Chapter-a-Day Genesis 22
”This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you.” Genesis 22:16-17a (NLT)
I confess that I am a Tolkien geek. I read or listen to the unabridged audio of The Lord of the Rings every year or so and have since college. I can’t speak Elvish, so I’m not that kind of Tolkien geek, but when Wendy throws out the occasional trivial question related to the story or the movie (e.g. “What was that haunted castle place in the movie that glowed and the orc army came out of it?”) I generally know the answer (e.g. “Minas Morgul”) and will usually offer some elucidation (e.g. “It means ‘City of the Moon’ and it was actually built by the good guys as a fortress meant to keep the bad guys inside the evil land of Moria, but as Sauron and his evil grew in power, Minas Morgul was captured and given by Sauron to the chief of the Nazgul [a.k.a. the Black Riders] who was actually once a human king from the north subverted by Sauron and the power of the “nine rings for mortal men doomed to die” as referenced in the One Ring inscription and he eventually became known as the “Witch King of Angmar.”) at which point Wendy rolls her eyes, laughs, and says “You’re such a geek.” I know. I’ve confessed this.
So it is that I find myself spending time on the road listening through a series of lectures by The Tolkien Professor, Corey Olsen which are freely available on iTunes. Olsen, an English Professor at Washington College, takes a scholarly route through Tolkien’s works and, as a Tolkien geek, I’m utterly fascinated. In a moment of synchronicity, I was listening just last week to one of Professor Olsen’s lectures on the nature of Evil in Tolkien’s writings and he brought up the subject of Typology and referenced the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac from today’s chapter. Tolkien generously used typology in his writings and stories of Middle Earth. Suddenly I was transported back to being a student in Biblical Hermeneutics class and the study of Typology.
In simple terms, Typology is the study of Old Testament references that foreshadow or echo New Testament events or realities. God is “the author of life,” and as the creative artist and author, He sprinkles the Great Story of history with foreshadowing. So in today’s story, Abraham sacrificing his “one and only Son” is a type of God sending His “one and only Son” to be the sacrifice for the sins of the world. “God providing the ram in the thicket” becomes a type of God providing the sacrifice for our sins through Jesus who becomes “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” As I’ve argued in the past, it’s not until you wade into the Old Testament that you gain a full picture of the depth of the whole story God is revealing.
I believe Professor Olsen would make a parallel argument that those who enjoy The Lord of the Rings do not have a full picture of the depth of the whole story Tolkien was telling without wading into the stories Tolkien penned in The Silmarillion and other works. It is no wonder that Tolkien’s works would use this kind of Typology. Tolkien was a professor of Medieval Literature at Oxford and the Christian study of Typology reached its height during the High Middle Ages.
Today, I’m laughing at myself and what a dweeb I can be. I’m also appreciative of a creative God who is the ultimate artist, author and story-teller. I love that all good stories are an echo of the Great Story (or as Tolkien would say, all tales are “leaves off the Great Tree of Tales”). I love when things tie together and tiny moments of unexpected synchronicity occur in life. I love being fascinated.