An Attempt to Establish an Historically Accurate Definition of Typology
© Scott David Foutz

In the field of Christian biblical hermeneutics, figuralism or typology has traditionally been understood as a crucial element in understanding both the texts of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Typological exegesis of the Old Testament is em p loyed by the earliest of Christian writers in the attempt to apply the historical narratives of national Israel to the Christian church. The Apostle Paul is often seen as leading the way in such typological exegesis in his handling of the Old Testament an d his emphasis of the contradistinction between the Mosaic law and the grace of the new covenant. It is clear that Paul understands the Old Testament to be more than simply the history and sacred literature of national Israel. Rather, he views the Old Test a ment as applicable to the newly organized ekklhsia of believers in which neither racial criteria nor Levitical ceremonial regulations are maintained. Indeed, regarding the writings of Moses, Paul is able to assert in his first epistle to Gentile believers in Corinth, "Doesn't [Moses] speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake..." (1 Co 9:10). And to the church in Rome he writes, "Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction" (Ro 15:4).

Here then, Paul demonstrates his conviction that the Old Testament is applicable to the Christian church, not merely through analogy or illustration, but in the understanding that the Old Testament possesses a meaning divinely intended specifically for the church. Through such an extension of meaning, the Christian church laid claim to the sacred texts of the Old Testament, and viewed them as a necessary tool for interpreting the detail and significance of the revelation which took place in Jesus Christ. Thus, an exegetically necessary unity was discerned between the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.

This unity was traditionally understood to be established on the grounds of prophecy, typology, and a general agreement and development of doctrine found throughout the various authors of the canon. Prophecy was seen as crucial to the unity of the canon in that most of the prophecies of the Old Testament seemed to refer to the coming Messiah or the lasting political peace and stability which would accompany his reign. Thus, Christians saw the literal fulfillment of such prophecies in the historical incarnation, revealing a unity between the two eras as one of promise and fulfillment 1 . Thus, as Augustine put it, "In the Old Testament the New lies hid; in the New Testament the meaning of the Old becomes clear." 2

Not only prophetic statements, but also historical entities of the Old Testament were seen as corresponding to the New. For example, Paul equates the paschal lamb and the attending sacrifice to Christ and his death for the sinner (1 Co. 5:7). Such an equation was understood to point to a greater equation, namely the Mosaic sacrificial system and the atoning death of the Messiah, such that the former is said to point to and be "fulfilled" by the latter (e.g., Ro. 8:2; Heb. 9:11ff.). This relation between the old and new is not one simply of similarity of accidents, but was understood to exist on a more fundamental level whereby the old was said to take place as a prefigurement of the new. Thus, the Mosaic sacrificial system, it was claimed, was divinely instituted in the anticipation of the atoning death of the Messiah of which the former is a prefigurement or type. It is through the Messiah's death that the Mosaic system is fully understood and fulfilled, and the Mosaic system through which the meaning behind the Messiah's death is illumined. This correspondence between the Old and New Testament by means of objects, people, events, institutions or ceremonies has come to be referred to as typology or figuralism, and will serve as the topic of this discussion.

Typology was employed not only by the biblical authors themselves, of which perhaps Paul was the most outspoken, but was also a vital element of patristic hermeneutics. The early patristic writers, as did the New Testament authors, developed their theology and writings in the Greek language, and employed predominantly the terms tupoj 3 and upodeigma 4 to convey the concepts underlying their doctrine of typology. Later patristic writers turned to Latin as the vehicle of correspondence, and thus employed the terms figura and typus to refer to the same phenomena. By the time we arrive at the Latin Church Fathers of the fourth century, the term figura possesses enough variety of meaning so as to contain two very different hermeneutical methods, the typological and the allegorical.

It is common knowledge that the hermeneutics of the late patristic and medieval eras are marked by an excessive allegorism which produced a remarkable number of creative and fanciful, though in retrospect, unbelievable, correlations between the content of the Testaments and higher spiritual realities. These fanciful allegories have historically been attacked on two fronts. First, certain Christian writers realized the damage done to the historicity of the Testaments through such allegorical spiritualization, and thus argued strongly for a hermeneutic which grounded itself in the literal reading of the text. To a degree, as we will see, Augustine argued against pure allegorism and defended the historicity of the canon. As history shows, the allegorical method continued to flourish throughout the middle ages, and it is not until the Reformation, through the writings of Martin Luther, that the literal method really comes to the fore in popular hermeneutics.

