Though many are inclined to look with disfavor on any attempt at setting forth the Scripture types and their meaning because of the extravagances of some interpreters of the past, yet the fact remains that these types occupy a considerable place in God’s Word and certainly were placed there for our instruction. In these are foreshadowed the grandest truths that ever entered into man’s mind.
An endeavor is made in the following pages to describe the types sufficiently to give a proper basis for showing their antitypical meaning. The aim is to present these Biblical types and their meaning in a practical manner so that the average reader will be able to understand them. This work does not profess to be exhaustive. Its brevity excludes a detailed description of all the types with the various technical points related to them. Neither is it possible in the narrow limits of this volume to give a lengthy discussion of the various Christian truths typified. It is assumed that the reader is not entirely unacquainted with the Bible.
But though the first aim is a popular treatment of typology, yet the subject is presented systematically and with a degree of fullness and reference that will, it is hoped, make it of value to the student of typology as a textbook. Less interest in Scripture types has been manifested in recent years than formerly, probably partly because of the influence of the modern religious liberalism that denies the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and the prophetic element of Scripture. But every devout heart who gives careful thought to these “shadows of good things” can not fail to be strongly convicted of the fact that there is One who sees the end from the beginning and who in giving these adumbrations of glorious Christian truth proved once for all the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, and the divine origin of the Bible and of the religion it sets forth.
I have derived assistance from a number of writers on this subject, also from various commentaries and religious encyclopedias. Of the former I acknowledge special indebtedness to Fairbairn’s great classic on the “Typology of Scriptures,” also to Dr. Moorehead’s “Mosaic Institutions,” though I have often felt obliged to vary widely from their interpretation of types. I especially desire to acknowledge the gracious assistance of the Spirit of God, whose illuminating influence I have very definitely recognized several times while writing when under his divine enlightenment new beauties shone forth that I had never before recognized. I sincerely trust that the same blessed Spirit will make the perusal of these pages profitable to the reader.
Russell R. Byrum.
The Gospel According to Moses
The gladdest message ever proclaimed to a world of sinners, was the angel’s announcement on Bethlehem’s plains that a Savior is born. But the angel’s proclamation on that wonderful night was not the first time the glad tidings of salvation had been preached. Centuries before God’s holy seers with prophetic eye had foreseen in the dim future, beyond the miseries of many generations, the coming of Christ and his great salvation. Not the least of these was Moses. We often speak of the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, and sometimes we call Isaiah the “evangelical prophet,” but too often we pass by the “gospel according to Moses.” Yet according to the true meaning of the term “gospel,” Moses wrote it as truly as did any of the four evangelists of our New Testament. The gospel is the proclamation of a way of salvation for sinners, the announcement of grace to the guilty, of Christ’s love for the lost. Matthew wrote the gospel by relating the life story of Jesus. But Moses wrote it at greater length, more systematically and in greater detail in types and shadows. Moses’ writings are as much about Jesus and his salvation as are those of the four New Testament evangelists.
Moses sets forth the same great fundamental facts of true religion as are given in the New Testament. He continually holds before us under various symbols—by veils that bar the sinner from God’s holy presence, by the sprinklings of blood for cleansing, and by different representations of ceremonial uncleanness—the awful fact of man’s sinfulness and depravity. He also vividly sets forth the glorious truth of salvation by God’s free favor through the vicarious death of Christ, under the type of the sprinkling of the blood of animals on God’s altars.
Mosaic Rites Were Typical
Those who see nothing more in the elaborate ceremonies at the tabernacle of ancient Israel than an expression of natural religion or meaningless forms with no significance for us today, will doubtless find but little interest in reading that portion of Scripture which so minutely describes them. Alone it will be dull and uninteresting. But when it is read in the light of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in the New Testament, it sparkles throughout with dazzling gems of truth.
