In this third post on the roots of the papacy in Scripture, I want to highlight that Joseph’s high position in Egypt is actually significant for understanding the administrative structure of the Kingdom of David, and therefore of the Church which is the fulfilled Davidic Kingdom.
After the people of Israel have entered the Promised Land, they eventually ask Samuel for a king to rule over them: “appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8:5, NIV). And this is exactly what happened. First under King Saul, and then under King David, the people of Israel became a kingdom. The Kingdom of David became an everlasting kingdom, and in the New Testament, was transformed into the Church.
Moreover, the Davidic Kingdom was called the Kingdom of YHWH, e.g. in 1 Chronicles 28:5 and in 2 Chronicles 13:8. Thus, in a very real way, the Kingdom of David was the Kingdom of God, what is meant by the New Testament phrase, Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew’s Gospel) or Kingdom of God (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Moreover, in the Davidic Kingdom, the worshipping community of Israel was often called (in 1 and 2 Chronicles) the qahal (in Hebrew), which was translated in the Greek Septuagint as ekklesia (the word for Church in the New Testament).
In this second post on the roots of the papacy in Scripture, I simply want to examine Exodus 24:1-4. I should say at the outset that Dr. Brant Pitre first pointed out to me the connections I will discuss in this post. I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Dr. Pitre present this material (which was part of a much larger and more impressive work) at the Society of Biblical Literature annual meeting in Boston this past November 2008, in his paper, “Jesus and the Messianic Priesthood,” and earlier at the 2nd annual Letter & Spirit Conference in the Fall of 2006, in his presentation, “Jesus and the New Priesthood.”
Turning to Exodus 24, the first thing I want to mention is the parallel between Moses and Jesus, which is especially emphasized in Matthew’s Gospel. If we turn to the OT narratives about the exodus and wilderness traditions, we find that Aaron plays an intermediary role between Moses and the people of Israel. Indeed, in many ways, Aaron is to Moses what Joseph was to Pharaoh. What’s more, Aaron becomes the first high priest of Israel. In the Gospels, we find that among all of Jesus’ disciples, Peter is singled out more than the rest throughout all four Gospels. I will highlight Peter’s high priestly role (and his role as Jesus’ royal steward) in later posts, but for now, I just want to emphasize that in some ways Peter is to Jesus what Aaron is to Moses.
One of the many charges leveled against Catholic teaching on the papacy has been that it runs contrary to Scripture. What I hope to do over the next several posts is show how the papacy’s roots lie deep within Scripture, and are in fact fundamental to the very concept of church in the Gospels. In this first post, I will discuss the roots of this ecclesiastical office in the Old Testament narratives about the patriarch Joseph.
The first thing to note is that when we encounter Joseph in Genesis 37, we find him shepherding his brothers’ flock. This is interesting since later in the Bible we discover that King David too was a shepherd, and in the NT, Jesus instructs Peter to shepherd His flock (John 21:15-17, where Peter is commanded to feed and tend Jesus’ flock). As we read further, we see that his father Jacob/Israel gives Joseph a special cloak which probably implied some sort of high family status, since Israel loved Joseph more than his brothers (37:3), which made his brothers jealous. Soon Joseph has dreams where he appears to be exalted above his brothers (37:6-11).