Bible Interpretation Class – Hiawatha Bible Chapel
Genre - Typology
Lesson 6 – March 25th 2017
Typology is considered (by conservative theologians) to be a sub-category of prophecy. I put it at the very end rather than right after Prophecy in case we did not have time to cover it.
type – A type is a God-intended analogy between an OT person, event, or institution and a corresponding person, event, or institution in the NT.
A key part of this definition is the “God-intended” part. Typology is not reading ideas into the OT that are not there (that tends to be allegory). A true type is intended by God to be an analogy between an OT thing and some NT thing. It is certainly likely that most (all?) OT authors would have had no idea that what he was writing about foreshadowed elements of NT salvation.
analogy (Webster) – An analogy is a resemblance in some particulars between things otherwise unlike.
As an analogy, there must be substantial correspondence between the OT type and its NT anti-type. For example, Christ’s death on the cross is substantially like the sacrifices of bulls and goats in the OT. But, of course, the analogy breaks down at some point. For a trivial point, Jesus did not have hooves like bulls and goats. On a more important note, however, the bulls and goats had to be sacrificed year after year, and they had to be made first for the sins of the priests and then for the sins of the people. In Christ’s case, the sacrifice had to be made only once, and not at all for our high priest (Christ) who was sinless, but only for the people. Types are like metaphors and similes in the sense that the correspondence is not complete; yet there is analogy.
Many confuse allegory with typology.
allegory (Webster) - the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence; or a symbolic representation of something.
Allegory is a forced (invented) attempt to find hidden meaning in something rather than a natural correspondence. Allegories reflect a meaning that the person has found behind something in the OT. These meanings are not confirmed by the NT, or really anywhere. The following table shows the comparison of types and allegories:
Allegory vs. Typology
by Roy Zuck
Represents forced and alien correspondence
Type and anti-type have natural correspondence
Historical reality considered trivial
Historical reality considered important
Looks behind the literal for hidden codes/meaning
Type foreshadows the future, looks ahead
Not confirmed by the NT
Mostly confirmed by the NT
Principles for Interpreting Types
If the NT states or implies that something is a type, then, of course, it is. If the NT does not, however, we should be cautious. If the NT does not confirm something as a type, it will be much more difficult (impossible?) to verify with certainty that it is a type
Extremes in Typological Interpretation
There have been Christian interpreters in the past who have seen types everywhere. We have seen some who see a type in just about everything in the OT. For example, some have taken every piece of wood in the tabernacle as a type of the cross of Jesus (or something else). It is possible that some of the pieces of wood in the tabernacle were put there so that it would not collapse. It is likely that they are not types of anything in the NT. When this type of excess is done, it turns from typology into allegory, i.e., finding hidden meaning behind all of these OT things. In these cases most of the time, there is no real way to verify that the interpreter is correct. It may just be a figment of their imagination. C. H. Mackintosh was one of the older writers who saw hidden meaning everywhere.
In order to combat some of the excesses in typology, Anglican Bishop Marsh, in the 19th century, suggested that nothing at all should be accepted as a type unless it was confirmed by the NT. This may be going a little too far in the other direction.
Examples of possible types that are not confirmed in the NT
It has been suggested that the life of Joseph was a type of Christ. This is not confirmed in the NT. Some have come up with at least 131 comparisons between Joseph and Christ, but some are as basic as they both went to Shechem! It is unlikely that all of these comparisons are God-intended. Yet many do believe that Joseph is a type of Christ, and he may be. I have looked at this, and I am not yet convinced that it is true.
Another possible type that is not confirmed in the NT, but has, in my opinion, more evidence for us to call it a type is the story of Abram setting out to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22. This passage parallels how God offers up His son so well, that it seems like a type to me. Consider the following table:
The Sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22)
Does not spare his son
Does not spare His Son
His “only/unique” son whom he loves
His only (only-begotten) beloved Son
Isaac to be sacrificed
Jesus was sacrificed
Isaac carries the wood
Jesus carried His cross
Isaac does not resist old father Abraham
Jesus dies willingly doing His Father’s will, as a lamb to the slaughter
Ram substitutes for Isaac
substitutes for the world
God will provide the lamb
God provided the Lamb of God
After the sacrifice, Isaac came back alive
After the cross, Jesus came back from the dead
A type is an analogy, but as mentioned above, analogies break down at some point. Not every detail of the type can be expected to have typical significance.
For example, the Tabernacle does have typological significance. It prefigures Christ’s as God dwelling among His people. Note the following verse, speaking of Jesus:
Revelation 21:3 (NASB) "3And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them,’ "
However, as we mentioned above, some take every piece of everything in the tabernacle to typify something, and they take every color in the tabernacle to typify something. As mentioned also above, some of the wood was for structural reasons, so it seems unlikely they would be a type. The NT does not confirm it, and it seems there is no evidence to suggest it like the evidence for Genesis 22. Also, some of the colors were probably not the correct color for what they supposedly typify. So again, not every detail of a type normally typifies something in the anti-type. Be on the lookout for the main things that are analogous, and don’t go overboard.
The nature of uncertainty in typological interpretation means one should not build any doctrines on it, but rather on clearer, more teaching sections of Scripture.