Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 19, 2017.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church number 128 says, “The Church, as early as apostolic times, and then constantly in her Tradition, has illuminated the unity of the divine plan in the two Testaments through typology, which discerns in God’s works of the Old Covenant prefigurations of what he accomplished in the fullness of time in the person of his incarnate Son.” The New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament prepares the way for the New Testament. This week’s installment of the Why Catholics Must Have Bible A.D.D. series features a comparison of Joshua and Jesus.
What’s in a Name
According to St. John Chrysostom in his 27th homily on Hebrews, “The name of Joshua [Jesus], was a type. For this reason then, and because of the very name, the creation reverenced him. What then! Was no other person called Jesus? [Yes]; but this man was on this account so called in type; for he used to be called Hoshea. Therefore the name was changed: for it was a prediction and a prophecy. He brought in the people into the promised land, as Jesus [does] into heaven; not the Law; since neither did Moses [bring them in], but remained without. The Law has not power to bring in, but grace”. In fact the Hebrew form of the name Joshua is Yehoshua and is translated as “God saves”—the same meaning as the name of Jesus!
Leading to Promised Land
When I looked up the Old Testament reference to Number 13:16 that St. John is referring to I found something interesting. In the delineation of the spies to be selected to scout the Land of Canaan, the original name of Joshua was Hoshea. Number 13: 16 states, “These are the names of the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land; but Moses called Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua.” Without the Catholic understanding of seeing the Old Testament prefiguring and preparing for the New Testament, I would totally miss this minor and seemingly vapid sentence.
Joshua’s name is changed to show that he is elected to eventually do something the greater than Moses—lead the Israelites into the Promised Land! Along with leading the Israelites to the land of milk and honey, Joshua is another example of God preparing us for the coming of Jesus. Jesus’ leads humanity toward the Promised Land of Heaven with his victory over death.
Saint Cardinal John Henry Newman points out how Joshua is a type of Jesus in his Sermon 12: Joshua a Type of Christ and His Followers. Like Joshua saving the harlot Rahab through mercy, Jesus too saves sinners that have faith in him and ask for forgiveness (Sermon 12 no. 2).
Significance of The Twelve
Twelve is a significant number throughout the Bible— 12 tribes of Israel and 12 Apostles chosen as the first priests by Jesus. In the fourth chapter of the book of Joshua, hearing the word of God, Joshua urges 12 priests to take up a memorial stone from the Jordan River as a memorial of the covenant with God. Saint Gregory of Nyssa writes,
The people of the Hebrews, as we learn, after many sufferings, and after accomplishing their weary course in the desert, did not enter the land of promise until it had first been brought, with Joshua for its guide and the pilot of its life, to the passage of the Jordan. But it is clear that Joshua also, who set up the twelve stones in the stream , was anticipating the coming of the twelve disciples, the ministers of Baptism (On the Baptism of Jesus Christ).
Warriors Against Evil
Along with leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, Joshua led the charge toward conquering the Canaanites people. Joshua was a warrior! Likewise, Jesus battled evil too! Matthew 4 features a spiritual donnybrook with Satan. Jesus conquered sin and death just like Joshua conquered anything the stood in the way for the Israelites homecoming!
Joshua is one of my favorite Old Testament figures that typologically foreshadow Jesus Christ. Once again God in a surprising turn of events rises up an individual to receive the baton of holiness from arguably the greatest Old Testament prophet ever—Moses! Another thing I learned in my research of Joshua as a type of Christ is the name-change in Numbers 13:16. I am grateful for the wealth of knowledge that I have gleaned from the saints and the catechism on the connections between Joshua and Jesus.
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