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."
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 itself:
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 perfect.
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 Esau.
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:
pleasing to God
of the Israelites' male children
of the Holy Innocents
|Ark of the
||Mary as Theotokos
(God-bearer), Ark of the New Covenant
|The Queen of
||life in the
world to come: 1 Paralipomenon (1 Chronicles): 29:15
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,
Ask yourself where
else in Scripture this person, thing, attribute, 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 "nowhere"
he was a priest
of the God Most High
he offered bread
he was King of
Jerusalem (Jerusalem means "Peace")
Abraham paid tribute
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!