The Use and Abuse of Typology in Messianic Prophecy

In his latest book, Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set), Christopher Wright describes the importance of typology and how it is used in relation to prophecy. He says:

The word typology is sometimes used to describe this way of viewing the relationship between the Old Testament and Jesus. The images, patterns and models that the Old Testament provides for understanding him are called types. The New Testament equivalents or parallels are then called antitypes. – Wright, Christopher J. H,  Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set)  InterVarsity Press.

Some of the features of typology are the following:

  1. The prophets did not so much make singular predictions but gave themes or patterns and that these themes have several manifestations or fulfillments in the course of human history.
  2. The type and the antitype have a natural correspondence or resemblance. The initial one is called the type (e.g., person, thing, event) and the fulfillment is designated the antitype..
  3. The type has historical reality (e.g., Paul declares that Adam “is a figure (a type) of him that was to come”, i.e., the Messiah).
  4. The type is a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the antitype. It is predictive/prophetic; it looks ahead and points to the antitype.

Let me give some examples of typological prophecies which fall under three headings:


1.The Passover, for instance, with its spotless lamb (Exodus 12:5) which was slain without any bones being broken (12:46).  In this case, the Passover Lamb in the Jewish Scriptures is the type while the antitype is the Messiah (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7), who was without spot or blemish (1 Peter 1:19) and who was slain  and also had none of his bones broken (John 19:33ff).

2.The feast of the firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10), i.e., Shavuot was a celebration in which the initial produce of the harvest was offered to God as a token of the full crop to follow. In this case, the type (the Feast of first fruits) is fulfilled in the antitype which is the resurrection of the Messiah who is the “first fruits” offered to God (1 Corinthians 15:20, 23).

3.The Tabernacle and Temple were both central features of the Jewish sacrificial system. They both were initiated by God and were a means where the Jewish people could approach God. In the Bible, the Shechinah is the visible manifestation of the presence of God in which He descends to dwell among men. The Shechinah glory is seen in a variety of visible manifestations such as light, fire, a cloud, the Angel of the Lord, or a combination of all of these. The glory of God would descend in both the Tabernacle and Temple as well.

Therefore, in relation to the coming of the Messiah, the Shechinah takes on greater significance in John 1: 1-14. As John says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” “Dwelt” ( σκήνωμα), means to “live or camp in a tent” or figuratively in the New Testament to”dwell, take up one’s residence, come to reside (among).” So i John 1:14 literally says,” the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. Therefore, both the Tabernacle and the Temple were types in the Jewish Scriptures that are fulfilled in the anti-type which is the person of Jesus.


The Binding of Isaac Story

The Binding of Isaac or the “Akedah” tells the account of when God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Because of Abraham’s faith God would be able to resurrect the slain Isaac. The sacrifice of Isaac is the type in that the Messiah is the antitype in the following respects: (1) They both involve the sacrifice by a father of his only son; (2) They both symbolize a complete dedication on the part of the offerer; (3) It speaks of both a death and resurrection.

King David

Even though we have already mentioned this King David was was type of the Messiah in that he was a son of God in the sense of being a Davidic King who was a ruler and who had an intimate relationship with God. But the role of King David pointed towards a greater king who is the antitype- the Messiah.

Let’s look at Romans 1:1-5

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints:Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We see the following:

Paul says through the resurrection, Jesus is installed (by God) as the Son of God (Rom. 1:4). Paul is not saying Jesus is being appointed as The Son of God is a change in Jesus’ essense. The appointment is not in terms of his nature but in terms of his work as a mediator—the messianic age has dawned. Jesus is the Lord—the anti-type of the previous “sons” in the Old Testament (Adam, David, Israel).


Melchizedek was both king of Salem and a priest of God—at the same time (Genesis 14:18-20)and a a type of  Messiah.  Jesus as the anti-type  began to reign on David’s throne and to simultaneously function as our high priest (cf. Psalm 110:4; Zechariah 6:12, 13; Hebrews 5:5-10; 6:20; 7:1-17).

