Typology--a legitimate approach to OT passages?
GT--Goppelt, Leohnard: Typos, Eerdmans, 1982.
LONG--Longnecker, Richard: Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period,
EOTH--Westermann, Claus (ed): Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics,
John Knox, 1963.
EEE--Ellis, E. Earle: Prophecy and Hermeneutic in Early Christianity,
Eich--Eichrodt: Theology of the Old Testament, Westminster, 1961
FISH--Fishbane, Michael: Biblical Interpretation in Ancient Israel,
BEALE--Beale, G.K. (ed): The Right Doctrine from the Wrong Text?,
(for others, check Books.)
In Matthew 2.15, Matthew narrates the return of the young Jesus from
Egypt to Palestine, following the murder attempts by Herod. He then quotes
Hosea 11:1 ("out of Egypt have I called my Son") and says this passage
was fulfilled by Jesus' return. Even a cursory glance at Hosea 11.1 will
reveal that it is talking about the Exodus of the nation of Israel from
Egypt--it doesn't appear to be a messianic prophecy on the surface at all.
It this a blatantly obvious mistake by Matthew? Is he so ignorant that
he cannot even read the Hosea passage correctly?! Or maybe he is so dishonest
and manipulative so as to 'twist the scripture' to serve his polemical
purpose. Or maybe he just innocently 'confused' and he sees Jesus 'everywhere'
he looks--finding Jesus perhaps in OT passages where He is not, but with
all good intentions.
What Matthew has actually done, is to look at a concrete historical
event (i.e. the Exodus of Israel from Egypt) and see in it a foreshadowing
of an event in the life of "Ideal Israel, as embodied in the royal, prophetic,
and priestly figure--the Davidic Messiah". He has looked at a historical
datum, and interpreted it 'typologically'--as a figure or prototype of
something to come in the future (from the OT perspective), which he sees
as 'fulfilled' in the person of Jesus the Messiah.
Typology was one of the MAJOR ways the NT authors 'looked at' OT history.
And as often as they looked through typological eyes--they saw their promised
Lord and Messiah foreshadowed.
What is "typology" and why is this an issue?
SO. .what is the issue we have to concern ourselves with here?
Typology is basically a way of looking at history--a way of interpreting
history, esp. the history of the interaction between God and Israel. Goppelt
says it best:
"Only historical facts--persons, actions, events, and institutions--are
material for typological interpretation; words and narratives can be utilized
only insofar as they deal with such matters. These things are to be interpreted
typologically only if they are considered to be divinely ordained representations
or types of future realities that will be even grater and more complete.
And the working definitions given by David L. Baker (in FISH: 327-328)
are good summaries:
"A TYPE is a biblical event, person, or institution which serves
as an example or pattern for other events, persons, or institutions;
"TYPOLOGY is the study of types and the historical and theological
correspondences between them; the basis of typology is God's consistent
activity in the history of his chosen people.
It is important to note that the type/fulfillment (called the anti-type)
involved two important notions: correspondence and increase or
heightening. In other words, the fulfillment antitype must 'correspond'
in some essential way with its type/prototype and the antitype must be
some kind of intensification of and/or increase over original type. For
example, if David is the 'type' and Messiah the 'antitype', it would be
important for the Messiah to be "greater than" David. .(sounds like Mt
22.41-42!). If the EXODUS was the type and the Millennial Kingdom the antitype,
it would be important for the Millennial Kingdom to surpass the Exodus
in some way.
This makes typology distinctly different from prophecy per se.
Prophecy is specifically VERBAL (although prophets could use "mini-types"
as object lessons upon which to expound YHWH's message--cf. Jeremiah and
the two basket of figs [24.1-10] or Ezekiel's 'model siege' [4.1ff]). Prophecy
is a specifically 'cognitive message' given to a prophet, delivered in
linguistic form to an audience. Types, on the other hand, have an independent
character. So Eichrodt, in EOTH: 229:
"But while in prophecy the messenger of God proclaims the future which
has been opened to him and seen by him, a type possesses its significance,
pointing into the future, independently of any human medium and purely
through its objective factual reality; and in many cases its function is
still hidden for contemporary people and is disclosed only when the gaze
is turned backward from the New Testament time of salvation. From this
point of view one might designate typology as "objectivized prophecy".
Eichrodt has understated the case somewhat here, in his comment about
the NT, for we shall see below an abundance of examples where later passages
in the OT ITSELF saw 'types' in earlier passages of the OT. (Plus, things
get REALLY interesting when a type occurs in a prophetic passage!--a prophecy
of a future king, for example, could ALSO be a typological reference to
someone BEYOND the king. .more on this later).
Indeed, more modern assessment of scholarship supports this 'biblical
basis'--Baker, in BEALE:315:
"There seems to be general agreement among modern scholars that typology
is a form of historical interpretation.
Typology is NOT allegory or 'spiritualizing'. Typology interprets
the literal event pointed to by the semantics/reference of a text; allegory
interprets the non-contextual elements of the text (e.g. individual letters,
etymologies of names). Typology attempt to 'anchor' the interpretation
on the concrete 'substance' pointed to by the text; Allegory anchors its
interpretation on the 'form' of the letters/words in a text. Typology is
generally a process controlled by a community historical consciousness;
allegory is generally controlled by an individual interpreters worldview
(and therefore, much less controlled than the former). Again Eichrodt (EOTH:
"It differentiates it, first from allegory, which has often been lumped
together with typology, so that the latter has often had to bear the burden
of the former's errors. Yet it is quite impossible to confuse the two if
we look t them closely. For typology, the historical value of the text
to be interpreted forms the essential presupposition for the use of it.
