Tools for studying types in the Bible

A study Bible.
An Exhaustive Concordance.

“The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” St. Augustine, early church father, philosopher and theologian.

The Old Testament contains the key to understanding the New Testament.

The Old Testament records hundreds of prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ alone. These outright prophecies are either a description of an attribute that the Messiah would have or a fact that would be true of Him.  Besides these prophecies, there are also pictures or “types” in the Bible (Old Testament) that foreshadow Christ—Characters and events in the Old Testament act as analogies to some truth about Messiah.
Prophesies in the Old Testament are not limited to those that were fulfilled in Christ himself. There are prophecies about the church, about Israel, and even about Gentile nations. In the same way, the types in the Bible are not limited to Christ.

“The typology of the Old Testament is the very alphabet of the language in which the doctrine of the New Testament is written.” Dr. Robert Anderson

“The study of types in the Bible is both an interesting and an instructive method” Dr. R. A Torrey

It is impossible to have a full understanding of the New Testament without understanding the typology of the Old Testament. Within the old is the new concealed, within the new is the old revealed.

The study of types  in the Bible shows precious truths of God’s word that are buried within passages of the Old Testament that are otherwise dry and meaningless.

The unfortunate thing is that for hundreds of years now, the study of types in the Bible has been subject to a lot of abuse. Some people allow their imagination to run wild and read types in Bible passages where types are not intended. However, the abuse of this precious method of Bible study doesn’t mean that we should abandon it altogether. Jesus Christ and Paul used it frequently. For us to dig out the precious truths of God’s word, we must be able to dig the truth out.

To be able to avoid the abuse of typology, make sure that you have biblical backing for the type that you are describing. Be sure you can show another passage of scripture that clearly teaches the message that your type is presenting.

Procedure for studying types in the Bible.

The study of types is the only method of Bible study described in this book that we will recommend that, if possible, you read a good Christian book on typology before you fully engage in the study of types. We will recommend a few books like that at the end of this chapter. This is not because we believe that you cannot engage in the study of types without first reading a book on it. We only believe that it will help you become more proficient an avoid mistakes. If you attend a church where the pastor frequently teaches on types, that may do in place of reading a book.

Step 1. Observation.

1. Begin with prayer. Ask God to help you understand the hidden meaning that is found in typology.

2. Choose a type to study
Begin your study with one of the simple types in the Bible such as the Passover (see Exodus 12 and 1 Corinthians 7:5), the high priest, or the tabernacle, Moses as a type of Christ, and Joseph as a type of Christ.

3. Study the type: For example, Joseph in the Old Testament is widely accepted as a type of Christ.  If Joseph was the type you picked, then you need to study Joseph well in this case.

Step 2. Interpretation.

1. Cross-reference: When you study a passage that has types, look up all Scriptural references in an exhaustive concordance.

2. Context : Remember to study every passage in context.

3. Do a name study: Carefully study the meaning of the names of people and places that are mentioned in the passage. Bible names often have a very deep and far-reaching suggestiveness. For example, Bethlehem, the name of the town where Jesus (the Bread of Life) was born means “house of Bread”. Hebron means “joining together,” “union”, or “fellowship”.

4. Study the thing, which is being typified: Following the example of Joseph as a type of Christ, you would then need to study Christ in this step.

5. Make a list of similarities: Types are foreshadows and so are usually not perfect matches to the thing that is being typified. So you need to study the type, study the thing that is being typified, make a list of their similarities, and make a list of their differences.

6. Make a list of differences. There would always be differences between types and the true object. So list them in this step.

7. Remember the principles of interpretation as you study the type.


Step 3.  Application.

Choose a lesson from the type and apply it to yourself by setting a SMART goal.