Interview with

Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Audio Transcript

A longtime financial donor to the ministry, and a faithful listener to the podcast, writes in to ask a follow-up to your May 12 article on typology. “Hello Pastor John, thank you for your lesson on Types. Please explain the difference between Typology and Analogy.”

I think the question has enough practical relevance for those of us who preach and teach so that when we get to the end everybody should care about this question. Because even if we don’t use the concept of type as often as others say in our preaching or teaching, everybody should be using biblical analogies all the time. So let me do a little education here on typology.

In that article you referred to, I defined a biblical type as having three traits. And maybe before I mention those three traits and then how analogies are like them and not like them, I should clarify for the average listener who probably doesn’t know at all what a type is and why it even matters. So, let me just explain.

Paul wrote in Romans 5:14, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.” So Paul is saying Adam was a “type,” and that is his word, not ours — a type of Christ who is to come. So we are not just spinning our wheels in interesting literary chatter here. We are trying to understand a biblical idea, not just our idea that we put on the text, as if we created the idea of types. Types comes out of the Bible. That is why it matters enough to spend time thinking about it.

So the three traits that I argued define a type are: 1) The person or the object or the event that we are calling a type resembles what is coming. So there is a resemblance and the thing that is coming, like Christ, is coming and Adam was the type — the thing that is coming is sometimes called an antitype. So, for example, in 1 Corinthians 10:6, Paul uses the word “type” (or it is translated “example” in some versions). But it is the same word as “type” in Romans 5. He uses the word “type” to refer among other things to passing through the Red Sea as a type of baptism. In other words, there is a resemblance. You are moving from bondage to freedom. You are passing through water. You are following a leader. And when Paul sees that, he sees a resemblance, a picture, a foreshadowing of baptism. And so resemblance is the first trait.

And at this point, type and analogy are the same. If a person asks, “Well, isn’t that just an analogy?” you could say, “Yes, at this point it is.” But that is not all there is to a type. So, 2) To be a type in the Bible, the resemblance has to be designed by God to make a point. It is not just an interesting correspondence. It is a design by God to link one part of redemptive history and the flow of history to a later part of redemptive history. And Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 10:6 when he says, “These things took place as types for us.” Which means, God did that. God ordained that those events would have this resemblance to baptism. They are not just thought up by the reader. They are discerned by the reader as being intended by God.

And now at this point you might say: Well, can analogies also be willed by God? He wills everything. His providence is over everything, so any time there is a resemblance that would be an analogy, you could call that an analogy and not just a type. And I am going to say at this point, “Yes, you could. You could talk about God-willed analogies.”

But the third characteristic of a type distinguishes it from the ordinary understanding of analogy. 3) It is prophetic. It predicts. God designed not just to correspond to something in the future, but to point or to predict something in the future. And ordinarily we don’t think of analogies that way. Analogies are simply observed similarities, but types predict. They give insight into the plan that God has for the future. So that is the main difference. An analogy resembles. You could even think that analogies are designed by God to resemble, but analogies, at least in the ordinary way we think, do not predict.

Now, the reason I said maybe this would be practically useful for teachers and preachers — or anybody who handles the Bible with somebody else in view or even your own self — but especially if you have got others in mind, is that I don’t think we are free to call something in the Bible a type just because it resembles something else in the Bible. I think we should be careful and let the New Testament give us cautious guidance on what we put in the category of God-willed predictive types. But I think that in our teaching and preaching we are free to draw analogies everywhere that we see them. Anytime we see an illuminating similarity we can draw it out.

Spurgeon did this like crazy. He was really good at it. I might say, “Let your words fly against the devil like stones from David’s sling.” Well, that is an analogy. I am just making that up, right? When I say, “your words flying against the devil,” I am not saying, “Ah, the stones in the sling were a type of your words being written on Facebook.” I am not saying that. I am just saying that I can see a connection and I can use the connection to add a punch or a force to it without making any big biblical, theological claim about the stones in the sling being a biblical type.

Or I might say, “Idols of secularism come crashing down like Dagon in the Philistine temple.” That is a way of talking that is analogical. I am seeing connections. I am drawing them out. Or I could say, “ . . . like a great avalanche on Mount Everest” for that matter. It doesn’t even have to come from the Bible. It is just the way we talk. And when analogies are found in the Bible to some point we want to make, it can add a remarkable, provocative, memorable twist to our point, which is what Spurgeon did so effectively.

So in our preaching and teaching let’s be careful to draw out the biblically clear types that weave redemptive history together and let’s be lavish and free to use as many provocative analogies as we can.