For allegory, on the contrary, this is indifferent or even offensive, and
must be pushed to one side to make room for the 'spiritual' sense which
Typology is often divided into two kinds:historical types (e.g.
human personages, human events) and cosmological types (e.g. divine personages,
divine events, primeval events). [see FISH:354-360]
So. ..to decide in this matter, we will need to investigate a few questions:
Simply this: The NT writers saw some 'future' in the events of
the past--but was this something they just 'smuggled into' those passages?
In other words, do we have ANY REASON to believe the original recipients
of those texts/experiences of those events ALSO understood those events
as 'pointing to some future' (however unclear that might have been)?
In other words, was this 'typological' method of interpreting OT texts
JUST A CHRISTIAN INVENTION of CONVENIENCE, to prove what they already wanted
to believe? Or was this a commonly accepted approach to the scripture,
used by non-Christian contemporaries and by OT people themselves?
Fortunately, we have an ABUNDANCE of data on these questions.
Did 1st and 2nd century Judaism "use" typology in approaching the OT?
Did the OT writers/recipients "use" typology for THEIR self-understanding?
Did the ANE (Ancient Near East) "use" typology" for their self-understanding?
(Bonus question: How could the Israelites POSSIBLY have developed such
(MY personal 'theoretical' questions: the relation between types
and metaphor, the limits of prophetic consciousness at point-of-utterance,
Did 1st and 2nd century Judaism "use" typology in approaching the OT?
Since the NT was written by Palestinian Jews, we will focus on 1st-2nd
century Palestinian Judaism (as opposed to Hellenistic Judaism). For Palestinian
Judaism, our two main sources of data are the Jewish Pseudo-epigrapha (dominantly
eschatological writings) and the rabbinical writings [specifically the
haggadah of the Tanniam--see Strack, Introduction to the Talmud
and Midrash (New York, 1959), 109ff].
Goppelt (GT:32-41) catalogs the "great wealth of Scripture interpreted
typologically" (p.32) in these writings:
His summary: "It is no accident that typology is used by these expositors
almost exclusively in the shaping of their eschatology; it is the consequence
of their general philosophy." (GT:57)
the biblical story of creation->a second, surpassing creation (p. 33)
Adam as a prototype of many different anti-types (p. 33)
the Flood -->final judgment (p.34)
Israel's stay in the wilderness-->future salvation of Israel (p.34-35)
Sinai-->place of final judgment (p. 35)
Moses-->Messiah (p. 36)
David-->Messiah (p. 36)
Hezekiah-->Messiah (p. 36)
Amalek-->Rome (p. 36-37)
Josiah-->Messiah (p. 37)
the Sabbath-->the world to come (p. 37)
[Since Goppelt was first written in German, the vast body of literature
known as the Dead Sea Scrolls has been analyzing, demonstrating that the
Qumran community engaged in MAJOR typological interpretation. The Qumran
group considered itself the eschatological remnant foretold by the prophets
(LONG: 38-45). ]
My summary: The non-Christian biblical interpreters of the NT
era accepted and used typological perspectives in their hermeneutical work.
The NT writers are accordingly using STANDARD approaches of their day to
understanding the OT.
Did the OT writers/recipients "use" typology for THEIR self-understanding?
This is probably the MOST important of the questions, for the OT folk DIDN'T
view OT passages 'typically', then it will be considerably more difficult
to defend typological interpretation of NT writers as legitimate. [Needless
to say, this would also be a problem to the non-Christian writers who used
it as well--as noted above.]
Specifically what we need to look for are passages in the OT that:
interpret their present experience in terms of a person, event, place,
rite, etc from the historical or primeval past (retrospective);
predicts the future on the basis of some such person, event, etc. (predictive);
and events that were 'set up' typologically in a predictive passage, and
interpreted so AFTER the predicted event occurred(!).
Like the NT-era Judaic writings, the OT materials afford us a surprising
abundance of examples of inner-biblical typological 'thinking' (much more
than I expected when I started this study, believe me!)
Let's start with the FIRST CASE: passages which interpret
their present experience in terms of a person, event, place, rite, etc
from the historical past. Are there any of these in the OT? The answer
is 'yes', although the preponderance of this type of thinking occurs in
predictive contexts we can see definite uses of it in retrospective
passages. [Some of these will look like simple examples of simile or
metaphor, but the notions of simile/metaphor and types are strangely linked--see
below, in the 'theoretical' section]
The unfaithful nation of Israel, Isaiah's audience--understood under the
type of Sodom:
Unless the LORD Almighty had left us some survivors, we would have
become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorra. Hear the word of the
LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of
Gomorra! "The multitude of your sacrifices -- what are they to me?" says
the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the
fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs
and goats. (Isaiah 1.9ff)
Thus we get the type-antitype pair (unfaithful Sodom, unfaithful Israel)
Jeremiah (23.14), addresses the false prophets of the soon-to-fall Southern
Kingdom, with a similar type:
And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible:
They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me;
the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorra."
