As I was growing up in church, I would listen to sermons and notice verses in the New Testament that contained a quotation from the Old Testament. Sometimes, in a moment of curiosity, I would flip to the Old Testament text. These efforts were usually more confusing than enlightening. The wording of the Old Testament text might be different. Worse yet, the Old Testament passage seemed to be about something unrelated. Later, I studied literature in college and began to see the New Testament’s allusions to the Old Testament. At some point, I began noticing how many Psalms are quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. In some cases, Jesus was fulfilling verses from the Psalms. I thought of the book of Psalms as prayer, praise, or poetry, but not as prophecy. These were just some of the Old Testament quotations or allusions that I could not quite explain. I went to seminary and found that my confusion about the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament increased. Professors and commentaries pointed to various explanations for the quotations and allusions that puzzled me. I began to think that the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament was a complex issue indeed. Perhaps there was not a satisfactory way to understand it.
I was fortunate enough to go on to do doctoral work in New Testament. In my first semester, I was in a seminar taught by D. A. Carson focusing on the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament. I found myself being exposed to a line of thinking that had never surfaced clearly in my previous theological studies. As he moved from book to book in the New Testament, he was repeatedly disclosing my lack of understanding of the subject matter and my lack of preparation for grappling with a key new category, typology. I began to read everything I could find about typology and its importance for Christian interpreters through the ages. As the class ended, I could not let go of my fascination with the possibilities of typology for clarifying so many of the New Testament’s mysterious quotations from and allusions to the Old Testament.
I investigated further the promise and pitfalls of typology in my dissertation on Jesus’ fulfillment of the Temple in the Gospel of John. As I studied the Gospel of John and what interpreters were saying about Jesus’ fulfillment of the Temple in John, I began to think that the relationship between Jesus and the Temple had the marks of a typological relationship. Yet interpreters were not inclined to use terms like “type” or “typology” for this relationship. Rather, they preferred to talk in terms of replacement or fulfillment or both. Through months of reading and study, I began to understand the baggage associated with typology. Types and typology are widely associated with fanciful interpretations of the Old Testament. For this and other reasons, traditional typology is often neglected, even by many traditional interpreters. Even so, I could not escape my sense that a traditional understanding of typology is the most appropriate way to conceptualize and explain how Jesus, a person, could fulfill a holy place, the Jerusalem Temple.
Now, I am hoping to help you on your own journey of understanding. I want you to see the possibilities that typology may hold for your understanding of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. For instance, John 19:36 quotes Exodus 12:46 or Numbers 9:12, when it says, “Not one of his bones will be broken.” This is an Old Testament law concerning the Passover lamb. How can the death of Jesus, a person, fulfill an Old Testament law concerning the Passover lamb? Or, what about the quotations from and allusions to Psalms of David that one finds in the Gospel accounts of the death of Jesus? How does Jesus fulfill verses from these Old Testament poems, especially when he is dying on the cross? For example, David appears to be talking about some experience of his own in Psalm 22:18. How could he be predicting that soldiers would cast lots for the clothes of Jesus on the cross (John 19:24-25)?
Typology is not the only way that interpreters have explained the fulfillments noted above, but it is one recognized way to account for them. It also has the merit of being an explanation that Christian interpreters have appealed to for centuries. More importantly, Christian interpreters have often claimed Jesus and the New Testament as providing the essential basis for their understanding of typology. A primary purpose of this book is to introduce you to an understanding of typology that would help you to make sense of Old Testament quotations like the ones given above.
Along the way, you will also see how attention to the fulfillment of Old Testament types enriches your understanding of New Testament teaching about the death of Jesus. Old Testament allusions and quotations work together to paint a picture of Jesus that corresponds to and fulfills the Old Testament types that point to him. Jesus stresses that he must fulfill all that the Old Testament says about him (Luke 24:44). As we look at the words of Jesus in the Gospels, we will see examples where Jesus relates his death to the fulfillment of Old Testament types. In the writings of the New Testament, we have good evidence that the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament is rooted in the teaching of Jesus. The writings of the New Testament provide inspired portraits that show how much the apostles came to understand regarding what the Old Testament says about the death of Jesus. We often appreciate only a small portion of the apostles’ findings. As a result, we miss out on some great opportunities to understand aspects of the death of Jesus for ourselves and teach these to others.
