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Principles of typology

by Piet van der Lugt

In this article we want to deal with typology. For some of you it may be an unknown word. Therefore it is important first to make clear the significance of this term and how to deal with typology when we read our Bible.

What does the word mean?
The word itself you will not find in the Bible.
Typology is a composition of two words: ‘tupo’ and ‘logy’. These words you can find in the Greek text of the New Testament. Tupo comes from the word ‘tupos’. The first occurrence of this word can be found in John 20:25 where it is translated with ‘print’. Thomas speaks here about the print of the nails in Jesus’ hands. Elsewhere it is translated with figure (Acts 7:43, Rom. 5:14), fashion (Acts 7:44), ensample (1Co. 10:11) etc. (A complete list with references in the Septuagint and the New Testament you find at the end of this article)
We can conclude from the use of this Greek word ‘tupos’ that it expresses something visible which reveals in a particular way a person or thing.
The wounds in the hands of the Risen Lord speak of the nails while He was on the cross. The fashion of the tabernacle seen by Moses on the mount spoke of the tent that had to be made by the people of Israel. Adam in the garden of Eden was a figure of Him that was to come, the Messiah Jesus. Certain events that happened to Israel as prescribed in 1 Corinthians 10 are ensamples. That means we can learn from them as they are written for our admonition.

The other part of the word typology comes from the Greek word ‘logos’ that, according to the usage in the Bible, means ‘word’. In the Greek it has also the meaning of ‘prescription’, ‘principle’ and ‘meaning’.
So we come to the conclusion that typology means the description or meaning of types. Certain persons, animals, things and events speak of someone or something else.
Romans 1:20 says: “For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead ...”. According to this verse God reveals Himself partly in His creation. Not only that man has to understand that there is a God Who is the Architect and Maker of all we see, but the Lord also makes clearer Himself and His work in many things we see around us.

How does it work?
It is good to begin where the Bible begins. We already have seen the name Adam in Romans 5:14. The context of Romans 5 from 14 and onward shows us the correspondence and difference between Adam and Jesus Christ. In verse 14 we see them for the first time mentioned together. The portion deals with the fall of Adam by sinning. He was the first man and therefore the head of mankind. His disobedience had very great consequences for all men as we are his offspring. In being the first of the creation as well as the head of the old creation he is a type of Him that was to come, Jesus Christ, Who is the First as well as the Head of the new creation. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 He is called ‘the last Adam’ and in verses 47 ‘the second man’. So we have found a Scriptural example of typology.
The Lord Jesus in John 5:39 says: “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are which testify of Me.” When He points to the Scriptures we have to think about the Tanakh as in His days the New Testament was not yet available. Reading also the New Testament we come to the conclusion that Christ is the central theme of the whole Bible. Like Adam in certain aspects, is a type of Christ so we can find many more persons in the Tanakh whose names or life speak of Him Who was to come, like for example Joseph and Jonah (see page...). We can find His types in certain animals as the lion, lamb, heifer and the eagle. Also the tabernacle and its objects are beautiful types of Him.
Beside that we can find types of the people of Israel, the Church and of certain events to come, especially the revelation of God’s wrath and kingdom upon the earth.
Many times we can experience the Lord opening our eyes to see them after we have prayerfully asked Him.

Before we start reading and studying His Word it is good to pray as the writer of Psalm 119: “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.” (vs. 18) The first principle is dependence upon the Holy Spirit Who inspired the writers of God’s Word. The second is the necessity to have a fair knowledge of the whole Bible. It is good to read the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation every one year or two years. While reading in this way you will see the line of the Word and the progressive way of revelation. It is impossible to interpret the types without knowing the anti-type. The anti-type is the person or thing the type speaks of. For instance if you do not know many things about the Person and life of Jesus the Messiah you will not see that Adam, Abel, Seth and so many others are types of Him. The third principle is first to ask: ‘What does this person, animal or thing teaches about Christ?’ Beside this you can try to find further or other truths about Israel, the Church or the believer etc.

What is the goal?

When you are able to ‘dig up’ types, the Word of God becomes richer. It is almost unbelievable to see that persons who lived such a long time before the coming of Messiah show in their names and/or lives certain aspects of Him. This will bring us to glorify the God of the Bible, which I think, is the uttermost goal. So God and His Word are more honoured. Beside this the Word becomes more vivid. The persons, things and events are not only historical but become as it were alive.
Another goal is that types support doctrine. That means that they are illustrations of certain spiritual facts. Typology is not to be used to create a doctrine. Therefore we have to know the doctrine and use the type to illustrate the doctrine, so it becomes clearer and more understandable.
When we look around and observe God’s creation we discover many spiritual lessons and facts. In the article about the bees and the land of milk and honey (page ....) you will notice that the Lord Himself opened my eyes to see the bees as types of the Lord and the believer. Discovering these wonderful truths I praised the Lord.

