Covenant, Typology, and the Story of Joseph: A Literary-Canonical Examination of Genesis 37-50
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This dissertation defends the notion that Joseph, understood according to a literary-canonical analysis, functions as the resolution to the plot of Genesis and that this story typologically influences how later biblical authors narrate redemptive history culminating in the NT’s portrayal of Jesus as an antitypical Joseph. My research explores two questions: First, what is the literary and biblical-theological significance of the Joseph narrative as the conclusion to Genesis? Second, how do later biblical authors interpret and reuse the Joseph narrative? Chapter 1 explains the rationale for this project and introduces readers to the supposed “problem” of Joseph’s prominence in Genesis and relative absence in the rest of the canon. In this chapter, I survey the dominant approaches to the Joseph story with regard to his role in Genesis in particular and, more generally, in the canon. Most historical-critical scholars posit that Joseph’s story is largely disconnected from the rest of the Genesis narrative. This chapter also surveys the history of the interpretation of the Joseph narrative. I note that almost all pre-modern interpreters saw Joseph primarily as a typological character—a tradition which continues among many evangelical interpreters of Scripture. Chapter 2 explains the methodology of this dissertation. In this chapter, I defend my understanding of biblical-theology and my approach to typology as one regulated by the interpretive practices of the New Testament authors. I argue that types are historical, prospective, textual, covenantal, and that they exhibit escalation in moving from type to antitype Chapter 3 examines the story of Joseph within the context of Genesis. I explore Joseph’s place with the toledot structure of Genesis, his relationship to the Abrahamic covenant, and his role in the storyline of Genesis. By considering Joseph’s relationship to the land, seed, blessing, and kingship promises of the Abrahamic covenant, I conclude that Joseph is an anticipatory fulfilment of the covenant promises. Furthermore, I demonstrate how Joseph reverses fraternal conflict and famine—two major themes in Genesis. In light of these and other evidences, I argue that, even within the context of Genesis itself, Joseph is a typological figure. Chapter 4 investigates the explicit mentions of Joseph in the OT in order to discern how later biblical authors interpreted the Joseph story. I argue that Psalm 105 interprets Joseph within the framework of the Abrahamic promises. The psalmist sees Joseph as God’s instrument for fulfilling those promises in a provisional, anticipatory way. This chapter also explores allusions to the Joseph narrative in Daniel and considers Joseph’s contribution to the canonical motif of the exalted Jew in a foreign court. I conclude that the OT authors interpreted Joseph’s life as a harbinger of the exodus and as an archetypal figure whose life anticipated later events in Israel’s history. Finally, chapter 5 investigates two explicit references to Joseph in the NT: Acts 7 and Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11, Joseph is presented as a moral exemplar on account of his faith in God’s promises. My analysis of Acts 7 shows that Stephen interpreted Joseph’s story as a microcosm of Israel’s history. Joseph and Moses exemplify Israel’s rejection of their deliverers, a pattern which culminates in their rejection of Jesus. Jesus makes the same point in the parable of the tenants. Israel’s constant rebellion against God’s messengers typifies their ultimate rejection of the “beloved son”—an event anticipated by the patriarchs’ rejection of Joseph. These passages, then, explicitly confirm what appears suggested throughout the OT—namely, Joseph is a type of the Messiah.