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There is a branch of theological study devoted to archetypes, or types of Christ. Some of these are explicitly defined in the New Testament, as when Jesus speaks of the manna from heaven and calls Himself the Bread of Life and the Bread the came down from heaven.

My question is whether the nation of Israel itself is considered an archetype, and, if so, what makes it so.

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Christopher Wright authors the book Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament to help modern day Christians make a correlation between Old Testament Israel and the Messiah-ship of Jesus Christ. I think this is the best resource for the answer to this question and the full text can be found here

Wright begins his book by making the assertion that the Jesus of the New Testament embodies the covenants and promises set forth in the Old Testament by God to Israel (Wright 1992, 62). Wright claims that it “is the contention of [the] whole book that we must clearly face up to the distinctive claims of the Hebrew scriptures if we are to get our understanding of Christ’s uniqueness straight also” (Wright, 35). In the Old Testament, the people of Israel are the chosen people of God. It is through these people that God chooses to bring salvation to the world (Wright, 49). Wright claims that Jesus “had, in a sense, taken on the identity of Israel” in the New Testament (Wright, 182). Jesus came into a historically centered Jewish culture and claimed the identity of the saving grace of the world.

Wright concludes his text by making the claim that “Jesus did not come to teach people new ideas about some new moral philosophy which he called the Kingdom of God,” but rather became the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises entirely (Wright, 251). Wright accurately shows how Jesus not only fulfills the promises of the Old Testament but also adapts it’s philosophies for himself (Wright, 197). Jesus, then, uses the Old Testament to find his own identity, his purpose and his values.

As Wright begins to develop his book, his fundamental claim is the Jewish nature of Jesus himself. Therefore, Wright begins Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament by exploring the Jewish culture that surrounded the time of Jesus. His goal is simply to enhance the personhood of Jesus through a deep knowledge of the Old Testament, its history, and its theological values. Just as through Israel God created a universal blessing, through Jesus God has created a universal means of salvation (Wright, 36). Through both Israel and Jesus there occur elements of election, redemption, covenant and inheritance (Wright, 40). Wright affirms this biblically through multiple passages, the foremost being Galatians 3:29 – “If you belong to the Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” This verse and the assertions of Wright all center around Jesus being the doorway into which modern-day Christians are accepted into the covenant of eternal life and the blessings set forth in ancient times by God to Israel.

Therefore, as Wright presses on into the book the reader travels with him into the promises that God makes in the Old Testament to Israel and the other nations. It is here that Wright explains in detail the inter-connectedness of Jesus and Israel and how the people in the time that the gospels were written would have implicitly understood the significance (Wright, 60). As the reader explores all of the ancient covenants that God created with Israel, Wright explains how each one of them was more than just a specific promise to a specific people. “So once again, we find the same combination: the universal, missiological dimension of the covenant, in its ultimate scope, for the blessing of all nations through Israel” (Wright, 92-93). This sets up the historical context for the New Covenant which occurred with Jesus (Israel) and through Him salvation can be expanded to other nations (Gentiles).

Wright’s goal of enhancing the person of Jesus through the Old Testament is both clear and powerful as moves forward in the text. Wright then explains how the character of Jesus was formed by the Old Testament’s use of the phrase “Son of God” (Wright, 106-107). Many times in the Old Testament, the people of Israel are referred to as the “sons of God” and are therefore related to Jesus within the text (Wright, 122-123). In Exodus 4:22 God declares Israel to be His firstborn son; therefore, the relationship between Israel and Jesus is very explicit – Israel was the firstborn son of God and Jesus also carried this title. Because of this, the mission of Israel must also be the mission of Jesus. The redemptive abilities of Israel then become the redemptive abilities of Jesus. Through Israel God chose to bless the world and through Jesus He chose to save it.

Wright also asserts, then, that Jesus gained his mission from the Old Testament as well. Wright claims that “Israel was the servant of God, chosen and upheld by [God], with the purpose of being a light to the nations” (Wright, 162). As Jesus became the embodiment of Israel he also took on the global mission and yoke of Israel. This is the weakest part of Wright’s argument for the purpose of Jesus through the Old Testament. While he provides some Biblical examples in the chapter about Jesus’ purpose, this is the area of his book where he treats the Bible figuratively. Wright produces a firm argument for his case but loses ground in his over-employed metaphor of Jesus acting as every aspect of Israel.

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+1 for the comprehensive review. Drinking at the hose! –  Footwasher Dec 20 '12 at 15:33
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No, I do not believe so. A general theme in the Tanakh ("Old Testament") is the rebellion and faithlessness of the Israelites. This couldn't possibly be typical of the Messiah.

However, the Messiah is indeed "Israel." Elsewhere in the Tanakh, the Messiah is referred to by the name "David," his ancestor (cp. Jer. 30:9; Eze. 37:24-25; Hos. 3:5). In the same manner, he is referred to as "Israel" (Isa. 49:3 cp. Matt. 12:17-21), the name of another one of his ancestors.

The "Israel" in Isa. 49:3 is given the task of "bringing back Jacob to Him" (Isa. 49:5) and "to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel" (Isa. 49:6). Logically, the nation of Israel can neither bring itself back, nor raise itself, nor restore itself. Therefore, the first "Israel" mentioned in Isa. 49:3 must be the Messiah, who is named "Israel," as Matthew rightfully concludes.

Now, since the Messiah is "Israel," and we are the body of the Messiah (1 Cor. 12:27), then we are also "Israel." Since our union with and identity in the Messiah is spiritual (1 Cor. 6:17), the Church (the body of the Messiah) is Israel according to the spirit, elsewhere referred to as "the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16).

For this reason, Paul identifies unbelieving Israel as "Israel according to the flesh" (τὸν Ἰσραὴλ κατὰ σάρκα; 1 Cor. 10:18). Elsewhere, in his epistle to the Romans, he wrote (Rom. 9:6), "For not all these who are of Israel are Israel." The meaning is that not all people physically descended from the patriarch Israel (Jacob) are Israel, that is, the Israel of God. Paul further clarifies (Rom. 9:8), "Those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God, but the children of the promise are accounted for the seed."

In summary, the Messiah is "Israel," and his body is also Israel. Therefore, the Church is the Israel of God, i.e. Israel according to the spirit.

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+1 for ya! I enjoyed reading your answer –  Footwasher Dec 20 '12 at 15:32
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I found a quite incredible article on the parallels of Jesus and the nation of Israel. I remember hearing a few of these before, but not anything close to what he has. To summarize...

  • Both Jesus and Israel came of miraculous births in the land of Israel.
  • Both flee to Egypt to avoid danger (Herod and starvation)
  • Both are brought back from Egypt.
  • Both come out of the wilderness and go through the water, Jesus through the water of Baptism, and Israel through the water of the Red Sea.
  • Both spend time in the wilderness after the waters, Jesus for 40 days, Israel for 40 years.
  • Where Israel fails to keep the Law, Jesus references the Law to defeat the temptation of Satan.
  • Israel has 12 tribes and Jesus has 12 disciples
  • Both Jesus and Israel suffer at the hands of Gentiles, Jesus with Rome, the Jews with the Nazis, in particular.
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Very good answer! Maybe the baptism Of Jesus should go before the temptation in the wilderness, just as Israel went through the Red Sea? –  Footwasher Dec 20 '12 at 15:30
    
@Footwasher Good point. –  Narnian Dec 20 '12 at 15:33
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