Volume. XXXV, No. 10
Sunday, 06 September 2020

Typology (Part 1)



The study of typology allows us to see the prophecies regarding Christ in the Old Testament. Persons, events, and institutions that are typical of Christ are present in the Old Testament, and their fulfillment in the New Testament adds to our understanding of God’s Word with regards to the promised Messiah.


However, issues have arisen with regards to the use of typology, and the line believers should draw on it. There are those who believe that typology should only be taken as such if they are mentioned specifically in the New Testament, while others believe that doing so would limit its benefits. There are also difficulties in interpreting typology, and abuses could arise due to lack of study or understanding.


Types do exist in the Old Testament, and to ignore it would be to ignore what God is telling us. There is a great need to understand typology correctly, so as to avoid misinterpretation. In this article, we will read about the issues of typology, the characteristics of legitimate typology, and then look at some select examples of the types for Christ in the Old Testament.


To Type or Not to Type


Some scholars believe that types are everywhere in the Old Testament, and as believers we should not ignore them. On the other hand, there are those who believe that the safest way for us to not overread and unnecessarily look at everything as a type is to only pay attention to the ones mentioned specifically in the New Testament.


Types do exist in the Bible. The Bible itself is written under God’s inspiration, and for our benefits (2 Timothy 3:16.) As such, types are written under the inspiration of God, and they are there for our benefits. In other words, they are a legitimate aspect of hermeneutics.


Daniel J. Cameron in the Lexham Bible Dictionary writes that “In hermeneutical typology, Old Testament ‘types’ refer to a certain kind of person, place, or event. These ‘types’ are then traced throughout the New Testament through corresponding ‘anti-types’ (from the Greek prefix anti-, meaning “corresponding” or “opposite”).”[1] The Greek word for types is “τύπος tupŏs, too´-pos; from 5180; a die (as struck), i.e. (by impl.) a stamp or scar; by anal. a shape, i.e. a statue, (fig.) style or resemblance; spec. a sampler (“type”), i.e. a model (for imitation) or instance (for warning):—en- (ex-) ample, fashion, figure, form, manner, pattern, print.”2


Patrick Fairbairn in his book Typology of Scripture writes that Old Testament types show a progression of understanding, almost like a child being given a preview on school lessons of what is to come. The most pertaining example he gave was in terms of

historical narrative in the Old Testament – Noah and the unbelieving world, Sarah and Hagar, the unbelieving Israelites prevented from entering the Promised Land – points to a truth laid to us in the New Testament in that non-believers will not enter God’s Kingdom but will perish instead.3

So, typology is not to be taken in precision. Rather, it is to be taken as a picture, much like a teacher in the classroom gives an illustration to a difficult concept to help the students understand it. Typology is to be taken as notions – in fact, truths – that are demonstrated in Old Testament, whether it is by a historical person, action, or event.


Typology vs Allegory


This historical ground is the major guideline distinguishing between typology and an allegory. Typology consists of historical elements or facts, while allegory does not. Therefore, typology allows us to take and interpret the Bible text literally.


Types are designed by God (and therefore they have the inspiration of God), and there are always correspondences (the anti-types) in the New Testament. A legitimate type should always contain a certain truth(s), though we can disregard the minute details. Also, a type must have an anti-type that are in the New Testament as a fulfillment of the type itself.


An anti-type acts as a clearer or higher truth to a type. Much of the New Testament anti-types often come with an explanation as to what truth a type is trying to convey. This is not to say that types contain only half-truths. But it is reasonable to say that types are telling simpler truths which are then fulfilled by the anti-types in a much clearer or higher understanding. This is not to say, however, that typology is allegorical, either. The higher understanding that a type consists of is merely existential in the fulfillment. In other words, after the fulfillment, we become clearer of the type. Allegory, on the other hand, contains a higher spiritual truth that might need a different inspiration to understand. Therefore, allegories could prove to be more problematic in that there are less constraints in their interpretation. Typology itself is not meant to redefine the meaning of a text or be taken non-literally. Before a parallel is made, both the Old Testament and New Testament texts are to be carefully exegeted.


Furthermore, the word “tupos” is the Greek word used for types. Another word that is used for it is “σκία skia, skee´-ah; appar. a prim. word; “shade” or a shadow (lit. or fig. [darkness of error or an adumbration]):—shadow.”4 Hebrews 8:5 and 10:1 talk about a “shadow” of things to come. Types are there as a preview for things that are to come. They prepare readers to be able to identify future events, things or individuals with their resemblance. In other words, when things do come to pass, we could see that these events, things and individuals are exactly what have been foretold to us before (albeit the precision could very often be ignored.) However, we must stress that these future events, things and individuals are related to none other than Christ.



[1] Daniel J. Cameron, “Typology,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

2 James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 73. 

3 Patrick Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture: Two Volumes in One (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1989), 64-66.

4 James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible, 65.


To be continued…………..





More Lively Hope



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