Jeremiah (7.12-15) uses what God did at Shiloh as a picture of what He
intended to do to Jerusalem:
"Go now to the place in Shiloh where I first made a dwelling for
my Name, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of my people
Israel. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke
to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did
not answer. Therefore, what I did to Shiloh I will now do to the house
that bears my Name, the temple you trust in, the place I gave to you and
your fathers. I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your
brothers, the people of Ephraim.'
Amos (4.10f) looks at the judgment on Israel through the types of both
Egypt and Sodom:
"I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young
men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils
with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me," declares
the LORD. "I overthrew some of you as I overthrew Sodom and Gomorra.
One fascinating passage is Ezek 16:44ff. In this passage, Ezzy argues from
behavioral 'family resemblance' between Sodom, Samaria, and the being-addressed
apostate Jerusalem. Look how the types of precedent behavior inform his
Everyone who quotes proverbs will quote this proverb about you:
"Like mother, like daughter." You are a true daughter of your mother, who
despised her husband and her children; and you are a true sister of your
sisters, who despised their husbands and their children. Your mother was
a Hittite and your father an Amorite. Your older sister was Samaria, who
lived to the north of you with her daughters; and your younger sister,
who lived to the south of you with her daughters, was Sodom. You not only
walked in their ways and copied their detestable practices, but in all
your ways you soon became more depraved than they.
There are deliberate literary repetitions in the passage of Noah (gen 9.1-7)
which view him against the background of the type of Adam (cf. esp. Gen
1:27-30): God's blessing (v.1), the command to multiply (v.1,7), the identical
zoological terms (v.2), the 'image of God' ref in v.6, the ref to the plants
(v.3). The 'intensification' or 'twist' required involves the intensification
of the 'rulership over the animals' (Gen 1.28) to the animals' 'fear and
dread' of humanity (Gen 9.2) and even to the predator relationship which
began there (Gen 9.3).This gives us the type/antitype pair (Adam, Noah)
One of the tightest type/anti-type pairs is the Moses-Exodus/Joshua-Conquest
pair (FISH: 358-359). In Joshua 3-5 the description of this historical
event of Joshua taking the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land
is EXPLICITLY setup to correlate these two events and the two leaders.
Compare the details:
It is interesting to note that the Psalmist 'linked' these two events of
Exodus/Conquest retrospectively (114):
Josh 3.7: "I will be with you (Joshua) as I was with Moses"
the waters of the Jordan split and stand up straight like a column (like
the Sea of Reeds--cf Josh 3.13 with Ex 15.8)
Josh 3.17: the people passed over on dry ground (cf. Ex 14.21)
Josh 4.14: the people feared Joshua 'as they feared Moses'
The memorial was built to make the pattern clear (Jos 4.22-24): "What do
these stones mean?" tell them, "Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground."
For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed
over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the
Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.
both events happened the same calendar day--the tenth day of the first
month (cf. Ex 12.6)
Joshua is the recipient of a visit from the Angel of The Lord--as was Moses--with
the identical clause "remove your sandal from your foot, for the place
upon which you stand is sacred" (cf. Josh 5.13-15 with Ex 3.5)
When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people
of foreign tongue, Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion. The
sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains skipped like
rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan,
that you turned back, you mountains, that you skipped like rams, you hills,
while the Song of Moses and Miriam in Exodus 15 links the retrospective
Exodus (vv.1-12) with the PROSPECTIVE Conquest (vv. 13-18). They are linked
by being examples of the same 'delivering actions' of YHWH.
Unfaithful Adam as a type of Unfaithful Israel (Hos 6.6-7):
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather
than burnt offerings. Like Adam, they have broken the covenant -- they
were unfaithful to me there."
The familiar Creation Week as the pattern for the Sabbaths (Ex 20.8):
The historical figure Melchizedek (Gen 14) is interpreted as a messianic
'type' in Psalm 110!:
"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall
labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD
your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or
daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the
alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and
the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh
day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
The LORD says to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your
enemies a footstool for your feet." The LORD will extend your mighty scepter
from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will
be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb
of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth. The LORD has sworn
and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever, in the order of
In Hosea 12.2-8 the PERSONAL moral failures of Jacob are used to explain
the NATIONAL moral failures of Israel--from wrestling with Esau in the
womb, to wrestling with God:
The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob according to his ways and repay him
according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother's heel; as a man he struggled
He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and
begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel and talked with him there --
the LORD God Almighty, the LORD is his name of renown!
But you must return to your God; maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always. The merchant uses dishonest
he loves to defraud.
The above are some examples of how present experiences were understood
from the perspective of a type. But the dominant use of types was in the
predictive role, and this use generally dealt with major themes--exile,
restoration, Messiah, the Kingdom of God. [The data is rather substantial
here, so I am going to have to be selective in the examples I give.]
SECOND CASE: Examples of the PREDICTIVE use of types.
The EARLIEST clear case I can find is at the birth of Jacob/Esau. The account
in Gen 25 involves their mother inquiring of God about the in-utereo wrestling
match going on inside her womb, with God explaining that the infants 'represent'
Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was
barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, "Why is this happening
to me?" So she went to inquire of the LORD.
The LORD said to her, "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples
from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the
other, and the older will serve the younger."
The return of the Jews from captivity is seen as a 'second' Exodus (Is
"The LORD will dry up the gulf of the Egyptian sea;
with a scorching wind he will sweep his hand over the Euphrates
He will break it up into seven streams so that men can cross
over in sandals.
