by John Pacheco
God never springs vagarious or contradictory doctrines on His people. From the very beginning of His creation, He provided a rich and consistent pedagogy whose episodes in salvation history served as precursors and foundations for later revelation. There are many New Testament doctrines, for instance, which have their genesis and institution in the Old Testament. Baptism and the Eucharist, for instance, certainly have a sound fixture in the Old Testament when understood within the revelation of Jesus Christ. Under the Old Covenant, we see how water is used to cleanse (Cf. Genesis 6:5, 7:4), liberate (Cf. Exodus 14:13), deliver (Cf. Joshua 3:14-17), and initiate (Cf. Joshua 24:11-13). All of these consequences have their culmination and synthesis in the Sacrament of Baptism. We also view the Old Testament passover (Exodus 12) and the manna (Cf. Exodus 16:15) finding their ultimate fulfillment under the New Covenant in the Mass (Cf. Matthew 26:26-29) and in the Eucharist (Cf. John 6).
A few years ago as I was reading Genesis, I stumbled across a passage which had remarkable parity with a well-known Petrine passage from the Gospel of Matthew. The passages in question, cited from the New King James Version, are these:
Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall: The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him: But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel:) Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb: The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren. (Genesis 49:22-26)
Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 16:17-19)
Here are a number of interesting similarities between these two passages in particular and Joseph and Peter in general:
The bible reports that, after 'wrestling with God', God changed Jacob's name to 'Israel' (Cf. Genesis 32:28). During the course of Jacob's life, he had twelve sons (Cf. Exodus 1:1) whose offspring became known as the twelve tribes of Israel (Cf. Genesis 49:28). Being the head of each household, Jacob's sons occupied a special place of leadership and authority. Later we learn that they became known as the Twelve Patriarchs of Israel:
Then He gave him the covenant of circumcision; and so Abraham begot Isaac and circumcised him on the eighth day; and Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot the twelve patriarchs. (Acts 7:8)
The number twelve would later come to signify the 'entirety' of a population. (Cf. Joshua 4:2, 8:25, Judges 21:10, 2 Samuel 17:1, 1 Kings 10:20, Ezra 6:17, Jeremiah 52:20, Ezekiel 47:13, Matthew 19:28, Acts 26:7, James 1:1, Revelation 7:5-8, Revelation 12:1, Revelation 21:12-21, Revelation 22:2)
In appointing his Apostles, Jesus Christ reflected this numerical and patriarchal pedagogy in selecting his Apostles except that His delegation was not based on merely natural generation but rather gracious election. He appointed the twelve Apostles to govern and rule (Cf. Matthew 18:18) the New Israel, the Church and her spiritual children.
And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles (Luke 6:13)
This, then, is the first point of similarity between Joseph and Peter: they were both part of a Patriarchal community of twelve men.
Joseph's "arms" are said to be "made strong by God's mighty hands". This promise is made in the context of a battle since we learn that the "archers have bitterly grieved him, shot at him and hated him". Obviously, while the passage is alluding to Christ in many respects, this does not necessarily mean that there cannot be a dual, complimentary meaning. For instance, despite this onslaught, Joseph's "bow remained in strength". This account is similar to Jesus' promise that He will build his Church on the "rock", promising that the gates of Hell would never prevail against him. Likewise, the passage in Matthew also has a context of battle - not simply against the Gospel but against a person, against Jesus and then against his Vicar on earth (more on this later). Furthermore, "arms" are typically instruments of both offense and defense (Cf. Exodus 17:11). This can be viewed through Peter's keys and his capacity to loosen and bind. Both of these instruments are offensive and defensive in scope, allowing him to define an article of faith or defend it against error.
The second similarity between the Genesis and Matthean passages, therefore, is the context of conflict and battle.
But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; (from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel) (Genesis 49:24)
The bible consistently refers to God as "rock" (Cf. 2 Samuel 22:47, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 78:35, Isaiah 26:4, Habakkuk1:12). In the Genesis verse cited above, God is also referred to as a rock, namely, the stone of Israel. This stone, the verse explains, "makes strong" the arms of Joseph so that the effective qualities of this rock are conferred on Joseph, apart from his other brethren. In the Christian economy of the incarnation, therefore, Joseph becomes the physical and personal manifestation of God's power and foundation.