What is the danger?

When we try to discover types in the Scriptures and nature there is always the danger that we go too far. Do not try to see more than is there. As already said there is also the danger to build a doctrine on typology. I want to give an example. There are quite some believers who say that the Church is the bride of Christ. Their view is based on certain texts which, in my opinion, are not interpreted in the right way. I have seen several times that these believers point to Genesis 24 where the servant of Abraham is sent by his master to seek a wife for Isaac. They say that Abraham is a type of God the Father Who sent the Holy Spirit (the servant) to ‘find’ the Church (Rebecca) for His Son Jesus the Messiah (Isaac). The bottleneck is the conviction that Rebecca is a type of the Church. To say this we have to be quite sure from the New Testament that this is true. For me it is clear that the Church is the Body of Christ as we can read for instance in Ephesians 5:22-33. Men have to love their wives as Christ loves His body, the Church (vs. 28). So we have to be very careful in using typology.
Another danger is to think that a type is either positive or negative. I believe that we have to interpret the type also in the context where it is found. I give some examples.
The serpent is a type of Satan (Gen. 3 and Rev. 20:2) and therefore negative. But from John 3:14 it is clear that the serpent in the desert is a type of the Son of man and therefore positive.
The lion is a type of the Messiah Who is called the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5) but in 1 Peter 5:8 is spoken about the devil as a roaring lion.
A third example is leaven. In the New Testament we find that leaven is a type of sin and old nature (1Cor. 5:8) also of false teaching (Mat. 16:12). In Matthew 13 we find the parables about the Kingdom of heaven. One of the parables deals with leaven. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened”. (vs. 33) Many stick to the negative meaning of leaven and interpret the parable as something negative happening with or in the kingdom of heaven. I think this interpretation is not correct. The Bible clearly says that the kingdom of heaven is like leaven. I believe that in this parable leaven is used in a positive way. It is a type of the kingdom that begins small in Jerusalem where King Jesus in future will be on the throne of David and it will through Israel (the woman) extend over the whole earth.

How to practice?
One of the most beautiful types of Messiah is Joseph the son of Jacob. We find his life prescribed from Genesis 37. Read the article on page ...
Coming in Exodus, the following book of the Tanakh, we see in chapter 12 the Lord’s institution of Pesach.
The lamb that had to be killed is a beautiful type of the Messiah. In Exodus 12:5 we read that the lamb had to be without blemish, a male of the first year. The Hebrew word ‘tamim’ translated ‘without blemish’ means ‘perfect’. The Lord Jesus was perfect as He was without sin (Heb. 4:15) and sins (1Pe. 2:22).
A lamb of one year old means a young adult lamb. So the Lord was a young adult of around 30 years old when he appeared to Israel (Luk. 3:23). The lamb could be taken from the sheep or the goats. See the order! That means that it could be a ram or a he-goat. The ram in the Bible is used for a burnt offering and the he-goat for a sin offering. When Messiah was on the cross for in total 6 hours, the first 3 hours He offered Himself up to God as the perfect man, as a burnt offering. After that He was made sin (2 Cor. 5:21), God reckoned Him to be a sinner so He offered Himself as a sin offering. All this was done for you and me! How much more can be found if we continue this wonderful portion of the Scriptures!


I hope you are encouraged and challenged to ‘dig up’ the types which can be found in the Bible. Besides that there are many types in the surrounding creation. The Lord is the Creator and reveals Himself in what He made and wrote. Concerning His writings He not only used words but also many pictures to be found in the types, to complete His wonderful revelation to men so that His Name would be glorified.

Tupos in the Old Testament
The Hebrew word tabnjeet; in LXX (Septuagint = Greek translation of Tenach) translated with tupos.
This occurs only in Ex. 25:40 “And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.”
Furthermore in Amos 5:26 we see tupos as translation of the Hebrew word tselem.
“But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god which ye made to yourselves.”

Tupos in the New Testament
John 20:25 print (2x)
Acts 7:43 figures
Acts 7:44 fashion
Acts 23:25 manner
Rom. 5:14 figure
Rom. 6:17 form
1Co. 10:6 examples
1Co. 10:11 ensamples
Phi. 3:17 ensample
1Th. 1:7 ensamples
2Th. 3:9 ensample
1Ti. 4:12 example
Tit. 2:7 pattern
Heb. 8:5 pattern
1Pe. 5:3 ensamples