Wright goes on to discuss the abuse of typology in Christian circles.  I have seen a lot of this myself. He says:

The older view of typology fell into disfavor because it was solely concerned with finding “prefigurations” of Christ all over the Old Testament. The idea was that the central feature of a “type” was that it prefigured Christ. But this was handled not as something observed afterward in the light of Christ but rather as the very reason for existence of whatever was being regarded as a “type.” So a “type,” in this view, was any event, institution or person in the Old Testament that had been arranged by God for the primary purpose of foreshadowing Christ. This had two unfortunate side effects. First, it usually meant that the interpreter of the Old Testament failed to find much reality and meaning in the events and persons of the Old Testament in themselves. There was no need to spend time understanding and interpreting the texts in their own Israelite historical context and background or to ask what they meant to those people at that time. You could just jump straight to Christ, because that is where you would find the supposed “real” meaning. This ends up with a very “Platonic” view of the Old Testament. That is, it is really only a collection of “shadows” of something else. Such a way of reading the Bible devalues the historical reality and validity of Old Testament Israel and all that God did in and through and for them. Second, this kind of typology had a tendency to indulge in fanciful attempts to interpret every detail of an Old Testament “type” as in some way a foreshadowing of some other obscure detail about Jesus. Once you had severed the event, institution or person from its actual historical roots in Israel, then the details would no longer be seen as simply part of the story as the Old Testament narrator told it. Since the “real meaning” was actually to be found in Jesus and the New Testament, all the details must have some hidden significance that could be applied to Christ. preacher to bring such meanings out, like a magician bringing rabbits out of a hat to the astonished gasps of admiring readers or listeners. All the colored threads of the tabernacle could signify something about Jesus. The five stones that David picked up represent the five wounds of Christ, or the five loaves he used to feed the crowd, or the five ministries that Christ has given to the church. He took them out of a stream, which was the Holy Spirit. And so on. This way of handling the Hebrew text is quite rightly now regarded as invalid and subjective.- Wright, Christopher J. H,  Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set)  InterVarsity Press.


Typology is a helpful way of understanding how God worked with Israel’s history and how it relates to the person and work of Jesus. However, as Wright says, we need to exercise caution in our own approach to the use of typology.

Frank Turek On Why People Reject God

Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case

I found this to be an outstanding quote from apologist Frank Turek. I have had Frank come to our campus a couple of times. He says:

“I am not saying that an atheist’s motivation proves that atheism is false  — someone can have the wrong motives and still be right. What I am saying is that many atheists don’t want Christianity to be true. I’ve seen this firsthand among atheists on college campuses. When I sense hostility during the Q& A period of an I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist presentation, I normally ask the questioner, “If Christianity were true, would you become a Christian?” On several occasions I’ve had atheists yell back at me, “No!”

