Elijah as Type of Christ – Typology as Apologetic Pt. 2 – Jay Dyer
By: Jay Dyer
A couple years ago I did an essay on typology as apologetic and indeed, typology is one of the strongest apologetic arguments, when properly understood. While there can certainly be excesses, there is no doubt the Apostolic hermeneutic was undoubtedly Christological, with the church fathers soon following suit and applying the methodology consistently, into the church’s liturgy, which is pregnant with Christological, Mariological, sacramental and even ecclesiological aspects of the Law and Prophets finding fulfillment in the New Testament.
Two of the most overlooked are Saints Elijah and Elisha. Here in part two we will focus on St. Elijah and the many elements of his foreshadowing Christ while keeping in mind Jesus refers to Elijah and his miracles both as historical and typological, with no arbitrary division between the two, as is so prevalent among modern day Marcionites and Origenists. Jesus references the historicity and veracity of the ministry of Elijah in Luke 4, enraging the Pharisees by pointing out that Elijah did not minister to most Jews during the famine, but to a lone widow and a Gentile (foreshadowing the inclusion of the Gentiles in the covenant and the rejection of the nation of Israel of His day, just as Ahab and Jezebel rejected Elijah):
23 He said to them, “You will surely say this proverb to Me, ‘Physician, heal yourself! Whatever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in Your country.’ ” 24 Then He said, “Assuredly, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own country. 25 But I tell you truly, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, and there was a great famine throughout all the land; 26 but to none of them was Elijah sent except to Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”
Just as Elijah was rejected in his day by the nation, so would the Great Prophet be rejected, Jesus. The beginning of Elijah’s prophetic ministry is 1 Kings 17 (3 Kingdoms 17) when Israel is experiencing a hellish famine, when the “Word of the Lord” appeared to him to instruct him on his mission to the widow. This is a key aspect of Orthodox theology, emphasized by the Orthodox church fathers given the reality of the Old Testament theophanies, which is the Pre-Incarnate presence of Christ Himself to the prophets. It is the Logos Himself Who appears to the prophets as the “Word” of the Lord (17:2). It is crucial to stress these Theophanies are the Person of the Word, the Logos, as the Spirit of Christ is Who inspired the prophets (2 Peter 1:21), which demonstrates the continuity of God as Triad from the Old to New Testaments.
Just as Elijah, Moses and Israel were miraculously preserved and fed in the wilderness, so here God provides sustenance for Elijah by the ravens, and when Elijah seeks to aid the widow of Zarephath we see a type of both the miracles of the fish and loaves in Christ, as well as the Eucharist, the miraculous food from heaven (see Matthew 14). We see the energetic power of the Logos is in fact immanent in nature with these ravens, as well as later in the narrative with the still, small Voice.
Because the widow gave the prophet his “cup of cold water,” she was aided by St. Elijah by the miracle of resurrection – a clear type of the resurrection miracles of Christ, as we see with Lazarus in John 11. In fact, it seems to me this account even mystically signifies either the Triad or the resurrection on the Third Day, as Elijah lays across him (cruciform perhaps) three times in order to raise him (21-2).
Rain is also likened to true doctrine in Scripture (Dt. 32:2), so we can also understand this famine as a “famine of the Word of the Lord,” which is the worst possible chastisement that can befall a land. Modernity itself seems to be a wasteland undergoing a a vast “famine of the Word:” “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine of bread, Nor a thirst for water, But of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11)
Like Christ, Elijah is accused of “causing trouble” among the people and is challenged by the apostate leadership of the day. For Elijah, this leads to a power confrontation between hundreds of prophets of Ba’al, the demonic entity, and the last true prophet who maintained the pure worship of Christ. The superstitious self-harm and self-mutilation rampant among the false prophets suggests the common forms of preset and superstition among many false religions that persist today, including many normative practices among Roman Catholics, such as flagellants or the many Roman Catholic “saints” who have thrown themselves down wells or carved names into their chests – all echoing the bizarre and sensual false worship of the prophets of Ba’al who battled St. Elijah.
Orthodoxy rejects all these approaches which attempt to “pay” God or the gods with merits and cancel supposed debts (temporal or eternal) that have accrued due to sins. In fact, in some Roman Catholic nations the practice of crucifixion as a form of “devotion” continues to this day, as well as countless false visionaries and “apparitions” and “stigmata.” For Orthodoxy, there is no “mortification” of the flesh – the body is not the enemy, and is in fact to be brought under submission to self-control (the entire purpose of asceticism) for preparation for the bodily resurrection. False religions lack this healing theology because they lack theosis and uncreated grace.
This is why Moses and Elijah appear on the Mount of Transfiguration, representing the law and prophets, both attesting to the deification and transfiguration of the Body of Christ by the uncreated Light of Tabor, which same Light deifies us in the Church. All false religions lack this uncreated grace and replace it with man-made rituals of self-worship and self-mutilation. Rather, as St. Elijah attests, the Light of Tabor is the same Voice and Word that came to deify and translate him (and Moses – 2 Cor. 3-4).
