Typology-Study of Types




To interpret typologically
Or not to interpret typologically…
That is the question

Background: This discussion is based on various resources including a lecture by Dr S. Lewis Johnson (Lectures and transcripts on Typology in Leviticus), theological journal articles (Dr Donald Campbell, Stanley Gundry, various Bible handbooks and Bible dictionaries and a study of Hermeneutics by Dr Stephen R Lewis (Hermeneutics - Study of Interpretation of Scriptures - recommended - interesting overview of the history of Bible interpretation - see page 22)

Robertson McQuilkin writes that typology is "a major category of prophecy. Types are common in Scripture—and commonly misunderstood. People, rites and ceremonies, acts and events, objects, offices (e.g., prophet, priest, and king)—all are used in Scripture as types… a type can be defined as a "prophetic symbol." A symbol is something used to represent something else; it is often a material object representing something immaterial… A type, by definition, points to the future. It is usually an Old Testament type prefiguring something about redemption in the New Testament… A type may be different in essence from the thing typified, as an ordinary symbol, but it may be something similar or even the same. Animal sacrifice and the sacrificial system were designed to foretell the sacrificial, redemptive work of Christ. Death is similar in both the type and the thing typified. Melchizedek and David are seen as types of Christ. Both the type and the object typified are human beings. (Understanding and Applying the Bible - Robertson McQuilkin - Recommended Resource)

The doctrine of typology seems to be largely neglected in the modern church either because of ignorance or because of exposure to some proponents who have grossly distorted this interpretative method. Some may have heard such fanciful typological interpretations, that they automatically tend to shy away at any mention of the word type or typology (this writer was once in this group, primarily because of ignorance).

Smith agrees lamenting that "It is exceedingly unfortunate that modern scholarship has succeeded in almost eliminating the investigation and teaching of typology as a valid interpretive pursuit. So much has been lost of the richness and practical illustrative value which I believe God intends we should have through an understanding of types… Typology is a bad word in many theological circles, but it is not difficult to see that God has a use for it, even if we do not. It is easy to see why many have reacted adversely to this field of biblical interpretation, for one only needs to read some of the writings of the past centuries to see the tendency to overreach in this obviously fascinating use of figurative language. (Smith, Bob: Basics of Bible Interpretation - see chapter on Allegories and Types)

The goal of this brief overview is to (1) substantiate the validity of typological interpretation and (2) to educate the reader so that he or she might be enabled to perform a rewarding, Spirit illuminated typological study of the Old and New Testaments. Anyone who has ever studied the "types" in the various components of the Tabernacle (the door, the altar, the laver of water, the bread of the presence, the light, etc) knows how exciting this "type" (pun intended) of study can be.

To sum up, typology can either be used or abused. It reminds one of the analogy of a powerful river, which if allowed to overflow its bounds can create great havoc and destruction. The same river when kept within bounds and allowed to flow through a dam like the Hoover Dam creates great power which is useful and productive. So too, typological study out of bounds is destructive but kept in bounds can be very instructive. So, consider reading the following notes with an open, Spirit controlled (Ac 17:11-note) mind.

S Lewis Johnson reminds us…

that from the NT there are many pictures of our Lord Jesus in the OT. The writer of Hebrews begins the tenth chapter by saying that…

the Law… has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, (and) can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (He 10:1-note)

So according to this passage, the OT is a kind of "picture book" in which the ministry of Jesus Christ is set forth. The Apostle Paul in Colossians 2 makes reference to this same truth when he mentions the Sabbath, etc,…

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--17 things which are a mere shadow (see skia) of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col 2:16, 17-note)

By declaring "the substance belongs to Christ" Paul means that all of these ancient ceremonial requirements of the Levitical economy were designed to point forward to the reality of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews makes mention of this same idea more than once. In the eighth chapter as well as the tenth chapter he says something that pertains to this idea.

(Concerning the OT and the Priesthood) who serve a copy (see hupodeigma) and shadow (see skia) of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "SEE," He says, "THAT YOU MAKE all things ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN (or type = tupos) WHICH WAS SHOWN YOU ON THE MOUNTAIN." (He 8:5-note)

(The Tabernacle) is a symbol (parabole [literally = a throwing beside] ~ our word parable) for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience (He 9:9-note)

To sum up, the NT authors repeatedly make the point that the OT is a true foreshadowing of the ministry of the Lord Jesus. I do not hear a great deal of preaching today in which the types are stressed… I do think it is important and is something to which we ought to pay careful attention. It is part of "old fashioned" preaching of the Word of God and it encourages us in our doctrines of inspiration and atonement, as we see the way in which the Old Testament pictured the coming of Christ long before He came… Part of the preaching of the Word of God involves laying a stress on Old Testament as a revelation of God that points forward to the Lord Jesus.

Donald Campbell explained that "Many who depreciate and minimize typology do so because of the firm conviction that it is an area that by its very nature is vague and uncertain. Some feel that typology admits of no definite or fixed rules that would give direction and restrain conjecture. To the contrary, it is to be seen that guiding principles can be established… The history of the interpretation of types is a record of action and reaction. Exaggeration and extravagance ruled the field of typology for many centuries. The early Church Fathers, with the exception of those in the Syrian School at Antioch, were largely devotees of the allegorical method for the interpretation of Scripture (see page 25 in Pdf). This involved as a concomitant factor an extremism in typology. The same criticism must be leveled at the scholasticism of the Middle Ages (see pp 31-37). The Reformation (see pp 38ff), in the train of the Syrian School, brought a reaction against allegorism in favor of the literal interpretation of Scripture (note). The Reformers were conservative in their typology although they did not give much attention to the subject. (Campbell, Donald K: The Interpretation of Types: Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 112. Issue 447. Page 250. 1955)

Bernard Ramm gives three general reasons which he fells justify typological interpretation…

It has been the contention of critics that typology is forced exegesis rather than an interpretation rising naturally out of the Scriptures. Some exegesis of the Old Testament in the name of typology is forced, to be sure. However such excesses—past and present—do not destroy the Christian contention that the typological method of interpretation is valid. The justification for typological interpretation is as follows:

(1). The general relationship which the Old Testament sustains to the New is the very basis for such a study. The strong prophetic element in the Old Testament establishes a real and vital nexus between the two Testaments. The fact of prophecy establishes the principle that the New is latent in the Old, and that the Old is patent in the New. The form of prophecy may be either verbally predictive or typically predictive. The former are those prophecies which in poetry or prose speak of the age to come (e.g., Psalm 22, Isaiah 53); the latter are those typical persons, things, or events which forecast the age to come. Thus a type is a species of prophecy and should be included under prophetic studies. Typological interpretation is thereby justified because it is part of prophecy, the very nature of which establishes the nexus between the two Testaments. Torm makes it even stronger than this. Torm prefers to speak of the typological method of thinking (Betrachtungweise) rather than the typological method of interpretation (Auslegung). The reason for this is two-fold: typological interpretation is based on the unity of the Testaments. It shows that the divine revelation is of one piece. We are thus able to relate part to part and understand their places in the divine revelation. Torm claims, secondly, typological interpretation is really a philosophy of history! He writes: “Typological interpretation is not so much an interpretation as a historical consideration, a method and manner of judging historical events and relations—a sort of philosophy of history, if you please.”2 It is the special Christian perspective on a very special segment of human history.

(2). Our Lord’s own use of the Old Testament is His invitation to us to find Him in the Old Testament. In Luke 24:25–44 Christ teaches the disciples about Himself, beginning at Moses and following through all the Scriptures. Luke 24:44 mentions the divisions of the Jewish canon (Moses, Prophets, Psalms) thus making the reference as wide as the Old Testament canon. In John 5:39–44 Christ invites men to search the Scriptures for they testify to him inasmuch as Moses wrote of Him. Paul uses the sacrificial language of the Old Testament in speaking of the death of Christ (Eph. 5:2) thus showing that Christ is in the offerings. Hebrews clearly teaches that the Tabernacle which was, is now realized in a present heavenly tabernacle of which Christ is the minister of the sanctuary (Hebrews 9:9–11, 23–24). Thus Christ is to be found in the Tabernacle. And certainly from Paul’s reference in 1 Cor. 10:4 Christ was in the wilderness wanderings. It is the conviction of many scholars that the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament stems directly from the teachings and example of our Lord.