(Frank responds) No? “Wait, you claim to be a beacon of reason, yet when I ask you if something were true would you believe it, you say ‘no!’ How is that reasonable?” It’s not. That’s because reason or evidence isn’t the issue for such people. They don’t have an intellectual objection to Christianity  — they have an emotional, moral, or volitional objection. They’ve been hurt by Christians or think they’ve been let down by God. But more often, as several atheists have admitted, they simply don’t want to give up their autonomy and submit their will to God. They are not on a relentless pursuit of the truth, open to following the evidence where it leads. They’re on a happiness quest, not a truth quest. They reject Christianity because they think doing whatever they want will make them happy. So it’s a heart issue, not a head issue. It’s been said that this kind of atheist is looking for God as much as a criminal is looking for a cop. This resistance affects all of us at times. When we want to be our own gods, we’re not open to accepting the true God. Pascal put it this way, “People almost invariably arrive at their beliefs not on the basis of proof but on the basis of what they find attractive.” Girlfriends, boyfriends, and maintaining your independence can be very attractive. Pascal’s insight may also help us answer the questions we posed at the end of chapter 1. Namely, why are atheists such as Dawkins and Krauss open to deism but not theism? And why are Dawkins and several other atheists open to admitting that the evidence points to an alien intelligent designer of the first life but not to God? I could be wrong, but it sure seems that the answer is right here: morality and accountability. A theistic God brings such demands, but an alien or a deistic god does not. What other reasons could there be? What reasons do you have for what you believe? Are you following the evidence where it leads? Honestly? Or are you more interested in believing what you find attractive? To be fair, this sword cuts both ways. Many people are Christians not because they’ve investigated the evidence, but because they find a heavenly Father and eternal life attractive. The difference is  — although many Christians don’t know it  — abundant evidence exists for their beliefs. So Christians can say with confidence that while some atheists have the attitude, “There is no God, and I hate him,” Christ had the attitude, “There are atheists, and I love them. In fact, I died for them. ” Frank  Turek, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case (p. 113).

Resources on the Supreme Court’s Same Sex Marriage Decision

Granted, this is being discussed everywhere, here are some of the latest reading resources on this hot topic.

Ryan Anderson: Judicial Activism From Supreme Court on Marriage. Here’s How to Respond (Note:, they are only at 1,128 comments).

John Piper: So-Called Same-Sex Marriage: Lamenting the New Calamity

Robert Gagnon: Here is an article by the premier Biblical scholar on the topic: American Tragedy: Now Gird Up Your Loins

Frank Turek: Why the 14th Amendment Can’t Possibly Require Same-Sex Marriage: (this was written before the decision).

Wintery Knight: How will gay marriage affect my marriage?

Discussing Marriage: The Conjugal and Revisionist Views of Marriage

Michael L. Brown: Thank You, Justice Kennedy

Should Marriage Be Limited To One Man And One Woman?

Michael Licona On The Resurrection of Jesus: How We Know It’s True and Why It Matters

Here is a resource by Classical Theist. You can listen to the 44 minute lecture here: Michael Licona On The Resurrection of Jesus: How We Know It’s True and Why It Matters

Book Review- Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Books)

Faith and Reason: Three Views

Faith and Reason: Three Views (Spectrum Multiview Books), By Alan G. Padgett, Craig A. Boyd (Author), Carl Raschke (Author), Steve Wilkens (Editor). IVP Academic, 2014, 187 pp. 978-0830840403

Anyone that has been in the apologetic enterprise for any length of time knows that the topic of the relationship between faith and reason is of the utmost importance. Of course, pop atheists and the internet have portrayed faith as blind and irrational and atheism as the beckon of reason. Granted, this has been answered before.

However, that is why a book like  Faith and Reason: Three Views  is an excellent introduction to this topic. The book is a fairly short read (187 pages) and the essays are understandable. I don’t think the book is overly extensive but it is a fine resource for someone who is possibly trying to get a grasp on the various perspectives on faith and reason in Christian thought. The good news is that all three authors (Padgett,  Boyd and Raschke) reject the “autonomous  reason,” which is the haughty human attempt to build a worldview  without recourse to God. All three authors agree that scientism is reductionistic and doesn’t explain the complexity of knowledge and reality.

As far as each author’s positions, Raschke, whose essay is called “Faith and Philosophy in Tension” sides  more with a ‘fideistic/Kierkegaardian’ approach to faith and reason. He thinks because of the Fall of man, reason is fallen and even in the Genesis account, our head representatives failed to have ‘faith’ and instead fell into a rationalization of what God had commanded them to do. Raschke also cites specific texts in the Bible to support his view that faith is above reason. One thing I did find myself agreeing with is that Raschke’s discussion of how the faith and reason divide started way before the Enlightenment period. When the early Christian movement (which was a Jewish sect) split away from its roots, we began to see Hellenization of the Christian faith. The downside is that Raschke doesn’t take into all the relevant texts that deal with the use of faith and reason.

