Guest Post: Typology in the Bible

Today’s post is a guest article written by Catholic Apologist Eric Shearer.  Eric has a blog titled On This Rock Apologetics.  He is doing great work for the church and you will be richly blessed by his writing.  So go on over and give him a follow.  Enjoy the article!

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

I’m often told that I’m the spitting image of my dad, less about 30 years. And not just because I’m his lookalike. The similarities continue through our interests, tastes, and even career. By all accounts, I’d imagine any fair observer might look at the two of us and think, “Yup. That makes sense.”

Many people approach the Old and New Testaments of the Bible looking for a similar resemblance. The Old Testament tells us of God creating the universe, calling Israel to be His people, and leading them into the days of Christ. The New Testament tells us about Jesus and His ministry, provides us with instruction on how to live a Christian life, and even gives us a glimpse of heavenly worship. Yet sometimes people struggle to see how the two connect.

There are many different ways in which we can relate the two testaments, but I would like to focus on just one right now. As St. Augustine put it eloquently: “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.”1 The study of this relationship between the Old and New Testaments is called Typology.

What is Typology?

Typology is the study of how various things in the Old Testament prefigured what was later fulfilled in the New Testament. And these “things” we call types (from the Greek typos). Scripture Scholar Scott Hahn describes a type as a, “real person, place, thing, or event in the Old Testament that foreshadows something greater in the New Testament.”2

In this light, we see in the Old Testament not only the progress of salvation history, but many divine analogies to greater New Testament realities.

The New Adam
We see this in St. Paul’s description of Adam as a type of Jesus. He explained that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14, emphasis added). Paul viewed Jesus as a new Adam. Among many other similarities, they were both born in a state of original innocence, they both faced off with Satan, and they both impacted the whole of humanity.

Though with this comparison we can see just how superior the new Adam is when compared to the old. The first Adam failed where Jesus succeeded. “For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!” (Rom 5:15).

Other Types of Types
Not all types refer to Jesus. As I plan to demonstrate in future articles, typology can be applied to other things in the New Testament.

We can see an example of this when the author of Hebrews describes the Old Testament tabernacle as a, “shadow of the heavenly sanctuary” (Heb 8:5). (Or click here to see an example of Eve as a type of Mary).

It’s important to note, as Hahn said earlier, that a type is always inferior to its fulfillment in the New Testament. What was once a shadow is revealed in all its glory in the New Testament.

Learning from the Master

Some might be interested to hear that this method of reading scripture isn’t new. Christians have seen the typological relationship between the Old and New Testaments for centuries. And for good reason too. Jesus himself read the Old Testament in this way.

Take the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus. Two of Jesus’ followers were walking on the road to Emmaus shortly after reports of Jesus’ resurrection began to spread. The two encounter Jesus on the road, but they didn’t recognize him. The three talked for a while, and we’re told that “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). How great of a Bible study would that have been!

Now remember, at this time there was no New Testament. They were still living it. The “scriptures” referred to the Old Testament. And from the Old Testament, Jesus showed “the things concerning himself.”

Why Study Typology?

Some may think of typology as a highfalutin method of biblical study reserved for academics in halls of higher education. And no doubt it could be. But the value of typology is more than that. It’s how the first Christians approached the scriptures. It’s how Jesus himself approached the scriptures.

By reading the New Testament in light of Old Testament types, a whole new dimension of the Bible opens up to us. We can see the brilliance of the divine analogies that were made so long ago. So much of Biblical history spells out the heavenly realities that we now know in the Christian era. And we can use these Old Testament types to shape our understanding of Christian doctrine.

Last, but certainly not least, typology allows us to approach the Bible with a new appreciation as we see the handy-work of a master storyteller unfold.

 

Sources

  1. St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch 2.73; and Catechism of the Catholic Church 129.
  2. Hahn, Scott W. Hail, Holy Queen: the Mother of God in the Word of God. Image Books, 2006, pp. 23.

 

Image result for typology bible

Advertisements

Mystery and Sacraments

When one begins to study sacred scripture the idea of mystery becomes very apparent.  The New Testament and Septuagint speak of the Greek word Mysterion.  When St. Jerome was translating the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into what would be the Latin Vulgate, he used the word sacramentum, or sacrament in English. In fact, the sacraments are celebrations of the mysteries of God. The Old Testament has no shortages of these mysteries that give us clues of the nature of God and the sacred mysteries.  This paper will seek to define mysterion, give examples of how these mysteries help reveal God’s identity, the role of ritual and sacrifice, and how God chooses to communicate with His people.

