Explore the Book: Genesis (Pt 3)

BaxterDefining Old Testament Types

Any person, object, event, act, or institution (e.g., ceremony, office, structure) divinely adapted to represent some spiritual reality, or to prefigure some person or truth to be later revealed.  God invests these things “with a prefigurative meaning, so that besides having a real relationship with their own times they have had a significance reaching far forward into the future.”

  • Stated in the New Testament.
  • People:  Adam and Melchizedek (Romans 5.14; Hebrews 7.3)
  • Objects:  Rock and the first tabernacle (1 Corinthians 10.4; Hebrews 9.8-9)
  • Events:  Noah’s deliverance and Abraham sacrificing Isaac (1 Peter 3.21; Hebrews 11.19)
  • General parallels:  1 Corinthians 10.6; 1 Corinthians 10.11; Hebrews 10.1; the discourse on bread (John 6); “Letter” vs. “Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3-4); Ishmael and Isaac (Galatians 4); Melchizedek and Aaron (Hebrews); The Brass Serpent; Jonah spending three days in a great fish; Christ as the Passover, Firstfruits, Mercy Seat, and Lamb; Joseph and Jesus.

Baxter points out that the “one all-sufficient authority for Old Testament typology is the clear warrant of the New Testament.”  This is extremely important.  Interpreters have vivid imaginations.  Often, they see types where they do not exist.

Values of Typology

Allegorical and mystical interpretations carried to foolish extravagances are unsupported by the New Testament.  However, there is value in the study of a genuine type.  Baxter likens such study to giving “colour and fulness and vividness of presentation which cannot be given in direct, unfigurative prediction …No Old Testament [type] should be dogmatically asserted to be a type without clear New Testament warrant.”

Principles of Interpretation

Precautions

  1. No doctrine or theory should ever be build upon a type or types independently of direct teaching elsewhere in Scripture.  Types illustrate; they do not formulate.  They are dependent, and must not be used independently to authenticate doctrine.
  2. The parallelism between type and antitype should not be pressed to fanciful extremes.  They enrich and illuminate our understanding.  As with the interpretation of a parable, one must not carry insignificant minutiae into a degenerative interpretation through imaginative allegorizing.

Baxter lists several examples of types in Genesis, but then does not defend them.  However, he does elaborate upon two examples:

  1. Flood Survivors:  A Type of the Church
  2. Joseph:  A Type of Christ

Baxter could have chosen clear examples, but he did not.  I might draw parallels from the above examples.  However, strictly speaking, they are not types even by Baxter’s definition (which I think is sound).  The value of this lesson is found not in Baxter’s examples but in his principles and precautions concerning typology and the Scripture.

One clear type in Genesis is Adam with the Lord Jesus Christ.  This type is defensible from Romans 5.

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