The Hermeneutics of Typology

The Hermeneutics of Typology defines its usage and determines the guidelines for its legitimacy.


The Hermeneutics of Typology

Because typology has been used as a method of interpretation (especially interpreting the Old Testament in light of the New), it is important to define its usage and to determine the guidelines for its legitimacy.

Defining Its Usage

Generally speaking, typology has been used as a method of interpretation to unify the Bible and to reflect the redemptive work of Christ in both the Old and New Testaments. In the past, this typological approach often drifted into allegorism and fanciful interpretations. In recent times, the use of typology has become more focused and defined.

In this way, contemporary exegetes have suggested two varieties of types: 1) innate types, or those specifically declared to be types in the New Testament; and 2) inferred types, or those not specifically designated in the New Testament but justified for their existence by the nature of the New Testament materials on typology.

On the one hand, there are still those who play the typological theme to the point of allegory; on the other hand, there are those who would see types as either explicitly or implicitly designated in the New Testament.

Furthermore, the use of typology does vary within each theological system as explained by W. Edward Glenny.

Covenant theologians often use typology to describe the relationship between the OT institutions and people of God (Israel) and the NT institutions and people of God (the Church or the new Israel). For them typology describes the progression of salvation-history from the old covenant to the new.
For the revised dispensationalist, typology is limited to specific persons, events or institutions of the OT that are designated as types in the NT. It does not describe the relationship between the old and new covenant. It describes the relationship between specific entities so designated in Scripture.
Progressive dispensationalists agree with the revised dispensationalistsí understanding of typology but go beyond that in allowing some of the OT promises for Israel to find a typological fulfilment in the Church age. For them typology is one of many hermeneutical classifications describing the use of the OT in the NT. It involves an initial fulfilment but does not annul the original OT meaning for Israel.

In other words, covenant theologians view all Old Testament promises to Israel as being typologically fulfilled in the Church and therefore superseded by the Church.

The revised dispensationalists view all OT promises to Israel as being fully realised in the millennial kingdom; if there is any application to the Church, it is analogous not typological.

The progressive dispensationalists view some OT promises to Israel as being initially fulfilled typologically in the Church, but nevertheless fully realised in the millennial kingdom. In this way, the progressive dispensationalists describe any application to the Church as typological-prophetic, whereas the revised dispensationalist describes any application as analogous.

There are some cautions that need to be considered concerning typology. Often typology can drift into allegory and subjectivism. Some also feel that the use of typological principles are inconsistent with the grammatical-historical method of interpretation. Furthermore, verbal inspiration becomes an issue when types are not specifically designated as types in the New Testament. In other words, any type other than the ones designated in the New Testament are questionable.

Determining Guidelines for Its Legitimacy

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