(3). Even more specific is the vocabulary of the New Testament with reference to the nature of the Old. The following words are used in the New of the Old. Hypodeigma means a sign suggestive of anything, a representation, a figure, a copy, an example. Typos and typikos (from the verb, typtō, “to strike”) mean the mark of a blow, the figure formed by a blow, an impression, a form, a letter, a doctrine, an example, a pattern, a type. Skia (from skēnē, a tent) means a shade, a sketch, an outline, an adumbration. Parabolē means a placing by the side, hence a comparison, a likeness, a similitude. Eikon means an image, a figure, a likeness. Antitypon means a repelling blow, an echoing, a reflecting, a thing formed after a pattern, a counterpart, an antitype. Allegoreō means to tell a truth in terms of a narrative. These New Testament words referring to the nature of the Old Testament establish the typical character of the Old Testament. In addition to this is the weight of the entire book of Hebrews, for it is almost completely devoted to a study of the typical character of the Old Testament. The fact that the Old Testament prophecy includes the typical, the invitation of our Lord to find Him in all the Old Testament which includes the typical, and the vocabulary of the New Testament indicating the typical element of the Old, is adequate justification of the theological study of typology. (Bernard Ramm: Protestant Biblical Interpretation 1956 version online)


Dr S Lewis Johnson defines typology as "the study of spiritual correspondences between persons, events and things within the historical framework of revelation." (From his Lecture on Leviticus 3 [Mp3] - Dr Johnson's 12 part audio series Typology in Leviticus is highly recommended if you are struggling to understand the relevance of Leviticus to you as a NT believer. You will be edified and blessed! If you are really serious I would also recommend downloading Lesson 1 [click to download 43 page Pdf including diagrams of Tabernacle and depictions of each offering - burnt, grain, peace, sin, guilt] from Precept Ministries, which will give you an excellent introduction to Leviticus as Lesson 1 covers chapters 1-7. If you want more, get the book and do the all 7 lessons. See also Leviticus Commentary - verse by verse)

Moorehead (See full article in ISBE below) explains that "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."

Frey writes that "Scripture types…are the emblems, which were designed by God to represent and prefigure some great and good things to come." (Frey, Joseph: The Scripture Types)

The modern version of Webster's dictionary defines typology as a doctrine which holds that things in Christian belief are prefigured by things in the Old Testament.

The older version of Webster's (1828) is more bibliocentric defining type as…

1. The mark of something; an emblem; that which represents something else. Thy emblem, gracious queen, the British rose. Type of sweet rule and gentle majesty.

2. A sign; a symbol; a figure of something to come; as, Abraham's sacrifice and the paschal lamb, were types of Christ. To this word is opposed antitype (see Gk antitupon). Christ, in this case, is the antitype.

The 1828 Webster's has defines antitype as "A figure corresponding to another figure; that of which the type is the pattern or representation. Thus the paschal lamb, in scripture, is the type of which Christ is the antitype. An antitype (see Gk antitupon) then, is something which is formed according to a model or pattern, and bearing strong features of resemblance to it."

I like Bob Smith's definition of type - "I see a type as being a premeditated resemblance which God has built into the Bible and history to illustrate and teach truth---to make it easier to grasp than if it were only stated in prosaic and propositional terms. It is a kindness of God to stir our minds and imagination by the use of types --to make an unforgettable impress. I see it as God's way of "putting his brand on our brain" so that we cannot escape the impact of truth." (Smith, Bob: Basics of Bible Interpretation - see chapter on Allegories and Types)

Wick Broomall - A type is a shadow cast on the pages of Old Testament history by a truth whose full embodiment or antitype is found in the New Testament revelation (Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p. 533)

Sylvester Burnham (read this one slowly) - A type is a person, object, or fact, really existing in some past time, which, because of a divine intent based upon some actual resemblance to some other person, object, or fact, showed what was to be, in some respect, the nature or the character of this second person, object, or fact" (The Elements of Biblical Hermeneutics, p. 4).

Donald K. Campbell - A type is an Old Testament institution, event, person, object, or ceremony which has reality and purpose in Biblical history, but which also by divine design foreshadows something yet to be revealed" (Campbell, Donald K: The Interpretation of Types: Bibliotheca Sacra)

R. T. France writes that typology is a "correspondence between New and Old Testament events, based on a conviction of the unchanging character of the principles of God's working, and a consequent understanding and description of the New Testament event in terms of the Old Testament model" (Jesus and the Old Testament, p.40).

Charles T. Fritsch - A type is an institution, historical event or person, ordained by God, which effectively prefigures some truth connected with Christianity" ("Biblical Typology" Bibliotheca Sacra 104 [April-June 1947]: 214)

Carl Harwood - A type is a person or thing in the Bible which in the foreknowledge of God was designed to represent or prefigure some person, thing, or event that should appear in the future (Handbook of Bible Types and Symbols, p. 7).

Bernard Ramm on justification for typology is "the interpretation of the Old Testament based on the fundamental theological unity of the two Testaments whereby something in the Old shadows, prefigures, adumbrates something in the New" (Bernard Ramm: Protestant Biblical Interpretation 1956 version online).

T. Norton Sterrett writes that a type is "a divinely purposed, Old Testament fore-shadowing of a New Testament spiritual reality." (How to Understand Your Bible, p. 107)

Stephen Lewis describes state that a type is "An Old Testament person, event, or thing having historical reality and designed by God to prefigure (foreshadow) in a preparatory way a real person, event, or thing so designated in the New Testament and that corresponds to and fulfills the type. A biblical person, event, or thing having historical reality, that pictures (is analogous to) some corresponding spiritual truth in a natural and unforced way and is not explicitly designated in the New Testament as a type. (Online Resource)

Typology describes the situation when something done in the OT is brought to notice and is shown to have signified something done or about to be done in the NT.

The typological relation between the two Testaments was summed up in Augustine

In the OT the NT lies hidden; in the NT the OT stands revealed.

(Paraphrase "The Old is the New concealed, while the New is the Old revealed.")

Stated another way typology is the study of Biblical comparisons made between persons, events, things and institutions of one biblical period and those of another, most often between the OT and the NT (there are also comparisons between persons, events, etc in the Old Testament but these are less common).

Typology in Scripture serves to demonstrate the unbroken continuity in God’s plan of redemptive history between the Old and New Testaments, and this alone should encourage us in our faith in God's Word of Truth and His trustworthy character (1Th 5:24-note).

The New Bible Dictionary has an interesting definition of typology describing it as "A way of setting forth the biblical history of salvation so that some of its earlier phases are seen as anticipations of later phases, or some later phase as the recapitulation or fulfilment of an earlier one… In the NT the Christian salvation is presented as the climax of the mighty works of God, as the ‘antitype’ of His ‘typical’ mighty works in the OT. (Wood, D. R. W. New Bible Dictionary. InterVarsity Press)

The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible writes that typology as the…

Branch of biblical interpretation in which an element found in the OT prefigures one found in the NT. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the antitype (see Gk antitupon). Either type or antitype may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is Messianic and frequently refers to salvation. In working with types, the safest procedure is to limit them to those expressly mentioned in the Bible (cf. 1Cor 4:6). On the other hand, it is argued that such an approach limits the legitimate use of types, for some obvious types are not mentioned in the NT. Further, the types given in the NT are examples which demonstrate how to find others in the OT.

Some examples may serve to identify some biblical types and antitypes: Jesus said to Nicodemus,

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn 3:14; cf. Nu 21:9)

The Passover lamb (Ex 12:1-13, 49) is a type of Christ (1Cor 5:7)

The rock from which Israel drank in the wilderness (Ex 17:6) prefigures Christ (1Cor 10:3, 4).

The Book of Hebrews is replete with examples of types which represent the Messiah. All of the sacrifices ordained by the ritual law which God gave at Sinai typified some aspect of the person and work of Jesus. The blood that was sprinkled on the altar spoke of the blood of the One Who was slain once for all (Heb 9:12-22-note).