In the Old Testament as well as in the New, God is frequently referred to as Rock (Cf. Psalm 80:1, Isaiah 40:11, John 10:11, Hebrew 13:20 1 Peter 5:4). God would also remind the Jews about the conferral of this imagery on Abraham:
Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness, You who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were hewn, And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father.(Isaiah 51:1-2)
The attribution of this imagery is therefore soundly biblical, and there should therefore be no great surprise to see this same imagery applied to the the Petrine text in Matthew:
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.(Matthew 16:18)
The imagery presented previously with Joseph under the Old Covenant finds its synthesis in the New Covenant with Peter - the earthly rock of the New Israel, the Church.
We also learn of characters in both the Old and New Testaments which also tend the flock as Shepherds:
I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken. (Ezekiel 34:23-24)
Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (Acts 20:28)
But just as many share in Christ's mission as Shepherd so to are particular individuals singled out for a special mission:
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep." (John 15:21-17)
But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob; [from thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel] (Genesis 49:24)
Once again, we see the attribution of God shepherding His people being applied to Joseph, not unlike Abraham is attributed the imagery "rock" but not being the ultimate "rock."
The third parallel existing between the Genesis and Matthean/Johanine passages, therefore, is the role that Joseph and Peter play as both "shepherd and rock".
By the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you (Genesis 49:25)
Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven .whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven.(Matthew 16:17)
These passages stand in a marked congruity with one another. Apart from the other brothers, both Joseph and Peter are singled out as receiving divine assistance and the promise thereof for the future. Moreover, both men are given an exclusive blessing apart from the other brothers. A couple of verses later, this exclusive blessing is made more explicit:
The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph (Genesis 49:25)
Later, in Israel's history, the Prophet Ezekiel relates how Joseph did indeed receive preferential treatment:
Thus says the Lord GOD: "These are the borders by which you shall divide the land as an inheritance among the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph shall have two portions. You shall inherit it equally with one another; for I raised My hand in an oath to give it to your fathers, and this land shall fall to you as your inheritance. (Ezekiel 47:13)
The fourth correlation between Peter and Joseph, then, is the divine assistance and blessings that they have received.
The blessings of your father shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers. (Genesis 49:26)
There is a Catholic tradition which considers Peter the 'Prince of the Apostles' in view of his prominence and primacy over all of the other Apostles. The primacy of St. Peter over the other Apostles is very well established both in the pages of the New Testament along with the early church's witness to the issue. Although a discussion of this issue is outside of the scope of this piece, the New Testament is replete with evidence which shows that, indeed, Peter had great prominence and distinction among the other Apostles. In the Petrine passage from Matthew, it was Peter who was singled out among the other Apostles to ensure that Jesus' Church would not fall into error. Peter, apart from the others, was the only Apostle to get Jesus' identity right. Jesus, in turn, confirmed his special ministry in the Church in the presence of the other Apostles, and the conferrance of divine assistance:
....Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
Jesus also singles out Peter and his role to the exclusion of the other Apostles when Satan attacks the Church:
And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren. (Luke 22:32)
There are two things of significance here. The first is that Peter is doing the strengthening while the object of his "strengthening" are his brethren (the other Apostles). This indicates his separation from them insofar as the divine grace of a particular kind of strength is concerned. Secondly, notice that Our Lord only warns Peter that Satan has asked for him and has desired to sift him as wheat. The pronoun you in the discourse is clearly pointing only to Peter - apart from the other Apostles (until, of course, the last few words). Now, the question to ask in this revelation is this: why has Satan "asked" for Peter only? Why does Lucifer single out Peter to sift him as wheat? The answer is rather obvious: if Satan can defeat or overcome Peter, then he has won the war against Jesus Christ and His Church. This corroborates the Catholic interpretation of Matthew 16:17-19 where Jesus reveals that He will build His Church on Peter. Furthermore, in both Matthew and Luke, Jesus promises victory through Peter:
...and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it...
But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail...
