Saturday, June 28, 2008

Typology & allegory

Since the topic of allegory and typology has arisen, it’s necessary to define our terms. Allegory is a hermeneutical method which asserts that a text denotes something other than, or above and beyond, its literal referents.

It may regard the allegorical meaning as addition to the literal meaning. Or the allegorical meaning may be the “true” meaning.

For example, the allegorical interpretation of Canticles takes this book to be, not a set of love poems about a man and a woman, but an extended metaphor for Yahweh’s relation to Israel, or Christ’s relation to the Church.

By contrast, typology is not, properly speaking, a hermeneutical method. We make speak of typological interpretation, as a shorthand expression, yet typology is not fundamentally about the significance of a text, but about the significance of person, place, institution, or event. (I’ll say “event” for short.)

It presupposes a Biblical philosophy of history, according to which God has orchestrated history such that certain earlier events foreshadow certain later events. So typology is rooted in things rather than words. It's a way of interpreting history.

Typology may take a text as a reference point because the text supplies a record of the event. So typology will refer to the event via the textual witness to that event.

But it’s not fundamentally about the meaning of the text. And it doesn’t set aside the historical context of the passage. Indeed, it presupposes the historical context of the passage as a necessary relatum. For typology asserts a parallel between one historical event and another. Both relata must be historical for the analogue to obtain.


  1. Typology points towards Christ, or shows Christ. And allegory extracts the spiritual meanings, showing us how to live spiritual lives, our life in Christ.

    Galatians 2:20
     I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

  2. Gal 2:20 isn't either allegorical or typological.

    Allegory doesn't select for a "spiritual" meaning. You could just as well allegorize Scripture to extract a "carnal" meaning.

    Allegory has no external controls. You can extract whatever you want from the text using the allegorical method. You could interpret Gal 2:20 allegorically to signify our life in Antichrist.

    The allegorical method is an exercise in mirror reading.

  3. Typology points towards Christ, or shows Christ.

    Typology points to a given referent. Scripture tells us what those referents are. Your "Christocentric" approach is overdone.

    Adam is a type of Christ. Why? Because the Bible says so.

    Joseph is often viewed as a type of Christ, but that's speculative theology.

    Is Eve a type of Christ? Roman Catholics call her a type of Mary.

    Is the Ark of the Covenant a type of Christ? Romanists call it a type of Mary.

    Typology doesn't select for Christ.

    And allegory extracts the spiritual meanings, showing us how to live spiritual lives, our life in Christ.

    The same thing can be said about applications for life and living extracted from an interpretation using the GHM. The GHM doesn't select for any particular interpretation, but it's not an exercise bereft of practical application for the Christian life. We don't use the GHM for doctrinal sermons without discussing the practical, every day implications of those interpretations. If you think otherwise, you're only demonstrating your ignorance of the way Evangelicals interpret and apply Scripture.

    Take the Scripture you just offered. Do you honestly think we can't, from an GHM based exegesis, discuss its practical implications / applications?

    So, the applications extracted from the GHM are less spiritual than whatever you think an allegorical interpretation of the same text yields.

    Where's the supporting argument for that move?