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Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

Section I. The Voice in the Desert

Is. 40:1–11

1. CONNECTION OF THE PROPHECY WITH THE PROPHETIC SERIES OF ISAIAS.—The prophecy belongs to the second part of Isaias’ book, which begins with c. 40 and ends with c. 66. It may be called “the Book of Consolation,” since the very opening words give us the key-note of the whole second part. It consists of three divisions, each of which embraces nine cantos. The general subject of the single divisions is indicated in 40:2, according to which chapters 40–48 evolve the idea, “her evil is come to an end;” chapters 49–57 inculcate the thought, “her iniquity is forgiven;” chapters 58–66, finally, describe how “she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.” The style of the whole second part is even and majestic, except in 53 and 56:9–57, where the sadness and the anger which the prophet represents affect his style and conform it to his subject-matter.

The present prophecy belongs to the first of the three divisions, forming part of its Introduction; for the whole Introduction to the first division extends throughout the 40th chapter. A careful reading shows that the Introduction consists of two parts, one of which we may call the general introduction, contained in vv. 1–11; the other may be named the special introduction, extending from vv. 12–31. It is clear from this that the present prophecy coincdies with the general introduction.

2. THE MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—The liberty promised in the prophet’s prediction is neither solely temporal nor solely spiritual. The solely Messianic reference of the prophecy is defended by Ephrem, Jerome, Cyril, Eusebius, Thomas, Osorio, Foreiro, Pinto, Sasbout, Lapide, Menochius, Gordon, Maldonatus. Tirinus also denies that the prediction in its literal sense refers to the liberation of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity; still he grants that it alludes to this fact. Mariana, Calmet, Neteler, Rohling, Trochon, and Knabenbauer have thought it right to differ with the former authors; for they refer the literal sense of Is. 40:1–11 to the liberation of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity, while they apply it in its typical sense to the Messianic salvation and to St. John the Baptist.

It is clear from the preceding and the subsequent chapters that the 40th chapter must literally refer to the Jewish liberation from the Babylonian captivity. For such an announcement is naturally expected after chapter 39, and in the subsequent chapters the same event is literally described as coming to pass through the instrumentality of Cyrus. At the same time it cannot be denied that the prediction has also a Messianic application: a. This is plain from the greatness of the promises in verse 5, “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.” b. The same truth appears from the New Testament, in which the prediction of Isaias is applied to John the Baptist: “For this is he that was spoken of by Isaias the prophet, saying: A voice of one crying in the desert; prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Matt. 3:3). Similar testimonies are found in Mark 1:3, 4; Luke 3:4; John 1:23. c. We have seen that in its literal sense the prophecy refers to the Jewish deliverance from the Babylonian captivity. Now this event is commonly represented in Sacred Scripture as a type of Messianic salvation (cf. Os. 2:15; Mich. 2:12, 13; Jer. 31:21 f.; Ezech. 36:9; 37:11 ff.). Consequently, the prediction is Messianic from the very nature of its object. d. We might add to these arguments the weight of extrinsic authority, but the names of the writers who regard the passage as Messianic, either in its literal or in its typical sense, have been given above.

e. Rabbinic tradition too regards the prophetic passage as Messianic. The Midrash on Gen. 50:21, sect. 100, has it: “If the word of Joseph had such a soothing effect upon the hearts of the tribes, how much greater will be the effect when the Holy One, blessed be he, will come to comfort Jerusalem, as it is said: Be comforted, be comforted, my people.…” (Is. 40:1). The Midrash on Leviticus 41 (1:1, sect. 1) has a Messianic application of Is. 40:5: “Rabbi Phinehas spoke, in the name of Rabbi Hoshaya, this parable: A king showed himself to the son of his house in his true likeness; for in this world the Shechinah appears to individuals, but in the future the glory of the Lord will appear, as it is said: And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.…” Yalkut on Ex. 32:6 applies Is. 40:10 in a Messianic sense: “And on account of the sufferings which Israel suffered will the Holy One, blessed be he, give them a double reward in the days of the Messias, for it is said: Behold, the Lord God will come.…”

3. THE TROPOLOGICAL SENSE of the passage is so well known and so frequently used that we need not delay over its explanation (cf. Lap., Cyril, Gordon, Sanchez, etc.).

