word from which we derive our English word "type" means "a form or
pattern." Typology is one of the basic ways in which New Testament Christians
understood their relationship to the Old Testament. Typology asserts that in God's
oversight of history, certain events or persons (types) prefigure later events or
persons (anti-types): the former being the implicit shadow, the later being the explicit
actual. Thus, Moses is understood to be a type of Christ because Christ is the New
Lawgiver. Christ is also the Second Adam who brings salvation to a new redeemed race
of people. Salvation for all humanity is prefigured by the Exodus of the Jewish
people from Egypt.
is more than allegory, for in allegory one object stands for or signifies another.
For example, in C.S. Leiws' Pilgrim's Regress, Lady Kirk represents the
Church. In typology, the two are more closely tied together in God's overall plan.
They mutually explain each other. To understand Moses as a type of Christ is
to do more than see Christ as analogous to Moses in different situations where both impart
God's instructions; rather, it is to understand that Moses prepares for Christ,
that Christ's law subsumes and fulfills the one given by Moses.
A typological understanding is helpful for
Christians thinking about literature in two ways, a strong version and a weak one:
1. Typological thinking helps create
profound, poetic insights, such as those of John Donne or George Herbert. The poet
is able to enhance the meaning of a poem because she plays off the rich relationship
between type and anti-type. Thus, George Herbert can write in the poem "The
Priesthood" of the Old Testament priests, of the "priesthood" of every New
Testament believer, of the royal priesthood of Christ, and of the "priestly"
role his poems serve in his worship of God as well.
2. In a more limited way, typological
thinking helps us to realize that all truth helps prepare us for the worldview of the
gospel. Thus, the Peace Child of the Nanaimo peoples helped prepare them for Christ
the complete peace child. Of course, to some this can sound fairly dismissive, as if
all human culture is waiting for a "Christian" completion. But if we
remember that true Christianity will not be complete until it is made up of every tribe
and ethnicity, then perhaps we can understand that this impulse is finally inclusive.
"Old things are put away; All things become new." All things are
fulfilled in Christ because they are renewed. The Peace Child of the Nanaimo helps
us better understand Jesus.
* * * * *
Central Insight: Typology, besides being an
important poetic technique, also reminds us that "all truth helps prepare us for the
worldview of the gospel."
Suggestions for Application: Examine an
explicitly typological image or character in the text, e.g. a Christ-figure.
Alternately, argue for an implicit connection/ inticipation between a text's truth
and the Christian worldview.