The allegorical method was also eventually attacked from a second front, but this time in conjunction with typology, prophecy, and any other assumption of unity within the canon. With the dawn of Higher Criticism and its attending presuppositions, traditional biblical hermeneutics was eventually turned on its ear. Canonical unity was soon viewed as a naive assumption overlooking blatant evidence to the contrary. Rather than one progressive revelation bound together through prophetic and typological strands, the canon became a diverse collection of differing, if not contrary, declarations of the specific authors' religious and moral consciousness. Thus, the traditional assumption of unity was seen as an obstacle to the literal meanings of a particular text. Lampe describes this transition: "In place of the unhistorical attitude which saw the Bible as a vast harmonious complex of prophecy and fulfillment, type and antitype, allegorical picture and spiritual reality, fused together by the uniform inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Biblical criticism sought to recover the true and original meaning on the literal sense, and to set the various documents comprising the Bible in their proper context in history instead of seeing them as pieces fixed unalterably in a divinely planned mosaic pattern of Holy Scripture." 5

Thus, nearly all of the traditional elements of biblical interpretation were deemed archaic and inadequate. Prophecy, rather than being understood as propositional revelation conveyed by God through the prophet ("Thus saith the Lord!"), came to be regarded simply a natural phenomenon derived from the author or orator. Through the scholarship of Spinoza, prophecy became the result of an unusually imaginative individual rehashing previous moral convictions 6 . Similarly, though with less fanfare, typology was deemed an archaic hermeneutic incompatible with the presuppositions of the critical age due to the former's explicit reliance upon divinely instituted prefigurations within the historic sequence. Typology was quietly dropped from nearly all theological discussions from this point onward. 7

It will be the intent of this paper to briefly reopen the topic of typology so that the history of the notion and its application to biblical texts is clearly understood, thereby allowing a precise and historically accurate definition of typology to be set forth. The value of such a definition is two-fold. First, it will provide a standard against which instances of typological interpretation may be evaluated. And secondly, it may act as the basis upon which one decides whether or not typology remains a viable hermeneutical option for the post-critical era 8 . This paper will draw heavily from Erich Auerbach's " Figura " 9 , a classic work on the Latin sources and tradition of figuration as found in antiquity and the Latin patristic writers. Between these two periods is found the early Christian writers for whom Koine Greek was lingua franca . Here, Auerbach's analysis is sparse, and we will turn instead to the biblical authors themselves for insight into the parameters and applications of the typological hermeneutic. The paper will conclude with an examination of Augustine's typology and will seek to demonstrate that the hermeneutical triad proposed by Augustine, and subsequently Auerbach, inevitably results in the confusion of phenomenal prophecy restricted to the Old Testament and propositional prophecy of both the Old and New Testaments.

Figura in Antiquity

Erich Auerbach's "Figura " is hailed as one of the "most illuminating analyses of figural or typological procedure." 10 Auerbach traces the historical usage of the Latin term figura , to which later corresponds the Greek tupoj. It is from this Greek term that the English terms "type" and "typology" are derived. The value of Auerbach's analysis for this essay is found in its provision for a thorough understanding of the variety and limit of historicl notions involved in figuralism, which in turn provides insight into the manner in which early Christian writers were likely to understand this notion. This may allow the student of biblical hermeneutics further advantage in attempting to arrive at a precise definition of typology.

Auerbach's history commences with the first occurrence of figura , found in 317 BC in Terence's Eunuchus , referring to a young girl having a nova figura oris ["new form of face"]. Thus use of figura seems to simultaneously refer to a "plastic form" of the particular (in this case the girl's face) and the existence of an universal form (of "face") against which the former is distinguished. The variance of the particular from the universal implies a dynamic, changing aspect whereby a new manifestation of something permanent or formal is realized. This dynamic quality seems to be maintained throughout the subsequent history of the word 11 .

Expansion of the term figura is clearly seen in the first century BC literary works of Varro, Lucretius, and Cicero 12 . The notion of the changing aspect of a permanent reality was immediately and innovatively applied to the field of grammar. Varro's De lingua latina is the first to use in this sense of figura to refer to grammatical, inflected, or derived forms 13 . Through the proliferation of Varro's grammatical analysis, this usage appears to have become widespread.

