Journal of Hebrew Scriptures - Volume 14 (2014) - Review

Ounsworth, Richard, Joshua Typology in the New Testament (WUNT, 2/328; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012). Pp. xii + 214. Paperback. €54,00. ISBN 978-3-16-151932-1.

This offering by Richard Ounsworth is a “moderately revised version of a doctoral thesis presented to the Theology Faculty of the University of Oxford in May 2010” (p. vii). In it, he explores the presence of a Joshua typology in the New Testament Letter to the Hebrews such as might be reasonably inferred by a plausible first audience. The fruit of such exploration is to present a more unified reading of the constituent sections of the letter.

Ounsworth's title suggests a wide-ranging exploration of this Old Testament character within the New Testament. This is not the case, however, for beyond brief interaction with Jude 5 his focus is upon the Letter to the Hebrews. His thesis is similarly modest in its claims. He does not seek to reveal authorially intended typology (particularly given the persistent questions concerning authorial identity for this letter), nor does he claim that the presence of such typology is a needed key to understand the message of Hebrews. Rather, his more modest aim is to investigate how the letter might be heard by a plausible first audience, to supplement the scholarly discussion of the epistle by proposing theological aspects that might be “more strongly emphasised,” and to shed light on “some particular exegetical difficulties” (p. 2). Throughout the work, he remains cognizant of his modest goals, emphasizing what a plausible first audience “might well” have heard or “would certainly be justified in inferring” (p. 73 passim).

Beyond stating his goals, Ounsworth's introductory chapter details several foundational understandings for his investigation. First is the ongoing necessity of historical-critical efforts to provide some historical objectivity in positing a plausible first audience. Second, he defines how he uses “typology” as a term not only signifying verbal or literary correspondence, but one that signifies isomorphic correspondence. This arises from the audience's perception of God's intention and the similar ways that his providential workings unfold within real history. Thus, these correspondences are ontological and recognized by the first audience as real, rather than literarily constructed. These ontological types appear on two axes: a horizontal axis sketched out in historical realities, and a vertical axis sketched out in heavenly realities. In Hebrews, these unfold in the entry of Israel to the promised land (chs. 3–4, 11) and the entry of Christ as high priest to the heavenly sanctuary (chs. 5–10). Ounsworth's work explores the interrelation of these two axes in the type of Joshua. Third, Ounsworth explores the presence of explicit Joshua typology in Jude 5 and later Christian literature such as the Epistle of Barnabas, and in Tertullian, Justin, and Origen, suggesting that these authors, like the proposed first audience, inferred Joshua typology in Hebrews.

In exploring the legitimacy of seeking audience-inferred rather than authorially-intended typology, Ounsworth in his second chapter surveys the scholarship in which such a move is grounded. The discussion provides a comprehensive background for Ounsworth's thesis and supports his conclusion that the typologies in Hebrew are between real historical events that attest to God's providential workings, are discerned in inscripturated form, and are themselves capable of forming further correspondences in the mind of the readers.

The core of Ounsworth's thesis is the exegetical work in chs. 3–5. There, he explores discerned Joshua typology—a typology first suggested by his observation while reading Heb 4:8 that the Greek name is identical for Jesus and Joshua (p. 1). In ch. 3 Ounsworth reads Heb 3:7–4:11 in view of this suggested Joshua typology. In dialogue with several scholars,[1] Ounsworth argues that Ps 95 in this chapter (reading from the LXX) refers to events involving Joshua in Num 14. It is used to show Joshua as superior in one aspect to Moses: by Joshua's faithfulness he leads the people into the land. Typologically, this figures Jesus leading his people into “rest.” Ounsworth rounds out the chapter's discussion by drawing together the many images of rest, Sabbath, temple, and heaven that are taken up in Hebrews, demonstrating that the typological relationships work both horizontally and vertically through earthly and heavenly realities. This chapter is carefully argued and works judiciously with the relevant scholars. It provides a convincing reading of the Hebrews chapters. His work in drawing together the various strands of rest, Sabbath, and temple from the Old Testament incorporates images which themselves are typologically related in the Old Testament. Thus, his argument toward what a plausible audience might have heard is viable.

In ch. 4 Ounsworth turns to Heb 11, noting it provides positive images of faith, as Heb 3–4 provides negative images. Key to his argument in this chapter is the absence of the wilderness generation and Joshua in the roll call of faith. Sketching the rhetorical shaping of the chapter as a triptych of faith, with the hinges being the crossing of the Red Sea and the Jordan, the absence of Joshua leading the people into the land is vitally significant. Ounsworth argues that it is as if the writer folds back the third panel of the triptych (land entry and possession of rest) so that it lies behind the second panel, concealed behind ongoing events (pp. 128–29). Thus, all generations after Joshua remain in the era of the wilderness generation. For the plausible first audience of the epistle, then, Ounsworth concludes that they would see themselves in that same era, on the threshold of the promised land, waiting for the new Joshua to take them in to rest.

Once again, Ounsworth is clear and careful in his argumentation, but less convincing that a first audience would comprehend such a complex rhetorical sketch. As this chapter ends, Ounsworth hints at how this rhetorical triptych will be addressed in the next chapter: the horizontal typology of Joshua leading the people into the land and the vertical typology of Christ's entry into heavenly rest will be drawn together and activated in the image of Christ as high priest found in the core of Hebrews.

Thus, his final exegetical chapter takes up the high priestly imagery, noting the concept of entry that links the Joshua typology and the high priestly typology. He chooses three passages in the letter's core (6:19–20; 9:1–14; 10:19) which speak of the high priest passing behind the temple's veil. Working with the rhetorical shaping of Heb 5–10 and the polyvalence of the typologies presented, he draws together ideas of visible holy place and invisible heavenly temple and salvation-historical ideas of the two covenants. The strength of Ounsworth's presentation in this chapter is its ability to provide a viable conceptual linkage between the high priestly imagery of the letter's core and the salvation-historical imagery of chs. 3–4 and 11.

A concluding chapter recaps the argument, showing Ounsworth's full grasp of his complex topic. He also wisely spends time on the thorny problem of supersessionism (defined as claiming “Christ replaces the Law and the Prophets as the locus of revelation,” p. 183). For the ontological typology he proposes, supersessionism is avoided as his typological approach “affirms the importance and legitimacy of [the outworkings of salvation history, and the cult]” (p. 183). A final section engages some theological prospects for his thesis in areas of Christian proclamation, eschatology, and Christology. A bibliography of primary and reference works, and indices for ancient sources, subjects, and authors concludes the work.

Ounsworth's work is both engaging and scholarly. He takes a complex topic and works with it clearly and judiciously, thoughtfully engaging the pertinent scholars. This contribution will be valuable reading to those who work in Hebrews studies, those engaging theological interpretation of Scripture and the hermeneutical issues thus raised, and those asking after the canonical presentation of Old Testament themes and people.

Lissa M. Wray Beal, Providence Theological Seminary

[1] In particular Otfried Hofius, Katapausis: die Vorstellung vom endzeitlichen Ruheort im Hebräerbrief (WUNT, 11; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1970). reference