Type Versus Illustration

This is a post in a series of posts titled Types and Shadows. You may want to start at the FIRST post of the series, or see the PREVIOUS post, before reading this one.

As I was reading back over my previous lesson, and I read a few more resources online that I trust, I started to realize that I had not made a complete introduction to the concept of Biblical typology. While I think the definitions I wrote about in the introductory post were sufficient, one thing I didn’t talk about was the difference between an official Biblical type and a simple illustration. The reason it is important to differentiate between the two comes down to the rules of Biblical interpretation. Two of the most important rules of Biblical interpretation are

  1. Never read into Scripture, but always draw meaning out of Scripture, and
  2. Always use Scripture to interpret Scripture.

In doing this, we are less likely to mistakenly assign an Old Testament figure or event as a type of a New Testament truth.

One way to follow these rules of interpretation as it applies to typology is to only consider something a type when it is declared to be a type in the New Testament.  Admittedly, the OBC lesson I followed for my first post did not agree with this.  They quoted Moses Stuart as saying “Just so much of the Old Testament is to be accounted typical as the New Testament affirms to be so, and no more,”, but then explained that “by limiting the number of types solely to those mentioned by the New Testament writers, one severely curbs the richness of types and shadows found elsewhere in the Old Testament.”  They felt that sticking to only New Testament revealed types was too limiting, and as I read through the lesson the first time through, it didn’t jump out at me how dangerous this line of thinking could be. But after doing some reading elsewhere, I came to realize that by identifying an Old Testament figure or event as a type, even though it’s not identified in Scripture as being so, I am adding meaning to Scripture, and not drawing meaning out of it.

A good example is the story of Joseph. The Got Questions site explains “…many people see parallels between Joseph (Genesis 37-45) and Jesus. The humiliation and subsequent glorification of Joseph seem to correspond to the death and resurrection of Christ. However, the New Testament never uses Joseph as a model of Christ…”  My OBC lesson listed Joseph as a personal type of Christ, so it’s a great example of this kind of error.  But as GQ pointed out, “Joseph’s story is properly called an illustration, but not a type, of Christ.”

Why go on about this, you ask?  Perhaps there isn’t much reason to. But as I continued in my study, I felt I needed to make some clarification before continuing on in my posts here at WHITM.

See the NEXT post in this series –>


1 Comment

Filed under Types and Shadows

One response to “Type Versus Illustration

  1. Pedro

    great article, I personally got tired of differentiating so now I usually say this I like to use as a reminder of, or this is in a way a picture of, and the reason I do this is because nearly every type, shadow ,illustration, breaks down at one point or another, bless you, Pedro

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