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My question is for those who believe the Bible is the inpired word of God. I have been wondering what exactly the purpose of typology is in the Bible. The best answer I have thusfar is that it acts almost as a very long 'ruler' of sorts that enables the Bible student to acurately draw a very long but very straight line through the Bible 'connecting the dots' as it were, so that he/she may see the 'bigger picture'. Typology enlarges on themes that the Bible sometimes only gives limited details of at the time but later (some times only in the NT) elaborates on in more details.

For example, the story of David and Goliath as a typology of the work that Christ came and did in our behalf as described by Paul in Rom. 5:18.

By one act of disobedience Adam (king Saul) many were made sinners (all Israel remained as good as'defeated') until Christ (David) by one act of righteousness defeats Satan (Goliath) and because of His victory (David's) all men are made righteous (all Israel was victorious).

Further:

King Saul is mentioned as being 'head and shoulders higher than the rest' of the nation. So, he was like a 'giant' compared to the rest. He also stands as head (king) of Israel so too does Adam stand as head (king) of humanity.

Goliath is described as wearing impregnable armour. So too does God describe Lucifer at the end of the book of Job (Leviathan). God says Leviathan is the king of the children of pride (How art thou fallen O Lucifer...) and that none but his (Lucifer's) maker can approach unto him (to destroy him). So too it is only Christ that could destroy Satan.

David as symbol of Christ is quite lengthy so I will limit myself to the means he used against Goliath and the manner of his death. David destroys Goliath without sword or spear (not by might nor by power but by My Spirit) by throwing him with a stone against his head (bruising the serpent's head as promised in Gen 3)

There is so much more but I hope you can see how many 'lines' start intersecting in just this one typology. In my mind typology used to be simply something beautiful that reminds me of the 'bigger picture' but the more I study them, the more they start looking like an elegantly detailed unification and harmonization of 'other things' I read of in various places in the Bible. Almost like a mosaic but each little tile in the mosaic is sometimes a mosaic in itself. I suppose that is why the humble romanesco broccoli will always be a tangible illustration to me of the principle behind typology - a small piece of it looks similar to the whole plant (aka self similarity, fractals, etc)

Typology is very important to me but I am looking for a more concise answer as to it's purpose (why it is in the Bible). I am not that good with words (hence the long writing just to make a 'simple' illustration and explanation of what I mean so I can get to the point where I can try and make a simple statement as to its purpose). Anyone with wisdom to express this so simply so even a 'child' could understand?

Thanks in advance. (And for all your time in reading all of this!

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  • I think this might be better on our Biblical Hermeneutics site. Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 16:29
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    I find this so funny because I was told by the people on the hermeneutics stack exchange to post it here!
    – user58803
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 16:48
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    @DJClayworth The OP first asked this in Hermeneutics but it started to be voted down, to close it, because there was no specific text. It was more like a topic he wanted answering, which is inappropriate for Hermeneutics. So, I suggested he just add a group within Christianity who he was looking to for answers, then delete his initial attempt. This he has now done. This serves to show how difficult it is for newcomers to meet criteria for the two sites. Help is needed to bring clarity.
    – Anne
    Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 18:16
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    @Anne I only see you comment here now. THANK YOU for admitting how difficult it is for newcomers. I have even tried looking for answers on YT as to how this all works but to no avail so far. I actually deleted both my hermeneutics and christianity SE profiles because I was 'transgressing' the 'ritual laws' of the sites so much and getting a beating for it to the point of utter frustration. I must say, these are the two most unuserfriendly sites that I have been on in 15 years. Nothing I do is right but no one can tell me what exactly is. The rules are as clear as the IRS is on tax!
    – user58803
    Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 20:37

3 Answers 3

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Welcome to Christianity StackExchange!

Why is [typology] in the Bible?

This question seems to veer close to opinion/speculation, as it's basically asking "Why does God...?"

Nevertheless, God created us as intelligent creatures in an intelligible creation, and reveals Himself intelligibly.