It is now time to define and describe typology. This is an important endeavor, because typology is understood and defined in a few different ways in contemporary writings. Since understanding the New Testament is our primary goal, it will be our guide as to the essential elements to include in a helpful definition and description.
Typology is the aspect of biblical interpretation that treats the significance of Old Testament types for prefiguring corresponding New Testament antitypes or fulfillments. Events (like the Exodus), persons (like David), or institutions (like the Temple) are common categories for Old Testament types. This definition brings together three related characteristics of the relationship between a type and its antitype. First, an Old Testament type prefigures its New Testament antitype. Second, in order to prefigure its antitype, a type possesses certain significant correspondences or similarities to its antitype. Third, as the fulfillment or goal of the imperfect type, the antitype will be greater than the type that anticipated it.
To clarify the points of this definition, we will start with an overview, because typology rests upon a basic understanding of God’s work in history and of the inspiration of the Scriptures. In Old Testament times, God was at work shepherding and delivering his people. He was simultaneously tracing in that very work patterns or types that prefigure his later saving work in Christ, the church, the end events, and the New Jerusalem. God was also inspiring the Scriptures to be written in a way that would preserve a record of Old Testament types and anticipate their predictive significance. Furthermore, God directs the attention of his people to the future through his promises and descriptions of what their future will look like. Through his prophets, he sometimes identifies prominent people or events, like Moses, the Exodus, and David, as types (or patterns) for what he is going to do for his people in the future. Then, as Jesus brings about the climactic fulfillment of God’s promises in his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation, he teaches his disciples to see how he is the fulfillment of the many promises and types that anticipated him. Jesus also teaches about the fulfillment of Old Testament promises and types in the church and their ultimate fulfillment in the end events and the New Jerusalem. The inspired accounts of what Jesus taught and what his disciples learned from him are what we have in the writings of the New Testament. Therefore, Old Testament types are an important aspect of God’s progressive revelation of his plan for his people. By revealing his plan in history and Scripture, God displays his unique power to rule over and foretell the course of history. Only God has this sort of control over history and insight into the future (Isaiah 46:9-11).
In the background of the above overview lies the big picture regarding God’s progressive work in history. The big picture has three important aspects. First, God is directing history along a route to an ultimate end or goal, which John portrays in his description of the end events and the New Jerusalem (Revelation 19-22). Second, the climactic step toward the ultimate goal is the work of Jesus, including his life, death, resurrection, and exaltation. Third, certain Old Testament persons, events, and institutions are important prior steps along the route to the goal. God also uses them to prefigure or foreshadow aspects of the steps that come later, especially the work of Jesus.
When it comes to understanding typology, this big picture is essential. It means that through the Old Testament types, God was accomplishing important aspects of his work. He was simultaneously using types as one of his means to predict later aspects of his work. Many types point to Christ, because he is such an important step in the big picture. One also finds types that point to the church, the end events, and the New Jerusalem, because these also lie on and conclude the route to the final realization of God’s plan for his people. Jesus, the church, and the New Jerusalem are closely related.
Due to the sacrificial death of Jesus, the church is currently experiencing a good measure of the new creation life that it will experience in full in the New Jerusalem.
Another vital implication of the big picture for typology is that typology is bound up with progression toward a final goal. Why is this significant? Some contemporary works define typology primarily in terms of the repetition of analogous or similar acts of God in history. Traditionally, however, interpreters have noted that the relationship between types and antitypes necessarily involves points of similarity as well as points of dissimilarity. Due to the very nature of a type (or pattern), there must be significant points of correspondence or similarity between a type and its antitype. In other words, the antitype must show noteworthy conformity to the type. Yet an antitype is not merely an analogous recurrence or repetition of the type that preceded it. The New Testament does not present the relationship between type and antitype in this way. Instead, the antitype fulfills or completes the type (Luke 22:16; John 19:24, 28) or the type is the imperfect shadow of the reality, its antitype (Hebrews 10:1). Consequently, significant dissimilarities exist between type and antitype, because an antitype is going to be greater than the imperfect type that prefigured it. The antitype is the goal, fulfillment, or reality that the type anticipated.