A major factor contributing to the eventual importance of expansion of figura 's role in philosophical and theological thought is found in the Hellenization of Roman education. Whereas the Latin figura seems to have been interchangeable with forma , Hellenization resulted in its being translated into the much more precise scientific and rhetorical vocabulary of the Greeks, which had several developed terms corresponding to the concept of forma . Thus, the conceptual content of figura was gradually crystallized and expanded through its interaction with the Greek terms morfh (morphe), eidoj (eidos), schma (schema), tupoj (tupos), and plasij (plasis).

Morfh and eidoj facilitated figura 's identification with forma as "model", primarily due to Plato and Aristotle's use of the Greek terms to refer to that form (morphe) or idea (eidos) which "informs" matter. Later Latin writes thus translated morfh and eidoj almost solely as forma . By the time of Ovid (43 BC - 17 AD?), forma denotes the unchanging, whereas figura denotes that dynamic quality and often deceptive "copy" of the unchanging.

Through tupoj and plasij, figura maintained and expanded its meaning of "plastic form". Tupoj originally means "imprint" and is used in this sense in the enduring Aristotelian metaphor of the "imprint of the seal". This metaphor and use of figura is adopted and utilized by subsequent Latin writers such as Augustine, Isidore, and Dante 14 . Through plasij, figura was eventually expanded in the direction of "statue", "image", and "portrait". Latin technical writers such as the architect Vitruvius eventually employed this plastic sense of figura to denote "plan", "shape" or simply "form".

Schma refers specifically to the notion of form as perceptual shape by which qualitative categories are identified and designated. Through its attachment to schma, figura gained the status of a technical term, employed in the fields of grammar, rhetoric, logic, mathematics, and astronomy. Varro's previously mentioned innovation in the application of figura to grammatical forms may stem from this relation with schma.

Varro's use of figura to denote grammatical formation was significantly expanded through Cicero's (106-43 BC) Ad Herennium . In Cicero we find for the first time figura used as a technical rhetorical term in his designation of schemata lexeos or three levels of style, namely, figura gravis, mediocris , and extenuata 15 . Ad Herennium would become the canon of academic rhetoric and thereby disseminated Cicero's designations of figura to a large body of eager students, including, significantly, those of the Scholastic period.

Quintillian builds upon Cicero's distinctions in Institutio Oratorio which offers a detailed account of the former's theory of tropes and figura . This work became the fundamental work on the subject of rhetoric, upon which all later works were based. Quintillian defines trope (in contradistinction to figura ) as the more restricted concept, referring to words and phrases in a sense other than the literal. Tropes as a rule substitute words for other words. Figure, on the other hand, is a form of discourse which deviates from the normal and most obvious usage, yet relies upon the proper meaning and often proper order of the words. To the category of trope, Quintillian assigns metaphor, synecdoche, metonymy, autonomasia, and more. He divides figures into those involving words and those involving content. To the former use of figure, the figura verborum , he assigns intentional solecisms, rhetorical repetitions, antitheses, phonetic resemblances, omissions of a word, asyndeton, climax, and more. To the latter form of figure, the figura sententiarum , he assigns the rhetorical question, prolepsis, prosopopoeia, personifications, the solemn apostrophe, evidentia and illustratio , irony, and aposiopesis or interruptio .

"But," Auerbach writes, "the figure which was then regarded as the most important and seemed before all others to merit the name of figure was the hidden allusion in its diverse forms." 16

Figura in the Church Fathers

Both of the predominant notions of figura ( figura verborum and figura sententiarum ) are found in the Church fathers. The sense of figura verborum is present in the writers' awareness and use of figures of speech in both their interpretation methods and personal writings. This sense apparently changes very little as it progresses from antiquity to the church age. A major change, however, is seen in the movement of the sense of figura rerum or substantive figure from one era to the next. It will be recalled that the notion of form found within the original term figura was somewhat compartmentalized through its encounter with the Greek morfh and eidoj. Through these, the nuance of figura was expanded to include the Platonic and Aristotelian notions of the "form" which informs matter, while at the same time maintaining the notion of "model" or "copy" of that higher form. Figura originally possessed the meaning of outward dynamic appearance of the permanent, to which the notion of "model" or "copy" corresponds nicely. Through the influence of morfh and eidoj, the dependence of that dynamic appearance upon the permanent becomes emphasized, such that figura as "model" seemed to connote much more strongly than before the notion of the permanent of which it was a model.

The Latin poets, such as Ovid, utilized this nuance in their attempt to portray the deceptive facade of experience against the mysterious transcendent. Therefore, through the poets' usage, figura came to include a deceptive quality alluding to the discrepancy between the model and the actual permanent reality to which it was assumed to correspond. Unlike the technical writers in other fields, such as Vitruvius, who also emphasized figura' s notion of material or plastic form, and did so without ascribing any quality of deceptiveness to it, the poets continued to grant figura the depth which it originally possessed, a depth which stems from a relation of the figura to its transcendent 17 .

