I’ve been reading James Kugel’s “How to Read the Bible.” In it he goes through tanach and provides a basic introduction to biblical criticism, which he contrasts with the traditional interpretations. He’s a good writer, and manages to make what is an inherently dry subject, if not exactly exciting, at least very readable. I highly recommend it.
One thing that I found interesting is that, in addition to the traditional Jewish interpretations of the text, the midrashm and meforshim, here and there he also cites Christian exegesis, particularly how episodes in the Old Testament were interpreted to be foreshadowing Jesus.
Akeidas Yitzchak is seen as foreshadowing the sacrifice of Jesus. Yitcahk is Avraham’s son, just as Jesus is God’s son. Yitzchak carries the wood for the korban on his back, just as Jesus carried his wooden cross. The ram was a substitute sacrifice for Yitzchak, just as Jesus was a substitute sacrifice for humanity. The ram’s head was caught in thorns, just as a crown of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head. All these similarities can’t be coincidences, right?!
When the Bnei Yisroel were fighting with Amalek, Moshe stood on a hill and lifted his arms. While his arms were outstretched, they were winning, but when his arms dropped, they began to lose. To keep his arms in the air, he had Aron and Chur help hold them up. This episode is explained by the midrashim as Moshe reminding the people to think of Hashem, which in turn made them victorious. But really, did they need the visual reminder? The Christian interpretation is better. Moshe wasn’t pointing to Heaven, he was making the sign of the cross with his outstretched arms. He even had a follower on each side, just like Jesus during the crucifixion. Moshe wasn’t reminding the Bnie Yisroel to think of God, but was invoking the power of Jesus’ sacrifice, which caused God to help them win.
It’s fascinating is how plausible the Christian interpretations are. As much or more than many midrashim I’ve heard. Yet I have no doubt that if I had told these interpretations to my rabbeim way back when, they would have been dismissed as, at best, some clever people picking out a few things that they could twist to fit their agenda. But midrashim, those are all the Truth!