The authors of the New Testament provide the inspired examples of typology, which go back to the teaching of the apostles and their teacher, Jesus himself. Therefore, the most important guide for discerning genuine types and for tracing out typological relationships is the New Testament. As seen in the case of the Old Testament quotations and allusions cited in the introduction to this chapter, the New Testament usually does not indicate that typology is necessary to understand the relevance of a particular Old Testament quotation or allusion. The problem is that the New Testament provides many examples of typology at work, but it does not provide a list of guidelines as to how typology works. Historically, interpreters have often attempted to provide guidelines for typology. The best guidelines are those that are truest to the New Testament examples. The New Testament examples of typology are the basis for the definition and description in the previous section, but these may require revision or clarification to represent elements of the New Testament examples better.
If the New Testament provides the authoritative examples, then careful attention to these examples is the best place to learn about typology. Instances of typology generally become apparent to the reader of the New Testament as a result of looking back at the Old Testament context of quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament. When you look at the Old Testament context, you will find there a story, statement, or description that has to do with an event, person, or institution in the history of God’s people. In other words, the Old Testament passage will normally appear to have more to do with Israel’s history than with prophecy regarding the future of God’s people. In fact, you may find that one of the best motivations for learning about typology comes from looking at the context of Old Testament quotations found in the New Testament. You will quickly find that prophecy and fulfillment are not as straightforward as they appear to the casual reader. The following chapters will give you some practice looking at the Old Testament context of quotations and allusions.
Besides looking back at the Old Testament context of quotations, another way to get into the study of types in the New Testament is to start reading in the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 7-10, the author presents Jesus as the antitype or fulfillment of the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices for sin. We will look at aspects of Hebrews 9-10 in chapters five and six.
It is common for works on typology to ask whether an interpreter can find instances of typology or typological relationships that are not in some way explicitly indicated by the New Testament. The difficulty with this question is that it requires one to indicate when and how the New Testament explicitly identifies something as a type or antitype. As we have already seen, the New Testament does not generally announce to the reader that typology is necessary to understand a given Old Testament quotation or allusion. The New Testament does not appear to hold to such a guideline, especially in the case of allusions. There is probably a better way to curb the excesses that have damaged the reputation of typological interpretation.
So, what kind of controls should guide us as we look for and study typological relationships? As I mentioned above, the basic control for detecting typological relationships is to apply oneself to careful study of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. All practitioners of typology are drawing correspondences between Old Testament types and New Testament antitypes. Their source of information about each type and antitype is the Old and New Testaments. If there is a significant relationship between a certain type and antitype, then careful interpretation of relevant New Testament and Old Testament texts should produce convincing evidence for a correspondence. Convincing evidence primarily arises from examining quotations from or allusions to the Old Testament in the New Testament. Of course, convincing evidence is a subjective criterion, because every interpreter gets carried away from time to time. We need a second control to provide a check on our typological interpretations. Our careful study of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament should include consulting the writings of other interpreters to see who has made the same or similar observations. Significant typological relationships should be evident to others as well.
Controls for Detecting and Studying Typological Relationships
A third control is probably necessary to guide us as we present the results of our study of typological relationships. We should use the New Testament as our guide to judge the strength and significance of each typological relationship. Just like allusions to the Old Testament, typological correspondences are not all equally strong, clear, and defensible. One should place more weight on allusions to the Old Testament that have more evidence in their favor. Likewise, one should also place more weight on typological relationships with good evidence to support them. It is important to note what specific points of correspondence the New Testament appears to draw between a certain type and its antitype. Just because the New Testament draws correspondences between a type and antitype in one or two areas, this does not mean that one needs to stretch to find a whole series of detailed correspondences between them. For example, a number of Church Fathers were fascinated with Joseph typology. Some of them assumed a detailed typological relationship between the story of Joseph in Genesis and the life of Jesus, rather than starting with the New Testament hints of a more restrained Joseph typology. A better place to start would be with Joseph, the father of Jesus (Matthew 1-2), or Stephen’s words about Joseph in Acts 7:9-16, 51. A more modest picture of the possibilities for Joseph typology emerges from these texts.
