This article explains how to study the Bible by the typological method. This method is also referred to as study by “types.” In this article, the method is defined, explained, and I have also given an example study of Joseph as a ‘type’ of Jesus Christ.
THE METHOD DEFINED
To understand how to do a typological study you must first understand the meaning of the word type. There are several verses in the Bible which explain the meaning of a Biblical type. The Key Verse for this chapter, Hebrews 10:1, speaks of the law having a shadow of good thing to come. “Shadow” is one word to describe a Biblical type. A shadow is an exact outline, although the details may be dim and sometimes it contrasts the thing that casts the shadow.
“Figure” is another word which describes type:
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)
According to this verse, Adam was a “figure” of someone else who was to come. The meaning of the word “figure” is similar to that of type. Adam was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ who was to come later.
The offering of sacrifices for sin in the Old Testament was a type of the final sacrifice for sin which was to be offered by Jesus in the New Testament:
The Holy Spirit thus signifying that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience. (Hebrews 9:8-9)
“Pattern” is another word describing Biblical types:
For if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law;
Who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned by God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for he said, “See, you shall make everything according to the pattern that was shown to you on the mountain.” (Hebrews 8:4-5)
Each of these words–shadow, figure, and pattern–all contain the idea we refer to when we speak of types. A type is a person or thing in the Bible which God used to represent some other person, thing, or event that would appear in the future. It was a shadow, a figure, or a pattern of what was to come.
THE METHOD EXPLAINED
When we study these types it is called typological Bible study. We study a person, place, event, or thing and then we study the thing of which it is a type. In a way, types are like prophecy. They give an advance view of what is to come in God’s future plan. Like prophecy, some types have been fulfilled. Others remain to be fulfilled.
Although the type is important in itself, it has an even greater significance in the future person or event which it represented. Types are physical pictures of spiritual realities. For example, the experience of the children of Israel being healed from the bites of serpents is an actual Old Testament event. The Old Testament account in Numbers 21:6-9 tells that serpents bit the people and caused many of them to die. Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. Everyone who looked at the bronze serpent recovered from the serpent’s bite. This event is a type of the death of Jesus:
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
Many of the truths of the Bible are so simply stated that a child can understand them. There are other truths that are “hidden riches of secret places.” They require more intense study to understand. The typical teachings of the Bible are like hidden riches. You must take time to search out these truths to discover the richest teachings of the Word of God.
All types fall into four general classifications:
- Events (historical, ceremonial, etc.)
- Material things
EXAMPLE OF THE METHOD
One of the greatest types in the Bible is found in the Old Testament personality of Joseph. Read the story of Joseph in Genesis chapters 37-50. Joseph was a type of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were many events in his life which were a pattern of those which would be in the life of Jesus. These are noted on the following chart:
NOTE: Take the above chart, and complete the References relating to Jesus Christ for each of the corresponding to Joseph in Genesis.
Joseph’s life was important in itself but it was also a pattern of an even greater life which was to come in the future. That greater life was the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. You will notice on the chart that space is provided for references under the column heading “Jesus Christ.” Complete the typological study by finding references in the Gospels which tell of similar events in the life of Jesus. The first one is done as an example for you to follow. This is an example of typological Bible study, Joseph being a type of Jesus Christ.