There will be a highway for the remnant of his people that
is left from Assyria,
as there was for Israel when they came up from Egypt. " (Cf
Thus we get a typic pair (exodus, restoration).
Hosea (2.15) makes the same connection between the Restoration and the
There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the
Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the
day she came up out of Egypt."
Micah in 7.13 makes the SAME image connection:
"As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them my
Jeremiah 23.7ff argues from the same pair (exodus, restoration):
"So then, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "when people
will no longer say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who brought the Israelites
up out of Egypt,' but they will say, 'As surely as the LORD lives, who
brought the descendants of Israel up out of the land of the north and out
of all the countries where he had banished them.' Then they will live in
their own land."
Isaiah characteristically draws this typology out in HIS prediction of
This is what the LORD says -- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
"For your sake I will send to Babylon and bring down as fugitives
all the Babylonians,
in the ships in which they took pride.
I am the LORD, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King."
This is what the LORD says -- he who made a way through the
a path through the mighty waters, who drew out the chariots
the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there,
never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick:
One of the more AMAZING typologies I ran across is the extension of the
Exodus/Covenant of Israel, to the nations of Egypt and Assyria. Look at
the common images and language (Is 19.19ff):
In that day there will be an altar to the LORD in the heart of Egypt,
and a monument to the LORD at its border. It will be a sign and witness
to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD
because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender (cf.
Ex 3:7ff), and he will rescue them. So the LORD will make himself known
to the Egyptians (cf. Ps 103.7), and in that day they will acknowledge
the LORD. . .
In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians
will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians
will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with
Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless
them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel
my inheritance." (cf. Dt 32.9)
Thus we get the pair (YHWH's adoption of Israel in times of distress,
YHWH's adoption of OTHER nations in times of distress).
The restoration is also interpreted as a 'return to Eden' (Is 51:3):
The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion
on all her ruins;
he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the
garden of the LORD.
Thus we get the type-antitype pair (Eden, Restoration).
Ezek uses the same type in 36.35ff ( in which passage you also see the
undergirding principle of typology--that YHWH's actions are dependable
"This is what the Sovereign LORD says: On the day I cleanse you
from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt.
The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight
of all who pass through it. They will say, "This land that was laid waste
has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins,
desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited." Then the nations
around you that remain will know that I the LORD have rebuilt what was
destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the LORD have spoken,
and I will do it."
Another case of the (Eden, Restoration from captivity) pair.
In Isaiah 54:7ff, Isaiah uses the Flood Judgment as a type of the coming
Judgment on Israel:
"For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion
I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but
with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you," says the LORD your Redeemer.
"To me this is like the days of Noah, when I swore that the
waters of Noah would never again cover the earth.
So now I have sworn not to be angry with you, never to rebuke
Thus we get the pair (Flood, exile).
Also in the category of judgment is the pair (Sodom, exile) in Dt 29.23-24:
The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur -- nothing
planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like
the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD
overthrew in fierce anger. All the nations will ask: "Why has the LORD
done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?"
The prophets extended the type of Egypt to a generalized condition of spiritual
bondage. So Foulkes in BEALE:360 explains how these prophets 'saw' Egypt
as a type:
"Hosea said that the new captivity would be 'in Egypt' but not in the
literal 'Egypt' (7.16; 9.3; 11.5, 11). In Ezekiel especially we see how
Egypt is regarded as the place of moral and spiritual temptation and bondage
(Ezk 19.4, 20, 23, 29). And the new bondage was, in a way that the old
bondage in Egypt had not been, a punishment or chastening because of the
nation's sin. Hence, as we have seen, the people were to re-learn through
their experiences the knowledge and fear of the Lord, even as the nation
of old had learnt to depend on him in the wilderness. The second exodus
was a repetition of the first, but it was in a much fuller sense a spiritual
Thus we get the pair (captivity in Egypt, captivity in exile). [Notice
the 'escalation/intensification' motif.]
Another FASCINATING pair is (David, offspring of David). The prophecies
of the messianic king sometimes call him "David" (Ezk 34.23f; 37:24f; Hos
3.5f; Jer 30.8f) and sometimes call him 'offspring/son of David' (Jer 23.5;
Zech 3.8; 6.12). This ONLY makes sense if "David" is a type of "the SON
THIRD CASE: Events that were 'set up' typologically in an earlier, predictive
passage, and interpreted so AFTER the predicted event occurred.
Since typology only deals with generally large-scale events (e.g. exile,
restoration, messiah), what we are looking for are passages that occurred
AFTER one of those events, in which the OT writer REFLECTS BACK on that
event--to see if they use the 'typical' image. In other words, if the exile
is anticipated under the type of 'destruction of Sodom', for example, then
do any of the POST-EXILIC writers/POST-EXILIC actions refer to it under
that image? And since the only major 'late' events that occurred prior
to the close of the OT period, were the exile and captivity, those will
be the areas we need to investigate. [We will look at a 'smaller' example--of
the Jacob/Esau struggle--to show a possible link between typology and prophecy.]
THE EXILE: This is, of course, an easy one. We have already noted above
a number of PREDICTIVE passages above that 'set up' the Exile under the
type of "destruction of Sodom/Gomorra" (e.g. Dt 29.23; Is 1.9ff; Jer 23.14).
And then, AFTER the Exile, the post-Exilic prophets used this type RETROSPECTIVELY
in explaining the Exile! (cf. Amos 4.10ff; Ezk 16.44ff).