In addition to providing examples of typology, the New Testament is the most important source for the basic vocabulary of typology. Although the term “typology” is thought to be a relatively recent term coined by interpreters, “type” and “antitype” are both based on Greek terms that one finds in the New Testament. Several other terms are also important for the typology of the New Testament. A few notes about each term and the relevant passages in which they appear will orient the reader to this vocabulary and its usage.
“Type” is derived from the Greek term typos. The Greek term is found 15 times in the New Testament. In three of those cases, interpreters regard its use as significant for typology. This is especially true in Romans 5:14, where Paul describes Adam as a “type of the one who was coming,” namely, Jesus (5:15). Paul sets up a typological relationship between Christians and the people of Israel in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5. 441-50; Davidson, Typology, 208-75. In this context, some interpreters think that typoi in 10:6 and the related adverb typikōs in 10:11 are being used in terms of typological patterns. and typikōs; Davidson, Typology, 286-90; Fritsch, “Biblical Typology” 104:88-90. BDAG is an abbreviation for A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, revised and edited by F. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). Part of the pattern in this case is that the Israelites sinned and God judged their disobedience. The use of typos in Hebrews 8:5 belongs with the treatment of the next term.
“Antitype” comes from antitypon. Antitypon has to do with correspondence to a type (typos) and is used in 1 Peter 3:21 and Hebrews 9:24. According to one interpretation of 1 Peter 3:21, baptism is presented as the “antitype” that corresponds to the type, namely, the salvation of the eight who were delivered from death by passing through the water in Noah’s ark. 100-1; BDAG, s.v. antitypos; Davids, 1 Peter, 143-5. Note the presence of “antitype” in Fritsch’s translation and the New King James Version. Another possible translation for antitypon is “corresponds to” (English Standard Version). This is the use of antitypon that fits with the common usage of “antitype” in writings on typology.
In Hebrews 9:24, it is used differently in that antitypa refers to the Tabernacle constructed by Moses. Previously, we are told that God showed Moses the “type” or “pattern” (typos) for the Tabernacle (Hebrews 8:5). In 9:24, the word antitypa is therefore used, because it indicates that the Tabernacle corresponded to the pattern or type. Thus, the Tabernacle on earth was the “antitype” to the “type” that Moses saw. This is a bit hard to explain clearly without going into more detail. Chapter five will examine Hebrews 8-9 in more detail. The basic point is that antitypon is consistently associated with correspondence to a typos, but it is not a technical term in the New Testament that conforms to its use in writings about typology.
The next two terms are also relevant to typology, because they are used several times to differentiate types from antitypes. The first term is “shadow” (skia). With reference to typology, it is well-known for its use in Hebrews 10:1 and Colossians 2:17. The first part of Hebrews 10:1 says that the Old Testament Law contains only the “shadow of the good things to come” rather than the things themselves. The passage goes on to show how imperfect the Old Testament sacrifices are in comparison to the sacrifice of Christ. The term “shadow” is useful for pointing to the imperfection of types in comparison to the antitypes that cast the shadow. The fact that the shadow anticipates “good things to come” suggests the predictive or prefiguring function of the Law and the types contained in it. Similarly, in Colossians 2:16-17, some of the regulations alluded to in 2:16 come from the Old Testament Law. In 2:17, Paul calls these regulations a “shadow of the things to come,” whereas the “substance” belongs to Christ. The implications of the use of shadow here are analogous to its use in Hebrews 10:1.