Our authority for believing in the typical element of the Pentateuch is no less than Jesus and Paul, the Son of God and his greatest apostle. Jesus himself said: “Had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me” (John 5:46); “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). And to the two sorrowful disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus, “beginning at Moses and all the prophets, … expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). And shortly after, when he appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus said, “All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me” (Luke 24:44). Jesus was able to preach the gospel from the writings of Moses. He positively stated that he is the center of all the Scriptures, including those of Moses. He is their alpha and omega—their beginning and end. Paul also commonly taught the gospel according to Moses. When he arrived at Rome and the Jews came to him, he “expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the Prophets, from morning till evening” (Acts 28:23).
We may get a good idea of what these great exponents of Christianity taught from the law of Moses in the interpretation placed upon it by the inspired writer to the Hebrews, and in other more specific statements of Paul. The great apostle says, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath-days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Col. 2:16, 17). This important statement is very definite and clear, and is conclusive proof that the Mosaic rites, those outward forms of religion, were typical. They were a shadow, or, as the original word, skia, implies, an adumbration, a faint sketch, a dim transitory outline of a real substance to come, which is said to be Christ.
Fully as definite and in much greater measure are the many positive statements in the Hebrew letter. The priests of the tabernacle are said to “serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). Here the tabernacle and all connected with its worship are said to be an “example,” or, according to the American Revised reading, a “copy,” a “shadow,” and a “pattern” or type. The inspired writer is here definitely arguing to convince his Jewish brethren that all that ancient worship of theirs was typical and that Jesus is the great Priest “of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:2).
In the ninth verse of the ninth chapter it is said of the first tabernacle, “Which was a figure for the time then present.… But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” The original word here, parabole, from which we translate “figure,” is that from which we commonly get “parable.” The twenty-third and twenty-fourth verses are especially definite in showing that ancient worship was typical. “It was therefore necessary that the patterns [copies. A. S. V.] of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures [pattern, A. S. V.] of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.” And again this same writer reiterates in the beginning of the tenth chapter, “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.”
Doubtless the texts already cited sufficiently prove the typical element in the Mosaic institutions; but a good foundation is important, and inasmuch as our future argument is to rest largely upon these Bible statements of this fact and for the sake of cautious or skeptical persons we shall call attention to one other Biblical proof. The first given and one of the greatest of all the Mosaic institutions was the Passover. Paul plainly shows the typical nature of this in these words, “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).
If it were necessary, many other proofs of this point could be given; but these are evidence that the good things of Christ’s salvation were portrayed in the Old Testament types. These types all pointed forward to Christ and his salvation, to the Priest greater than Aaron, the Prophet like unto Moses, the true King of Israel.
Types Deserve Our Study
A considerable portion of the Bible, especially Exodus, Leviticus, and Hebrews, is devoted to the subject of types. This is just as much a part of God’s Word as is any other part of the Bible. But this, and especially the books of Leviticus, is about as little read as any part of the Bible. The grand truths taught there deserve more earnest attention than most Christians give them. God doubtless means that we should explore its deep truth that we may the better understand the way of salvation. Probably in no part of the Bible is the method of salvation so systematically and vividly set forth as here.
God has been pleased to reveal his salvation in various forms: John presents it in letters of love; while Paul sets it forth in profoundest logic. The evangelists describe it in historical form by simply relating the facts of that greatest life earth has ever known. Prophets tell it in poetry; and the Psalmist utters it in song. The Revelator takes us up into heaven and pictures mysterious visional symbols; and Moses by an extensive series of material symbols or practical hieroglyphs depicts the same great truths.
But why study types and shadows when we have the substance? Were not these things written for generations long dead, and not for us? A New Testament writer answers, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures, might have hope.” The implication here is clear that these things were not only intended for us, but that we can understand and learn from them. Also types give a more vivid presentation of truth very much as do the parables of Jesus.
Illustrations are important in God’s message to give interest and force to it. The human mind is so constituted that it gets a clearer understanding of truth if presented in a concrete rather than in an abstract form. For this reason Bunyan’s allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, is one of the most enlightening and useful religious books that have ever been published.
Another very important reason for our being familiar with Old Testament types is that they furnish us much of the background of the New Testament phraseology, expressions so familiar to us but which would be quite unintelligible except for their Old Testament usage in connection with the types. Examples of these are “the Lamb of God,” “washed us in his own blood,” “the blood of sprinkling,” “the washing of regeneration.”