THE RETURN: This is a bit bizarre, actually, since the Return to the Land
is only a partial return (i.e. the return of Ezra and Nehemiah, as a type
of Exodus/Conquest, is also a further TYPE of the ultimate restoration
of Israel--more on this below). Consider the analysis summarized in FISH:363.
"K. Koch has argued that "Ezra's march from Babylonia to Jerusalem
was a cultic procession which Ezra understood as a second Exodus...." More
specifically, he calls attention to the facts that the date of the departure
from Babylonia occurs during the first month, just when the exodus occurred
(cf. Exod 12.2; Num 33.3), and that the "delay at the river Ahawa because
no Levite had arrived, seems...conceivable only against the background
of the order of the march through the desert after the original Exodus."
To continue his contention, it may be added that when the returnees "went
up" from captivity they took with them silver and gold, wherewith to rebuild
the Temple (Ezra 1:4-6), a topos that recalls the original exodus, when
the Israelites despoiled their captors of silver and god upon their departure
from Egypt (Ex 12:35). Moreover, just as the exodus generation and its
descendants were warned not to intermarry with the Canaanites and to preserve
their hold status (cf. Ex 34:15-16; Deut 7:1-6; cf. Judg 3:3-6), so was
the post-exilic concern with intermarriage defined in the light of these
prohibitions, and articulated with respect to the original, autochthonous
Canaanites (Ezra 9.1-2). The resettlement was then, typologically, a new
THE FETAL WRESTLING MATCH: In Gen 25.25 we get Jacob and Esau wrestling
"in-utereo" with God PREDICTIVELY applying the type pair (progenitor, nation)
to the event (above), and in Gen 27 we have its prototypical fulfillment
in the Deception of Jacob/Blessing of Isaac:
(Verse 29): May nations serve you and peoples bow down to you. Be
lord over your brothers, and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
(Verse 37): Isaac answered Esau, "I have made him lord over you
and have made all his relatives his servants
So, our THIRD CASE examples tie together the PREDICTIVE and RETROSPECTIVE
uses of typology into a unified approach in understanding history.
Although I have only surveyed some of the data, the number of cases
of typical thinking is quite extensive. Horace Hummel (in Biblical Research
(1964, 9:38-50), cited in BEALE:316) gives a list:
"historical events (e.g., Exodus), individuals (e.g., Abraham; Moses;
David), groups (e.g. the righteous; Israel; the wise man), laws (e.g. Pss.
15 and 24), nations (e.g. Israel; Edom, especially in Obadiah; Babylon,
especially in Nahum; Gog and Magog), places (e.g. holy land, Jerusalem;
temple), legends (e.g. creation; flood; Jonah), and the cult (in its very
nature: a re-enacting of God's redemptive acts).
Summary: The data from the OT shows quite clearly that typology was
a mainstream interpretive approach to Israel's history, personages, events,
and primeval history. Accordingly, NT writers were NOT employing an 'alien'
method to the exegesis of the OT--indeed, they were squarely in the mainstream
of accepted hermeneutical practice.
Did the ANE (Ancient Near East) "use" typology" for their self-understanding?
Although this is not as critical an issue compared to the above two
(i.e. did non-Christian writers in NT times use types? and did OT writers
in OT times use types?), it may prove of value in assessing the legitimacy
of the typological approach.
We DO see typological thinking in Israel's neighbors, but not to the
same extent and, in most cases, not in the same ways.
A first-millennium Assyrian text reinterprets the New Year Festival in
Babylon in the light of a historical rivalry between the gods Ashur (of
Assyria) and Marduk (of Babylon). (FISH:357)
Many of the acts of kings of Canaan were understood as 'types' of what
the gods were doing in heaven, since in many cases these kings were labeled
as 'sons of god' (PCE:141).
The Hyksos invasion of Egypt was interpreted against the Horus/Seth myths
of antagonism (FISH:358).
The Guti invasion (c.2500bce) serves as a 'type' for the later Seleucid
invasion of Babylon. (FISH:360).
The so-called Fertility Cults of the ANE, in which ritual prostitution
was employed, centered around 'acting out on earth' what the gods were
doing in heaven at the time. These 'ceremonies' were organized around the
major agricultural events--since the fertility acts in heaven were responsible
for 'producing' good rains and crops. This is a typology at the event-level.
(see any textbook on ANE religions, or PCE:130).
Von Rad (EOTH: 18-19), after citing several ANE texts which show typical
correspondence between cities/buildings and those of the gods, characterizes
most of this ANE thinking as being different from that of ancient Israel:
"There (i.e. ANE) we find the mythological conception of an all-embracing
correspondence between the heavenly on the one hand, and the earthly on
the other. This 'is so of the notions that, in conformity with the law
of the correspondence of macrocosm and microcosm, the prototypes of all
countries, rivers, cities, and temples exist in heaven in the form of certain
astral figures, while those on earth are only copies of them.'...This sort
of mythological-speculative typology remained almost entirely foreign to
ancient Israel...The Old Testament, on the contrary is dominated by an
essentially different form of typological thinking..."
The non-Israelite worldviews of the ancients (including Greece) was that
the Golden Age of the Future was essentially a 'Return to the Golden Age'--both
of which were OUTSIDE history. So Goppelt (GT: 19):
"The symbolical and allegorical interpretation of the mythology was
well known in the Greek world, but typology was not because typology presupposes
a divine history in past, present, and future....Hellenism and the extrabiblical
world in general knew only the conception of the return of the golden age
and a cyclical view of history; it knew nothing about divinely ordained
types that point to a real and great fulfillment.
