Biblical Typology

Biblical Typology in Christian theology and Biblical exegesis is a doctrine or theory concerning the predictive relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. Events, persons or statements in the Old Testament are seen as types pre-figuring or superseded by anti-types, events or aspects of Christ or his revelation described in the New Testament.


In the fullest version of the theory of typology, the whole purpose of the Old Testament is viewed as merely the provision of types for Christ, the anti-type, or fulfillment. The theory began in the Early Church, was at its most influential in the High Middle Ages, and continued to be popular after the Protestant Reformation, but in recent times has been given less emphasis. The most notable exception to this is in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where typology is still a common and frequent exegetical tool, mainly due to that church’s great emphasis on continuity in doctrinal presentation through all historical periods


Typology is a method of biblical interpretation whereby an element found in the Old Testament is seen to prefigure one found in the New Testament. The initial one is called the type and the fulfillment is designated the anti-type. Either type or anti-type may be a person, thing, or event, but often the type is messianic and frequently related to the idea of salvation.


Jesus in Luke 24 speaks about how all of “Moses and Prophets” speak of the messiah and in John 3:14 references how the “bronze” serpent was a type of the crucifixion. Jesus also speaks of true descendents of Abraham as spiritual (anti-type) and not physical (types). In other words Biblical Typology is a tool to show the progression of God’s Plan (1 Cor 2:7-8) of salvation through Jesus Christ.


Typological interpretation is specifically 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. Hence, what is interpreted in the Old is not foreign or peculiar or hidden, but arises naturally out of the text due to the relationship of the two Testaments.


New Testament books use the Old Testament as a source of pictures pointing forward to Jesus. Among the most obvious passages are 1 Cor. 10:1–6, Gal. 4:21–-31 and the letter to the Hebrews. From 1 Corinthians, we find Paul using the desert wanderings as typological of the Christian life, while in Galatians, he famously uses Sarah and Hagar as typological of slavery to Law under the Old Covenant against the freedom of grace in the New Covenant. The author of Hebrews is concerned to write explaining how the Old Testament points forward to Jesus; in so doing, he draws on heavily on Moses the man, as well as the Mosaic Law, with its sacrifices and Temple rituals.