It is this relational sense of figura which is utilized by the Church Fathers, but free from any connotations of deception or unreliability. Rather than emphasizing the discrepancy between the model and an impersonal Platonic form or permanent reality, Christian writers would naturally assume the relative reliability of any model truly pertaining to or derived from the Transcedent Reality as they knew it, namely God. Auerbach writes, "The old sense of rhetorical image had survived, though it had moved from the purely nominalistic world of the schools of oratory and of Ovid's half playful myths into a realm both real and spiritual, hence authentic, significant, and existential. The distinction between figures of word and figures of substance that we find in Quintillian is resumed in the distinction between figura verborum and figurae rerum , word and prophetic events or phenomenal prophecies." 18

Tertullian's Realist Typology

Auerbach here employs the term phenomenal prophecy to denote the manner in which the figurae rerum is understood and used by early Christian writers. Phenomenal refers to the historical or experiential quality of the figura . This quality is to be distinguished from prophetic utterances, which, although perhaps both historic and experienced, lack the substantive quality which marks the figurae rerum . Only such substantial things as persons, objects, institutions, ceremonies, and events are possible figura or types 19 .

In addition to this necessary substantial quality of the figura or type, the antitype to which the former corresponds must also be of similar substantial nature. Thus the relation of an object to a principle or eternal truth may constitute an allegory or symbol, but would not constitute a figura rerum or type. The type must have as its antitype a corresponding person, object, institution, ceremony or event. Theoretically, a person can be the type of an object, or an object the type of an institution, etc.. The type as a substantial phenomenon is referred to as prophetic due to its correspondence to a future substantial antitype. This relationship between the figura and the transcendent reality is found in all uses of figura in the sense of "model" or "copy", for as stated above, the copy implies the original.

However, the dual historicity, of both the type and antitype, is a notion which seems to be largely lacking in the usage of figura in antiquity, and yet is a characteristic found throughout biblical typology. Tertullian provides us with a clear picture of the general patristic stance on the necessary historicity of both the type and antitype when he writes, "He made [the bread] his own body, saying, 'This is my body, that is, the figure [ figura ] of my body.' For there could not have been a figure unless there were a true body. An empty thing, that is, a phantom, could not take on a figure." 20 Here, the claim is clearly made that the antitype is necessarily a substantial reality. But how does this conviction arise, given the seeming lack of emphasis upon such a notion in the history of figura thus far observed?

Perhaps the notion of a tangible permanent reality is present within the original meaning of figura such that, Terence's mention of a " nova figura oris " is to be understood against a tangible and recognizable (though collective?) " figura oris ". A similar notion of tangibility is seen in those uses which emphasized the aspect of "plastic form". This element of tangibility or plasticity seems to have been expanded through the influence of Hellenization in which we find the meanings of tupoj and plasij attached to figura . In the case of tupoj or "imprint", both the seal and the imprint are obviously considered tangible. Even in Aristotle's h kinhsij enshmainetai oion tupon tina tou aisqhmatoj 21 ["the movement implies some impression of the thing sensed"], we find the notion of reality underlying both the tupoj and that to which it corresponds.

Likewise, those meanings derived from plasij, such as "statue", "image", and "portrait" envision a tangible type and antitype. Vitruvius' and the other Latin technical writers' usage of figura seems to also correspond to this understanding. Thus, it is likely that the early Christian writers' use of the Greek tupoj was understood primarily in terms of the notions of plasticity or tangibility grounded in its relationship with figura acquired in the first century BC . Or, we might posit that the Christian authors were operating solely on a Greek understanding of tupoj without significant reference to the Latin figura . Auerbach admits that the Greek terms were well in place prior to the introduction of the less precise Latin vocabulary. Given this latter scenario, it becomes clear that biblical typology finds its roots primarily in the Greek and only secondarily in the Latin terminology. This primary dependence of the biblical notion of typology upon the Greek rather than the Latin may well explain our previous observation that the Latin Church Fathers, while employing the Latin term figura , have found it necessary to attach to it stipulations of substantiality derived predominantly, if not solely, from the notions of the Greek tupoj. Therefore, rather than viewing patristic usage of figura as innovative or even unorthodox, we might understand them to be operating on the predominantly Greek notion of the substantiality of tupoj and antitupoj, while understanding the relation between these two as being one of concrete prefigurement.