SUMMARY: The ANE DID have a similitude of typical thinking--human events
mirrored divine events--but DID NOT have the critical view of 'escalating
divine action within human history'. Whereas the extrabiblical view of
history could be called 'cyclical'; the biblical viewpoint must be labeled
'linear with escalating repetition'--perhaps a 'spiraling view' of history,
in which the spiral gets larger and larger (the intensification motif).
Even the cult and the temple (cf. Ex 25.9, 20 was less of a copy of God's
heavenly 'house' than a copy of God's redemptive stage and actions IN HISTORY
What we have seen so far:
At this point I have documented the FACT of typological thinking as
a major foundation in how Israel understood her history (and in many cases,
her future). But I cannot help but ask the question as to HOW IN THE WORLD
THEY COULD HAVE DEVELOPED SUCH A VIEW! What kinds of experiences did she
have that would have engendered this type of view? What types of OTHER
understandings would have informed this view?
Typology is not prophecy and it is not allegory--it is a way of looking
The NT writers shared this view (and method of understanding OT history)
with their NT-era non-Christian contemporaries.
This view/method was used in the OT, and thus would have been part of the
literary understanding of the OT writers/recipients. (In other words, the
NT writers did not 'smuggle' this view backwards into the OT passages.)
The ANE neighbors of Israel looked at SOME events as topological, but did
not manifest the extensiveness of Israel in using this approach--their
view of the end-times was not fashioned by the extensive prophetic words
that shaped Jewish hopes for the future.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . .
What we have to 'look for' in this case are passages/events/formative
experiences that CREATED in Israel this particular belief that historical
events/personages COULD BE SEEN as part of an escalating pattern. (Events
that would have CONFIRMED this belief -- like case THREE above --are of
slightly less importance over against EARLY events in the nation's history.)
Some SERIOUS theoretical issues surrounding typology (in my opinion):
One of the first indications of the pattern of 'person stands for nation'
is in the leadership death-bed 'inheritance blessings'. These are those
'last will and testament' experiences of Isaac (Gen 27), Jacob (Gen 49),
Moses (Deut 33). In these passages, rights and predictions are ascribed
to the individual sons that are OBVIOUSLY applied to their individual progeny
(e.g. Gen 27.9; 49:10, 13; Deut 33.17). What is present in these kinds
of passages is a leader-community type-antitype, in which something ascribed
to the leader/father/ancestor is also applied to their community/family/lineage.
Another early passage is in Ex, where the Sabbath law is specifically linked
to a creative event of God (but still IN HISTORY--as opposed the "divine
acts" of the non-biblical gods of the ANE). A pattern is set by God--prescribed
rest after good labor--that is reiterated at the giving of the Decalogue,
and then expanded to Sabbath Years and the Sabbath of Sabbaths (i.e. the
Year of Jubilees)--Lev 25.1-12. Here was a pattern 'ground in' EVERY WEEK.
Deuteronony 18 set up a HUGE amount of expectations, that were very explicit
in NT times (cf. John 6.14; 7.40). Moses was explicitly declared to be
a 'type/pattern' for another prophet to come (15, 18f):
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among
your own brothers. You must listen to him.
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers;
I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command
him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my
name, I myself will call him to account.
We saw above the DELIBERATE identification of Joshua as a 'second Moses'.
This clear message of YHWH that 'as Moses did...' so 'Joshua did' --to
an audience which knew them both--would have communicated that God used
type-antitype patterns in at least the leadership category.
God consistently demonstrates a pattern in His dealings with Israel and
the Nations. Often this is made explicit in the use of formulae such as
"just as I did to X, so will I do to Y..." or "the former...the
latter". What these statements do is SET UP the expectation that God's
actions are 'predictable' given the knowledge of the 'initial conditions'.
Consider the following passages:
In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people,
just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now."(Num
The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the
Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. (Jos 4.23)
Then the LORD said, "Just as my servant Isaiah has gone stripped
and barefoot for three years, as a sign and portent against Egypt and Cush,
4 so the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian
captives and Cushite exiles, (Is 20.3)
15 I will thrust you from my presence, just as I did all your brothers,
the people of Ephraim.' (Jer 7.15)
This is what the LORD says: `I am going to hand Pharaoh Hophra king
of Egypt over to his enemies who seek his life, just as I handed Zedekiah
king of Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the enemy who was
seeking his life.'" (Jere 44.30)
I turned away from her in disgust, just as I had turned away from
her sister. (Ez 23.18)
"Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is
how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled.
Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited
out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born
and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things,
for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before
you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit
you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. (Lev
And the LORD will do to them what he did to Sihon and Og, the kings
of the Amorites, whom he destroyed along with their land. (Dt 31.4)
The tradition of "wisdom and the wise" focused on the pattern-detection
of 'inductive generalization". For example, in Proverbs 24.30: " I went
past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks
judgment; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds,
and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed
and learned a lesson from what I saw: A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest -- and poverty will come on you like
a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.". (That is, pattern detection
was a MAJOR part of Israelite praxis.)
"Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us
what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their
final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, 23 tell us what the
future holds, so we may know that you are gods. (Is 41.22) [notice--both
typology AND prophecy linked in this verse, with typology being the object
Summary: The formative experiences of Israel around the Exodus 'set
up' a kind of 'historical consciousness' that recognized a consistency
in God's actions in history, both with individual leaders and with groups.
Hence, the substrate for typological thinking was part-and-parcel of WHO
. . .
As a 20th century, western-civy, limited-Modernist thinker, this typology
thing (now documented to a REALITY, in both OT and NT times and praxis)
still 'bothers' me a little--in both its "imprecision" and its 'loose cannon
on deck' possibilities. The precise area of discomfort for me, it seems,
is in the relationships between typology (with its strong claims to a semi-prophetic
status) and forms of literary 'analogy' (such as metaphor and simile).
To put the 'doubt' question more explicitly: "Is typology really any different
from metaphor, after all? And if it is no different, then how can we possibly
attach prophetic significance to it? In that case, ANYTHING could be a
'prophecy'--with all the attendant abuses, mis-applications, etc."
The relationship between typology and metaphor
I have noticed a few differences between types and metaphors:
Typology and Analogy
Metaphors are based on structural/pattern similarities between the objects.
They share some feature with the object being "seen as...". Typology has
this notion of similarity but also INCLUDES THE HISTORICAL SETTING as a
core part of the pattern-pair. For example, the destruction of Pompeii
by the eruptions of Mt. Vesuvius could be a metaphor for the Captivity
of Israel (i.e. the point of sudden 'destruction'), but the destruction
of Sodom would be a type (i.e. sudden judgment by God--which includes the
historical dimension of God's activities in the world).
In the same way, in metaphors there is no explicit 'time relationship'--the
time relationship is 'reversible' (e.g. an apple in 1950 is 'like' an apple
in 1850 and VICE VERSA--either 'direction' of comparison 'works'). But
in typology, this is NOT the case. The type is ALWAYS precedent in time
and indeed, creates the concept under which the future is understood.
Another way to put this is: I can look at the concept of 'justice'
today and then go back and look for cases of this in the past--that is
bi-directional metaphor. But in typology, I CANNOT look at the Restoration
FIRST and then go see the Conquest in light of it. The Restoration can
ONLY be seen from 'within' the Conquest Event meaningfully. Only from 'within
that conceptual context' does the semantic/salvific 'meaning' of the Restoration
Metaphors do not require any 'intensification' or 'escalation' between
the two objects; typology REQUIRES it. (The progressive nature of God's
action in history forms the substrate for this.)
Metaphors could be taken from ANY area of life; types must derive from
God's action in history. Hence, when YHWH says in Mal 3.17: " I will spare
them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him.", He is
arguing from a GENERAL situation (i.e. father-son relations), and accordingly,
is using a metaphor. On the other hand, when He argues from His dealings
with Abraham (for example), we have a SPECIFIC point, situated WITHIN God's
historical actions with the covenant people.
Metaphors are linked ONLY by the similarity; types are linked by either
shared agents (e.g. events), genetics (e.g. Levi/the priesthood; David/the
Davidic kingdom), or representative solidarity (e.g. the King as Ideal
Israel). In other words, the link is NOT MERELY an epistemological link--there
is some 'real' substance to the relationship.
Let's try to illustrate this by looking at two passages in which YHWH uses
metaphor RATHER than typology, to discuss the same event that is foretold
through typic passages also.
Consider Jer 19.10-11: "Then break the jar while those who go with
you are watching, and say to them, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says:
I will smash this nation and this city just as this potter's jar is smashed
and cannot be repaired. They will bury the dead in Topheth until there
is no more room." and Ezek 24.24: "Ezekiel will be a sign to you;
you will do just as he has done.".
In both cases, God uses an 'object lesson' to communicate His coming
judgment on Israel. (This judgment is already seen as a typical fulfillment,
in other passages (above), of the Flood, Sodom/Gomorra, etc.). In these
object lesson cases, the "metaphor" (i.e. object lesson) has only a SYMPTOMATIC
relationship with the 'anti-metaphor'--it resembles it only 'structurally'
and not at its 'essence' or core.
What this means for OUR study here is that typology deals with the inner
core of an event/character/type, That inner core must be 'created' intentionally
by God as a carrier of its typological 'message'. And, when this feature
is combined with some essential link (above), what emerges is the radical
fact that a type and its antitype are NOT seen as two completely separate
(but similar) events) but ARE seen as two manifestations of the SAME 'core'
event!. (This notion is VERY close to the notion of 'corporate solidarity'--which
I have to address next in this series--even to point of maybe being labeled
'event solidarity' or 'historical solidarity'. In ANY event, typology emerges
as something MUCH 'tighter' than metaphor--something based upon special
relationships in history and creation.
Analogy is simply the epistemic (and maybe ontic) basis for metaphor;
and as such, has essentially already been discussed above. Analogy is simply
the point of similarity between type/antitype, and doesn't include the
notions of ontic linkage, intensification, historical-setting, etc. discussed
above. Analogy is present (epistemically) in all typology; the reverse
is not true--hence, to identify the two is to misunderstand the data.
The relationship between typology and hyperbole (major issue for me!)
This is more of an issue of 'how we detect' typology than 'what typology
is and is NOT', but I want to mention it briefly here. (I will have to
deal with it more substantially in the piece on Corporate Solidarity, but
I can at least summarize by tentative conclusions on it here.)
