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Part 2d: What are the Terms? Typology

Typology. “Adam is a type of him who was to come” (Rom 5:14). Typology is a hermeneutic technique as conveyed by Paul’s insightful understanding of a forward-looking analogy between biblical history and its culmination in Jesus Christ. Ty030120_0047_2.gifpology includes the terms type, typical, typify, typological, antitype, antitypical, prototype, and archetype. From Gk. τύπος (tupos) it suggests a copy or imprint made from a die, the negative space from a nail (Jn 20:25), or a structure from a model (Acts 7:44; Heb 8:5). By extension and as related to human conduct, tupos can be a pattern of behavior to avoid (1 Cor 10:6-11) or an example to follow (2 Thes 3:9; 1 Tim 4:12).  “The word ‘type’ means to strike, as with a seal in soft clay to leave a certain figure.”[i] The concept of typology is also expressed as the connection between a shadow and the body (Col 2:16-17; Heb 10:1). In both cases, the imprint or shadow is known to have been derived from some other object, which then draws attention to the original rather than to the copy. The antitype[ii] is the form (body) from which the pattern (shadow) was made.  Based on these concepts, typology identifies aspects of God’s work in redemptive history in the OT through such things as persons, situations, objects, laws, and institutions and relates them by analogy or correspondence to NT fulfillments. Typology is therefore grounded on the forward-looking message of the OT.[iii] Greidanus reviews the history of thought about the relationship of the two testaments and concludes, “Since the heart of the New Testament is Jesus Christ, this means that every message from the Old Testament must be seen in the light of Jesus Christ.”[iv] Besides explicit prophecies of a coming Messiah, there are subtle prefigurations of the Messiah and His work of redemption in OT figures, events, and laws. 030120_0047_1.png“A type is an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet future.”[v] The term “antitype” describes the fulfillment or realization of the type. “The antitype was not designed to give a hidden meaning to the type or to change the meaning originally intended by it. Rather it is the anticipated event, person, object, or institution which corresponded in some imitative fashion to its earlier type.”[vi] “In Col 2:17 the law is called the shadow of future things; contrasted with it is the eschatological presence of the body of Christ.”[vii] “Matthew sees in Jesus the fulfillment not just of specific texts but also of historical resonances of type to antitype.”[viii]

Biblical typology is an interpretive method that recognizes patterns and analogy in historical events that were designed and intended by God to foreshadow future, superlative, and escalating events regarding redemptive themes. For example, Paul stated that Adam was a type (Gk. τύπος) of Jesus Christ (Rom 5:14) in that Adam foreshadowed one to bring righteousness to many. In the book of Hebrews, the author asserts that the sacrificial system of Israel was a shadow (Gk. σκιἀ) of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross (Heb 10:1). We know God provided a type or pattern in the past because in this “present day” God brought and will bring the final events to pass through His Son, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 10:11; Eph 3:1-7; Col 1:24-27; Heb 1:1-4). The imprints of God’s work in redemptive history look forward to His culminating works through Jesus Christ. “The same God who revealed himself in Christ has also left his footprints in the history of the Old Testament covenant people…”[ix] Now that we see the reality, the previous types and shadows are now understandable. And in the case of ceremonial laws, Mosaic institutions, and cultic objects, their fulfillment has rendered them inoperative and useless for believers in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:15; Col 2:14-17; Heb 9:1-10).

While typology seems to overlap the concept of metaphor, in that one thing is analogous, similar, or correspondent to another, it advances instead a divinely premeditative act, purposely realized later in history by the outworking of the Lord’s will. Likewise, typology may seem like prophecy, however, the type could not be understood until the antitype was revealed (2 Cor 3:14-16). Typology dovetails with the concept of fulfillment. “The Mosaic or law-covenant looked ahead to the coming of the Savior, thus administering God’s covenants by means of promises, prophesies, ritual ordinances, types, and foreshadowings that anticipated the Savior and his redeeming work.”[x] “In the hermeneutical τύπος passages we find the prophetic structure and additional aspects of the historical structure, namely, historical correspondence and progression. There is an historical correspondence between certain OT and NT persons, events, and institutions. By divine design the OT realities are advance-presentations of corresponding (but absolutely ‘escalated’) NT realities, and there is a devoir-être relationship between the OT realities and the NT fulfillments.”[xi] “Typology is evident in the OT, both in prophetic texts and in historical and descriptive material.”[xii] Therefore, there will be correspondence and analogy between the two testaments. “Thus NT writers may, in places, explain phenomena in the new Messianic era in terms of their OT precursors.”[xiii]

During medieval times, typology was unfortunately linked with allegorization, an interpretive technique that often led to fanciful ideas that had little to do with the text. As a result, some Bible interpreters are understandably cautious about making typological connections beyond what is already and specifically exemplified in the NT. Certainly, care must be exercised in drawing a typological connection between an OT passage and its NT fulfillment.[xiv] “The dangers of reading things into the Old Testament text, however, indicated that typology must be carefully defined and even then handled with great care.”[xv] Fortunately, the NT gives multiple examples, enough to develop criteria for making valid, biblically based, Christocentric connections between type and antitype. This aspect of typology will be examined later.