Anyway, Padgett and Boyd tend to part ways with Raschke. Padgett’s essay called “Faith Seeking Understanding” offers a collegial approach. Both theologians and philosophers can be of mutual benefit to one another.  Philosophers can help theologians with clarity and coherence while theologians can help philosophers with teachings and practices of the Christian faith (I assume this equates to ‘practical theology’), pg 115  Padgett rightly says that many philosophers find the Trinity to be ‘incoherent’, pg 107.  Hence, theologians should be reading philosophical theology and how Christian philosophers can help with such an objection.

Boyd’s essay called “The Synthesis of Faith and Reason” is a return to the Thomistic model of faith and reason. For Boyd, reason is unavoidable in all we do and it is unavoidable in assessing revelatory claims. Boyd gives excellent definitions of reason in the following three models:

Reason 1: is the attempt of the human creatures to use science and logic to understand reality as given to our senses and our natural capacity to see inferences and relationships.

Reason 2: is the sinful attempt by human creatures to demands that reality conforms to their prior expectations and limited perspective on reality apart from divine revelation.

Reason 3: is how the human creature comes to understand process and decide how to live one’s life given the multiform ways in which reality can be apprehended and the ways we are shaped by competing narratives.

Boyd goes onto critique Richard Dawkins misunderstanding of the understanding between the sciences and the humanities when Dawkins says:

So where does life come from? What is it? Why are we here? What are we for? What is the meaning of life? There’s a conventional wisdom which says that science has nothing to say about such questions. Well, all I can say is that if science has nothing to say, it’s certain that no other discipline can say anything at all. But in fact, science has a great deal to say about such questions.”-Growing Up In The Universe video series, 1991.

Boyd says:

The fact is science has nothing to say about any of these questions, unless, of course, we equivocate on the meaning of the word science and conflate it with scientism. We can pose an argument against this particular manifestation of scientism in the following way:

1. Science, as such, is not metaphysics

2. But those who practice “scientism” want to make metaphysical claims such as “Science discovers all that there is.

3. But if those who practice “scientism” are going to “so metaphysics,” then they should come out and say that is precisely what they are doing (pgs 142-143).

Overall I learned a lot from all three essays. While I found myself agreeing with certain aspects of the positions of all three authors, I tended to side more with both Padgett and Boyd.  I agree reason is a gift from God and it needs to be sanctified and used for the glory of God.


In Mark 12.28-34 we find a scribe asking Jesus a serious question, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus replied by saying, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Jesus then added a second commandment (from Leviticus 19.18) when he said, “The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Here we see the Shema is the central creed for Jesus! Jesus is quoting from Deut. 6:4-9:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

“Shema Israel, Adonai elohenu, Adonai echad.” These six words begin the Shema (pronounced “shmah”), three sections of Scripture repeated twice daily to remind each Jewish person of his or her commitment to God (Deuteronomy 6: 4– 9; 11: 13–21; Numbers 15: 37– 41).

In the Tanakh (the acronym that is formed from the first three parts of  the Hebrew Bible: Torah (the first five books of the Bible), Nevi’ im (the  Prophets), and K’ tuvim (the Writings), the Hebrew word for heart is  “leb,” or “lebad.” While the word “heart” is  used as a metaphor to describe the physical organ, from a biblical  standpoint, it is also the center or defining element of the entire  person. It can be seen as the seat of the person’s intellectual, emotional,  affective, and volitional life. In the New Testament, the word “heart”  (Gr.kardia) came to stand for man’s entire mental and moral activity, both the  rational and the emotional elements. Therefore, biblical faith involves a  commitment of the whole person.

In Jewish thought, in the Shema, hearing is directly related to taking heed and taking action with what you’ve heard. And if you don’t act, you’ve never heard. Hence, in Deut. : 6: 4-9, we see who our God is and how we should respond to him. It should be a holistic commitment towards him. We love our God with our emotions, our actions, our entire beings (including our minds).

