Joseph as a Type of Christ in Syriac Literature

Kept among the marvelous manuscript treasure of the British Library is a fifth-century Syriac manuscript containing details of the lectionary readings, or Old and New Testament passages for religious services. Prominently featured among the Old Testament readings prescribed for Easter are the account of the binding of Isaac and excerpts from the story of Joseph. The story of binding Isaac is clearly apposite to the crucifixion. What is not so clear perhaps is the appropriateness of the story of Joseph as an Easter reading. This is in part because Joseph is often viewed in modern times solely as an example of moral fortitude in the face of temptation. However, the Christological aspect of the Joseph story was also important for early Christians. In fact, in order to understand why the reading of the story of Joseph was appropriate for Easter, one must know that Joseph was seen in early Syriac Christianity first and foremost as a type of Christ. This article will show the extent of this typological connection in the early writings of the Syriac-speaking Christians and will also show how this typological connection affected one particular retelling of the Joseph narrative.

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