In biblical study a type differs from allegory, which generally spiritualizes Bible history (Ed note: for more discussion of allegory and related topics see [i.] Art and Science of Interpretation; [ii.] The Rise of Allegorical Interpretation; [iii.] Understanding Symbols and Figures and [iv.] Understanding Numbers) . In the early church this technique was carried to exaggerated lengths by Origen and followed by others…

There are details which are singled out as types. For example, in the directions for the celebration of the Passover, it is said of the roasted lamb, “you shall not break a bone of it” (Ex 12:46). This is repeated by the psalmist in Psalm 34:20-note as a predictive prophecy. In the account of the crucifixion of Jesus (John 19:31-36), the Jews requested that the legs of the victims be broken to hasten their death so the bodies could be removed from the crosses before the Sabbath. When the soldiers came to Jesus, they found that he was already dead and did not break his legs. (more discussion of typology including differentiation from illustration, parable, (Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Page 2109. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Book House. 1988) (Bolding added)

The type is the initial person, event, thing or institution while the corresponding and later person, event, thing or institution is called the antitype (copy, counterpart, see Gk antitupon). The Apostle Paul portrays Christ as the antitype of Adam (the type) in Romans 5:12–21-note writing…

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him Who was to come. (Ro 5:14-note)

Comment: To summarize Romans 5:12-21-note, just as Adam the type represented all mankind in the fall, so that when he sinned, all mankind sinned, so too Christ the antitype, in His death, burial and resurrection represented all mankind who are to be redeemed by grace through faith in His finished work. All mankind is either in Adam or in Christ [cf 1Co 15:22]. In Christ believers have access to a high position and glorious privileges that we could never have had in Adam [e.g., seated in Christ at the right hand of the Father! Ep 2:6-note]

Question: "What is biblical typology?"

Answer: Typology is a special kind of symbolism. (A symbol is something that represents something else.) We can define a type as a “prophetic symbol” because all types are representations of something yet future. More specifically, a type in Scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6—7) is used as a type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20–21. The word for “type” that Peter uses is figure.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament. When we say that something is “typical” of Christ, we are saying that an object or event in the Old Testament can be viewed as representative of some quality of Jesus.

Scripture itself identifies several Old Testament events as types of Christ’s redemption, including the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Passover. The Old Testament tabernacle is identified as a type in Hebrews 9:8-9: “the first tabernacle . . . which was a figure for the time then present.” The high priest’s entrance into the holiest place once a year prefigured the mediation of Christ, our High Priest. Later, the veil of the tabernacle is said to be a type of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20) in that His flesh was torn, (as the veil was when He was crucified) in order to provide entrance into God’s presence for those who are covered by His sacrifice.

The whole sacrificial system is seen as a type in Hebrews 9:19-26. The articles of the “first testament” were dedicated with the blood of sacrifice; these articles are called “the patterns of things in the heavens” and “figures of the true” (verses 23-24). This passage teaches that the Old Testament sacrifices typify Christ’s final sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Passover is also a type of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Discovering exactly what the events of the Passover teach us about Christ is a rich and rewarding study.

We should point out the difference between an illustration and a type. A type is always identified as such in the New Testament. A Bible student finding correlations between an Old Testament story and the life of Christ is simply finding illustrations, not types. In other words, typology is determined by Scripture. The Holy Spirit inspired the use of types; illustrations and analogies are the result of man’s study. For example, many people see parallels between Joseph (Genesis 37-45) and Jesus. The humiliation and subsequent glorification of Joseph seem to correspond to the death and resurrection of Christ. However, the New Testament never uses Joseph as a model of Christ; therefore, Joseph’s story is properly called an illustration, but not a type, of Christ. (from Gotquestions.org - highly recommended site)


The essential components of typology include…

(1) Correspondence - There is a correspondence (agreement of things with one another) between the events of the OT and their fulfillment in the NT. Stated another way, the type and the antitype (see Gk antitupon) have a natural correspondence or resemblance.

Example: The type, the Passover Lamb in Exodus 12:3, 4, 5ff provided redemption by his blood corresponds with the antitype, "Christ our Passover" (1Co 5:7), by Whose blood we have been redeemed (1Pe 1:18, 19-notes).

(2) Historicity (historical actuality or authenticity) - The types are historical and are not allegorical (symbolic representations) and speak of events which actually occurred in time and space in the Old Testament. In short, typology deals with events that are historically true and actually happened. To reiterate, typology should not be confused with allegorical interpretation which assigns so-called "deeper meanings" to biblical persons, events, things or institutions. Donald Campbell emphasizes this distinction explaining that…

A type is based upon a recognition of the literal meaning of a given text of Scripture. Springing from that literal meaning, however, is a foreshadowing of someone or something yet to come. The allegory minimizes and often destroys the literal and historical, “the milk,” in favor of the secondary sense, “the meat.” This method of interpretation is to be avoided at all costs. (Ibid - emphasis in bold mine)

The actual history of the biblical story is unimportant in allegorical interpretation whereas in typology the history is essential. And thus the original historical event is viewed as the type and the later corresponding event is the antitype that parallels, fulfills and/or even transcends the type (as Christ the antitype did Adam the type - see note above). (See Tony Garland's helpful discussion on the Rise of Allegorical Interpretation)

The historical context and grammatical meaning of the Old Testament texts must to be sought out and adhered to diligently or otherwise the OT events would have had no validity if they had not actually happened. Typology seeks to interpret how these historical texts foreshadowed the historical Christ.

(3) Predictiveness - This feature arises out of the fact that God works according to the patterns that are revealed in the OT and they find their fulfillment in the NT. It follows that the types of the Old Testament point forward to their ultimate fulfillment in the NT. Type is similar to prophecy in that both point to the future, but the difference is seen in the form of prediction. In addition prophecy is the more specific and may be used to teach a doctrine, whereas a type should be employed to illustrate a doctrine elsewhere taught.

In regard to the predictiveness of typology Gundry adds that "the essence of a type is that it is in some sense predictive, every bit as predictive as a verbal utterance of predictive prophecy. Typology was regarded as a species of predictive prophecy. The correspondence (Ed note: the second major criteria which needs to be fulfilled in order to warrant consideration of a person, place, event, etc as a type) between type and antitype, whatever the nature of that correspondence, was not a mere analogy nor an artificially imposed scheme on the part of the writers of Scripture; the Old Testament types were foreshadowings in a predictive sense of Christ and His saving Person and work. Though the Old Testament writers may have been unaware of these things, still God in His inspiration of them intended this result. (Stanley Gundry: Typology as a Means of Interpretation: Past and Present. JETS 12 1969) (Bolding added)

The Pocket Dictionary for Biblical Studies gives us an excellent example of a historical, corresponding, predictive type and antitype writing that…

the sacrifice of Isaac, Abraham’s “beloved son,” in Genesis 22 is picked up in the NT as a type of Christ (the antitype), God’s beloved Son given for all. God’s redemptive activity in the one event comes to completion in the second (predictiveness). Both occurrences are real and concrete (historicity), but they transcend mere chronological or causal correspondence and signify the ongoing redemptive activity of God in creation. (Patzia, A. G., & Petrotta, A. J. Pocket Dictionary of Biblical Studies. Page 120. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press. 2002). (Comment: Note that words in green are my "editorial" comments. Notice also that the Genesis 22 event completely satisfies all three major criteria of a type and thus warrant its interpretation as a valid type, with the offering of Jesus by the Father in John 3:16 serving as the antitype. Other NT verses that one might reasonably consider as valid antitypes include Ro 5:10 [note] and Ro 8:32 [note]), cf Ro 5:8 [note], 1Jn 4:9,10)


The basic presuppositions which justify the use of typology as an interpretative method include…

(1) The OT history is divine salvation history. The writer of Hebrews says that…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son (Heb 1:1, 2 -note)

In other words, God's revelation came to man in various ways - dreams, vision, institutions (e.g., the tabernacle, the priesthood) , by events (e.g., the Passover and the Exodus from bondage in Egypt) and the events that followed (e.g., wilderness wanderings) and led to Israel's entrance into the "promised land". In short, the OT history is divine salvation history.

(2) The OT history is Christological and all points forward to various facets (think of the facets of a diamond) of the life and ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, not just His first coming but also His second coming. The OT from Moses through the prophets constitutes a revelation of the things that specifically point to and describe the Messiah.