One of the 'tip-offs' in a passage to the fact that the text has a typological
dimension is the use of hyperbole--the literary use of overstatement
for effect and emphasis.. Consider the two main passages that are supposed
to represent a typological address to Satan (Ezek 28 and Is 14):
(Ezek 28:11ff) The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man,
take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what
the Sovereign LORD says: "'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom
and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious
stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper,
sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of
gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed
as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount
of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways
from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Through
your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So
I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian
cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account
of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.
So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. By
your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.
So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced
you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. All the
nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end
and will be no more.'"
(Is 14:3ff) On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering
and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the
king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has
ended! The LORD has broken the rod of the wicked, the scepter of the rulers,
which in anger struck down peoples with unceasing blows, and in fury subdued
nations with relentless aggression. All the lands are at rest and at peace;
they break into singing. Even the pine trees and the cedars of Lebanon
exult over you and say, "Now that you have been laid low, no woodsman comes
to cut us down." 9The grave below is all astir to meet you at your coming;
it rouses the spirits of the departed to greet you -- all those who were
leaders in the world; it makes them rise from their thrones -- all those
who were kings over the nations. They will all respond, they will say to
you, "You also have become weak, as we are; you have become like us." All
your pomp has been brought down to the grave, along with the noise of your
harps; maggots are spread out beneath you and worms cover you. How you
have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been
cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in
your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the
stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost
heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High." But you are brought down to the
grave, to the depths of the pit.
As indicated in the passages, BOTH passages are addressed to historical
kings (one of Tyre, one of Babylon). There are numerous details in each
passage that relate to obvious historical elements (e.g. trade, war, captives).
But in each passage there are elements that SEEM to transcend what might
meaningfully be said of kings (perhaps even of pompous ones!). In the Ezekiel
passage, the reference to being in Eden, the anointed Cherub (n.b. this
figure was the one represented over the mercy-seat!), the holy mount of
God, etc. all point to a reality 'beyond/behind' the King of Tyre. To the
original audience, it would PERHAPS have seemed like hyperbole (but the
notion of solidarity may have made the communication more explicit in their
minds). On the other hand, in the Isaiah passage, the possible hyperbolic
sections (e.g. 'fallen from heaven', 'ascend to heaven') could easily have
been ascribed to an arrogant king in the ANE. In this case the use of hyperbole
was probably simply that--a literary overstatement to dramatize his arrogance.
In the case of Tyre however, the overstatement WAY OVERSHOOTS the figure,
and 'tips us off' that something is perhaps 'moving around behind the king
of Tyre'--some super-human, malevolent intelligence.
Other passages in which the typological significance is 'signaled' by
the usage of hyperbole (or equivalent descriptive techniques) are:
Typology and the precision of prophetic understanding: I will have
to address the issue of prophetic precision in a later piece on 'prophecy
proper', but here we are concerned with the precision of TYPOLOGY.
Dan 9--the figure of the temple-desecrator and covenant-breaker is generally
considered to be a prophecy of the inter-testamental figure of Antiochus
Epiphenes, but some of the details of the passage go FAR BEYOND his historical
actions, 'tipping us off' to a typical reference to another eschatological
Psalm 22--the auto-psychological disclosure of a suffering King David,
uses hyperbolic statements concerning his persecution (e.g. 'they part
my garments among them', 'they have pierced my hands and feet') that would
'tip us off' that something strange was going on in the text. The statements
are hyperbolic (like other statements in the Psalm) but unlike those OTHER
statement OVERSHOOT the mark.
We have seen that the Israelite nation viewed the events and leaders
of their history TYPOLOGICALLY--and therefore as both linked to past interactions
between God and humans, and as linked to future interactions. But, with
this conscious awareness, how much precision could they have had about
those futures? The broad-brush-stroke patterns would have been obvious
(e.g. messianic David, restoration to the Land), but the details were probably
not apparent (e.g. WHICH descendent of David, the date of the Restoration
to the Land). Prophecy proper contributed a reasonable amount of detail
of course, but typology seems to set the large-pattern expectations of
the people. Typology lent itself to retrospective insight--"This case is
JUST LIKE that other time..." The predictions from the past would have
been low (but not negligible) in precision; but the correlation in the
future would have been high (but not perfect) in precision.
"Control factors" for typological 'exegesis':
Although abuse of typology could 'mutate' the exegetical process into
forms of pure metaphor, free-launch allegory, over-specification of historical
types (e.g. the scarlet thread of Rahab as a type of Christ!--Joshua 2.18),
the main thematic control resides in the major stated actions of God
in history--the core content of the major events and leadership characters
form the semantic locus of the intended communication of God in types.
Isolated events, non-public characters, un-shared items do NOT appear to
be the carriers of God's disclosure through types.
Contrary to my expectations (honestly!), I have found typology to be pervasively
used in both NT and OT times (both Judeo-Christian and non-Judeo-Christian),
to be grounded in Israel's history and practice, to be 'controlled' from
a hermeneutical perspective by its difference from metaphor, to be adequate
in precision to 'point to patterns' in the future (while still being ambiguous
enough to 'allow' multiple iterations of the same type--e.g Dan 9), and
with enough structure to be useful in the OT prophetic task of calling
the covenant people back to YHWH. [Strangely enough, there actually may
be an argument for "God's existence" hiding in this strange and statistically
weird phenomena--but more on that later, maybe ;>) ]
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