Allegorical Interpretation

Apart from the notion of plasticity stemming from the interaction of figura , tupoj and plasij, figura otherwise and predominantly denotes a correspondence between a tangible model and a transcendent permanent reality. This notion is found in the rhetorical applications of Varro, Cicero and Quintillian, as well as the Platonic and mythical applications of Ovid and the poets. It is also in this sense that figura is employed by Lucretius to denote geometrical figures. In all these cases, the often tangible figura serves as an instance or copy of a higher intangible reality. This notion enters into biblical typology through certain of the Latin patristic writers from the fourth century on such as Lactantius and Origen. These writers apply this notion of a transcendent relation within figura to the biblical text, an application which results in a purely allegorical interpretation. For Lactantius, this transcendent reality was usually understood to be a future heavenly reality, and his use of figuration seems to pertain primarily to the area of eschatology. He writes, "We have frequently said that small and trivial things are figures and foreshadowings of great things; thus this day of ours, which is bounded by sunrise and sunset, bears the likeness of that great day which is circumscribed by the passing of a thousand years. In the same way the figuratio of man on earth carried with it a parable of the heavenly people yet to be." 22

For Origen, the transcendent reality was often simply a mystical or moral principle, and his use of pure allegories to interpret both the Old and New Testaments remains notorious to this day. Origen was the first to lay down a formal theory of interpretation based on the allegorical method of the Jewish Platonist, Philo. Origen viewed Scripture as a living organism, and thus proposed the following three-fold sense within Scripture, corresponding to Platonic psychology's theory of the tripartite constitution of the human being as body, soul and spirit. They are: (1) a somatic, literal or historical sense, serving solely as a veil for a higher idea; (2) a psychic or moral sense which animates the first and serves for general edification; and (3) a pneumatic or mystic or ideal sense, attainable by only those who stand on the high ground of philosophical knowledge. 23

Both these writers come under attack for overshadowing or diminishing the historical significance of the Old and New Testaments. The relation between type and antitype in the context of allegory was simply one of a deeper spiritual meaning attached to the type, with the type serving merely as the veil hiding this meaning from uneducated eyes. Thus the literal meaning of the type itself offered little if any significance to the allegorist. The clear danger of such a hermeneutic is a potential disregard for the literal historical content of the Old Testament, and the notion that the Bible remains unintelligible to those approaching it through a literal reading.

Thus, according to these two separate notions within the concept of figurae rerum , we find historically two significantly different strands of biblical interpretation both utilizing the term figura in defense of their hermeneutic, the strictly typological and the allegorical. The former's commitment to the necessary historicity of both type and antitype results in a recognition of the significance of the type as historical reality in itself, whereas the allegorist's commitment to the search for meanings other than the literal results in the diminution of the significance of the type. This is an important difference, given the simple fact that in both interpretation methods, the content of the Old Testament is understood to be the type. Auerbach writes, "The difference between Tertullian's more historical and realistic interpretation and Origen's ethical, allegorical approach reflects a current conflict, known to us from other early Christian sources: one party strove to transform the events of the New and still more the Old Testament into purely spiritual happenings, to 'spirit away' their historical character; the other wished to preserve the full historicity of the Scriptures along with the deeper meaning." 24

Augustine's Typology

This tension is resolved somewhat in the writings of Augustine who develops his own hermeneutic squarely on these two notions. Augustine will not allow for the extreme allegorical method of Origen wherein the historicity of the Old Testament is disregarded. Rather, he sees a clear need to recognize the historical significance of its content. He writes, "Before all things, brethren, we admonish and command you in the name of the Lord, that when you hear an exposition of the mystery of the Scriptures telling of things that took place, you believe what is read to have actually taken place as the reading narrates; lest undermining the foundation of actuality, you seek as it were to build in the air." 25

Although Augustine here, in agreement with Tertullian's realist hermeneutic, defends the historicity of the type, he will not limit himself to an understanding of figura which necessitates the historicity or tangibility of the antitype. Rather, he will also understand figura as signifying the changeable model over against the permanent essence, a notion traceable from Plato, through Ovid, and into Christian hermeneutics through the allegorists. Augustine employs this notion in his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:31 in De civitate Dei where he writes, "When the judgment shall be finished, then this heaven and this earth shall cease to be, and a new heaven and a new earth shall begin. But this world will not be utterly consumed; it will only undergo a change; and therefore the Apostle says: The fashion [ figura ] of this world passeth away, and I would have you to be without care. The fashion [ figura ] goes away, not the nature." 26 Here Augustine distinguishes between the fashion or substance of the heavens and earth, and their enduring nature which transcends both the destruction and re-creation of the figura .