One danger in interpretation of OT types as pointing to Christ is to look for "hidden" meanings underlying the primary and obvious meaning and when this happens typology shades into allegory. This practice has in fact caused many to shy away altogether from typological interpretation of the Old Testament, but that is akin to proverbially "throwing the baby out with the bath water." Typology has a valid place in hermeneutics (science or study of the methodological principles of interpretation, in this context referring to the Scriptures), but it must stay within well defined bounds, lest it become fanciful and foolish. The shift from typology to allegorical interpretation occurred in the first century AD and unfortunately dominated the interpretative methods throughout the Middle Ages, unto the time of the Reformation.

Gundry records that "Calvin and Luther brought about a new epoch in the typological interpretation of scripture with their return to the literal sense and methodical exegesis of scripture. With this renewed concern for the grammatico-historical sense came a new appreciation of typology. A typology grounded in an appreciation of the historical verities (cf "Historicity") precipitated a distinction once more between the typological and allegorical, though neither Calvin nor Luther worked out a system of typology of his own. But through them typology had gained a new lease on life. But once again it soon began to run wild in the fanciful production of far-fetched types. (Stanley Gundry: Typology as a Means of Interpretation: Past and Present. JETS 12 1969)

A popular question in Christian circles has been "What would Jesus do?" which is a good question to ask of typology. What saith the Scriptures?

In Luke 24, as the two believers in Messiah were walking on the road to Emmaus discussing the events of Jesus' crucifixion, the Lord appeared to them (but his identity was veiled to them)…

And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! "Was it not necessary for the Christ (the Messiah) to suffer these things (betrayal, unjust trial, cruel crucifixion) and to enter into His glory?" And beginning with Moses (the first 5 books of the OT, the Pentateuch) and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:25-27, cf "all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" in Luke 24:44, cf also Peter's pronouncement in Acts 3:18 to the Jews at Pentecost - "the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled." See also notes on the phrase "according to the Scriptures" in 1Co 15:3, 4-notes).

In John 3 as Jesus explained the new birth to Nicodemus, He used a reference to the Old Testament to make His point to the spiritually blind "teacher of Israel" (John 3:10)…

"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (type), even so must the Son of Man be lifted up (antitype); that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life." (John 3:14,15 compare with Numbers 21:7-9)

In John 6 Jesus' followers after having been served bread by the Lord, asked Him…

"What then (Jesus had just declared "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.") do You do for a sign, that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'HE GAVE THEM BREAD OUT OF HEAVEN TO EAT.'"

Jesus therefore said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven (type), but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven (antitype). For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world… I am the living bread (antitype) that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread also which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh." John 6:30-33, 51 compare the "type" in Ex 16:4-15, cp. Nehemiah 9:15, Ps 78:24,25)

(3) The OT history is pedagogical (relating to, or befitting a teacher or education). This means the the OT Scriptures were divinely planned and intended to teach us certain truths today.

For whatever was written in earlier times (refers to OT) was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (absolute assurance that God will do God to us and for us in the future). (Ro 15:4-note)

And so we see that Paul clearly taught that the OT was divinely planned not only to instruct the OT saints but NT saints as well. (cf 1Co 10:6, 11).

(4) The OT history is partial and incomplete. Peter alluded to this in his first letter recording that…

As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ (cf prediction = "the type"; fulfillment = "the "antitype") and the glories to follow. (1Pe 1:10, 11-note)

The OT prophets sought to know the times and circumstances by which their prophecies would come to pass but their knowledge was partial and incomplete. Peter then explains that "these things… now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you (believers in the NT era) by the Holy Spirit" (1Pe 1:12-note). In other words, these truths which were partial and incomplete in the OT had now been revealed to saints in the NT. The OT clearly had a meaning in its historical context but also had a "fore" meaning in light of NT revelation.

It needs to be underscored that typology is not an invitation to fanciful interpretations of the truths in the OT. On the other hand, some teach that we should never attempt to see things in the OT which are not there in a historical-grammatical sense. There is clearly some truth in this caution for we are not to attempt to see typology that has no support (no historicity, correspondence or predictiveness). To do so would lead to fanciful, potentially erroneous and harmful interpretation.

On the other hand, there is no validity to the idea that we are not to interpret the OT in light of the NT. The NT in fact was written in light of the foundational teaching in the OT. For example, it would be very difficult to understand the Messianic promise in Genesis 3:15 if we did not understand the rest of the Bible. But from the perspective of NT revelation, when we look at the OT, we are able to see things that we could not have seen without the light of revelation of the NT. The truth of the OT is unchanged, but our ability to see the different facets of that truth is changed.


Type/Typology in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - William G. Moorehead has a balanced, well reasoned discussion on typology noting that…

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 (Ed note: vague foreshadowing) 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" (Jn 20:25); twice "figure" (Acts 7:43; Ro 5:14 [note]); twice "pattern" (Titus 2:7 [note]; He 8:5 [note]); once "fashion" (Acts 7:44); once "manner" (Acts 23:25); once "form" (Ro 6:17 [note]); and 7 times as example" (1Cor 10:6, 11, Php 3:17 [note]; 1Th 1:7 [note]; 2Th 3:9; 1Ti 4:12; 1Pe 5:3 [note]).

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…

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 16:1ff-note) 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" (Ro 5:14-note), 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 (Ed note: Amen!)

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. (Ed note: And this latter is the gravest potential danger, for if the Scriptures lose their trustworthiness, our faith is affected. We don't lose our salvation but we can become spiritually "weak" for "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." Ro 10:17-note)

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).

(Ed note: Gundry in his article amplifies Moorehead's comments writing that…

Though the man whose name designates this group was not the originator of this view, a group known as the school of Bishop Marsh propagated the rule of thumb that a type is a type only when the New Testament specifically designates it to he such. Since this is a clear and precise formula, it has exercised a great influence on conservative Protestant interpretation since the time of Marsh. However, a more moderate school of thought pointed out that the New Testament practically invites the interpreter to find additional types in Scripture. Thus, this mediating school tried to resist the wild extravagances of the Cocceian school (The Cocceian school of the mid-seventeenth century fell into the irregularities of the ancient allegorists), but it still insisted that the possibilities of a typological interpretative method were certainly greater than Bishop Marsh bad suggested. Hence, the mediating school suggested that there were two varieties of types:

1) innate types, or those specifically declared to be types in the New Testament; and

2) inferred types, or those not specifically designated in the New Testament but justified for their existence by the nature of the New Testament materials on typology.

The most able systematizer and defender of this approach has been Patrick Fairbairn, and he is supported by Terry in his Biblical Hermeneutics. In present-day conservative Protestantism (fundamentalism, evangelicalism, orthodoxy or whatever other term may be regarded as descriptive) the above three approaches to typology continue to co-exist. There are those who play the typological theme to the point that it practically amounts to allegorical interpretation. In reaction to these excesses, Bishop Marsh has many modern followers; but probably the majority of modern conservative Protestants seek to maintain a mediating position similar to that of Fairbairn and Terry. [Stanley Gundry: Typology as a Means of Interpretation: Past and Present. JETS 12 1969)


Dr Donald Campbell

The following are excerpts from Dr Donald Campbell's (past president of Dallas Theological Seminary and well known as a gifted expositor of Scripture) excellent summary article entitled The Interpretation of Types wherein he writes that…

It is a matter of common agreement among conservative Bible students that typology is worthy of investigation as an area of Scriptural truth. It has, in fact, both value and validity.

A chief value is to be seen in the fact that a knowledge of typology is essential to an understanding of certain portions of the Word of God.

The book of Hebrews is a case in point; for its very purpose is to demonstrate that Christ, the substance or antitype, is better than the shadows or types. Habershon aptly comments,

The Bible may be compared to those beautifully illustrated volumes so often published with a number of engravings of choice pictures at the beginning, followed by chapters of letterpress describing them, giving their history, or telling something of the life of the artist. We can scarcely conceive of anyone trying to understand such descriptions without referring to the pictures themselves; yet this is how the Bible is often treated.