The second term commonly used to differentiate types from antitypes is “true.” “True” (alēthinos) is sometimes used in the Gospel of John and in Hebrews to differentiate the true or complete realities from their imperfect, anticipatory shadows in the Old Testament. 122. Thus “true” sometimes distinguishes the New Testament antitypes from their Old Testament types. 501. This is probably applicable in the case of the true light (John 1:9), the true worshipers (4:23), the true bread from heaven (6:32), and the true vine (15:1). 303. It is important to note that Jesus does not devalue the importance of the Old Testament precursors for achieving God’s purposes in their own time. Rather, he is claiming to bring the fullness or fulfillment that was not present in the types. A good example of this is the true bread from heaven in contrast to the manna that sustained Israel in the wilderness. Although the manna provided sustenance for the people of God when they needed food, Jesus points out that they still died (6:49). In contrast, he is the true bread from heaven that is greater than the manna, because those who eat him will not die (6:50). Similarly, in Hebrews 8:2 and 9:24, the “true tabernacle” or “true holy place” is the place where Christ enters to sprinkle his own blood in the presence of God rather than in an imperfect tabernacle on earth.
The use of “true” (alēthinos) to describe antitypes is consistent with the use of this adjective in English and in Greek to denote that which is real or genuine. In this case, the antitype is the real entity that fulfills the incomplete shadow that preceded it. The use of “true” (alēthinos) in the Gospel of John and in Hebrews probably accounts for the fact that the Greek noun alētheia (“truth”) becomes another word for the New Testament antitypes in the works of so many Church Fathers. In these cases, alētheia is usually translated into English as “reality” rather than as “truth.” Thus, we arrive at the common designation of the movement from type to antitype as the movement from the shadow to the reality. One commonly finds this designation in both ancient and modern discussions of typology. and antitypes leads ancient interpreters to read the movement from “Law” to “grace and truth” in John 1:17 in terms of movement from types (in the Law) to antitypes (the “truth” or “realities”). See, for instance, John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of John 14 (on John 1:17); Wiles, The Spiritual Gospel, 68-71.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive account of the terms associated with typology in the New Testament. For instance, one could also consider the use of parabolē in Hebrews 9:9 and 11:19, where it is sometimes interpreted in terms of a model or type. However, enough has been done here to introduce several important terms that have been significant for typology.
There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the Church Fathers, especially in relationship to biblical interpretation. At the same time, the Church Fathers are often cited as examples of poor or extravagant uses of typology and for a failure to distinguish typology from allegory. So, what value do the Church Fathers have for the student of typology? The Church Fathers provide at least two valuable areas of instruction with respect to typology. First, they provide some foils or bad examples that encourage a controlled use of typology. Second, they are the first interpreters who clarify and defend the uses of typology that one finds in the New Testament.
Regarding the Church Fathers as foils, they are the reason why so many treatments of typology are so concerned with distinguishing typology from allegory. In order to understand the weight of this concern, one needs to understand a little bit about the negative associations of allegory and about why these associations affect the legitimacy of typology. The Bible contains some allegories that are supposed to be interpreted allegorically. A good example is Jesus’ parable of the sower and his interpretation of it (Matthew 13:3-9, 1823). Jesus’ interpretation shows that he regards the parable as an allegory. An allegory is basically a story whose elements represent something else. In order to interpret an allegory, one has to figure out what the elements in the story represent (see Matthew 13:18-23). In Matthew 13, Jesus provides an allegorical interpretation for three of his parables, but leaves the reader to finish the interpretation for the other parables in the chapter. This is perfectly acceptable when one is dealing with stories that are indeed allegories.
One finds a number of instances where Church Fathers interpret Old Testament historical narratives as if they were allegories with a deeper religious truth hidden in the background. In doing so, they are trying to show how certain Old Testament passages are pointing to deeper spiritual truths that go beyond the literal meaning of the passage. The problem, of course, is that the Old Testament historical narratives are not allegories and are not meant to be interpreted allegorically. Church Fathers find precedent for their allegorical approach in Philo of Alexandria, a Jew who lived in the first century. Philo is famous for providing many examples of an allegorical approach to the Old Testament. His approach is analogous to the allegorical approach used by other scholars of his time in their interpretation of other narratives, like Homer’s works. These scholars felt that allegorical interpretation was especially legitimate when one was dealing with offensive or difficult passages in religious works. Church Fathers also claim the apostle Paul as a precedent due to his claim to be doing something allegorical in Galatians 4:24. However, Paul’s limited use of allegory is quite different from examples of allegorical interpretation in Philo. A closer look at Galatians 4:21-31 reveals that Paul’s reasoning there is primarily typological rather than allegorical. His use of the Old Testament story of Sarah and Hagar has more to do with tracing correspondences between historical persons and events than with allegorical interpretations like Philo’s. at Galatians 4:24). Galatians 4:21-31 may be a further reason for Church Fathers to confuse typology and allegory. See also Ellis, Paul’s Use of the Old Testament, 53-54; Goppelt, Typos, 139-40.