The Sacred Authors themselves make use of types, e.g. Matthew 2:15

in fulfilment of the word which the Lord spoke by his prophet, I called my son out of Egypt.

Compare that to Hosea 11:1

Soon fades the dawn; soon passes king of Israel. Israel in his boyhood, what love I bore him! Away from Egypt I beckoned him, henceforth my son.

St Matthew uses Israel as a type of Christ in the flight to and return from Egypt.

Another example is Hebrews 1:5:

Did God ever say to one of the angels, Thou art my Son, I have begotten thee this day? And again, He shall find in me a Father, and I in him a Son?

Compared to 2 Samuel 7:14:

he shall find in me a father, and I in him a son. If he plays me false, be sure I will punish him; ever for man the rod, ever for Adam’s sons the plagues of mortality;

So what is it for? As Anthony Maas, who wrote Christ in Type and Prophecy puts it, "[Typology] furnishes solid and reliable premises for theological conclusions" when the typological sense is either revealed as such, or when it is proven from Scripture or tradition. 1

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Not all analogies between OT and NT character / event / story qualify to be interpreted as typological relationship. We should be guided by how Jesus and NT authors themselves use them, or probably only use typology that NT used. Or we should only use what the Apostolic Fathers or the Early Church Fathers like St. Irenaeus or St. Augustine used. Otherwise, we can potentially go overboard with our imagination and creativity such as several examples you provided in the OP.

As to the purpose, I think it's quite established in many theological circles that the purpose is mainly to show fulfillment of OT prophecies by Christ, progressive revelation, and thirdly to compare the many aspects of our pilgrimage on earth (under Christ's Lordship) in terms of Israel's journey to the promised land (under Yahweh).

This Got Questions article shows Biblical use of typology while this Wikipedia article shows a few other common ones.

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  • Though I agree that our imagination should be informed by a sound understanding of Scripture as Jesus and the inspired writers of the Bible do for us, I do see a challenge with including the early church fathers simply because God has permitted more light to shine from His word since these fathers died. If I do limit myself to their understanding of typology then my own understanding will be just as archaic as theirs.
    – user58803
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 5:29
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    @AndriesStander Most Christian denominations look up to the early church fathers's way of Bible interpretation to flesh out Christian theologies, so they have a pride of place, although Protestants believe in sola scriptura, so the early church fathers's interpretation is not absolute. For example, Reformed theology, following Calvin, adopted many of St. Augustine's views. I understand that SDA seems to be less dependent on the church fathers, but then how do they establish control over which typologies are legitimate? Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 5:35
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    I believe SDAs are the most indebted to all that have gone before them both as church fathers and as pioneers of Scriptural understanding. However, what I appreciate the most about them is that they truly allow Scripture to interpret itself. So, to answer your question, Scripture controls the ligitimacy of typology. Whatever typology is not in harmony with the rest of Scripture (not my understanding or that of the early church fathers) is not ligitimate. Once your typology starts running into direct clashes with Scripture of with itself, I would say it is time to ease off the throttle...
    – user58803
    Commented Mar 25, 2022 at 6:07
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These symbolic coincidences could also be considered as proof, or at least a strong indication, of the truth of the Bible.

Suppose someone publishes an article that contains the line "Jerked Conifers will be seen in the Cyder Pines." (assume that it makes sense in the context it appears).

Two years from now, when "Frederick Jones" assumes the "Presidency", people will notice the anagrams and realize that that was actually a concealed prediction.

If that article contains several other hidden predictions that come true, there will be little doubt that there was something very special about it. (And who knows how many other predictions it contains that haven't happened yet.)

This same effect happens with types in the Bible. A story or event seems ordinary and self-contained, but then much later, something happens that matches the original description in ways that are unlikely to be coincidence. When enough of these happen, coincidence becomes almost impossible.

For instance, at the time they were instituted in the Torah, no one realized that God's seven holy feasts were actually symbolizing his plan of salvation. It's only in hindsight, knowing what was later explained in the Greek scriptures, that their meaning becomes clear.

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