Mention should also be made of the apologetic value of typology. The teleological (in philosophy teleology is the doctrine that there is evidence of purpose or design in the universe, and esp. that this provides proof of the existence of a Designer) character of Scripture is substantiated thereby; for the relation between type and antitype, as the relation between prophecy and its fulfillment, is unmistakable evidence of divine design.

The validity of typology need not be debated by those who recognize the authority of the Scriptures. It is sufficient to observe that the Greek word tupos from which the word “type” is derived occurs in its noun form in the New Testament fourteen times. While it is true that not all of these references bespeak a doctrinal sense, some unquestionably do, and these establish beyond question the legitimacy of typology.

Concerning the value and validity of typology there is, then, virtual agreement among Bible students. Disagreement arises over the problem as to how much of the Old Testament is to be regarded as typical. An easy solution to this problem is not to be found. There are, however, two extremes that should be shunned.

The one found early expression in the writings of certain of the Church Fathers. States Moorehead,

“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!”

Unrestrained typology of this sort has continued to the present day with the result that the entire subject has been brought into disrepute and conservative theologians have been driven from the field.

On the other hand, on the part of many there is a complete neglect of typical truths or a grudging recognition of a very limited number of types.

The extreme of a fanciful typology that knows no bounds and admits of no regulation is to be rejected. So also is the prejudicial view that brings about an undue contraction of the typical element to be set aside. It is firmly believed that it is possible to steer between these hazardous shoals and maintain a position that will yield sane and spiritual results in this much disputed area. In order to achieve this end the nature of a type must be clearly comprehended and certain principles or rules for their interpretation must be established.


Campbell gives five guidelines to aid interpretation of types and avoid erroneous conclusions and extremes…

These principles relate chiefly to the identification but also to the exposition of types.

(1) Firstly, it should always be remembered that a type must be a divine designation.

“Only God can make types.” But how is the interpreter of Holy Writ to know if God has ordained a particular event, person, or institution a type of something yet to come? Should Marsh’s Principle be followed? It would seem not, for as Fairbairn astutely rejoins, that principle would assume that the types of the Old Testament were exhausted by the New Testament writers, whereas the truth appears to be that those affirmed in the New Testament are only samples taken from a storehouse where still others are to be found. Otherwise the New Testament use of types would appear to be quite arbitrary.

A very commendable suggestion was made by Joseph Frey to the effect that a type could be identified as designed by God when there is express Scripture so to indicate; when there is an interchange of name; where there is an evident and manifest analogy. In the first instance, then, Adam is specifically said to be a type of Christ in Romans 5:14; in the second instance, Christ is referred to by the name Passover in 1Corinthians 5:7; in the third instance, Joseph may be considered a type of Christ though Scripture nowhere calls him such, because there is an evident analogy between his life and Christ’s earthly life.

(2) Secondly, due recognition should be given to the historical place and purpose of the event, personage, or institution under discussion before typical elements are presented.

This is essential, for if the teacher of the Scriptures ignores the historical element, he is in effect allegorizing, that is, seeking a deeper sense in the text on the ground that the natural historical sense is unsatisfactory or inadequate.

Origen, of course, went so far as to affirm that many things in the Old Testament were mythical and fabulous, existing only to portray the deeper and spiritual truths. The type, however, differs from the allegory, since it involves an affirmation of the reality of the historical. In order to be hermeneutically correct and to escape the charge of allegorizing due appraisal must be made of the historical framework of a given type.

(3) Thirdly, the local setting of the type should be carefully considered as it must properly form the basis of its typical meaning.

This is but an extension of the previous principle. It should be borne in mind that the typical item had a particular end to serve in olden times, and that end, so far from beclouding its typical character, becomes the key to its meaning as a type. There must then be a unity between type and antitype; there must be a common principle binding them together. A lack of adherence to this principle has been one of the leading defects in works on typology.

One writer, for example, has made the stone Jacob used for a pillow at Bethel a type of Christ the foundation stone of the church. Quite apparently little consideration was given to the local setting concerning Jacob’s stone. There is in this instance no unity between type and antitype, no common principle binding them together.

(4) Fourthly, it should be observed that a type presents a general though genuine resemblance of its antitype.

By their very nature types are only signs and shadows, consequently details should not generally be pressed for typical meaning. The life of Moses may serve as an illustration in this connection. The New Testament clearly vouches for the fact that Moses was a type of Christ in that he was a deliverer, a prophet, an advocate, and a lawgiver. It certainly would not be within the bounds of good sense, however, to insist that all of the details of Moses’ life and ministry were typical. Again, the Book of Hebrews assumes that the priests of the Old Testament prefigured Jesus Christ in His priestly work, but it is quick to point out that this did not include every phase of the priestly ministry.

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s; for this he did once, when he offered up himself” (Heb. 7:26, 27-note).

What has been stated regarding typical persons will apply to typical events, objects, institutions, and ceremonies as well. Lockhart phrases the principle thus,

“All points of analogy between a type and its antitype which are real and important should be interpreted typically, and no others.”

(5) Fifthly, nothing of a forbidden or sinful nature should be regarded as a type of that which is inherently good.

As an illustration, Jacob’s deception of his father Isaac in order to receive the blessing may be considered. It has been suggested that Jacob receiving the blessing in the garments of Esau typifies the believer receiving the blessing of God in the garments of Christ. Fairbairn exclaims concerning such a view,

“What a confounding of things that differ! The garments of the profane Esau made to image the spotless righteousness of Jesus! And the fraudulent use of the one by Jacob, viewed as representing the believer’s simple and confiding trust in the other!”

Even more reprehensible is the statement of another writer on typology which makes Samson and the harlot of Gaza a type of Christ and Israel in the tribulation.

There is no question but that a legitimate typology can and will enrich the study of the Scriptures. If the student of typology will then allow his investigations to be guided by such simple principles as those discussed above, he will, it is believed, be helped in reaching sane and not sordid conclusions in this field of study. Indeed, he will be a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed” for he will be “rightly dividing the word of truth” (2Ti 2:15-note).

(Campbell, Donald K: The Interpretation of Types: Bibliotheca Sacra. Volume 112. Issue 447. Page 250. 1955)


The New Testament uses several words that have have somewhat similar meaning in that they suggest the idea of correspondence or resemblance. The following notes are a simple description of each of these terms.

1) Type (Greek = tupos) is literally a mark from a blow (cf marks on Jesus - John 20:25) but as discussed in this article represents a planned correspondence between two biblical accounts designed by God to teach and illustrate truth.

2) Antitype (Greek = antitupon) refers to something which resembles or corresponds to something else. The only NT example is 1 Peter 3:21…

And corresponding (antitupon) to that, baptism now saves you (Young's Literal = "also to which an antitype doth now save us")-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1Pe 3:21-note)

3) Pattern (Greek = hupotuposis) is strictly speaking an outline or sketch, and hence a pattern that serves as a model prototype.

And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example (hupotuposis) for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16)

4) Example (Greek = hupodeigma) refers to an example or model and is used as a model of behavior (sometimes to be imitated John 13:15, sometimes to be avoided - 2Peter 2:6-note for purposes of moral instruction. In Hebrews it is used as a representative copy or likeness of what is original and genuine that appears at a subsequent time.

"For I gave you an example (hupodeigma) that you also should do as I did to you. (John 13:15)

If (God) condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example (hupodeigma) to those who would live ungodly thereafter (2Pe 2:6-note)

(OT Levitical Priests) who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, "See," He says, "that you make all things according to the pattern (hupodeigma) which was shown you on the mountain." (He 8:5-note)

Smith comments: "Certainly here is the clear declaration of God's intent to implant deeply significant truth in the worship and form of the tabernacle, investing deep levels of truth in the physical forms and actions to impart spiritual understanding. Evidently God gave Moses a blueprint--not just of form and furniture, but of the shadows and examples woven into his pattern, pointing to the realities which they picture. Our understanding of the Book of Hebrews revolves around our tracing through these analogies."

5) Shadow (Greek = skia) is a shade or image cast by an object and representing the form of that object--but not its substance or reality. See Hebrews 8:5 above where the priests serve as a shadow.

Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day--things which are a mere shadow (see skia) of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col 2:16, 17-note)

6) Symbol (Greek = parabole) is literally a placing alongside, thus a comparison, likeness, or copy. (He 11:19-note, "he also received him back as a type" [en parabole, i.e., figuratively speaking]).

(The Tabernacle) is a symbol (parabole [literally = a throwing beside] ~ parable) for the present time. Accordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience (He 9:9-note)

7) Sign (Greek = semeion) refers to a distinctive mark or feature which is used to identify and/or reveal the character of a person or thing as in 2Co 12:12 of that which marks out a true apostle.

The signs (semeion) of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles. (2Co 12:12)


P S Karleen writes that…

The question of how many types exist in Scriptures has been much debated in recent centuries. (In one sense, along with explicit types [e.g., 1Cor. 10:11] there are many implicit correspondences at different levels, some merging with prophecy.) Some have believed that only those New Testament features specifically labeled in the text as types should be viewed as such. Others have gone too far in the other direction, seeing specific correspondences to Christ and His work, for example, in every minute detail of the tabernacle. The problem that many sense with this is that there is no check on the fancy of the interpreter.

One recent writer has said, “Almost every area of typological interpretation is unsettled.” Types have suffered from abuse as well as neglect. Well-meaning individuals have spent inordinate amounts of time looking for details of types, while systematic study of how to approach them as been scant. They are too important, as part of what has been called the “divinely planned mosaic pattern of Holy Scripture,” to be neglected.

The following suggestions may be helpful in the study of types:

1. Identify those NT entities that are specifically labeled as having an analogical relation with something in the OT. Sometimes the presence of analogical and perhaps typical relations can be indicated by words such as tupikōs (“typologically,” 1Co 10:10), tupos (“type,” “example,” “pattern,” He 8:5), skia (“shadow,” “foreshadowing,” He 8:5; Col. 2:17).

2. Look for the presence of manifest connection between OT and NT entities. Does the correspondence show the hand of God in guiding history? (Ed: Correspondence)

3. The OT portion must be real and present in history, as must the corresponding NT entity, the antitype. (Ed: Historicity)

4. Ask if the correspondence between type and antitype is valuable in illuminating teachings of the Bible elsewhere. In other words, is it useful, or simply entertaining? (Ed: This suggestion is somewhat more subjective but is still a reasonable question to ask when evaluating an OT person, event, or institution as a potential type. Even if it meets this criteria, it must also fulfill the criteria of historicity, and predictiveness)

5. Do not build essential doctrinal understanding on types. Since they are really a secondary element in revelation and are by their very nature veiled, it is easy to miss parts of correspondence or see what is not there. Use them to shed light on what is taught clearly elsewhere.

6. Be careful not to see types everywhere. Some have spent so much time on types that they have missed the main messages of the Bible.

7. Follow NT guidelines in seeing types. The NT shows that the Tabernacle and the wilderness wanderings are the two major areas of typical relations.

8. Do not try to force every point of the two entities into a correspondence. This often leads to nonsense. Types are prediction woven into history. Try to separate what is intended as prophetic from what is simply natural in life. Analogical language, including types, metaphor, etc., is notorious for being ragged at the edges of the comparison.

Source: Karleen, P. S.. The Handbook to Bible Study: With a Guide to the Scofield Study System. New York: Oxford University Press) (Amazon)

Dr. Roy Zuck notes that the Early Church Fathers accepted typological interpretation of the Old Testament but their "typology easily slipped into allegorizing" wherein one could make the Scriptures mean almost anything as in the following example…

Irenaeus lived in Smyrna (now part of Turkey) and in Lyons (now in France). He lived around 130-202. In opposing Gnostics and their fanciful interpretations, Irenaeus stressed in his work Against Heresies that the Bible is to be understood in its obvious, natural sense. In opposition to other heretics, such as the Valentinians and the followers of Marcion, who rejected the Old Testament, Irenaeus stressed that the Old Testament is acceptable for Christians because it is full of types. In some cases, however, his typology became extreme to the point of allegory. For example he said that the three spies (not two!) hidden by Rahab were types of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…

Bible interpreters differ widely on the extent to which types are to be seen in the Scriptures. Some say types are evident throughout much of the Old Testament. Numerous objects and events are said to be pictures of New Testament truths. For example the hinges in the door to Solomon's temple are said to be a type of the two natures of Christ. Others say types are those that are either explicitly designated in the New Testament or are implicit. Some Bible students suggest that types are only those that are designated as such in the New Testament, that is, those that are explicitly said to be types. Still others suggest no typology is to be seen in the Bible at all.

Zuck goes on to list five criteria that defines a legitimate Biblical type…

(1) Resemblance - The first characteristic of a type is that a resemblance, similarity, or correspondence exists between the type and the antitype. However, this should not be thought of as some superficial relationship, but rather a genuine and substantial counterpart. It should be natural and not forced… however, not everything that has correspondence or resemblance is a type, though all types must have the element of correspondence. Numerous things in the Old Testament are similar to things in the New Testament, but they are not necessarily types. A type has resemblance to that for which it is a type, but it has more than resemblance. The following elements are also necessary in order to have an official type.

(2) Historical Reality - Persons, events, or things in the OT that are types of things in the NT had historical reality. A type in the OT is not something without reality. The types were persons who lived, events that happened, things that were seen. Seeing types in the OT does not mean the Bible student should look for hidden or deeper meanings in the text. He should stick with the historical facts as recorded in the OT. In other words the type should rise naturally out of the text, and should not be something the interpreter is reading into the text. The tabernacle is a type (Heb. 8:5; 9:23-24), but that does not mean that every small item in the construction of the tabernacle in some way depicted a New Testament truth.

(3) Prefiguring - A type has a predictive or foreshadowing element to it. It looks ahead and anticipates and points to the antitype. A type is a shadow (Col. 2:17) that points ahead to another reality. A type is a form of prophecy. Prophecy is prediction by means of words, whereas typology is prediction by correspondence between two realities, the type and the antitype. Again there are many similarities and resemblances in the Scriptures, but not every correspondence or resemblance is a type. To be an official type, the correspondence or resemblance must have a predictive element, a foreshadowing and anticipation of the antitype. The type, in other words, has a forward focus…

(4) Heightening - In typology, the antitype is greater than and superior to the type. There is an increase, a heightening, an escalation. Christ is superior to Melchizedek. Christ's redemptive work is greater than that of the Passover, of which He is the antitype answering to the Passover, the type. Many aspects of the OT illustrate truths in the NT, but without the heightening (as well as prefiguring) they are not types. The antitypes were on a higher plane than the types.

(5) Divine Design - Types are not mere analogies or illustrations which Bible readers note. Instead they are resemblances planned by God. The type was designed in such a way that it carried a likeness to the antitype, and likewise was planned by God to be the "fulfillment" and heightening of the type. Since centuries separated most of the types from their antitypes, it obviously required God's planning to have the types depict or picture the antitypes…

Some Bible teachers see many more types than do others. And others suggest that types are only those that are explicitly designated in the NT. Still others take a position midway between these two views, saying that types may be those that are explicitly designated and also those that are implicit, that is, suggested but not explicitly so stated (Ed: This midway approach is taken by Patrick Fairbairn in Typology of Scripture)…

If we accept the five characteristics of a type discussed earlier, we still are left with the question whether types can be those that are implicit along with those that are explicitly designated, or whether they are only those that are so designated in the New Testament. For example many Bible teachers say Joseph and Moses are types of Christ, based on the many similarities they see between the lives of Joseph and Christ, or Moses and Christ. Granted, there are a number of analogies between Joseph and Christ, but on what basis can we say with assurance that God intended us to see Joseph as a type of Christ? Looking at the five characteristics or elements, we can say there is resemblance, certainly there is historical reality to the lives of Joseph and Christ, and without question Christ is greater than Joseph. But can we say that Joseph's life was a prophetic foreshadowing of Christ and that his life was intended by divine design to be a type of Christ? Since it is difficult to determine with certainty that Joseph has these last two criteria, we may question whether Joseph is in fact an official, valid type of Christ. Certainly he is an illustration of Christ because of the many analogies between the two individuals, but mere correspondences do not make a type… If Joseph is a type of Christ, why do Bible teachers not also say that Isaac, Samuel, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Daniel were types of Christ? Certainly there are similarities between them and Christ as well. Others suggest Solomon was a type of Christ. But again did God give us the record about Solomon in order to illustrate Christ? One may find some analogies or resemblances and certainly both Solomon and Christ were historical individuals, but does Scripture give any indication that Solomon was a shadow pointing ahead to Christ and that Christ was superior to Solomon and that this was planned by God? Is Aaron's rod that budded a type of the resurrection of Christ, as a number of writers suggest? Where again is the predictive element and the divine design?