But by far, the most common usage of figura by Augustine is in the sense of prefiguration [ praefiguratio ]. Augustine viewed nearly the entire content of the Old Testament as accommodating a figural or typological relation with the New Testament. Thus, the Old Testament was understood as pure phenomenal prophecy. According to his figural hermeneutic, then, Augustine finds that: Noah's ark is praefiguratio ecclesiae 27 ; in several aspects Moses is figura Christi 28 ; Aaron's priesthood is umbra et figura aeterni sacerdotii 29 ; Hagar is a figura of the Old Testament, of the terenna Jerusalem , and Sarah of the New Testament, the superna Jerusalem civitas Dei 30 ; Jacob and Esau figuram praebuerunt duorum populorum in Christianis et Iudeis 31 ; and the king of Judea (Christi) figuram prophetica unctione gestabant 32 . Upon examination of this sampling of Augustine's figural interpretations, we see at least two which find their antitype in an eternal heavenly reality.

We thus find Augustine expanding the figural interpretation of Tertullian to include those notions of transcendence found in the Platonic and allegorical tradition. He moves away from a strict adherence to the historical substance criteria, and incorporates the categories of eternal heavenly reality. This expansion is clearly visible in Augustine's polemic against contemporary Jews' refusal to recognize such figura . "For the Lord spoke not idly... when He told the Jews, saying, 'Had ye believed Moses, you would have believed Me, for he wrote of Me.' For these men accepted the law in a carnal sense and did not understand its earthly promises as types [ figuras ] of heavenly things." 33 Here he contrasts the historical promises constituting the type with their antitype, their fulfillment in heavenly things. This example is significant in that Augustine is here referring to Jews in his own day, and thus we find him likewise referring to the antitype as currently located in the heavens. This again is an expansion of the strict historical typology outlined by Tertullian. It is not, however, an utter rejection of historicity, since Augustine undoubtedly understands the heavenly realities to be objective realities nonetheless. Therefore, although strict historicity seems to be sacrificed, especially given the understanding that such heavenly realities will not be completely unveiled until the end of human history as we know it, the criteria of substantiality seems still to be in place. For we still do not find Augustine promoting the view that the phenomenal prophecy of the Old Testament may find its antitype in spiritual principles or moral truths.

And yet this apparent removal of the antitype from the historical sphere creates a tension between the figura and its fulfillment in the antitype. For it is clear that Augustine is here speaking of the type (the Mosaic law) as having already been fulfilled in some sense by its antitype (the heavenly fulfillment of the earthly promises). Yet at the same time, the notion is clearly in place that the antitype itself has yet to be completely revealed, that it is at present itself in an incomplete stage. Thus a typological triad seems to be in place whereby: (i) the type is understood to be the historical reality presented in the Old Testament, which serves as a prophetic figura and temporal promise of the coming of Christ; (ii) the incarnation serves as the temporal fulfillment or antitype of this figura , while at the same time is itself considered as a new promise of the final Judgment and end of the age; and therefore, (iii) the ultimate "heavenly" fulfillment of both the type and the promises accompanying the antitype remains to be realized.

This triad, when played out sequentially, is found to consist of two stages, one temporal and one heavenly. The temporal stage is initiated through the historic type and temporally fulfilled through the historic antitype. The heavenly stage is initiated through the historic antitype's provision of a new spiritual promise, which is then ultimately fulfilled following the end of history as we know it. Thus, the temporal stage is one of temporal promises of the Old Testament fulfilled in the New, and the heavenly stage is one of spiritual promises on the New Testament fulfilled in the end of time. This sequential outline is clear in Augustine's claim, "that the Old Testament contains promises of temporal things, and that is why it is called the Old Testament; and that the promise of eternal life and the kingdom of heaven belongs to the New Testament: but that in these temporal figures there was the promise of future things, which were to be fulfilled in us, on whom the ends of the world are come, is no fantasy of mine, but the interpretation of the apostles." 34

