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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol IX:
Epistle to Gregory and Origen's Commentary on the Gospel of John.: Chapter XXVI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

26.  The Story of Israel Crossing Jordan Under Joshua is Typical of Christian Things, and is Written for Our Instruction.

Now, it may very well be that some one not versed in the various aspects of the Saviour may stumble at the interpretation given above of the Jordan; because John says, “I baptize with water, but He that cometh after me is stronger than I; He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”  To this we reply that, as the Word of God in His character as something to be drunk is to one set of men water, and to another wine, making glad the heart of man, and to others blood, since it is said, 4931 “Except ye drink My blood, ye have no life in you,” and as in His character as food He is variously conceived as living bread or as flesh, so also He, the same person, is baptism of water, and baptism of Holy Spirit and of fire, and to some, also, of blood.  It is of His last baptism, as some hold, that He speaks in the words, 4932 “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?”  And it agrees with this that the disciple John speaks in his Epistle 4933 of the Spirit, and the water, and the blood, as being one.  And again He declares Himself to be the way and the door, but clearly He is not the door to those to whom He is the way, and He is no longer the way to those to whom He is the door.  All those, then, who are being initiated in the beginning of the oracles of God, and come to the voice of him who cries in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” the voice which sounds beyond Jordan at the house of preparation, let them prepare themselves so that they may be in a state to receive the spiritual word, brought home to them by the enlightenment of the Spirit.  As we are now, as our subject requires, bringing together all that relates to the Jordan, let us look at the “river.”  God, by Moses, carried the people through the Red Sea, making the water a wall for them on the right hand and on the left, and by Joshua He carried them through Jordan.  Now, Paul deals with this Scripture, and his warfare is not according to the flesh of it, for he knew that the law is spiritual in a spiritual sense.  And he shows us that he understood what is said about the passage of the Red Sea; for he says in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, 4934 “I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, how that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and did all eat the same spiritual meat, and drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of the spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ.”  In the spirit of this passage let us also pray that we may receive from God to understand the spiritual meaning of Joshua’s passage through Jordan.  Of it, also, Paul would have said, “I would not, brethren, have you ignorant, that all our fathers went through Jordan, and were all baptized into Jesus in the spirit and in the river.”  And Joshua, who succeeded Moses, was a type of Jesus Christ, who succeeds the dispensation through the law, and replaces it by the preaching of the Gospel.  And even if those Paul speaks of were baptized in the cloud and in the sea, there is something harsh and salt in their baptism.  They are still in fear of their enemies, and crying to the Lord and to Moses, saying, 4935 “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou brought us forth to slay us in the wilderness?  Why hast thou dealt thus with us, to bring us forth out of Egypt?”  But the baptism to Joshua, which takes place in quite sweet and drinkable water, is in many ways superior to that earlier one, religion having by this time grown clearer and assuming a becoming p. 373 order.  For the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God is carried in procession by the priests and levites, the people following the ministers of God, it, also, accepting the law of holiness.  For Joshua says to the people, 4936 “Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow; the Lord will do wonders among you.”  And he commands the priests to go before the people with the ark of the covenant, wherein is plainly showed forth the mystery of the Father’s economy about the Son, which is highly exalted by Him who gave the Son this office; “That at the name of Jesus 4937 every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things on earth and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  This is pointed out by what we find in the book called Joshua, 4938 “In that day I will begin to exalt thee before the children of Israel.”  And we hear our Lord Jesus saying to the children of Israel, 4939 “Come hither and hear the words of the Lord your God.  Hereby ye shall know that the living God is in (among) you;” for when we are baptized to Jesus, we know that the living God is in us.  And, in the former case, they kept the passover in Egypt, and then began their journey, but with Joshua, after crossing Jordan on the tenth day of the first month they pitched their camp in Galgala; for a sheep had to be procured before invitations could be issued to the banquet after Joshua’s baptism.  Then the children of Israel, since the children of those who came out of Egypt had not received circumcision, were circumcised by Joshua with a very sharp stone; the Lord declares that He takes away the reproach of Egypt on the day of Joshua’s baptism, when Joshua purified the children of Israel.  For it is written: 4940   “And the Lord said to Joshua, the son of Nun, This day have I taken away the reproach of Egypt from off you.”  Then the children of Israel kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month, with much greater gladness than in Egypt, for they ate unleavened bread of the corn of the holy land, and fresh food better than manna.  For when they received the land of promise God did not entertain them with scantier food, nor when such a one as Joshua was their leader do they get inferior bread.  This will be plain to him who thinks of the true holy land and of the Jerusalem above.  Hence it is written in this same Gospel: 4941   Your fathers did eat bread in the wilderness, and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.  For the manna, though it was given by God, yet was bread of travel, bread supplied to those still under discipline, well fitted for those who were under tutors and governors.  And the new bread Joshua managed to get from corn they cut in the country, in the land of promise, others having laboured and his disciples reaping,—that was bread more full of life, distributed as it was to those who, for their perfection, were able to receive the inheritance of their fathers.  Hence, he who is still under discipline to that bread may receive death as far as it is concerned, but he who has attained to the bread that follows that, eating it, shall live for ever.  All this has been added, not, I conceive, without appropriateness, to our study of the baptism at the Jordan, administered by John at Bethabara.



John vi. 53.


Luke xii. 50.


1 John v. 8.


1 Cor. 10.1-4.


Exod. xiv. 11.


Josh. iii. 5.


Philipp. ii. 9-11.


Josh. 3.7.


Josh. 3:9, 10.


Josh. v. 9.


John 6.49.

Next: Chapter XXVII

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