As Our Lord says, "I will pray for you, (Peter), so that your faith, representing the faith of the Church, will not fail and will be used to support the other Apostles' faith."
The fifth connection between Peter and Joseph is their exclusivity and princely roles they play in the kingdom of God on earth.
Here is a selection from a dialogue I had with a Seventh Day Adventist on papal primacy:
The significance of the 'keys' expresses the meaning of authority and power especially in Isaiah 22:15-25 (Cf. Matthew 23:13, Revelation 1:18, Revelation 3:7, Revelation 20:1). The prophet draws a comparison between Shebna and Eliakim. Shebna shall be deprived of his office, and Eliakim shall succeed him. The office is symbolized by the possession of the keys which empower its holders to 'open' and 'shut': 'Then I will set the key of the house of David on his shoulder, when he opens no one will shut, when he shuts no one will open' (Isaiah 22:22). The keeper of the keys was one of the most important roles a household servant could hold (Cf. Mark 13:32-34). In David's kingdom, 'the House of David,' was established in the 11th century B.C. The first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah was written in the 8th century B.C. Hence, the keys had been passed down in succession for approximately three centuries. The descendants of the house of Judah include King David (Cf. Genesis 49:10, Micah 5:2), and his lineage which includes King Hezekiah (Cf. Isaiah 22) and the Messiah (Cf. Matthew 1). In Isaiah 22, Shebna acted as overseer for King Hezekiah as Joseph did for the Pharaoh over his house in Genesis 41.
Another revealing fact is that the Prophet records that Shebna shall be 'hurled out' and 'cast into a vast country to die', and he shall be 'deposed from his office' and be 'pulled down from his station' (Cf. Isaiah 22:17-19). If Eliakim was the prototype of Peter, then there should be a parallel of Shebna in the New Testament as well. In fact, there is a remarkable parallel between Shebna and the Scribes and the Pharisees, and in particular, the High Priest of the Sanhedrin: 'The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore, all that they tell you, do and observe. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men.'(Matthew 23:2-3,13).
Far from encouraging rebellion, however, Jesus commands his followers to heed the 'seat of Moses' and implicitly recognizes the authority that they have by using Old Testament rabbinical language such as the power to 'shut off.' Until the New Covenant has been established by Christ's death on the cross, therefore, the power rested with them. After the redemption, however, the High Priest's authority (Shebna) is passed on to Peter (Eliakim) who receives the power of the keys from Jesus (King Hezekiah). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is the master of the house, and has the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. In the Old Testament, God lays the keys to the House of David on the Eliakim's shoulders with authority and stewardship over that house. In the New Testament, Jesus does the same with Peter: He entrusts him with the authority to administer the House of God, the Church, until He returns. This is not to say that the keys now belong to Peter. Christ still holds the keys as a Master holds the ultimate authority over his House, but holding authority certainly does not preclude the Master from delegating it as He wishes. Hence, Peter's successors would shoulder the responsibilities and authority throughout the duration of the Church until Jesus returns just as Ahishar, the first recorded palace administrator or prime minister (Cf. 1 Kings 4:6) who is given the identical title as Eliakim, had successors flowing through the history of Israel.
(Source: Jesus, Peter, and the Keys: A Scriptural Handbook on the Papacy, Queenship Publishing Inc.)
Joseph also had "prime ministerial" responsibilities. Here are some comparable passages from his prime ministerial responsiblities in the kingdom of Egypt:
And Joseph was brought down to Egypt; and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him of the hands of the Ishmeelites, which had brought him down thither. And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the LORD was with him, and that the LORD made all that he did to prosper in his hand. And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served him: and he made him overseer over his house , and all that he had he put into his hand. (Genesis 39:1-4)
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Forasmuch as God hath shewed thee all this, there is none so discreet and wise as thou art: Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck; And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee: and he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-44)
The Old Testament provides us with a glimpse of the princely authority that Peter would later exercise. While obviously not fully developed (but nonetheless substantially present), we can begin to see that God had already established the kind of leadership Jesus would later entrust to His Church - even as far back as this Genesis account!
The sixth similarity between Peter and Joseph is their role as first minister in God's kingdom.
The Catholic Legate
April 19, 2002