How do we keep from making "an evident and manifest analogy," as Glassius put it in 1623, of everything in the Old Testament? Where do we draw the line? What controls do we have? I suggest that for a figure to be a type it must also have a sixth characteristic or element: It must be designated in the New Testament. Scripture must in some way indicate that an item is typical. As already seen, that designation need not always be by the word typos and related words. Types, then, are designated in the New Testament; illustrations on the other hand, are broader and more numerous. Illustrations or analogies are not called such, but Bible students can sense parallels or analogies between Old Testament and New Testament truths.

A type may be defined as an Old Testament person, event, or thing having historical reality and designed by God to prefigure (foreshadow) in a preparatory way a real person, event, or thing so designated in the New Testament and that corresponds to and fulfills (heightens) the type. An illustration, on the other hand, may be defined as a biblical person, event, or thing having historical reality, that pictures or is analogous to some corresponding spiritual truth in a natural and unforced way and is not explicitly designated in the NT as a type. (Basic Bible Interpretation - Recommended Resource)


Here is an example of an extreme typological interpretation because it takes considerable liberty in ascribing a typological interpretation to the specific details. This interpretation is from the Scofield Study Bible which parenthetically is another reason why every Bible student must strive diligently to handle the Word of Truth accurately and thereby to be equipped to "interpret" the interpretations of even respected authors like Scofield (The Key- Inductive Bible Study). While there is probably some truth to these specific interpretations, his comments on the griddle and oven seem to be forced and fanciful, even though the things he records about Christ are clearly true (His internal and external suffering). Notice that Scofield does offer NT Scriptures, but these by themselves do not serve to validate his somewhat imaginative interpretations. The question one must ask of Scofield's interpretations is this -- "Are these the meanings which God intended these OT details to correspond to in history?" I fear Scofield shades toward allegorizing in some of his explanations, and this is an ever present danger in typological interpretation and probably one of the major reasons many pastors have shied away from using it in their preaching.

In Leviticus 2-note Moses gives details of the grain offering, which Scofield explains typologically as follows…

(1) fine flour speaks of the evenness and balance of the character of Christ, of that perfection in which no quality was in excess, none lacking.

(2) fire, of His testing by suffering, even unto death.

(3) incense, of the fragrance of His life before God (see Ex 30:34; note).

(4) absence of leaven, of His character as "the Truth" (John 14:6, cp. Ex 12:8, note).

(5) absence of honey - His was not that mere natural sweetness which may exist quite apart from grace.

(6) oil mixed, of Christ as born of the Holy Spirit (Mt 1:18,-23)

(7) oil upon, of Christ as baptized with the Spirit (John 1:32; 6:27)

(8) the oven, of the unseen sufferings of Christ - His inner agonies (Mt 27:45, 46; Hebrews 2:18)

(9) the griddle, of His more evident sufferings (e.g. Mt 27:27-31).

(10) salt, of the pungency of the truth of God - that which arrests the action of leaven.


Here is another example of extreme typology, and is presented not to be critical of the author but to remind the student of the Word of the constant need to be zealously diligent to rightly handle the Word of Truth, especially in the area of typological interpretation. Benjamin Keach makes 4 typological interpretations based on historical events in Samson's life (my comments in green)…

(1) "Samson's nativity was foretold by an angel of God (Ed note: so far so good - this is a historical event): so was the conception and nativity of Jesus Christ foretold by an angel. (This was also true, so the type/antitype fulfills the first criteria of historicity. Both births were announced by angels, which fulfills the second criteria of correspondence, but it is far fetched to interpret Samson's predicted birth as a type and so this offering fails the test of predictiveness) Samson was sanctified from the womb: so was Christ much more.

(2) Samson in respect of his great strength, as some conceive, was a type of Christ. (This is not even good correspondence for the proposed "type" is physical strength, which has no clear historical parallel in Christ's life in my opinion. Neither is it predictive. Thus this proposed "type" fails on all criteria.)

(3) Samson conquered a stout lion in the desert, hand to hand, as it were: so Christ overcame the roaring lion, the devil, in the wilderness, and made him fly. (Both are historical events. There is some degree of correspondence, but even not complete for the type refers to a literal lion, the antitype to a "spiritual" lion. There is no clear predictive element. And so while there is some "attractiveness" to invoking this as a type/antitype, it does not fulfill the criteria and should at best only be considered an interesting parallel.)

(4) Samson slew many of God's enemies by his death: so Jesus Christ by death overcame sin, Satan, hell, and the grave. (Both are historical events. There is some degree of correspondence and even a suggestion of predictiveness. However in my opinion, Samson's final demise and triumph is not a clear type of the Christ's death on Calvary, for the former event came about because of disobedience and sin, while the latter event transpired because of obedience and sinlessness.) (From Benjamin Keach, Preaching from the Types and Metaphors of the Bible, p. 977)

The following table compares three terms which are distinct and should not be interchanged - typology, illustration (example, parallel) and allegory (See also Dr Anthony Garland's helpful discussion on the Rise of Allegorical Interpretation).

Typology Illustration (Parallel) Allegory

The type and the antitype have a natural correspondence or resemblance

The illustration and the truth have a natural correspondence or resemblance

There is no natural correspondence. Instead, a forced or hidden meaning is sought behind the text.

The type has a historical reality. (The type / antitype relationship depends on the

literal meaning)

The illustration or truth relationship depends on the historical reality of the illustration

The OT historical reality is ignored or denied. The literal meaning is unimportant.

The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive; it looks ahead and points to the antitype.

The illustration has no prefiguring. It is not predictive; it is only an example. The truth looks back to the O.T. example.

Allegory conjures up hidden ideas, foreign to the OT text. It looks behind, not ahead.

The type is "fulfilled" (or completed or heightened) by the antitype. The antitype is greater than and superior to the type.

The illustration is not "fulfilled" (or completed or heightened) by the truth it illustrates.

The allegory does not "fulfill" the OT texts.

The type is divinely designed. It is planned by God.

The illustration is divinely designed by God as a picture of a truth.

The allegorizing is in the interpreter's imagination, not in the design of God.

The type and the anti-type are designated as such in the NT.

The truth or illustration is not called a type.

The allegorizing is not designated in the Scripture.

**Table adapted from Lewis' course on Hermeneutics - Page 97 on Pdf

It should be noted that the system of allegorizing practiced by the Alexandrian Jews and the Alexandrian Church Fathers (Clement and Origen) and by many modern commentators is not justified by the fact that Paul used allegory in Galatians 4.

(Friederichsen's Rules)

1. Seek first for the literal meaning embodied within the typical item (p. 418).

2. Find out what was the original intention of the author (p. 419).

3. Allow the literal sense to be the safeguard against falling into extremes (p. 420).

4. Affirm the type and the antitype as specific, concrete, historical realities that men encountered and to which men responded (p. 422).

5. Discover the essential meaning of the type in its own particular realm (p. 423).

6. Endeavor to crystallize the main point historically; then carry it over by transferring it into the main point typically (p. 425).

7. Note only the real point of resemblance between type and antitype (p. 427).

8. Emphasize the one [major] idea embodied in the type and antitype (p. 429).

9. Recognize the points of difference and contrast between the type and the antitype (p. 431).

10. Ascertain the purpose and function for which the Old Testament items were given in order to decipher the typical elements (p. 433).

11. Guard against making a thing that is in itself evil as a picture of what is good and pure (p. 435).

12. Do not utilize types to prove doctrines (p. 436).

13. Examine types in the light thrown back on them from the fuller revelation of the New Testament (p. 438).

Douglas Friederichsen, "The Hermeneutics of Typology" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1970).