The Figuralism of Erich Auerbach

Auerbach incorporates this Augustinian triad into his own definition of figuralism and from all appearances agrees with the methodology 35 . Thus, Auerbach can claim, "Figural prophecy implies the interpretation of one worldly event through another; the first signifies the second, the second fulfills the first. Both remain historical events; yet both looked at in this way, have something provisional and incomplete about them; they point to one another and both point to something in the future , something still to come, which will be the real, and definitive event." 36 Note that Auerbach emphasizes the provisional quality of both the type and antitype, and then accounts for this quality through their being related to a reality as of yet unrealized. Here Auerbach moves beyond Augustine, for as we shall see, the latter will maintain that the temporal type finds its fulfillment in the temporal antitype. Auerbach, however, will consider the entire sequence incomplete and waiting fulfillment through some future event. "In the figural system the interpretation is always sought from above; events are considered not in their unbroken relation to one another, but torn apart, individually, each in relation to something other that is promised and not yet present." 37

Here, Auerbach seems to have sacrificed the notion of fulfillment of the temporal type altogether. And perhaps this is where his literary perspectives take the helm. For here Auerbach is clearly attempting to explain typology as a grand theme able to incorporate, not only those significant objects within the Old Testament which may be said to prefigure Christ and His reign, but all significant objects and all history. It is in this sense that Auerbach views all phenomena, past and present, as awaiting some sense of fulfillment in the eschatological future 38 . He writes, "Thus history, with all its concrete force, remains forever a figure, cloaked and needful of interpretation... All history, rather, remains open and questionable, points to something still concealed..." 39

Regarding Auerbach's understanding of typology, two things may be said. First, it is clear that he equates history itself with the type, such that anything falling within history is then necessary understood to be awaiting some sort of fulfillment. This notion, however, is not to be found in the discussions pertaining to typology by the early Christian and patristic writers. It does however sound very similar to the allegorical eschatology of Lactantius, whose quote might here be recalled: "We have frequently said that small and trivial things are figures and foreshadowings of great things; thus this day of ours, which is bounded by sunrise and sunset, bears the likeness of that great day which is circumscribed by the passing of a thousand years. In the same way the figuratio of man on earth carried with it a parable of the heavenly people yet to be." 40 As has been made clear in the course of this discussion, a necessary distinction must be made between the typological and the allegorical interpretation.

Secondly, as mentioned above, Auerbach seems to greatly diminish the role of temporal fulfillment of the initial type. And yet the biblical typology thus far observed, with the exception of the allegorists, has undoubtedly emphasized the literal fulfillment of the Old Testament types in the incarnation or some other aspect of the New Testament event. Nor is this fulfillment understood as partial or tentative, as will be argued below. This characteristic diminution of the significance of the actual type, whether by simply claiming that all objects are types, or that all types remain unfulfilled, belongs, in my opinion, to the allegorists. Thus Auerbach opts to elevate the principle of figuralism as he sees it, namely history's awaiting its fulfillment, above the actuality of the specific type and the significance of its actual fulfillment by an historic reality which has already taken place . According to Auerbach's panorama, all specific types merely blend together in history's overarching figure awaiting a comprehensive fulfillment. I see this as due, in part, to an overzealous adoption of the second half of Augustine's triad, and its application to the definition of typology or figuralism. Auerbach seems to use Augustine's triad as a point of departure from the realistic hermeneutic of Tertullian toward a more general or universal notion of typology. He has expanded Augustine's triad to incorporate all historical phenomena, and thereby, in my view, distorted the definition of strict typology. This distortion is also embodied in Augustine's triad, and it will be an evaluation of this triad to which we will now turn.

Although Augustine clearly employs the three-fold interpretative method outlined above to both the Old and New Testaments, we might rightly here question whether this whole hermeneutic is to be understood as typological. It will be recalled that prior to Augustine, biblical typology, as opposed to allegory, maintained the necessity of the historicity of both type and antitype. This criteria seems to be met fully in the first stage of Augustine's hermeneutics, the stage of temporal promise and fulfillment. Here both the promise and fulfillment not only take place within the sequence of history, but both also possess the substantive qualities of person, event, object, etc., which is characteristic of a strict biblical typology.

