Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "TYPOLOGY"


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible


  1. Warrant for typical study:
    This is found in 1 Cor. 10:6-11, from which we select the following quote "Now these things were our examples (lit., happened as types for us), to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lust. Now all these things happened unto them for examples (lit., as types) and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come."

    Not only are the types important but they are profitable in keeping us from making the mistakes others made. They teach us spiritual truths and spiritual lessons as Rom. 15:4 says, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope."

    A proper understanding of the spiritual significance of Old Testament typical history is essential to save us from going back into babyhood. The "milk" of the Word is simply the historical statement. The "solid food" of the Word, required for proper growth, is the spiritual or typical significance of that historical statement. See Heb. 5:10-14 and cp. Gen. 14, where the mere historical statement concerning Melchisedek is described as "milk," while the spiritual significance of those statements are called "meat" (solid food).
  2. Four ways to read the Old Testament:
    1. Historically or literally, "All these things happened," 1 Cor. 10:11. These 0.T. incidents are historical incidents.
    2. Dispensationally, Ask yourself,
      1. To whom is this said? For whose rule of life is this? In what age was it said? What was God's particular message for man in that age? What was man's responsibility? Also,
      2. Is there a dispensational picture or lesson in this passage? "Distinguish the ages and the Scriptures agree" -- Augustine.
    3. Spiritually or applicationally. What is the spiritual lesson from this passage? What truth does it illustrate that will have practical bearing on walk? 1 Cor. 9:8-11.
    4. Typically or Christologically. Types are primarily connected with Christ and truths which center around His person and work or our relation to them, e.g.,  Cor. 10:4. They may be direct, or by inference or contrast, or they may be just apt illustrations of Scripture truths. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 19:10).
  3. Difference between allegorical and typical study:
    Origen introduced the allegorical method of interpretation (around A.D. 210-254). The allegorical method denies literal history and so says, for instance, that in Genesis 3 the tree and its fruit were not literal but figurative, that the story of the "tree" was just a way of saying that here was something (we know not what) which attracted Eve. -- which she should not have allowed to attract her, -- but which she did allow to attract her, and thus sinned. On the contrary, the typical method of study insists upon the literality of the text, upon the actual event or fact (i.e., a literal tree and fruit), but says that this literal fact in God's providence is an illustration of a truth God has revealed or completed in the New Covenant (Testament); i.e., by contrast and comparison with Christ's threefold temptation, and by comparison with our temptations (1 Jn. 2:15-16).

    An allegory is a fiction; a type is a historic fact which illustrates some truth.
  4. Definition of a type
    1. The word means literally "the mark left by a stroke or a blow." It is used 16 times in the New Testament and is translated several ways:
      1. Print       (1)   Jn. 20:25
      2. Figure    (2)   Acts 7:43; Rom. 5:14; Heb. 9:24
      3. Pattern   (3)   Tit. 2:7; Heb. 8:5
      4. Fashion  (4)   Acts 7:44
      5. Manner  (5)   Acts 23:25
      6. Form      (6)   Rom. 6:17
      7. Example (7)   1 Cor. 10:6, 11; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thes. 1:7 2 Thes. 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 5:3
      8. Shadow  Heb. 10:1
      9. Figure     Heb. 9:9 R.V. "parable"
      10. Pattern    Heb. 9:23 R.V. "copy"
    2. The significance of the use of the word:
      "A type is a divinely purposed illustration of some truth. [It may be: (l) a person (Rom. 5:14); (2) an event (1 Cor. 10:11); (3) a thing (Heb. 1:20); (4) an institution (Heb. 9:11); (5) a ceremonial (1 Cor. 5:7)] Types occur most frequently in the Pentateuch, but are found, more sparingly, elsewhere. The antitype, or fulfillment, of the type is found usually in the New Testament." Scofield Reference Bible, p. 4

      "A person or thing in the Old Testament dispensation that represents and prefigures a person or thing in the New Testament dispensation (hence called the antitype)." Hastings, Dictionary of Bible.

      "Types are pictures, object lessons, by which God taught His people concerning His grace and saving power. The Mosaic system was a sort of kindergarten in which God's people were trained in Divine things by which also they were led to look for 'better things to come.' An old writer thus expresses it? 'God in the types of the last dispensation was teaching the children their letters. In this dispensation He is teaching them to put the letters together and they find, however they put them together, they all spell Christ and nothing but Christ.’” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
  5. Distinctive features  of a type:
    1. It must be a true picture of the person or thing it prefigures.
    2. It must be of Divine appointment
    3. It always prefigures something futures It is really prophecy in concrete form.
  6. How much of the Old Testament is typical:
    There are two extremes to be avoided:
    1. Some find types in every incident however trivial. This involves the danger of unbridled imagination.
    2. Some people seem to go in for this. Some limit the types to those expressly mentioned in the N.T. This error assumes that the N.T. exhausts the types of the O.T.

      Whenever the three distinctive features mentioned under V above are found in any incident or person, we may authoritatively call it a type. Perhaps to be on the safe side, if anything does not fulfill these three things, we might better say it is similar to a type, but not authoritatively cal it a type.

      At the same time, in 1 Corinthians 10:1-10, Paul is sketching O.T. incidents almost at random as appropriate incidents come to mind. He does not pretend to be making an exhaustive list Yet he calls them all "types" (vv. 6,10). Further the writer of the Letter to the Hebrews, in referring to the furniture of the Tabernacle, indicates in this divine commentary on 0.T. types that he could write far more on types than he does ("…of which we cannot now speak particularly" Heb. 9:5). By this statement he means, "I could say a lot more about the typological message of the O.T., for there is much more, but it is not appropriate now."
  7. Rules for the interpretation of types:
    1. A type must never be used to teach a doctrine, but only used to illustrate a doctrine explicitly taught elsewhere.
    2. No conclusions must be drawn which are inconsistent with the clearer and full revelation of Divine truth.
    3. Never forget that typical teaching or typical interpretation must not obscure the historical reality of the record.
    4. Study similar types to get a full view:
      1. EXAMPLE: The Shepherds of the O.T.
        1. Abel = The First Shepherd
        2. Isaac = The Wealthy Shepherd
        3. Jacob = The Enduring Shepherd
        4. Joseph = The Hated and Rejected Shepherd
        5. Moses = The Leading or Prophet Shepherd
        6. David = The Delivering and Reigning Shepherd
    5. Seek the illumination of the Holy Spirit, Jn. l6:l314.
    6. The N.T., we should remember, will usually furnish the key.
      "The New is in the "Old concealed,
      The Old is in the New revealed."
  8. Reasons for the study of types:
    1. God sets great value on them (e.g., the book of Hebrews).
    2. Our Lord thought much of them (Jn. 3:14. 3:14; Mt. 12:40)
    3. They all speak of Him.
    4. Because of the high place the N.T. assigns to them (e.g., 1 Cor. 5:6-8).
    5. Many N.T. passages cannot be fully understood without knowing the O.T. types (e.g., Heb. 10:19-20).
    6. The types cover practically the whole range of N.T. teaching.
    7. A study of the types is a sure antidote to the higher critical approach and teaching concerning the O.T., showing these are divinely planned prophecies which tie Old and New Testament together in a basic, supernatural unity (e.g., Gal. 3:8; 4:21-5:1; etc.).


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