The Nazirite Forerunner and Birth From Barrenness: Typology or Narrative Analogy?

Robert Alter, in his The Art of Biblical Narrative, argued that “narrative analogy” is an instance in which “one part of the text provides oblique commentary on another” and is imperative in biblical interpretation. In his 2015 publication entitled Text and Subtext: On Exploring Biblical Narrative Design, Jonathan Grossman defined narrative analogy as follows: “An intentional literary device which creates a dialog between two texts, a figurative device that the author uses to express hidden meanings, and through which the reader is invited to reveal them.” Duane A. Garrett uses the term “narrative allusion” to describe the same in The Problem of the Old Testament. In a recent JETS article, Seth D. Postell utilized narrative analogy between the Noah Story (Gen 5–9) and Gen 1–3 as the hermeneutical basis for arguing that Gen 1–3 is an intentional “unified whole.” But questions remain regarding the validity of narrative analogy as opposed to typology, a feature of biblical revelation and the title of James M. Hamilton Jr.’s recent monograph. According to Grossman’s definition, narrative analogy and typology are similar in that both are intentional features of the text. On the other hand, he introduces “hidden meanings” into the interpretive process, which brings to mind fuller senses such as sensus plenior and sensus praegnans. Both of these fuller senses are reading strategies rather than features of the text and, thus, to some degree they lie outside of authorial intent. Postell’s appeal to narrative analogy—and Garrett’s to narrative allusion—are both responsible in their application, and Postell’s conclusions regarding a proper reading of Gen 1–3 are sound, but typology remains the best way to account for intentional repetition in the Scriptures.

I intend to demonstrate the superiority of typology by observing the interpretation of the barrenness motif in Genesis by the authors of Judges, Samuel, and the Gospel of Luke. I will argue for a “Nazirite forerunner” type inaugurated in Joseph, developed in Samson and Samuel, and fulfilled in John the Baptist. The Nazirite vow marks the forerunner to the promised Judahite king culminating in John, the forerunner to Jesus Christ. The function of this typology is identification—the one who follows the Nazirite born from barrenness is the promised king. This typology is intentional, prospective, and develops canonically according to inner-biblical interpretation apart from any “fuller senses” implied by Grossman’s definition of narrative analogy. I intend for this second part of my presentation to demonstrate my argument in the first and grant greater validity to typology as the best way to understand and describe repetition in the Scriptures.