Building the Minister’s Library: Typology
John G. Bales
One of the definitions of typology is “that form of biblical interpretation which deals with the correspondence between traditions concerning divinely appointed persons, events, and institutions, within the framework of salvation history” (E. Achtemeier, IDBSup, 926-27.) A common example of biblical typology with respect to divinely appointed persons is the correspondence between Adam and Christ (Rom. 5:14).
Typology has often been viewed as a legitimate, indeed biblical way to identify the literal sense of the text (i.e. the author’s intended meaning) and the spiritual sense of the text (i.e. the divine author’s intended fulfillment of the text in redemptive history.) No one would argue that the history of biblical interpretation has a rich and complex history, of which a spiritual interpretation is a significant part. However, during the last fifty years there has seen a growing debate over the nature of typology, especially as it is compared to and contrasted with allegory. Some see a clear distinction between the two, while others see little difference. Below are ten works to help one to begin thinking about typology.
Auerbach, Erich. “Figura,” in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature; Six Essays. New York: Meridian Books, 1959, 11-76. Auerbach has provided a seminal essay on the subject, particularly from a literary perspective.
Charity, Alan Clifford. Events and Their Afterlife: The Dialectics of Christian Typology in the Bible and Dante. Cambridge University Press, 1987. Charity is a literary critic, but makes himself at home interacting with biblical exegesis.
Daniélou, Jean. From Shadows to Reality; Studies in the Biblical Typology of the Fathers. Westminster, Md: Newman Press, 1960. Daniélou offers one of the finest patristic studies on the subject.
Davis, Thomas M. “The Traditions of Puritan Typology.” In Bercovitch, Sacvan. Typology and Early American Literature. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1972, 11-45. The Puritans had a penchant for typological exegesis and Davis introduces their practice.
Goppelt, Leonhard. Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New. Trans. D. H. Madvig. Eerdmans, 1982. A thorough biblical study of the use of typos.
Lampe, G. W. H. and K. J. Woollcombe. Essays on Typology. Studies in Biblical theology, no. 22. Napierville, Ill: A.R. Allenson, 1957. Includes two essays: one is a biblical rationale for the use of typology and the other is a survey of its early history.
Miner, Earl Roy. Literary Uses of Typology: From the Late Middle Ages to the Present. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1977. A collection of essays from various authors; noteworthy are the essays by Karlfried Froehlich and Barbara Lewalski.
Preus, James S. From Shadow to Promise: Old Testament Interpretation from Augustine to the Young Luther. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969. One of the standard works on the historical development of medieval exegesis leading to Luther.
Westermann, Claus. Essays on Old Testament Interpretation. London: SCM Pr, 1963. Includes relevant essays by von Rad, Eichrodt and Pannenberg.
Young, Frances.“Typology.” In S. E. Porter, P. Joyce and D. E. Orton (eds.), Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of Michael D. Goulder. Leiden: Brill, 1994, 29-48. Young has written several works which argue for making no distinction between allegory and typology.