Nature and Interpretation of Types
Among all nations, especially in the earlier stages of their civilization, abstract thoughts and ideas have been represented by material symbols, either actions or objects. Such symbols have been especially common in their religion. Their worship of material objects in nature or of images began by their using them as symbols of the spiritual deity. So likewise their forms and means of worship, including sacrifices, were symbolic to a considerable degree. The religion of ancient Israel, as described in the Old Testament, contained much of this symbolic element; but these symbols differ from those of the ethnic religions in that they were divinely given and therefore were of a much higher order both in nature and in purpose.
Classes of Bible Symbols. —Clearness in thought requires that we distinguish between various classes of symbols and types. The Scriptures contain two main classes of symbols, ( 1 ) visional and ( 2 ) material. Visional symbols are such as never have had nor ever will have any real existence, but are merely presented to the mind of the seer, or are seen in vision by him. Many such symbols are described in various parts of the Bible, and such books as Daniel and Ezekiel, and especially the Apocalypse, are largely given to them.
Particular examples are the kine and ears of corn of Pharaoh’s dream, the four great beasts of Daniel 7, and the great red dragon of Revelation 12. Material symbols are as truly symbolic as are visional, and rest on the same basic principle as to their symbolic nature and interpretation. But these have a real material existence, and these, too, are divinely ordained as symbols. Examples of these are the tabernacle, the sacrifices, the Sabbath, and Melchisedec. They are found principally in the writings of Moses.
Two classes of material symbols, or types, are also to be distinguished, (1) ritual and (2) historical. Ritual types are those which have to do with the rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic worship, such as the tabernacle, sacrifices, priesthood, and feasts. The historical types are those persons, things, places, and events which are of a typical nature, as the brazen serpent, or the land of Canaan.
Nature of Types
A knowledge of the essential nature of types is important to our knowing what are types and what are not. Too often for lack of a clear definition of what constitutes a type things have been called types which are referred to by New Testament writers only as illustrations, or which are merely similar in some particular but yet not typical.
In defining types we are dealing with the subject of Old Testament types and not the Scriptural usage of the particular word, for, as we use the English word in a variety of meanings, so the Greek word tupos has various uses. A type may be described as a divinely appointed institution or action to represent a religious truth and to fore show, by resemblance, those facts in the work of Christ on which the truth symbolized rests.
A Type Resembles the Antitype. —The first great basic law of typology is the element of resemblance or analogy between type and antitype. Not only is there an analogy between the type and the truth prefigured, but also between the type and the truth symbolized to them to whom the type is given. A certain proper parallel is maintained between the type and that which is represented.
Spiritual good things are represented by material good things and spiritually impure things by material impurity. So leprosy, a loathsome disease, is made to represent sin. Also leaven, a form of fermentation or decaying vegetable matter, is made a type of sin. Likewise the priest must wash his body clean with water before he can enter into the house of God, to signify the moral cleansing from sin needed to enter God’s holy presence.
But identical similarity is not required in a type. In such a case the type would not be a type but the thing itself to be represented. There must be in a type, not only similitude, but also disparity in some phases. Types do not agree with their antitypes in every point. This brings us to another important fact in the nature of types—only institutions or actions, using the terms broadly, are types, never persons, or things as such. Not the lamb with the flock in the field, but the lamb bleeding on God’s altar is a type of the “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” The ram in fierce struggle with another of its kind does not typify Christ the sin-bearer, but when it is led to God’s altar, the hand of the offerer is laid upon it, and its life-blood flows out in sacrificial offering it becomes a type of the true sacrifice for sin. Melchisedec as a man of ancient Salem does not typify Christ, but he does as “priest of the most high God.” The manna regarded as a natural phenomenon is not typical of Christ, the bread of life; but as a divinely provided means of feeding God’s people it is a type.
We are aware that this principle excludes many persons and things, as such, that have been considered typical, but it is according to both the Scriptures and reason. Many of these persons and things, however, because of their typical offices, actions, or uses are types in this connection.
