Biblical Theology

Jesus: the Passover Lamb, No Bones About It

Jim Hamilton’s What Is Biblical Theology? has been eye-opening. It was an easy read with little technical lingo, yet the overall connections he shows have far-reaching meaning to them. He shows how prophecy is fulfilled in patterns, not just by “prophetic utterances.” Hamilton examines key symbols, patterns and themes that are found throughout Scripture. One of the texts I’ll focus on is John 19:36, These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, ‘Not one of his bones will be broken.’
Many of us have probably heard that the Passover Lamb pointed to Jesus, and that He represents what the Passover Lamb does. Yet John 19:36 is a fulfillment of Exodus 12:46 where Moses tells the people, It [the lamb] shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones.”
That doesn’t sound like a “prediction” of an unbroken Messiah to me. I don’t imagine anyone was thinking, “Oh, that means the Messiah will have no broken bones!” How then is there a fulfillment of what isn’t prophecy?

Let’s diverge for a second. In Psalm 18 David tells how the Lord rescued him from the hands of his enemies, including Saul. He professes his love for the Lord (18:1-3), then uses metaphors to describe his difficulties (18:4-5) and how he called upon Yahweh [the Lord] (18:6). The Lord answers his prayers and David tells us how using Mt. Sinai imagery (Ps. 18:7-15, cf. Ex. 19:16-20). He goes on to liken the Lord’s saving hand to the parting of the Red Sea (Ps 18:15; cf. Ex. 15:8), to his being dawn out of the waters as Moses was (Ps. 18:16; cf. Ex. 2:10), and to the Lord taking him into a broad place like the Land of Promise (Ps. 18:19). 
David uses the events of the exodus and the conquest of the land as a form of interpretive schema to show how the Lord saved him from his distress. 

What does this have to do with Jesus? David used the exodus events as a template to shows God’s salvation. The exodus was the paradigm of God’s saving hand to the Hebrews. In fact, Isaiah speaks of a second exodus, and Jesus would actually be the one to come and usher it in (Lk 9:31; NKJV says His decease; ESV says his departure). The exodus was the archetype, the template, the motif, the paradigm to be used, and David’s deliverance is another “installment in the typological pattern of the exodus” (p. 85).

John doesn’t say that Exodus 12:46 predicts that the Messiah will not have any broken bones. He makes the claim that Jesus equals the typological fulfillment of the Passover lamb. “The death of Jesus fulfills the death of the lamb” (p. 85) to wipe away the sins of not just Israel, but the whole world.


  1. Hey Spencer, great post. It’s interesting how John sees it ‘fitting’ that what’s true of the lesser sacrifice (the lamb) would be fulfilled and exceeded in the final sacrifice (Christ)! I’ve been very interested with typological fulfillment lately, for explaining ‘fulfillments’ that some interpreters thinks are arbitrary and illegitimate. The ways Hamilton explains typology, “what God typically does”, was surprisingly simple!


  2. Yes, I agree! The way he explained it didn’t make it seem weird or ‘arbitrary,’ but completely legitimate. Plus, Richard Tamburro introduced me to prophecy being more of an installment process in one of my previous classes. I’m reading “Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period” and it talks about that idea too. Only, Hamilton makes it veryy simple, and that I like,

    Growing up, I heard certain teachers talk about typology and it sounded good. But as I got older I wasn’t sure of the legitimacy of some of it. I enjoyed Hamilton’s approach because it helps to determine the how’s and why’s of what is legitimate.


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