The word mystery is an anomaly of sorts.  In some circles it is something that is not to be questions, but to be accepted.  To others it is an invitation to explore, learn, and grow.  At most basic level a mystery is something hidden, and the information needed to understand is not available.  When it comes to God it is the opposite.  God is not some cosmic force that wants to remain hidden from us.  He was us to know Him, and he wants to be known by us.  We come to know these mysteries of God through our senses, reason, and faith.

It is through our physical senses that we get to know the word around us.  We learn what things smell like, we can see, hear, and see that this amazing world came from something.  Science tells us that everything has an origin and cannot come from nothing.  It is in this way that our senses testify to the existence of a creator.  Secondly, we come to know these mysteries through the uses of our reason.  We come to knowledge of the meaning and purpose of creation, even the creation of our own human lives, through our ability to reason.  Through reason we enter into relationship with God.  Lastly, the third way we understand the mysteries is through faith.  The utilization of faith informs reason and is necessary for a personal relationship with God.

In the Old Testament there are many examples of how these mysteries reveal God’s identity, his relationship with humanity, and the nature and destiny of humanity.  God’s identity is perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of all because he is transcendent and outside of time.  We get a clue in the book of Exodus when God and Moses are interacting.  The passage in question is Exodus 3:14 when Moses asks for God’s name, and God relies “This is what you shall tell the Israelites I AM sent me to you” (NAB).  He also has power over creation as he can calm the storms and cause beasts to retreat. This reveals a God who is creator or all and nothing is above him.  This has huge implications when it comes to God’s relationship with humanity.  God is not inaccessible and not wanting to be discovered, but quite the contrary.  Humanity was made in the image of him who is existence itself.  We read this in Genesis 1:27 which states, “God created man in his image; I the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (NAB).  This shows that we were made to be in relationship with God.  When we are in proper relationship we are that image of the divine creator, but when we sin and reject him we die.  We have turned our back on God as is seen in Genesis 3:19. The nature and destiny of humanity is to live.  God created man in his image, and he uses our physical senses to make him.  He uses all means or creation, including the human body, to make himself known.

Within the Old Testament there are also many lessons regarding the priesthood and the role of ritual sacrifice and offerings.  Regarding the priesthood, it is vital to understand that it is God who chooses and calls an individual to the priesthood.  It is through the priesthood that pleasing sacrifices are offered to God to maintain the Abrahamic and Noahic covenants.  In Numbers chapter 16 Moses describes the corrupt priests Korah who stood against Moses and Aaron.  Not everyone has a claim to the priesthood because it is God who calls him.  Scripture states this very clearly in Numbers 16:5 when Moses states, “May the Lord make known tomorrow morning who belongs to him and who is the holy one and whom he will have draw near to him!” (NAB).  Later is verse 10 Moses states that it is God who allows the priests to approach him, and all the evil priests of Korah were destroyed.  In Genesis 8:20 Noah offered a burnt offering for the Lord made a covenant to never destroy the Earth by flood.  Likewise Abraham, then known as Abram, built an altar and offered a burnt offering to God and God made a covenant with him.  This shows that ritual and sacrifice are important ways in which God communicates with his people through his priesthood.

In the Old Testament God also uses special ways to communicate with his people.  One such example is with Moses in the book of Exodus.  In Exodus 3:3 God uses the burning bush to communicate with Moses.  Moses was intrigued by the site of a bush that was on fire but was not being destroyed.  When Moses approached God told him to take his sandals off because it was holy ground.  Another example with Moses is seen in Exodus 4:1-4.  Moses was balking at the mission that God gave him to do.  God told Moses to throw down the staff that he gave him, and the staff turned into a snake.  God then told him to pick it up by the tail, and it turned back inti a staff.  This got the attention if Moses, and Moses returned to Egypt to confront Pharaoh.  Another example of God communicating with his people is the prophet Daniel.  In Daniel chapter 2:19-23 God communicated with Daniel in a dream.  In fact, there are many times in sacred scripture where God communicates through dreams.  One has to be in close relationship with God to discern if it is truly God speaking.

Image result for sacrament

Works Cited

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2 ed.  New York:  Doubleday, 2003.  Print.

Holy Bible, New American Bible

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