A Type Is Divinely Preordained As Such. —A second important element in the nature of a type is its divine appointment. It is not sufficient that some institution or action already past be taken to represent things yet future, but the type itself must be preordained to represent that truth in the more distant future. Marsh has well said: “To constitute one thing the type of another, something more is wanted than mere resemblance. The former must not only resemble the latter, but must have been designed to resemble the latter. It must have been so designed in its original institution. It must have been designed as something preparatory to the latter. The type as well as the antitype must have been preordained; and they must have been preordained as constituent parts of the same general scheme of Divine Providence. It is this previous design and the preordained connection which constitutes the relation of type and antitype.” Those who disregard this important point of divine preordination and make mere resemblance alone their criterion for determining what are types in the Old Testament will go far astray, as have gone certain interpreters of the past.
A Type Both Symbolizes and Predicts. —The third characteristic of types is that they both show and foreshow. They primarily symbolize religious truths of the dispensation in which they are given, but they secondarily predict important facts of the future on which the truths symbolized rest. Thus they possess a twofold character. The dying lamb at God’s altar was symbolic of the great truth that the sin of the offerer could be forgiven only on the ground of vicarious suffering, and it typified or predicted the more glorious fact of Christ’s vicarious suffering to atone for men’s sins. A type, then, is first a symbol of a general religious truth already revealed, and secondly a prediction of that same truth as it is related to Christ’s work of redemption. God first asks men to believe “the truth” and next to believe that same truth as it is “in Jesus.”
Thus we find that those more elementary truths symbolized by the type must agree with and rest upon the facts of the antitype. This is what constitutes them types. This is the relation between the old covenant and the new. The type was conformed to the antitype, not the antitype to the type. The devout, spiritual-minded Israelite who came to God’s altar with a load of sin doubtless often recognized that the blood of the mere animal was insufficient to atone for his sins and would probably see dimly by faith the true offering for sin. However, of a type it must not be supposed that those to whom it was given should always recognize the predictive element. Probably it was enough that they saw the general truth represented. Doubtless these things were written principally “for our learning,” especially as to the predictive element.
To the ancient Israelite the symbolic element in the type was of primary importance, but to us the predictive element has more especial value. In this respect a type is a prophetic similitude, or an acted prophecy. It is as truly prophetic as is a word-prophecy, and had equal value with word-prophecy, in directing the faith of the Old Testament saints to the coming salvation, and has also as a means of instruction and as Christian evidence for us today. In the one class a word is made to describe a future idea or fact, and in the other an institute or an act in some respect analogous to that future idea or fact is used to foreshow it. Of the two classes the acted prophecy is probably more forceful and represents more details, especially to those who behold it, than does the word-prophecy. In the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah is given a word-prophecy vividly portraying the vicarious suffering of Christ. At the altar of God’s house the same great truths were daily predicted both morning and evening in the harmless, innocent lamb, its substitutionary death for another, and the sprinkling of its blood before God.
Interpretation of Types
As we have described the characteristics of types heretofore for the purpose of aiding in determining what institutes and acts are types, so now our object is to call attention to those principles which will enable us properly to interpret those things found to be typical; for error in interpreting is probably as common as is the mistake of ascribing a typical character to those things which are not types.
It is well to remember, however, in our consideration of principles of typology, that we are by no means dependent upon the principles we may describe. These are needed only where the Bible is silent or not explicit either as to the fact or the interpretation of a particular type. God has been pleased in his infinite wisdom to give us by his inspired penmen definite information that certain things are types and of what they are typical. The tabernacle and all its rites are described in a single verse (Heb. 8:5) as being typical. It is from these examples of interpretation of types by the
Divine Spirit that we get our principles of typology. The Difficulties of Typology. —In endeavoring to interpret Old Testament types we are not unaware of the abuses of the subject and extremes to which typical interpretation has been carried in the past. This immoderation of the past is probably the cause of the present neglect of the subject among Christians. There is a general skepticism concerning types. Much of what is written on the subject consists of warnings against improper interpretations. The dangers of error have been allowed to eclipse almost entirely the fact that these constitute an important part of God’s Holy Word and are given for our instruction. We might also be skeptical about the interpretation of other portions of the Bible, because there has been error in a greater or less measure in interpreting all phases of it in the past. Is it not better that instead of saying with the agnostics, “We do not know and it can not be known,” that we do as with other portions of the Bible—learn by the errors of our predecessors, avoid their extremes, and learn what is knowable about the subject even if we can not understand everything about it?