There are 7-10 persons or events (see discussion following the table) which the NT specifically designates as types (innate types - see above) although obviously there are many other NT passages that easily lend themselves to interpretation as a valid type (inferred types - see above for examples of OT types such as the bronze serpent, the manna from heaven see above). Below is a table summarizing the innate types in the NT.


PERSONS Melchizedek Christ's perpetual

He 7:3, 15, 16, 17 (see notes 7:3, 15;16; 17)

Aaron Christ's priestly

He 5:5, 5 (notes)

Adam Christ

1Cor 15:22

EVENTS Passover Christ our sacrifice

1Cor. 5:7
cp Ro 5:14-21

INSTITUTIONS Tabernacle veil Christ the believer's access to God

He 10:20 (note)

Tabernacle Christ the believer's access to God and basis of fellowship with God

He 8:5-note;
He 9:23, 24-note

Tabernacle Christ our sacrifice

Hebrews 9:8; 9- note;
He 10:11; 12 -note

Sabbath The Christian's spiritual rest

Col 2:17 -note
He 4:3-notes,
He 4:9-note,
He 4:11-note

Here are three other NT passages which some would consider to be types…

Paul's uses tupos in Romans 5 declaring that…

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness (tupos) of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. (Ro 5:14-note)

Some would argue that this is not a valid type in that Adam as a type of Christ did not point predictively to Christ.

Paul use of tupos twice in 1 Corinthians 10, where NAS (and other translations, although NIV has marginal not "or types") translate as examples, are considered by some conservative commentators as types

Now these things (the events in the OT Paul had just referenced - Israel was "laid low in the wilderness") happened as examples (tupos = a "type") for us, that (here's the purpose and the reason we should not forget this history) we should not crave evil things, as they (Israel) also craved (context refers to fact that Israelites preferred the food of Egypt to God's manna! - Nu 11:4 - Can you apply this to the modern church in American?!)… Now these things (OT) happened to them (Israel) as an example (tupos = a "type") , and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. (1 Corinthians 10:6,11)

Lewis commenting on Paul's use of tupos in 1 Corinthians 10 writes that "If the Greek word tupos ("types") in 1 Corinthians 10:6 and the word "typikos" ("typically") in 1Corinthians 10:11 are to be taken as designated "official types," then the four events in 1Co 10: 1-4 are types: crossing the Red Sea (the believer's deliverance from sin), the cloud (God's guidance for believers), the manna (Christ as the believer's sustenance), the smitten rock (Christ the believer's spiritual refreshing). Others, however, take these two Greek words in a non technical sense to refer to those four events as "examples" (as the NIV translates both verses), in which case they are analogous illustrations, not official types.

Peter uses the word antitupon or antitype in his description of baptism declaring

"And corresponding (antitupon) to that, baptism now saves you-- not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ." (1Pet 3:21-note)

Peter is not teaching that baptism has saving power. What he is picturing is the flood ("in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water") is the "type" and baptism the antitype, serving as a picture of salvation.


Many conservative evangelical commentators interpret the offerings in Leviticus 1-6 and the feasts in Leviticus 23 as valid types, (demonstrating correspondence, historicity, predictiveness) and these are summarized in the following two tables.


(Leviticus 1-6)

Burnt offering

Christ's offering of Himself as the perfect sacrifice.

Lev 1:1ff-note;
Heb. 10:5, 6, 7-note;
Ep 5:2-note

Grain offering

Christ's offering of Himself was the perfect sacrifice of the highest quality.

Lev 2:1ff-note;
He 10:8-note
Peace offering

Christ's offering of Himself is the basis for fellowship with God.

Lev 3:1ff-note:
Col 1:20-note;
Ep 2:14-note
Sin offering

Christ's death for the sinner takes care of the root of sin.

Lv 4:1ff-note thru Lv 5:13-note;
He 13:11-12-note
Trespass offering

Christ's death atones for the injury of sin.

Lv 5:14ff-note thru Lv 6:7-note;
He 10:12-note


(Leviticus 23)

Passover 1st month, 14th day Christ's redemption 1Cor. 5:7
Unleavened Bread 1st month, days 15-21 Believer's holy walk 1Cor. 5:7,8
Firstfruits 1st month, 16th day Christ's resurrection as a pledge of the resurrection of all 1Cor. 15:20, 21, 22, 23
Pentecost 3rd month, 6th day Holy Spirit's coming

Joel 2:28;

Acts 2:1-47

Trumpets 7th month, 1st day Israel's regathering Matt. 24:21-31

Day of Atonement

7th month, 10th day

Israel's national conversion by the shed blood of Christ

He 9:19-28-note; Zec 12:10; Ro 11:26, 27-note
Tabernacles 7th month, days 15-22 God's provisions for man's need (Israel in the kingdom) John 7:2
Jn 37-39-note

Bob Smith

Bob Smith in his recommended resource Basics of Bible Interpretation as noted above agrees that typology is often regrettably avoided by the modern church but goes on to say that…

Much of the problem would be resolved, however, by simply agreeing on what a type is. The definition can be broad or narrow, based on the source of information we employ. I would remind you once again, the word type is borrowed from the Greek tupos, which is a mark formed by a blow or impression, hence a figure or image. Right now you are reading the mark made by typeface, each letter, word and paragraph conveying by the use of agreed-upon symbols the thoughts which have been set in "type." We use the word typical, meaning that which bears the impress of some distinctive pattern of design, thought, and so on. So if we want to draw our definition of a biblical type from this basic data, then we can see widespread use of types in the Bible such as one can read in Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types.

Dr. Walter Wilson's "types" range from items like:

YOKE - Ge 27:40 (b) This type is used to indicate the oppression and repression placed upon one person by another person, or upon one nation by another nation.

Matt. 11:29 (b) This term is used to indicate the blessed union for service which the Lord desires on the part of His people. The Christian, walking with the Lord and serving Him, finds the work to be easy, and the load is light.

2Cor. 6:14 (b) In this case the yoke represents an unhappy union of those who are saved with those who are unsaved in any service or work. The Lord commands His people to be linked up only with Christians, and not with those who belong to Satan's family. This refers to marriage, to business, and to every other form of union. This situation is complicated frequently by those who are saved, born again, after the union is made. God made provision for this situation in various parts of His Word.

to his entry on:

SCAPEGOAT - Lev. 16:8 (b) The goats in this story represent two aspects of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. The live goat which became the scapegoat is a picture of the Savior living in glory with the marks of Calvary upon Him, having taken away the sin of the world, and having died at Calvary for our sins. The dead goat represents Christ at Calvary, giving up His life for us. (Walter L. Wilson, Dictionary of Bible Types Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Co., 1957)

Certainly these are figurative words containing the feature of correspondence to which we have alluded, but they differ widely in their usage. The word yoke has general usage as implying "two joined together in a working union," while the word scapegoat has a specific identification with the sacrifices ordered under the Levitical priesthood. To make any sense at all, this latter word must be viewed in the tight context of Leviticus 16. I question whether yoke should be called a type; however' scapegoat comes much closer to the biblical significance of that term, in my estimation. (Ed note: I too would not refer to yoke as a valid type as judged by the criteria of historicity, correspondence and predictiveness)

We can draw the lines a bit tighter if we say a type is a person or thing prefiguring a future person or thing; or a figure or example of something future and more or less prophetic called the antitype.

Then we can define the antitype as: a thing formed after some pattern, or a thing resembling another, its counterpart--or something which answers to a type.

Essentially, I see a type as a figurative expression picturing, in shadow form, an identifiable reality elsewhere presented in scripture. Both type and antitype are New Testament biblical terms, as we shall illustrate later.

My own composite expression of all I have grasped on the subject is this: I see a type as being a premeditated resemblance which God has built into the Bible and history to illustrate and teach truth---to make it easier to grasp than if it were only stated in prosaic and propositional terms. It is a kindness of God to stir our minds and imagination by the use of types --to make an unforgettable impress. I see it as God's way of "putting his brand on our brain" so that we cannot escape the impact of truth.

Under the general heading of typology, then, we could group various terms, all derived from scripture, portraying slightly different forms of this figure. I would like to list these and illustrate each one. (Smith, Bob: Basics of Bible Interpretation - see chapter on Allegories and Types)

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