So Typical

So Typical

In my book 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory, I offer a longer definition of typology that I hope encompasses the kinds of types that are discernible in the Old Testament. A biblical type is a person, office, place, institution, event, or thing in salvation history that anticipates, shares correspondences with, escalates toward, and resolves in its antitype. In Luke 24, Jesus taught that the Old Testament pointed to him. 

An ancient way of reading the Old Testament involves discerning how various people, institutions, and events point forward to what God does later in redemptive history. Throughout church history, Christian interpreters have insisted that God designed earlier things recorded in Scripture to correspond to and escalate toward later things recorded in Scripture.

Welcome to the subject of typology. The word “type” refers to an impression or shape of something. Christological types are Old Testament people, institutions, or events that are shaped by God in a certain way for the purpose of anticipating the person and work of the Messiah. Think of a type as a kind of outline that’s filled in later. Or think of it as a shadow that’s cast by christological light shining into the Old Testament era.

Let’s get to some examples.

In Matthew 12, Jesus said, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:40). Jesus is drawing a comparison with correspondences, and he himself is the escalation of Jonah’s descent and ascent. Jonah is a type of Christ.

In John 3, Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). In this case, the bronze serpent in the wilderness is a type of Christ. All who look to the serpent lived physically, and all who look to Christ live spiritually (and ultimately physically at the resurrection). Correspondences and escalation.

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