The antenicene Greek church fathers were much given to finding a typical meaning in every part of the Bible. This was especially true of the learned Origen. He held a plain or literal sense of all Scripture and also an allegorical, typical, or spiritual interpretation. He held at least a twofold, and some have supposed a fourfold, meaning of all parts of the Bible. This method of interpreting the Bible was so destructive to certain knowledge of truth that it led to a revolt from that method by Luther and other reformers who always strongly held for a single plain sense.
But subsequent to the Reformation a prominent school of typical interpretation arose under Cocceius which without regard for sound principles of interpretation endeavored to find types wherever they found a mere superficial resemblance between things in the Old Testament and the New. This tendency became widespread. As is too often the case, this extreme led to an opposite one by Bishop Marsh’s school, which denies typical significance in things of the Old Testament unless they are expressly declared or obviously implied to be types by the New Testament. Marsh’s rule has had wide acceptance, doubtless due to the prevalence of the other extreme.
As the Cocceian method violates sound principles of interpretation to which we have already called attention, so Marsh’s view on the other hand is too narrow and excludes many real types. Doubtless we should look to the Scripture for a correct knowledge of the nature of types, but we should not expect to find in the New Testament a formal or systematic interpretation of every Old Testament type. Those that are interpreted there are done so only incidentally, as occasion required. Bible truth is not revealed scientifically but historically, and it is an error to view, the Scriptures as a scientific or systematic treatment of theology. Nor do we think of applying so rigid a rule to the interpretation of word-prophecies or parables. Examples are given in the Bible of the interpretation of prophecy and parables, and from these we derive the general principles for interpreting the others not there explained.
Likewise we deal with the symbolic predictions of Daniel and the Apocalypse. When we read in Revelation 1 that the seven candlesticks are the seven churches, in the seventeenth chapter that the ten horns are ten kings, and other similar examples, we get the idea that these are symbols analogous to certain facts. May we not be as reasonable in our study of the Bible types? Principles of Interpretation. —The following specific rules for interpreting types are intended, not to dispel every ambiguity, but rather to set forth the more prominent principles bearing upon the subject.
1. A proper analogy must be sustained between the type and the antitype or that predicted as there is also between the type and that symbolized. Only the most precious materials in the construction of the tabernacle were fit to represent the true tabernacle, God’s church.
2. The antitype, though analogous to the type, yet is essentially different in nature from it. The type is material, the antitype is spiritual. Aaron, the priest, does not typify the Christian minister but something essentially different—the meditorial office of Christ.
3. The antitype is higher and more glorious than the type. The thing signified is more valuable than the sign, and eternal spiritual realities are more precious than temporal material things. Christ “is the mediator of a better covenant” (Heb. 8:6) than was Moses.
4. The antitype must contain, and furnish the basis for, the same element of truth as the type symbolizes. If the brazen serpent, as a type of Christ, was a symbol of salvation from death, then Christ’s being lifted up must be for a similar purpose.
5. (This and the following rules are especially applicable to the ritual types.) An understanding of the name of a type is important to its interpretation; for, as in the “sin-offering,” the name is given with direct reference to the idea represented.
6. A clear understanding of the outward constitution of the type is important to the correct interpretation of the antitype. To attempt to know the antitype without first knowing the type is like trying to reach an end without using the means.
7. In interpreting types we must not attempt to find antitypical meanings of those accessories of the type which are required by its physical constitution, such as the grate of the brazen altar, which was required probably to make the fire burn well, the rings and bars on the ark by which it was transported, or the snuff-dishes by the golden candlesticks. If we keep this in mind we are not liable to go too far wrong in explaining the details of these ritual types.
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