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Is Typology just Allegory?

To my mind, typology is merely a way to pretend your interpretation of an Old Testament passage is literal when it is, in fact, allegorical.

An example:

And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)

In claiming the rock is a type of Christ, what you are really saying is that the rock was not really Christ at all but, rather, merely an allegory.This kind of interpretation is not literal.

At all stages of human history, God intervenes according to his plan and purpose, thus Old Testament and New Testament aspects of redemption will tell a similar story — this is the relationship between them. Typology seems to me to be an artificial and unnecessary construct imposed on top of this basic reality.


Do these verses teach typology? ...

I don't think so.

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure [type, pattern] of him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)

Adam is the figure of Christ. Adam's sin brought death to humanity, Christ's sacrifice brought life. There are two resemblances between Adam and Christ:

Adam is not a type of Christ. Adam was not created as a precursor to Christ, to illustrate to the New Testament Christians the nature of Christ; rather, Adam was created in his own right by God and for God. If something (someone) is a type, it implies that their purpose for being is to point to the future (New Testament) anti-type.

Christ took on human nature and in so doing "deified" it.(This is not to say that humans are deity; certainly we are not.)

Deification— 2 aspects:

  1. In taking on human nature in the incarnation, Christ deified human nature incorporating it into God's nature.
  2. In receiving the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the redeemed Christian enjoys participation in the Trinity, in the divine nature.

Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample [example] unto you to follow us. (2 Thessalonians 3:9)

The word "example" here is the same Greek word as the word "type" above. Certainly Paul does not consider himself to be a type of his followers.

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. (1 Corinthians 10:6)

Paul is referring to: (1) the Israelites being "baptized" by Moses in the cloud and the sea during the exodus, (2) eating the manna, (3) drinking from the water of the rock (which was Christ), and (4) their disbelief and destruction in the wilderness. These people and these events are to be examples for us; they are not types.

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (1 Corinthians 10:11)

Paul gives a few more examples of evil deeds of these unbelieving Israelites. Their evil deeds and the judgment by God are examples for us; they are not types.

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21)

Peter is referring to Noah's flood as an example to us of God's redemptive plan for us. He is comparing those who were saved from drowning in the flood waters by the ark with those who are immersed in the water resulting in salvation during baptism. This is certainly not a type since the comparison is between not getting wet in the Old Testament with getting wet in the New Testament. These are opposites and opposites can't be types.

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount. (Hebrews 8:5)

The tabernacle is a physical representation of things in heaven. The symbols in heaven, which have a literal existence in the spiritual realm, are portrayed via architecture and furnishings in the physical world as teaching tools. In considering the physical objects (and rites) we are to understand the spiritual truths. This is certainly not a type. A type requires that the Old Testament object or action is replaced by the New Testament truth. What we have in this passage (and others like it) is that both the Old Testament objects and rites and the New Testament truths derive from a single source — heaven.

In calling these Old Testament objects and rites types, their value to the people living in that day is robbed. But this is incorrect. The Old Testament people understood the spiritual truths embodied in these objects and rites every bit as much as those of the New Testament understand them.

For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us. (Hebrews 9:24)

Similar to the previous. It is the physical objects and rites that teach both Old Testament and New Testament people about the spiritual truths. If these were types, the purpose of these Old Testament objects and rites would be to instruct us of New Testament times.


Are these passages really types? ...

I don't think so.

Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Corinthians 5:7)

In declaring the Old Testament Passover meal and rituals to be types it robs them of their actual significance to those of the Old Testament who practiced these. But these rites actually provided redemption and the forgiveness of sin for those who practiced them with understanding and in faith.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (Hebrews 10:1)

It is misinterpretation of this verse which results in some Protestants claiming that the Old Testament sacrifices were useless to the people who performed them and that their only purpose was to provide teaching to those of the New Testament about God's plan of salvation and the gospel.

It was not the mere performance of these Old Testament rites and rituals that brought about forgiveness of sins and redemption for the practitioners; it required faith and a life of holiness on their part. The later Old Testament prophets make it clear that this is the case as they rebuke the people for performing these rites and rituals without the proper disposition of heart.

These rites and ritual are prophetic in that they are fulfilled in Christ. But they are not types.

Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (Colossians 2:16)

Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (Colossians 2:17)

In Old Testament days it was necessary to participate in the proscribed rites and rituals to have faith — people who rejected these did so out of sin, not from faith. But in the New Covenant these things are no longer required for those of faith. However, it is still required that those of faith obey Christ and the commandments — those who don't are not faithful but sinful. Obedience is a necessary ingredient of faith. The only difference between the Old and New Covenants is the particular things which are to be done in obedience. The Old Covenant had more external commands from God.

Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. (Hebrews 9:6)

But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: (Hebrews 9:7)

The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: (Hebrews 9:8)

Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. (Hebrews 9:9)

The high priest had to enter the holy of holies in the tabernacle each year to atone for the people. A blood sacrifice was required. Neither the people at large nor the priests were allowed to enter the holy of holies. Because the high priest had to repeat this process each year he was aware that he was not permanently free from sin.

