Friday, January 29, 2010

Typology again.

Greg asked me how I would justify typology in light of the fact that there is always a danger of going off the deep end and see things that aren't there.

I agree that this can be a problem. Gerhard uses some typology that I cannot endorse (the oil between the breast of the lover in Song of Songs is not Christ, sorry John!). In order to use typology is a valid way, I would make a couple of suggestions on how to pick up that God is making a typological allusion.

1. The NT shows that everything in the OT was in preparation for Christ.  We therefore can read Biblical Israel, its prophets, judges, kings, priests, Temple, sacrifices and so forth as prefigurations of Christ.  How exactly they are is a more tricky manner.  Greg noted that we should take out lead from the explicit identification of the the NT.  I think that this is correct and there is scarcely a institution or person in the OT who the NT does not explicitly identify in one way or another with Christ.  That's sort of the whole point of John and Hebrew- Jesus is the true ladder to Heaven, the true Jacob, the true Solomon, the true David, the true Moses, the temple, the true mana, the true sacrifice, the true passover.  This also goes, I think, for other texts where there is perhaps a more indirect connection.  For example, Song of Song and Psalm 45 should be read Christologically because Paul says in Ephesian 5 that all Male-Female relationships represent Christ's mystical relationship with the Church.  Because this is the cause, any text about men and their wives can be viewed typologically as prefiguring Christ and the Church.
This does not mean, of course, that there is no room for understanding the text merely as referring to people in as having a relationship in their original context.  Nevertheless, even in their original context they are caught up in a history of God in Christ coming to Israel as its redeemer and therefore should be understood in light of that larger narrative.  All creatures have their reality as actors in the drama of Christ's own narrative.  We are authentic or fake depending on how well we play our role in this drama.
2. The second point is that the authors of the Bible by using a literary phrases or allusions will tie events together.  This is one of most annoying aspect of certain translations of the Bible- notably the NIV.  The assumption of certain is that we are simply being given flat information about some event in the past and therefore the translation of certain passages eliminates a phrase which is an allusion to another passage because the translator aiming at the most smooth rendering of the words.  
As I noted in an earlier post the Bible works typologically and analogically.  In other words, the assumption of the Biblical authors is that there is a primal universal order to reality and there will be a final restoration of that order that will transcend its original glory.  Therefore, everything in reality is related to the eschatological end and the protological beginning. Humans have a certain number of possibilities and they simply, in a sense, repeated them over and over again.  All events in history are therefore tied together analogically and typologically.
Example: What is I Kings trying to say about the reign of Solomon?  Solomon rules over an empire made up of Jews and Gentiles.  His reign is therefore universal, it is like that of Adam and Christ's.  He builds the Temple.  The Temple is a representation of the Garden of Eden (this is quite explicit throughout the Bible and Jewish tradition, more about that in the future).  So, he echoes Adam and he prefigures Christ.  Nevertheless, he marries the king of Egypt's daughter, becoming in a sense subordinate to him and makes the Israelites do forced labor.  So, he is also a new Pharaoh- his reign is a return to Egypt and a reversal of the Exodus.  With all these allusions and analogical similarities, the story of Solomon makes sense.  

The point is that things in the Biblical world are not absolutely individual or mere historical reports, but always derive their meaning from the earlier event or their prefiguration of the eschatological.  This is because reality is defined within the Biblical worldview by the book ends of the protological and eschatological.  This is something that we have lost in our culture because modern secular people do not believe in either.


  1. Here's a (half-baked) thought: I wonder whether one could focus many of the questions regarding prophecy, typology, interpretation, and so forth down into the one question, "What does it mean for Christ to fulfill (to fulfill the Law, and to fulfill prophecy)?"

    If one can arrive at a right understanding of what fulfillment is and what it is not--that is, what it means that Christ has fulfilled--then I imagine he ought to be able to understand prophecy rightly (avoiding both over-allegorizing and the denial of all typology) as well as understanding the place of the Law as well (avoiding both legalism and antinomianism).

  2. Phil- Not bad. I think you get it. I agree totally.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. If you are correct and I suspect you are that everything is related to the beginning and the end then this would have implications for ethics, pastoral care, spirituality. You may have laid the typology topic to rest but I am curious how you would distinguish typology from alegory, that is if you do.