Unfortunately, allegory and typology become confused with one another due to the writings of certain Church Fathers. The confusion is mostly unfortunate for typology, because the allegorical approach described above has rightly come to be regarded as suspect. Typology has therefore suffered from being lumped together with allegory. One reason for the confusion is an unfortunate choice of terminology on the part of Church Fathers who said something about how to interpret the Bible. They divided the two basic senses of Scripture into the literal sense and the spiritual sense. The spiritual sense of Scripture commonly came to be divided into three areas, one of which was the allegorical. The interpretation of types was often seen as one aspect of the allegorical sense. 10.
A second reason for the confusion is that one finds so many examples of farfetched uses of typology in the Church Fathers. These uncontrolled uses of typology look so much like their similarly creative allegorical interpretations that they become difficult to sort out. One example would be the tendency to see anything cross-shaped in the Old Testament as a type of the cross, including the raised arms of Moses at the battle with Amalek (Exod 17:8-13). chapter 90. Jean Daniélou probably provides the most helpful guide to the difference between allegorical interpretation and typological interpretation in the Church Fathers. He provides examples of both kinds of interpretation and helps one to see the fundamental differences between allegorical and typological interpretation. esp. 57-65. In light of his examples of allegorical interpretation, one can see how overly creative instances of typological interpretation tend to look allegorical. However, poor typology is poor typology, it is not allegory. provides a good example of the difference. Poor typology occurs in 9:7-8, where Abraham’s circumcision of 318 men points to Jesus and the cross. Then, in chapter 10, one finds an allegorical interpretation of the food laws, where each forbidden animal represents a type of person or vice that one should avoid. Such an interpretation presents a deeper meaning that has nothing to do with prefiguring or predicting something later.
Now what we learn from the Church Fathers as foils or bad examples is to realize the value of establishing controls for typological interpretation. After looking at fanciful examples of typology in works by Church Fathers, one learns to value the instances of typology in the New Testament. With some exceptions, the New Testament instances of typology are readily distinguishable from allegorical interpretations and based upon significant correspondences between types and antitypes. Careful study of the types in the New Testament is the best basis for understanding typology. In fact, there are enough clear and defensible instances of typology in the New Testament to satisfy most anyone’s interest in the study of types.
The Church Fathers are not just foils indicating what not to do. They can be quite helpful to us when we turn our attention to typology in the New Testament. Due to their interest in typology, one can sometimes find more attention to certain typological relationships in the Church Fathers than in recent interpreters. For instance, I was recently studying the Passover typology of the Gospel of John. I found it to be quite helpful to read the comments of Church Fathers related to the various passages where I was detecting Passover typology. They sometimes showed a keener eye for connections to the Passover than more recent commentators. Their Passover homilies were also helpful. They provided pointers to Passover typology in the New Testament outside of John and examples as to how Christians have traditionally taught about the Passover and its fulfillment. I will refer to some of this material in chapter four, which focuses on the fulfillment of the Passover. I would suggest that the Church Fathers can be a valuable resource, especially when we are studying a particular typological relationship and would like to find others who have done so before us.