Now that Christ, as the high priest, has given himself as the lamb of God, we now have access to the holy of holies.

All of this Old Testament ritual actually provided for redemption for the Israelites of the day, thus, it is not a type; it is not merely a symbol for today. The truths expressed in the Old Testament are eternal and apply to then and now, although in different form.

When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: (Matthew 2:14)

And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matthew 2:15)

The Old Testament passage is a prophecy, not a type. It was spoken by a prophet.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

At God's command Abraham offered to sacrifice his son Isaac just as God sacrificed his son Jesus. This Old Testament event was a prophecy and a teaching tool. Prophets often acted-out their prophecies. Abraham's words "God will provide himself a lamb" (Genesis 22:8) is the key.

For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)

I would be afraid to call Jonah's time spent in the belly of the whale a type of Christ's spending three days in Abraham's bosom. Jonah's imprisonment was due to his disobedience. It was very important to God that Jonah perform his mission so God persuaded him to do so by his own free will. Jesus willingly accepted his sacrificial death, and his time spent in Abraham's bosom was to preach to the captives and to free them. The only two things these events have in common are: (1) three days, and (2) in the belly of something — the whale for Jonah and the earth for Jesus.

As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:6)

This verse does not say Melchizedek was a type of Christ; what it says is that Christ's priesthood was the same kind as Melchizedek's. This implies also that the Levitical priesthood is not a type of Christ either. Perhaps Catholic priests are in the Levitical order but certainly Christ isn't.

And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (Hebrews 10:11)

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:12)

These verses contrast the Old Testament priests and their sacrifices with Christ's once-for-all sacrifice.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

Jesus says nothing about types; what this verse says is that there are many passages in the Old Testament that are about Christ and his mission. These passages are prophecies but not types.

But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. (Galatians 4:23)

Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. (Galatians 4:24)

For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (Galatians 4:25)

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:26)

This extended passage is an allegoryas Paul states in verse 24, not a type. He is musing about the two children of Abraham and comes to an unexpected conclusion:

Ishmael (the child of Hagar the bondwoman) / Mt. Sinai / Jerusalem

  =    the nation of Israel which persecutes the church
Isaac (the child of Sarah the freewoman) / the Heavenly Jerusalem   =    the church of Christ

Are "patterns" types? ...

I don't think so.

Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount. (Hebrews 8:5)

According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it. (Exodus 25:9)

And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was showed thee in the mount. (Exodus 25:40)

And this work of the candlestick was of beaten gold, unto the shaft thereof, unto the flowers thereof, was beaten work: according unto the pattern which the LORD had showed Moses, so he made the candlestick. (Numbers 8:4)

Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you. (Joshua 22:28)

Then David gave to Solomon his son the pattern of the porch, and of the houses thereof, and of the treasuries thereof, and of the upper chambers thereof, and of the inner parlours thereof, and of the place of the mercy seat, (1 Chronicles 28:11)

And the pattern of all that he had by the spirit, of the courts of the house of the LORD, and of all the chambers round about, of the treasuries of the house of God, and of the treasuries of the dedicated things. (1 Chronicles 28:12)

And for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the pattern of the chariot of the cherubims, that spread out their wings, and covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD. (1 Chronicles 28:18)

All this, said David, the LORD made me understand in writing by his hand upon me, even all the works of this pattern. (1 Chronicles 28:19)

Thou son of man, show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities: and let them measure the pattern. (Ezekiel 43:10)

The tabernacle was to be built according to a heavenly model. This is because in the spiritual realm the various objects have a real existence as symbols; symbols in the spiritual realm have an actual spiritual substance. God wished for all this symbolic messaging to not be lost or modified in any way.

The truths expressed in the spiritual symbols are true for all time. Thus, these things are not types; rather, both Old Testament and New Testament realities are copies of the one source, of the heavenly source. To be an anti-type the New Testament thing has to be a copy of the Old Testament thing. Certainly we learn of the symbol and its meaning from the Old Testament but that is because it was first revealed to that time and to that people. To call a teaching of truth a type just because it came first and was passed down to others seems wrong-headed; if this was the only criteria to be a type then all past teachings are by definition types. This destroys the notion of typology altogether.


References to Types

Here are many passages used to support the notion of Typology.

Typology requires six ingredients:

  1. An Old Testament image (the type).
  2. A New Testament image (the anti-type) to which the type refers.
  3. A commonality between type and anti-type.
  4. A prophetic intent.
  5. The type provides additional meaning to the anti-type.
  6. The anti-type explains what was really going on with the type (which was often misunderstood or only partially understood by people the of Old Testament times).

For purposes of discussion, I will assume that all the words in bold in the Bible quotes refer to types (although I have my doubts that this is true as I point out).

(1 Corinthians 10:6) Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

(1 Corinthians 10:11) Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples [examples]: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

The so-called Old Testament types are not types at all but are merely examples which future generations can learn from. Previous to these verses Paul lists various events in the history of the Old Testament Israelites and applies the lessons to Christians.

