Reading the Bible using typology is the art of discovering
the spiritual and mystical sense of the divine realities contained in
Sacred Scripture. It's also to find out that, as St. Augustine (A.D.
354-430) said, "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old
Testament is unveiled in the New."
Origen, in writing about Christ's parable
of the treasure hidden in a field, compares that field to Scripture:
indeed, seems to me according to these things to be the Scripture,
which was planted with what is manifest in the words of the history,
and the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the thoughts; for great
and varied is the planting of the words in the whole Scripture; but the
treasure hidden in the field is the thoughts concealed and lying under
that which is manifest, of wisdom hidden in a mystery, even Christ, in
whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.
In mining the field of Scripture for treasure, we look for types. A
type (typos in Greek), or "archetype," often called a
"shadow," "parable," "allegory," or
"figure" in Scripture, is a person, thing, or action that precedes and
prefigures a greater person, thing, or action. That which is prefigured
is referred to as an "antitype." The concept is summarized in Scripture
But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have
not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of Adam,
who is a figure of him who was to come.
I Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are
written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of a
festival day or of the new moon or of the sabbaths, Which are a
shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.
The Holy Ghost signifying this: That the way into the Holies was not
yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing. Which
is a parable of the time present: according to which gifts and
sacrifices are offered, which cannot, as to the conscience, make him
perfect that serveth, only in meats and in drinks,
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not
the very image of the things, by the selfsame sacrifices which they
offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac: and he that had
received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (To whom it was
said: In Isaac shalt thy seed be called:) Accounting that God is able
to raise up even from the dead. Whereupon also he received him for
a parable. By faith also of things to come Isaac blessed Jacob and
Sacred Scripture with the concept of types and antitypes in mind is
like opening a veritable treasure chest of riches which go far to help
one understand some basic Catholic doctrines. It reveals in inerrant,
divinely inspired Scripture a poetic genius that compels in itself and
helps one to see that the Old and New Testaments form one story.
Some examples of types and antitypes:
Sacrifice, pleasing to God
slaying of the Israelites' male children
||The Massacre of
the Holy Innocents
|Ark of the
Theotokos (God-bearer), Ark of the New Covenant
|The Queen of
|life on earth
||life in the
world to come: 1 Paralipomenon (1 Chronicles): 29:15
Take a closer look at the Ark of the Covenant and Mary as type and
antitype respectively. From this site's apologetics
page on Mary comes this, which shows how Luke's Gospel relates the
|The Ark of the
Samuel 6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people
that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark
of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that
dwelleth between the cherubims.
1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill
country with haste, into a city of Juda
Samuel 6:9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and
said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me?
1:43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord
should come to me?
Samuel 6:11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of
Obededom the Gittite three months...
1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months...
Samuel 6:16 And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of
David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king
David leaping and dancing before the LORD [His Presence over the Ark]
1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the
salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was
filled with the Holy Ghost:
The way to discover types and antitypes is to ask yourself in the
Meditatio part of Lectio Divina:
- "What is this
(person, thing, attribute, action) like?"
- Ponder the
adjectives you come up with to describe it/him/her, the movements they
make, the places involved, the effects they have, the words used to
describe them in Scripture, etc.
- Ask yourself
where else in Scripture this person, thing, attribute, or action is
mentioned, and in what context.
- Then ask
yourself who or what is like this also.
As an example,
let's take Melchizedek. We know about him that:
- he came from
- he was a priest
of the God Most High
- he offered bread
- he was King of
Jerusalem (Jerusalem means "Peace")
- Abraham paid
tribute to him
an obvious type of the antitype Christ, Who is the High Priest
(explicity after the order of Melchizedek).
Remember that the type (usually found in the Old Testament) is always
inferior to the antitype (usually in the New Testament) that it
prefigures: manna is inferior to the Eucharist; the Sabbath practices
and sacrifices are inferior to the Mass; the Old Testament priesthood
was inferior to the New; the Ark of the Covenant is inferior to Mary,
the Ark of the New Covenant, etc. The type has its own historical
reality, but is intended by the Holy Ghost to also foreshadow
what is to come (or what came), to indicate those things which are in
eternal glory, etc.
St. Irenaeus (b. ca. 115) describes typology well in his Adversus
haereses (Against the Heresies), Book IV, Chapter 26:
1. If any one,
therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an
account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling (vocationis).
For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, that is, in this
world (for "the field is the world" ); but the treasure hid in the
Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and
parables. Hence His
human nature could not be understood, prior to the
consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the
advent of Christ.
And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: "Shut up the words,
and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn,
and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall
be accomplished, they shall know all these things."
But Jeremiah also says, "In the last days they shall understand these
things." For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men full of
enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the
prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and
certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present
time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not
possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the
Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by
the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to
light by the Cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the
understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring
His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ
beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy
Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall
arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and
from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that
others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by
Daniel: "Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the
firmament, and many of the righteous as the stars for ever and ever.''
Thus, then, I have shown it to be, if any one read the Scriptures. For
thus it was that the Lord discoursed with, the disciples after His
resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures
themselves "that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that
remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the
world." And the disciple will be perfected, and rendered like the
householder, "who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old."
Read the Bible
with a sense of poetry and Mystery, and always -- always --
with the mind of the Church!