The Church Fathers also provide examples as to how others before us have tried to clarify the nature of typology and its usefulness for understanding the New Testament. For instance, in the second century, one finds a number of comments by Melito of Sardis on typology in his well-known homily on the Passover. Melito focuses much of his attention on the replacement of types by their antitypes, which he presents as an implication of the fact that types are by nature preparatory and incomplete (see, for instance, lines 213-79). What he says is not that much different from the book of Hebrews, but it is stated a little more sharply, perhaps due to tensions between Christians and Jews at that time. He also makes an insightful comment about the significance of types for predicting their antitypes that is worth quoting. Melito of Sardis says,
But first the Lord made prior arrangements for his own sufferings in patriarchs and in prophets and in the whole people, setting his seal to them through both law and prophets. For the thing which is to be new and great in its realization is arranged for well in advance, so that when it comes about it may be believed in, having been foreseen well in advance. Just so also the mystery of the Lord, having been prefigured (protypōthen) is a form of the verb protypoō, which is a verb related to the noun typos. It is another word that some Church Fathers use as part of their vocabulary related to typology (Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon, s.v. protypoō). well in advance and having been seen through a model (typon), is today believed in now that it is fulfilled, though considered new by men. ed. Stuart Hall (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), 31 (lines 397-409).
Notice that the Lord used the type or “model” to prefigure its antitype “well in advance.” Since he was writing only about 150 years after Christ, the fulfillments of the types were still relatively “new.” He goes on to list a number of types right after this. He concludes his list with a reference to the Passover lamb “which is slain in the land of Egypt, which struck Egypt and saved Israel by its blood” (lines 422-4). This is not surprising, since his homily is a Passover homily focused on Passover typology. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), 79-81, 102-4.
In the late fourth century, John Chrysostom makes several helpful observations about typology. For example, while teaching on 1 Corinthians 10:1, he clarifies his understanding of the relationship between types and antitypes. In this case, the type is the Exodus from slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh. The antitype or reality is the Christian exodus from slavery to sin under the devil. John Chrysostom says,
Once they were delivered by the sea from Egypt; now it is from idolatry; once Pharaoh was drowned, now it is the devil; once it was the Egyptians who were suffocated, now the ancient enemy is stifled beneath our sins. You see now the relationship of the type with the [reality], and of the superiority of the latter over the former. [For, neither is it necessary for the type to be different from the reality in every respect], then there would be nothing typical. Nor has one to be identical with the other, or it would be the reality itself. . . . They were of old called to freedom; so are we: yet not to the same freedom, for ours is one far higher. Yet it is no matter for surprise that the freedom to which we are called is higher than theirs. For surely it is of the nature of the reality to excel its types, though without any opposition or contention. 247.61-248.12, 248.2328. Translation taken from Jean Daniélou, From Shadows to Reality, 192, except for the words in brackets where I have introduced a few changes to bring it more in line with the Greek text.
According to Chrysostom, then, types are going to resemble the realities or antitypes, but the realities are going to be greater than the types. He also provides an example of the use of the common typological terminology of “type” (typos) versus “reality” (alētheia).
Further examples of the helpfulness of the Church Fathers will be evident in the chapters to come, especially chapter four. As seen above, their contributions to typology serve as both an encouragement and a warning to those of us who follow in their steps.
Up to this point, we have been dealing with generalities about typology. The next step is to look at some specific instances of typology in the New Testament. The following chapters introduce the typology of the New Testament by looking at a variety of examples. In the next chapter, we will look at the role of David typology in predicting aspects of the suffering of Jesus. We will turn to the many quotations from and allusions to the Psalms, especially Psalms 22 and 69, in the Gospels’ accounts of the death of Jesus. Typology having to do with the Old Testament sacrifices is widely recognized. In chapters three to six, we will see instances where Jesus’ death fulfills various Old Testament sacrifices. Chapter three will focus attention on the role of typology in clarifying the words of Jesus about his body and blood at the Last Supper. In chapter four, we will trace Passover typology through the Gospel of John. Chapters five and six will look at the typology of sacrifice in Hebrews 9-10. Hebrews 9-10 is one of the highlights of sacrificial typology in the New Testament. In this way, chapters two through six will aid us in our understanding of the cross and inform our celebrations of the Lord’s Supper, Passover, and Easter. This plan will help us to understand the Bible better. It will also help us to worship the Lord more fully in the Lord’s Supper and at Easter, as we see how the New Testament writers use typology to point to God’s plan being worked out in the death of Jesus and the redemption of his people.