Christopher J. H. Wright on Why the Gospel is Good News for Both Israel and the Nations

I had already posted a review of Wright, Christopher J. H. Wright’s . Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set. Here is superb except from the book:

“We must take seriously the order of the servant mission as expressed both in Jesus’ ministry and in Paul’s repeated aphorism, “To the Jew first.” Paul insisted that even though many Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah, God had not rejected Israel. Israel would be saved. They would be saved along with Gentiles, both through Jesus Christ. And since the Christ had come through Israel and been sent to Israel, he must be offered first to Jews. So Paul’s expression “To the Jew first” was not only a matter of missionary strategy that he followed as he moved from city to city; it was also a theological conviction. The church was not a new Gentile phenomenon, even if it looked like that as its membership became increasingly Gentile. The community of Jesus followers was a new humanity, composed of both believing Jews and Gentiles. But it was also organically and spiritually continuous with the original people of God, as Paul’s olive tree picture in Romans 11 shows. Israel had been redefined and extended, but the Jewish roots and trunk were not replaced or uprooted just because unbelieving branches had been lopped off. Evangelism among Jews is a matter of considerable controversy today.

There are powerful voices arguing that it is historically offensive because of the atrocities of Christians against Jews, culturally inappropriate and theologically mistaken. One particular theological viewpoint rejects the need for evangelism among Jews. Jews, it is said, are already in covenant relationship with God and have no need of “conversion” to Christianity. Jesus, as the founder of what is now predominantly Gentile Christianity, is the Christian Savior. He is simply unneeded by Jews. This is the view of the so-called two covenant theory. The new covenant through Jesus is for Gentile Christians. Jews are saved through their own original covenant. Evangelism in the name of Jesus is therefore rejected. There are three reasons why I cannot accept this view and regard it as fundamentally unbiblical. First, it ignores not only the Jewishness of Jesus but also his whole conscious identity and mission that we have been exploring all through this book. Jesus came within Israel, to Israel and for Israel. To say that Jews don’t need Jesus is to undermine everything Jesus believed about himself and about God’s purpose in sending him to his people. It is ultimately to betray the gospel itself by excluding from it the very people among whom it was birthed and to whom it was announced. Second, it fails altogether to see the integral link between Jesus’ mission to Israel and God’s purpose of extending salvation to the Gentiles.

This, we have seen, is the essence of the Servant identity of Jesus. This was not only the historical interpretation of the earliest church but also is fully scriptural, that is, in accordance with the Hebrew Bible. Jesus is the Savior of the world because he is the Messiah of Israel. He cannot be one and not the other. If he is not the Messiah for the Jews, then he cannot be the Savior of the Gentiles. So if evangelism among Jews (in the sense of graciously calling them to see in Jesus the Messiah who fulfills their historic, scriptural faith) is disallowed, it cuts the nerve of all other evangelism. The gospel has to be good news for the Jews if it is to be good news for anyone else. And if it is good news for them, then to fail to share it with them is the worst form of anti-Semitism. Third, the “two covenant theory” utterly subverts Paul’s claim that the very heart of the gospel was that in it God had created one new people.

It simply cannot be squared with Ephesians 2– 3. Or even Romans 9– 11. For Jesus was not just the Messiah of Israel. He was also the new Adam. In him God’s purpose for humanity as a whole was achieved, precisely not through two separate covenant arrangements but by a single new people in Christ. “His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, [Jew and Gentile], thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility” (Eph 2: 15-16). This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in the Messiah Jesus (Eph 3: 6).”-Wright, Christopher J. H,  Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament (Knowing God Through the Old Testament Set)  InterVarsity Press, pgs 178-180.

Mike Licona: An Apologist Confronts His Doubt

Here is a great post on Mike Licona and how he dealt with his own doubt


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