,—whereby also to every man who was bitten by spiritual serpents, but who yet turned with an eye of faith to it, was proclaimed a cure from the bite of sin, and health for evermore?


Footnotes

336:3343

Compare adv. Judæos, chap. 10. [pp. 165, 166, supra.]

336:3344

De exitu.

336:3345

Compare Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13.

336:3346

The words “quiaet aliasantecedit rerum probatio rationem,” seem to refer to the parallel passage in adv. Judæos, where he has described the Jewish law of capital punishment, and argued for the exemption of Christ from its terms. He begins that paragraph with saying, “Sed hujus maledictionis sensum antecedit rerum ratio.”  [See, p. 164, supra.]

336:3347

Perhaps rationale or procedure.

336:3348

Edocebo.

336:3349

Magis obumbrandum.

336:3350

But he may mean, by “ne demorer cursum,” “that I may not obstruct the course of the type,” by taking off attention from its true force. In the parallel place, however, another turn is given to the sense; Joseph is a type, “even on this ground—that I may but briefly allude to it—that he suffered,” etc.

336:3351

Deut. xxxiii. 17.

336:3352

Census.

336:3353

Gen. xlix. 6. The last clause is, “ceciderunt nervos tauro.”

337:3354

Vanum.

337:3355

Spectaculum salutare.


Next: Prophecies of the Death of Christ.

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