Certainly the Old Testament events were intended by God to provide lessons for future generations, but they were not types.

(Romans 5:14) Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

Adam was a figure of Christ. There are similarities between Adam and Christ:

I am suspicious of the claim that Adam's role was prophetic of Christ's role. It seems more sensible to me to emphasize that the similarities are a result of the mechanism by which sin was imparted to humankind via Adam's sin. Adam allowed access by Satan to the part of the spiritual realm inhabited by humans and allowed Satan to invade our very souls with the sin nature. The way God would solve this mistake was for Jesus to take on human form, to "deify" human form if you will, and to conquer Satan's influence in the spiritual realm of us humans. This doesn't seem like a type to me.

(Colossians 2:17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

Various ceremonial practices of the Old Testament are shadows of the grace imparted to humankind in the New Testament. I don't see how this can be considered a type at all.

Certainly God's revelation came upon the human race bit by bit. Only in the New Testament do we learn of the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ, but that is because it wasn't until New Testament times that Christ "deified" human natureand offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins.

God's later revelation builds on his previous revelation, but I don't see how any of this can be considered as a type. Just because there is a progression and development doesn't make it a type.

(Hebrews 8:5) Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount.

Moses was given a vision of the design of the tabernacle. The tabernacle did not merely exist in the physical world (after Moses built it), it also existed in the spiritual realm. The tabernacle is in its very nature a highly symbolic structure — every part means something, has a spiritual message. In the spiritual realm these symbolic meanings are literally real. (Just as during dreaming we live out the reality of a symbol but upon awakening we think of it as merely a symbol.)

Just because something has symbolic meaning doesn't make it a type. Just because the many components of the tabernacle have symbolic meaning doesn't make them types.

Another problem with considering the tabernacle, the objects composing the tabernacle, and the objects in the tabernacle as types is that there are no anti-types, no future objects corresponding to these.

(Hebrews 10:1) For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

The law was given to the Israelites to redeem them. By performing the rituals in faith and by obeying the law in faith they would be redeemed from their sin. There sin was removed by sacrificing animals when they did this in faith.

This verse (and many like it) are saying that it is Christ's atoning sacrifice that animates all the various activities that people have done throughout all of human history. For example, it is Christ's atoning sacrifice that resulted in Abraham's salvation when trusted in God throughout his whole life. Abraham's acts of faith did not save him; Christ saved him by his sacrificial act in the far future (in the past for us). Abraham's acts of faith appropriated Christ's saving grace. Thus, it is correct to say both that Old Testament sacrifices do save and that they don't save.

In any case, to claim that these Old Testament rituals and laws are types seem a bit far-fetched to me.

(Hebrews 9:23,24) It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.

Just as the Old Testament high priest entered the holy of holies each year after applying the blood of sacrificed animals, so also Christ entered heaven once for us after providing his sacrificial blood.

The reason many Protestants consider this to be a type is because they don't believe that the bloody animal sacrifice actually did anything — the people were merely acting out a play in which their actions were useless. The actions of the Old Testament people were useless and worthless. Their only purpose was to instruct us who live in the Christian era. This is nonsense.

Why would God provide ordinances, laws, rituals, and ceremonies which were completely useless for the people of the day who believed and practiced these things? This is an example of the crazy thinking of the Protestant Reformers who ejected so much that is true in rebelling against Catholic abuses and wrongheadedness.

But the Old Testament ordinances, laws, rituals, and ceremonies in actuality were effective for those who practised them in faith and devotion. The supernatural grace that energized these came from the then-future work of Christ. After death these faith-filled Old Testament saints were taken to Abraham's bosom to be protected from the activities of the wicked spirits. When Jesus provided himself as the true sacrifice for the sins of the world, he went into Abraham's bosom to claim those who were already his.

(Hebrews 9:8,9) The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience.

Within the Old Testament ordinances, laws, rituals, and ceremonies are teachings about the way of redemption. In the Old Testament these teachings were not completely understood because Christ had not yet been revealed. However, these ordinances, laws, rituals, and ceremonies were effective for those who practiced them with faith and devotion.

Saying that all these are types implies that they had no value to the people of the day; that these ordinances, laws, rituals, and ceremonies were established by God merely as a lesson for us of the New Testament. I suppose this is my basic objection to typology in general — it denigrates, disparages, and depreciates the faith life of the Old Testament saints.

(1 Peter 3:21) The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peter refers to Noah's flood as a form of baptism. Just as those who entered the ark were saved, so also those who are baptized as a Christian are saved. Both groups of people have faith and act on their faith in a way that results in their salvation. In the case of Noah's family, they heard Noah's prophecy from God of a flood and they believed the message; in the case of Christians, they hear of the gospel of Jesus Christ and turn from their life leading to damnation to a life of redemption.

I don't see how Noah's flood is a type of baptism (the anti-type). To think it is implies that God's whole purpose for destroying human civilization via the flood was to teach Christians thousands of years later about the real meaning of salvation. Weird.