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There are two important considerations attendant to typology: 1) the implications of a fulfilled type, especially a Mosaic institution, ceremony, or object, and 2) the seat of authority to bind or release a Christian from the obligation to observe, practice, or use fulfilled ceremonial laws, institutions, or objects. These are the vital concerns regarding the relationship of believers to the OT Sabbath.

OT persons, institutions, ceremonies, and objects are presented in the NT as fulfilled types of present realities. The author of Hebrews establishes the existence of an historical type, draws implications from the fulfillment of that type, and describes how that fulfillment affects life under the New Covenant.  Type Established. Melchizedek of Salem is shown to correspond to Jesus as a king, a priest, and one to whom is paid homage (Heb 7:1). His name means “righteous” and his city of origin means “peace” (Heb 7:2)—attributes assigned to our sinless and peace-making Savior. Even the absence of Melchizedek’s pedigree corresponds to the timeless existence and transcendence of Jesus’ life and ministry (Mic 5:2; Heb 7:3, 6). Furthermore, Melchizedek was a priest of God before Levi or Aaron were ever born, thus qualifying Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, to be a priest of God (Heb 7:14-16). Implications. The implications of this typological fulfillment focus on Melchizedek’s blessing of Abraham, that “beyond all contradiction, the lesser is blessed by the better” (Heb 7:6-7); that is, Jesus is superior to father Abraham. The next implication focuses on Abraham’s voluntary tithe to Melchizedek, that “Levi…paid tithes through Abraham” (Heb 7:9-10); that is, the institution of the Levitical priesthood is subservient to the priesthood of Jesus. Because the Levitical priesthood is inferior, weak, and unprofitable (Heb 7:18), and typologically looked forward to the enduring, effective, and unchangeable priesthood of Christ, the law(s) associated with the Levitical priesthood must also be changed (Heb 7:11-12). That is, a new covenant has been enacted for the people of God (Heb 8:7-13). Present Obligations. With the old covenant becoming obsolete and fading away, there is an annulling of the former commandment (Heb 7:18) which includes the gifts and sacrifices offered (Heb 7:27; 8:3), the altar (Heb 8:13) with its divine service (Heb 9:1), the tabernacle (Heb 8:2, 5; 9:1) and its furnishings (Heb 9:2), the Sabbath showbread (Heb 9:2) and tithes, and ceremonial laws affecting food and drink, washings, and fleshly ordinances (Heb 9:10). Jesus is not mortal and does not count on tithes to support Him. He ministers in heaven itself and does not need an earthly tabernacle, which was a shadow anyway (Heb 8:5). He is the mediator of the new covenant (Heb 9:15), so we pray directly to Jesus (Heb 10:19-23). Our fellowship with one another extends to heaven so an earthly building or focus of religious power no longer defines our worship (Heb 9:11). We gather together not on the Sabbath, but on the first day of the week, and share with one another and give praise to God, because these are now our spiritual offerings (Heb 13:5-16). The author of Hebrews gives no indication that any of the former laws concerning worship should be continued. The argument developed from Ps 109:4 (a priest forever) and Jer 31:31-24 (a new covenant) follows the earlier argument made from Ps 95:7-11 (Today, enter into rest), that there would not have been given a future promise unless the former institutions were inadequate.[xvi] Given the author’s earlier typological elucidation of the Canaan rest, the Sabbath rest, and the creation rest as prefigurations of Christ’s redemptive rest, there is no possibility that the land or the Sabbath have anything “real” to offer us beyond what Christ has already accomplished on our behalf. The real soul rest, the real everlasting priesthood, and the real new covenant have fully provided what the previous figures only dimly portrayed. His salvation rest is even better than God’s transient rest following creation.

“For example, we know that the laws concerning sacrifice were fulfilled in the final atoning sacrifice of Jesus. We need not, and ought not, sacrifice animals for the forgiveness of our sins. But the principles of old—acknowledging our sin, repenting, and trusting in God’s provision alone (Jesus)—remain the same.”[xvii] In the same way, we know that the laws concerning the Sabbath were fulfilled in Jesus’ sabbatic sleep of death. We need not, and ought not, stop work for 24 hours on the Sabbath to demonstrate our trust in God to provide for our salvation. But what remains are the principles of maintaining trust in Christ’s work of redemption and sanctification, refusing to trust in ourselves, and waiting in hope for God’s final redemption of us. “In the Old Covenant administration, the eighth day or the first day of a new week typified the redeeming re-creative power of Jesus’ death and resurrection.”[xviii] “The first day as the day of resurrection was not arbitrary but fulfilled typology and prophecy from the Scriptures.”[xix] This commendable statement from Schwertley summarizes the authority for Christians to assemble on Sunday rather than Saturday. First-day worship was not decided by the apostles ad hoc or by lot, but by the will of God who both typified and fulfilled it. The apostles merely acted upon their understanding of the implications of Jesus’ resurrection, His pre-ascension appearances, and the gift of the Holy Spirit, which made full that which was typified in first-day (eighth-day) ceremonies in the law. Christ-followers could not have come to exclusively assemble for worship on Sunday unless they eventually understood that the Sabbath was fulfilled in Christ and consequently rendered inoperative. “[Matthew’s] elementary education and subsequent synagogue attendance, even if abandoned at some point in his adult life, would have steeped him in the contents and interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures.”[xx]