Is. 40:1–11

Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven, she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.

The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh together shall see that the mouth of the Lord hath spoken.

The voice of one saying: Cry. And I said: What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered and the flower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass: the grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, but the word of our Lord endureth for ever.

Get thee up upon a high mountain, thou that bringest good tidings to Sion, lift up thy voice with strength, thou that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem; lift it up, fear not. Say to the cities of Juda: Behold your God.

Behold, the Lord God shall come with strength, and his arm shall rule; behold, his reward is with him, and his work is before him. He shall feed his flock like a shepherd, he shall gather together the lambs with his arm, and shall take them up in his bosom, and he himself shall carry them that are with young.

The Jews could suspect the Messianic character of this prophecy, because they seem to have known the typical character of their return from Babylon. The general description of the Messianic preparation is more minutely described in the prophecy of Malachias.

Section II. Elias the Prophet

Mal. 4:5, 6.

1. CONNECTION OF THE PROPHECY WITH ITS CONTEXT. The people complain that it is vain to serve God, that he makes no distinction between the evil and the good. The prophet replies that the day is coming when God will own those that are his and silence the murmurers (3:13–18). The workers of wickedness will be punished, and the just will triumph over their fall (4:1–3). The prophecy concludes with an exhortation to obey the requirements of the Mosaic law, and with a promise of a coming of Elias the prophet to move the people to repentance for the day of the Lord, and thus to avert or mitigate the curse that otherwise must fall upon the earth (4:4–6).

2. MESSIANIC CHARACTER OF THE PROPHECY.—All grant that the promised Elias will prepare the day of the Lord. But it is disputed which day of the Lord is meant in the present passage. A number of authors maintain that the first advent of the Messias is called the day of the Lord in this prophecy. The reasons for this opinion may be reduced to the following: a. The angel foretells of John the Baptist: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias …” (Luke 1:17). Now John the Baptist went before the Lord at his first advent. Besides, when Jesus spoke to the assembled multitude about John the Baptist, he said expressly: “And if ye will receive it, he is Elias that is to come” (Matt. 11:14). Again, after his transfiguration Jesus testified before his disciples: “But I say to you that Elias is already come, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind” (Matt. 17:12). In all these instances, therefore, the arrival of Elias is identified with the coming of John the Baptist before the first advent of the Lord. b. Another reason for applying Mal. 4:4–6 to the first coming of the Lord rests on the identity of Elias, promised in this prophecy, with the angel who is announced in Mal. 3:1 as coming to prepare the way before the face of the Lord (Reinke, Keil, Pressel, Trochon). Now the latter is clearly predicted as coming before the first advent of the Messias. c. Finally, this opinion is not destitute of external authority. For though among the patristic writers St. Ephrem seems to be the only one to defend it, it has found a number of adherents among the later commentators—Barhebræus, Burgensis, Arias, Clarius (does not apply it to the first advent exclusively), Braun, Bergier, Jahn, Scholz, Ackermann, Dereser, Reinke, and a number of Protestant writers, such as Keil, Pressel, etc. d. The fifth verse is in Jewish tradition clearly applied to the forerunner of the Messias, between whose first and second advent no distinction is made in the doctrine of the Synagogue (cf. Pirqe de Rabbi Eliezer, c. 40; Debbarim Rab. 3; Midrash on Cant. 1:1; Talmud and Yalkut, a number of passages).

