Premiering in 1970, the music of Andrew Lloyd Weber merged with the biblical story of an Old Testament patriarch to form one of the more popular musicals of all-time—Joseph and the Technicolor Dream Coat. I remember seeing this musical during my elementary years at the Catholic school I attended. If it were not for this musical I may not have come to appreciate the significance of the patriarch Joseph. Usually he is overshadowed by other Old Testament figures like Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. What I hope to achieve today is to show that Joseph is every-bit as important as those other figures and has much more in common with Jesus than I used to think.
Before I get into the specific ways that Joseph is a prefiguration of Jesus I will rely on the catechism to remind us about the importance of reading the Bible as a whole and through a typological lens. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 130, “Typology indicates the dynamic movement toward the fulfillment of the divine plan when “God [will] be everything to everyone.” Nor do the calling of the patriarchs and the exodus from Egypt, for example, lose their own value in God’s plan, from the mere fact that they were intermediate stages.”
Because of the sheer amount of typological examples of Joseph as an Old Testament Christ-like figure I am going to be succinct in my commentary on the examples. I want to be sure to demonstrate the various passages in Genesis that foreshadow Jesus’ life in the Gospels.
- Beloved Son: Along Joseph had 10 older brothers he was the first born son of Jacob’s favored wife Rachel. Because of this, Jacob took up a penchant for Joseph and gifted him with an expansive coat that eventually drove his siblings to become jealous. Similarly, Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. God the Father states in Mark 1:11, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
- Sojourn to Egypt: Both Joseph and Jesus resided in Egypt caused by a traumatic event. The former ended up in Egypt after being sold into slavery and the latter fled to that country with the Holy Family to avoid King Herod’s massacre of the infants.
- Rejected by Own People: Joseph’s brothers ridiculed him about his dreams and threw him a pit to die after stealing his coat given to him by Jacob. Likewise, in Mark 8:31 predicted the same type of rejection would happen to Jesus.
- Faced Temptation: Genesis 39:1-12 details the temptation to commit adultery with his master’s wife. The Gospels portray the temptation of Jesus by the devil during his 40 days in the wilderness. Both men refused to be weathered by such enticement.
- Stripped: Joseph was stripped of his robe in Genesis 37:23 and Jesus was stripped of his garments in Matthew 27:28.
- Plot to Kill: The brothers of Joseph planned to kill him in Genesis 37:18 and Jesus’ adversaries in the scribes and Pharisees schemed his demise as well
- Traded for Silver: According to Genesis 37:28 the Midianite traders sold Joseph into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. The trade value to finalize the treacherous transaction for Jesus’ death was steeper at 30 pieces of silver (see Matthew 26:14-15).
Joseph is a commonly overlooked Old Testament figure when it comes to hinting toward Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God as a masterful teacher knew that humanity learns best in stages and progressively taught truth through Scripture and Tradition. The more and more example of typology we notice between the Old and New Testament greater intimacy will flourish better the two halves of the Bible. I leave you with the words of St. Jerome to reflect on, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”