1. Definition of Type
2. Distinctive Features
3. Classification of Types
4. How Much of the Old Testament Is Typical?
The Bible furnishes abundant evidence of the presence of types and of typical instruction in the Sacred Word. The New Testament attests this fact. It takes up a large number of persons and things and events of former dispensations, and it treats them as adumbrations and prophecies of the future. A generation ago a widespread interest in the study of typology prevailed; latterly the interest has largely subsided, chiefly because of the vagaries and extravagances which attended its treatment on the part of not a few writers. Pressing the typical teaching of Scripture so far as to imperil the historical validity of God's word is both dangerous and certain to be followed by reaction and neglect of the subject.
1. Definition of Type:
The word "type" is derived from a Greek term tupos, which occurs 16 times in the New Testament. It is variously translated in the King James Version, e.g. twice "print" (John 20:25); twice "figure" (Acts 7:43; Romans 5:14); twice "pattern" (Titus 2:7; Hebrews 8:5); once "fashion" (Acts 7:44); once "manner" (Acts 23:25); once "form" (Romans 6:17); and 7 t example" (1 Corinthians 10:6,11; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:9; 1 Timothy 4:12; 1 Peter 5:3). It is clear from these texts that the New Testament writers use the word "type" with some degree of latitude; yet one general idea is common to all, namely, "likeness." A person, event or thing is so fashioned or appointed as to resemble another; the one is made to answer to the other in some essential feature; in some particulars the one matches the other. The two are called type and antitype; and the link which binds them together is the correspondence, the similarity, of the one with the other.
Three other words in the New Testament express the same general idea. One is "shadow" (skia, Hebrews 10:1), "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come"--as if the substance or reality that was still future cast its shadow backward into the old economy. "Shadow" implies dimness and transitoriness; but it also implies a measure of resemblance between the one and the other.
The 2nd term is "parable" (parabole, Hebrews 9:9); the tabernacle with its services was an acted parable for the time then present, adumbrating thus the blessed reality which was to come.
The 3rd term is "copy." or "pattern" (hupodeigma), a word that denotes a sketch or draft of something future. invisible (Hebrews 9:23); the tabernacle and its furniture and services were copies, outlines of heavenly things.
Types are pictures, object-lessons, by which God taught His people concerning His grace and saving power. The Mosaic system was a sort of kindergarten in which God's people were trained in divine things, by which also they were led to look for better things to come. An old writer thus expresses it:
"God in the types of the last dispensation was teaching His children their letters. In this dispensation He is teaching them to put the letters together, and they find that the letters, arrange them as they will, spell Christ, and nothing but Christ."
In creation the Lord uses one thing for many purposes. One simple instrument meets many ends. For how many ends does water serve! And the atmosphere:
it supplies the lungs, conveys sound, diffuses odors, drives ships, supports fire, gives rain, fulfills besides one knows not how many other purposes. And God's Word is like His work, is His work, and, like creation, is inexhaustible. Whatever God touches, be it a mighty sun or an insect's wing, a vast prophecy or a little type, He perfects for the place and the purpose He has in mind.
2. Distinctive Features:
What are the distinctive features of a type? A type, to be such in reality, must possess three well-defined qualities.
(1) It must be a true picture of the person or the thing it represents or prefigures. A type is a draft or sketch of some well-defined feature of redemption, and therefore it must in some distinct way resemble its antitype, e.g. Aaron as high priest is a rough figure of Christ the Great High Priest, and the Day of Atonement in Israel (Leviticus 16) must be a true picture of the atoning work of Christ.
(2) The type must be of divine appointment. In its institution it is designed to bear a likeness to the antitype. Both type and antitype are preordained as constituent parts of the scheme of redemption. As centuries sometimes lie between the type and its accomplishment in the antitype, of course infinite wisdom alone can ordain the one to be the picture of the other. Only God can make types.
(3) A type always prefigures something future. A Scriptural type and predictive prophecy are in substance the same, differing only in form. This fact distinguishes between a symbol and a type. A symbol may represent a thing of the present or of the past as well as of the future, e.g. the symbols in the Lord's Supper. A type always looks to the future; an element of prediction must necessarily be in it.
3. Classification of Types:
Another thing in the study of types should be borne in mind, namely, that a thing in itself evil cannot be the type of what is good and pure. It is somewhat difficult to give a satisfactory classification of Biblical types, but broadly they may be distributed under three heads:
(1) Personal types, by which are meant those personages of Scripture whose lives and experiences illustrate some principle or truth of redemption. Such are Adam, who is expressly described as the "figure of him that was to come" (Romans 5:14), Melchizedek, Abraham, Aaron, Joseph, Jonah, etc.
(2) Historical types, in which are included the great historical events that under Providence became striking foreshadowings of good things to come, e.g. the Deliverance from the Bondage of Egypt; the Wilderness Journey; the Conquest of Canaan; the Call of Abraham; Deliverances by the Judges, etc.
(3) Ritual types, such as the Altar, the Offerings, the Priesthood, the Tabernacle and its furniture. There are typical persons, places, times, things, actions, in the Old Testament, and a reverent study of them leads into a thorough acquaintance with the fullness and the blessedness of the word of God.
4. How Much of the Old Testament Is Typical?:
How much of the Old Testament is to be regarded as typical is a question not easily answered. Two extremes, however, should be avoided. First, The extravagance of some of the early Fathers, as Origen, Ambrose, Jerome (revived in our time by Andrew Jukes and his imitators). They sought for types, and of course found them, in every incident and event, however trivial, recorded in Scripture. Even the most simple and commonplace circumstance was thought to conceal within itself the most recondite truth. Mystery and mysticism were seen everywhere, in the cords and pins of the tabernacle, in the yield of herds, in the death of one, in the marriage of another, even in the number of fish caught by the disciples on the night the risen Saviour appeared to them--how much some have tried to make of that number, 153! The very serious objection to this method is, that it wrests Scripture out of the sphere of the natural and the historical and locates it in that of the arbitrary and the fanciful; it tends to destroy the validity and trustworthiness of the record.
Second, the undue contraction of the typical element. "Professor Moses Stuart expresses this view as follows:
"Just so much of the Old Testament is to be accounted typical as the New Testament affirms to be so, and no more." This opinion assumes that the New Testament writers have exhausted the types of the Old Testament, while the fact is that those found in the later Scripture are but samples taken from the storehouse where many more are found. If they are not, then nothing is more arbitrary than the New Testament use of types, for there is nothing to distinguish them from a multitude of others of the same class. Further, the view assumes that divine authority alone can determine the reality and import of types--a view that applies with equal force against prophecy. This rule may be safely followed: wherever the three characteristics of types are found which have been already mentioned, there is the type.
Weighty are the words of one equally eminent for his piety as for his learning:
"That the Old Testament is rich in types, or rather forms in its totality one type, of the New Testament, follows necessarily from the entirely unique position which belongs to Christ as the center of the history of the world and of revelation. As we constantly see the principle embodied in the vegetable and animal kingdoms, that the higher species are already typified in a lower stage of development, so do we find, in the domain of saving revelation, the highest not only prepared for, but also shadowed forth, by that which precedes in the lower spheres" (Van Oosterzee).
P. Fairbairn, Typology of Scripture, 2 volumes; Angus, The Bible HandBook; Andrew Jukes, Law of Offerings in Leviticus; Mather, Gospel of Old Testament, Explanation of Types; McEwen, Grace and Truth:
Types and Figures of the Old Testament; Soltau, Tabernacle, Priesthood and Offerings.
William G. Moorehead