Apologia: The Fullness of Christian Truth

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D


The Meeting of Abraham and Melchisedech; The Last Supper; The Gathering of Manna

Reading the Bible using typology is the art of discovering the spiritual and mystical sense of the divine realities contained in Sacred Scripture. It's also to find out that, as St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430) said, "The New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New."

Origen, in writing about Christ's parable of the treasure hidden in a field, compares that field to Scripture:

The field, indeed, seems to me according to these things to be the Scripture, which was planted with what is manifest in the words of the history, and the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the thoughts; for great and varied is the planting of the words in the whole Scripture; but the treasure hidden in the field is the thoughts concealed and lying under that which is manifest, of wisdom hidden in a mystery, even Christ, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden.

In mining the field of Scripture for treasure, we look for types. A type (typos in Greek), or "archetype," often called a "shadow," "parable," "allegory," or "figure" in Scripture, is a person, thing, or action that precedes and prefigures a greater person, thing, or action. That which is prefigured is referred to as an "antitype." The concept is summarized in Scripture itself:
Romans 5:14
But death reigned from Adam unto Moses, even over them also who have not sinned, after the similitude of the transgression of Adam, who is a figure of him who was to come.

I Corinthians 10:11
Now all these things happened to them in figure: and they are written for our correction, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Collosians 2:16-17
Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of a festival day or of the new moon or of the sabbaths, Which are a shadow of things to come: but the body is of Christ.

Hebrews 9:8-9
The Holy Ghost signifying this: That the way into the Holies was not yet made manifest, whilst the former tabernacle was yet standing. Which is a parable of the time present: according to which gifts and sacrifices are offered, which cannot, as to the conscience, make him perfect that serveth, only in meats and in drinks,

Hebrews 10:1
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, by the selfsame sacrifices which they offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto perfect.

Hebrews 11:17-20
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (To whom it was said: In Isaac shalt thy seed be called:) Accounting that God is able to raise up even from the dead. Whereupon also he received him for a parable. By faith also of things to come Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau.

Approaching Sacred Scripture with the concept of types and antitypes in mind is like opening a veritable treasure chest of riches which go far to help one understand some basic Catholic doctrines. It reveals in inerrant, divinely inspired Scripture a poetic genius that compels in itself and helps one to see that the Old and New Testaments form one story.

Some examples of types and antitypes:




Adam Christ
Eve Mary
Abel's sacrifice Christ's Sacrifice, pleasing to God
Noe's Ark the Church
Melchisedech Christ
Sacrifice of Isaac Sacrifice of Christ
Pharoah's slaying of the Israelites' male children The Massacre of the Holy Innocents
Moses Christ
manna the Eucharist
Ark of the Covenant Mary as Theotokos (God-bearer), Ark of the New Covenant
The Queen of Saba (Sheba) The Magi
Sabbath Mass
Old Testament priesthood New Testament priesthood
life on earth life in the world to come: 1 Paralipomenon (1 Chronicles): 29:15

Take a closer look at the Ark of the Covenant and Mary as type and antitype respectively. From this site's apologetics page on Mary comes this, which shows how Luke's Gospel relates the two:

The Ark of the Covenant Mary
2 Samuel 6:2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. Luke 1:39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda
2 Samuel 6:9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and said, How shall the ark of the LORD come to me? Luke 1:43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
2 Samuel 6:11 And the ark of the LORD continued in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months... Luke 1:56 And Mary abode with her about three months...
2 Samuel 6:16 And as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD [His Presence over the Ark] Luke 1:41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

The way to discover types and antitypes is to ask yourself in the Meditatio part of Lectio Divina:

  • "What is this (person, thing, attribute, action) like?"
  • Ponder the adjectives you come up with to describe it/him/her, the movements they make, the places involved, the effects they have, the words used to describe them in Scripture, etc.
  • Ask yourself where else in Scripture this person, thing, attribute, or action is mentioned, and in what context.
  • Then ask yourself who or what is like this also.

As an example, let's take Melchizedek. We know about him that:

  • he came from "nowhere"
  • he was a priest of the God Most High
  • he offered bread and wine
  • he was King of Jerusalem (Jerusalem means "Peace")
  • Abraham paid tribute to him

Melchizedek is an obvious type of the antitype Christ, Who is the High Priest (explicity after the order of Melchizedek).

Remember that the type (usually found in the Old Testament) is always inferior to the antitype (usually in the New Testament) that it prefigures: manna is inferior to the Eucharist; the Sabbath practices and sacrifices are inferior to the Mass; the Old Testament priesthood was inferior to the New; the Ark of the Covenant is inferior to Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant, etc. The type has its own historical reality, but is intended by the Holy Ghost to also foreshadow what is to come (or what came), to indicate those things which are in eternal glory, etc.

St. Irenaeus (b. ca. 115) describes typology well in his Adversus haereses (Against the Heresies), Book IV, Chapter 26:

1. If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling (vocationis). For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, that is, in this world (for "the field is the world" ); but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. Hence His human nature could not be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ.

And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: "Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things."

But Jeremiah also says, "In the last days they shall understand these things." For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men full of enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the Cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel: "Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous as the stars for ever and ever.''

Thus, then, I have shown it to be, if any one read the Scriptures. For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with, the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves "that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world." And the disciple will be perfected, and rendered like the householder, "who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old."

Read the Bible with a sense of poetry and Mystery, and always -- always -- with the mind of the Church!

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