Indeed, the fire from heaven speaks of Christ Himself, who in the transfiguration fulfilled this fire from heaven typology and theophany, as He appeared in His own natural energetic Fire and Light – our God is a “consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). Elijah even mocks and makes jokes about the false gods of the man-made religions, asking if perhaps Ba’al was going potty – something we still do today to these foolish practices, and even more amusing when we understand Ba’al Peor was a completely degenerate form of worship that referred to the lord of open holes, that is, the vagina and anus (Num. 25). The worship at Elijah’s 12-stone altar (representing Israel and the tribes) is also miraculous due to the harmony of the elements, with both water and fire three times (Triadic), signifying baptism and Spirit, with the offering being consumed in miraculous fire (the Eucharist) as Elijah calls down the power of God, just as the priest does in the Epiklesis.
Next we witness a powerful theophany of Christ many have missed, where the Logos awakens Elijah and tells him to eat, with an image that pre-signifies the miraculous bread of the Eucharist. Note that the Angel of the Lord is the same Voice Who speaks to him and touches him (Jesus), as well as miraculously feeding him and allowing him to survive in the wilderness like Moses and like Christ in his fast, as well as for us in the Eucharist (John 6):
“4 But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” 5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly Someone (LXX) touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the Angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.”
Next we see a fascinating contrast to the sensual and superstitious worship of the prophets of Ba’al who called upon their demon and offered him blood, while the Voice that speaks to Elijah contrasts His presence as not identified with natural disasters, processes or any form of animism. In other words the true God is known apophatically – He is not in the earthquake, fire or wind by His essence or nature, unlike the pagan deities who identify the divine nature with specific powers and processes of the natural world. Our God’s nature is utterly unlike any created form or thing, but is imminently present through His energies. The Masoretic reads it as a still small Voice, while the LXX has it as a Gentle Breeze: both convey the same idea, that God is not equated with any created form or power:
“11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire, a still small Voice. 13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a Voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Many have also overlooked the curious text that Elijah is told to go and anoint the King of Syria! This is a curious text, but in my estimation it suggests the same point Jesus makes in Luke 4, which is that Elijah functions as a kind of evangelist and type of Christ, who will be rejected by His own, but will bring the knowledge of the True God to the Gentiles and include them in the one covenant. Indeed, just as Elijah will miraculously cleanse Naaman the Syrian of his leprosy, so likewise he is told to anoint Hazael king of Syria. This shows all authority, even the authority of the state, and even amongst the pagan kings, ultimately comes from God Himself, either directly by prophetic anointing or in the course of Divine Providence.
The prophetic office being transferred to Elisha in his calling also suggests a type of Christ who simply walked by many apostles and said “Follow me.” Elijah finds Elisha plowing a field with 12 oxen and grants him his mantle (19:19). For St. Paul, the oxen working the field symbolizes the Apostles and their service to the Master (Christ):
“8 Do I say these things as a mere man? Or does not the law say the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about? 10 Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written, that he who plows should plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? 12 If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more?”
Chapter 20 covers the murder of Naboth for his vineyard by Ahab and Jezebel, making Naboth a clear type of Christ, who is murdered by the vinedressers at the behest of false witnesses (Matt. 21, Luke 20). The field is the nation of Israel in Christ’s parable and matches the typology of Naboth perfectly. Jezebel, just like the whore of the Apocalypse, is tossed aside and destroyed, just as apostate Israel undergoes in 70 AD. Further proving this analysis is St. Paul’s reference to 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Ba’al applying to the Jews who converted to faith in Christ in the first century (Rom. 11:4).
Just as there was a remnant in Elijah’s day, so in the first century the remnant of believing Jews followed Christ and were protected when the Romans razed the Temple Mount and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD under Titus. In fact, Naboth was killed outside the city just like Jesus was (Heb. 13:11-3)! Just as Jezebel was destroyed as a type of apostate and idolatrous Israel, so did the covenant curses of Deut. 28 come upon Israel in 70 AD as St. John predicts in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 15:1,6,8, 16:9, 18:4). All the way back to the fall, with Adam and Eve and their rebellion, we see the same fall echoed in Ahab and Jezebel as mirrored examples of our first parents, with the same mirroring being exemplified in the apostate worship of Israel in 70 AD, just as Israel was the new Eden (The Temple worship was full of Edenic iconography).
10 So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” 11 Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. (2 Kings 2)
“9 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, 11 who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1)
From this period, we move to the double-portion of the Spirit upon St. Elisha as his successor, with Elijah ascending into heaven! One couldn’t think of a more powerful type of Christ than Elijah’s ascension into heaven. In fact, most Jewish exegetes who reject the possibility of Jesus as the Messiah often do so on the basis of denying events like the ascension, when one of the greatest prophets of Israel is said to ascend into heaven, as did Enoch. If Enoch and Elijah can be translated, so can the Son of God. Elijah is said to ascend in a chariot in the whirlwind into heaven, and it’s Ezekiel who tells us who it is that rides upon the Chariot of the Cherubim: It is the Son of Man, Jesus, Who is God Himself:
“26 And above the firmament over their heads was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like a sapphire stone; on the likeness of the throne was a likeness with the appearance of a man high above it. 27 Also from the appearance of His waist and upward I saw, as it were, the color of amber with the appearance of fire all around within it; and from the appearance of His waist and downward I saw, as it were, the appearance of fire with brightness all around. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.” (Ezek. 1, 10, Dan. 7, Apoc. 1)
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