3. THE SECOND ADVENT.—Other commentators maintain that the prophecy refers only to the second advent of Christ, so that the forerunner promised in it will prepare the world for the Lord’s second coming. The reasons for this explanation of the passage may be reduced to the following:

a. The LXX. render Mal. 4:5: “Behold, I will send you Elias the Thesbite …” Now a forerunner who would come only in the spirit of Elias could not be called “the Thesbite;” hence the LXX. suppose that Elias will return in person. The same Jewish belief is expressed in Matt. 17:10: “Why then do the scribes say that Elias must come first?” And, far from contradicting this tradition, Jesus himself rather confirms it, saying: “Elias indeed shall come, and restore all things” (Matt. 17:11). The same incident is related in Mark 9:10 ff. Ecclus. 48:10 (cf. ibid. 1–9) testifies to the existence of the same tradition among the Jews, according to which Elias in person is “to appease the wrath of the Lord, to reconcile the heart of the father to the son, and to restore the tribes of Jacob.” It is equally evident that Elias in person did not do all this before the first advent of the Messias. Hence he must do so before the second coming of Christ.

b. Another reason for applying the prophecy to the second advent of the Messias is based on the words of the text itself. Elias the prophet is to come “before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” But the great and dreadful day of the Lord is the time of his second coming, as is clear from Is. 2:12; 13:6; 34:8; Lam. 1:12; 2:22; Joel 1:15; 2:1; Am. 5:18; Abd. 15; Soph. 1:7, 14; Zach. 14:1. According to Joel 2:31 this day is clearly placed after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

c. The third reason for applying the prophecy of Mal. 4:4–6 to the Messias’ second coming is taken from the difference between the precursor promised in this passage and the forerunner who is promised in 3:1 ff.; this latter is an angel, who is to prepare the way of the Lord, and whom the Lord will presently follow, coming to his temple and restoring the sanctity of worship and sacrifice; the former, on the contrary, is a prophet, Elias the Thesbite in person, who will bring about the reformation of the people, lest the Lord may on his coming strike the earth with anathema.

d. The patristic testimonies in favor of this explanation are most numerous: Tertullian, Hilary, Origen, Victorinus, Justin, Hippolytus, Ambrose, Augustine, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, John Damascene, Cyril, Theodoret, etc. (cf. Knabenb., in Prophet. Min. ii. p. 490). Among the commentators who adhere to this opinion may be named Ribera, Sanchez, Lapide, Sa, Knabenb., etc. Pusey endeavors to interpret the prophecy as applying to both advents of the Messias (Minor Prophets, ii. 499; New York, 1889). As to the testimony of theologians regarding the meaning of the prophecy, it is too clear to admit of explanation. Bellarmine calls the opinion that Enoch and Elias in person will return “most true,” and the opposite opinion he calls heretical or approaching heresy (Rom. Pont. iii. 6; de Controv., i. p. 719, Paris, 1608). Suarez maintains that the opinion concerning Elias’ coming in person is either of faith or is very nearly so (in iii. St. Thom. q. 59, disp. 55, sect. 2; Moguntiæ 1604, ii. p. 654). A long list of the writers and interpreters who have defended the explanation of Mal. 4:4–6 according to which Elias is to come in person, may be found in Natal. Alexander, Hist. Vet. Testam., in mundi quintam ætatem dissert. 6 (ed. Paris, 1730, ii. p. 185).

MAL. 4:5, 6

Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, the precepts and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elias the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with anathema.

Though the prophecy of Mal. 4:4–6 refers properly to the second coming of Christ, still the Jews admitted its Messianic character. At the same time, the Synagogue did not distinguish between the first and second coming of the Messias. Hence they expected, in general, the coming of Elias before that of the Messias. The disciples in Matt. 17:10 follow the scribes in this confusion of the two comings of the Messias. Jesus in his answer distinguishes between the two: a. Elias, indeed, shall come and restore all things before the second coming of Christ. b. But Elias is already come, not in person, but in type, before Christ’s first coming; and thus even the traditional expectation of the Jewish nation with regard to the preparation of the Messias’ arrival has been fully accomplished, so that they are without excuse.

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