[i] Buchanan, George Wesley. The Book of Hebrews: Its Challenge from Zion, p. 459.
[ii] Though in Hebrews 9:24 the temple is described as the inferior “antitype” of the heavenly temple model. While the NT may use the terms more loosely, we attempt to be more precise by assigning to “antitype” the figure to which the type was pointing.
[iii] McCartney and Clayton. Let the Reader Understand, p. 163.
[iv] Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 51.
[v] Campbell, Donald K. “Types” in The Theological Wordbook” p. 363.
[vi] Buchanan, George Wesley. The Book of Hebrews: Its Challenge from Zion, p. 12.
[vii] Schulz, Siegfried. “σκιά, ἀποσκίασμα, ἐπισκιάζω” in TDNT, Vol. 7, p. 398.
[viii] “Knowles, Michael P. “Scripture, History, Messiah: Scriptural Fulfillment and the Fullness of Time in Matthew’s Gospel” in Hearing the Old Testament in the New Testament, Stanley E Porter, ed., p. 78.
[ix] Von Rad, Gerhard. “Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament” in Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, p. 36.
[x] Bahnsen, Greg L. “The Theonomic Reformed Approach to Law and Gospel” in Five Views on Law and Gospel, p. 97.
[xi] Davidson, Richard M. Typology in Scripture, p. 397. Emphasis in the original. “Devoir-être” is taken to mean the inevitable, necessary outcome—a divinely destined certainty—rather than a vague future occurrence (p. 309-310).
[xii] McCartney and Clayton. Let The Reader Understand, p. 164.
[xiii] Klein, et. al. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, p. 183.
[xiv] Klein, et. al. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, p. 207. McCartney, Dan and Clayton, Charles. Let the Reader Understand, p.162-169.
[xv] Greidanus, Sydney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, p. 254.
[xvi] Johnson, Luke Timothy, Hebrews in TNTL, p. 186.
[xvii] Brickner, David and Robinson, Rich. Christ in the Feast of Pentecost, p. 215.
[xviii] Schwertley, Brian, “The Resurrection and Post-Resurrection Narratives” ch. 2. Online: http://www.reformedonline.com/uploads/1/5/0/3/15030584/resurrection_book.pdf , accessed 1/12/2017.
[xix] Schwertley, Brian, “The Resurrection and Post-Resurrection Narratives” ch. 2. Cited above. Schwertley knows that a type fulfilled is a type annulled or rendered inoperative. But look at this following statement: “Under the Old Covenant, God’s people looked to the seventh day, when Jehovah rested from His creative labor, as their day of rest and worship. But under the New Covenant, our Sabbath is on the first day to honor the Savior’s redemption and recreation of all things.” Even though the Sabbath is fulfilled by Jesus finishing the work of redemption and resting from that work on the Sabbath, Schwertley couldn’t help but refer to the first day as a Sabbath. He seems to forget that the Sabbath was fulfilled on Saturday just as much as the wave offering was fulfilled on Sunday. The grain that falls to the ground and dies will spring forth with renewed life (Jn 12:24). Both feasts anticipated the Lord, even if in differing aspects of His ministry, and both were fulfilled, rendering them useless since the antitype has arrived.
[xx] Blomberg, Craig L. “Matthew” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. Beale and Carson, p. 1. Even if this is a supposition, it is certainly plausible.


2 Comments

  1. Manfred says:

    Most excellent look at this topic – ignored by far too many. I do wonder why you identified “ceremonial laws” as being types that were fulfilled. Did you not, in your book Sabbath Complete, show that the division of Mosaic Law was not biblical?

    Press on, my brother! Nice to see you back on the blog.

    • Thank you, Stuart, for your comment and question. You encourage me to do my homework! On this topic, I’ll say more in the next glossary entry on “Abrogation.” It is true that the NT does not give us the tripartite terminology in use today. Because of that, Christians can bring into this tripartite system some ideas that promote a misunderstanding of biblical texts. However, I use the distinction between “ceremonial” and “moral” for two reasons:
      1) The OT and the NT do give reason to differentiate between ritualistic and “weightier” commands (Ps. 50:12-13; Prov 21:3; Hos 6:6; Matt 9:13; 12:7; 23:23), or between “carnal” and “righteous” commands (Rom 2:26; 4:12; 1 Cor 7:17-19; 8:8; Gal 4:9-10; Eph 2:14-15; Heb 9:9; 10:1). Paul identified a group of laws and called them “shadows” (Col 2:16-17). In my book, I sometimes use the term “shadow law” as a synonym for “ceremonial law.”
      2) Many Christians understand the category of “ceremonial” to mean those laws of the OT that foreshadowed Christ and are now longer to be observed in the literal sense. If they can wrap their minds around the “ceremonial” nature of circumcision, then they should be able to understand the implications of classifying the Sabbath as a ceremonial command.

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