The correspondence or relationship between the temporal type and antitype also seems to be complete in itself, without reference to the presence of any further spiritual promise latent in the antitype. According to Tertullian's strict typology, the type is understood to be prophetic in the sense that it serves to provide some explanatory power pertaining to the historical antitype. This explanatory power stands in relation to the observer, and not in terms of the inherent meaning of the phenomenon itself. Thus, neither the type nor the antitype lacks meaning or any of the attributes of a particular nature in and of itself, nor is such meaning of the one dependent upon the presence of the other. Rather, the antitype discloses to the observer a greater understanding into the purpose and significance of the type. Likewise, the observer's familiarity with the type allows for a greater understanding of the significance and purpose behind the antitype. Thus, for example, based on 1 Corinthians 5:7 ("Christ our paschal lamb has been sacrificed." RSV), Christ is understood to be the antitype of the passover sacrifice of the Mosaic system. Here the claim is simply that the observer's familiarity with the divinely instituted type (the Mosaic sacrificial system) provides an explanation regarding the significance of the antitype (Christ's death). This claim seems to be substantiated by the simple observation that it is perhaps only against the historic backdrop of the Mosaic system that the notion of the Messiah's death as a source of atonement was possible. In this sense, the temporal figura possesses an explanatory power in relation to the temporal antitype, as does the antitype toward the type.

The ascription of the qualities of promise and fulfillment to these phenomena derive solely from their status as divinely instituted entities. Thus, using our previous example, it is understood that the non-coincidental implementation of the Mosaic system was divinely intended to prefigure an antitype which would be manifested several centuries later. In this way, the antitype is said to "fulfill" the type, such that the type, as figure of the antitype, is considered functionally obsolete upon the manifestation of the antitype 41 . This quality of fulfillment or of causing the type to become obsolete derives solely from the sovereignty and providence of God, and is not to be attributed to the type or antitype in and of themselves 42 . And this relation belongs to Augustine's temporal type and antitype.

The second half of Augustine's sequence, however, seems to bend strict typology almost to the point of breaking. For here, the traditional relation between type and antitype completely breaks down. Take for example Augustine's earlier polemic against the Jews' refusal to accept the law as figural. Here the assertion is made that the type found in the Mosaic law prefigures heavenly things. Augustine clearly understands these heavenly things to be instituted through the historic incarnation, yet recognizes that the full impact of the truths corresponding to the incarnation and atonement have yet to be revealed and experienced. As has been made clear, Augustine admits a temporal fulfillment of the temporal promises of the Old Testament through the incarnation, a relation which corresponds to the first and temporal stage of his hermeneutic.

He then understands the need to ascribe further spiritual promises to the antitype which await ultimate fulfillment. Neither element of this latter relation of spiritual promise to ultimate fulfillment lacks the quality of substance or phenomenon, since even heavenly realities are realities in this sense, and are in no way considered to be mere abstractions or moral principles by Augustine. The quality of historicity in the traditional sense, though possessed by the bearer of the promise, does not apply to the ultimate fulfillment, in that it takes place in the end of time and possesses instead the quality of eternity. This discrepancy may not be significant if one is willing to expand the natural temporality to include aeviternality, whereby even that eternity following the end of the present universe's temporal sequence is understood or viewed as a sequence enduring forever. Thus, this alone would not necessarily remove the second stage from being understood as typology.

However, the aspect which I believe unquestionably disallows this second stage from being understood as typology is found in the fact that it must equate the type and the antitype, such that one reality now serves as both. Continuing with Augustine's polemic example, we found that the temporal antitype was understood to be the incarnation, an historical event which fulfilled the temporal promises of the Old Testament. Through this historical antitype, a new promise is introduced which awaits ultimate fulfillment. Here, however, if we compare the temporal promise/fulfillment sequence with the heavenly promise/fulfillment sequence, we find two vastly different notions underlying these, though both are designated as promise/fulfillment relationships. The former, as has been discussed throughout this paper, is a relation between (i) two distinct and temporally segregated divinely instituted phenomena whereby (ii) the reality of the antitype is literally prefigured by the type, so that (iii) the antitype's meaning and significance is explained through the type and vice versa. In this relation also, (iv) the type is said to be fulfilled by the antitype, such that upon the manifestation of the latter, the type as figure is made functionally obsolete. Thus, the temporal promise/fulfillment relation meets these four criteria of strict biblical typology.

When speaking of the second promise/fulfillment relation, however, these four criteria can hardly be said to apply. As pertains to the first criteria, namely, that two distinct, temporally segregated phenomena are involved, it is immediately recognized that, although temporal segregation exists between the institution of the promise and its fulfillment, it is merely a temporal segregation between visits, as it were, of the same individual. The promise was instituted through the incarnation, which was then removed to the heavenly realm. This promise finds its fulfillment in the return and accompanying phenomena of same individual who made the promise, namely Christ. Thus the criteria of strict typology which calls for two distinct phenomena is not met by the relationship outlined by the second stage of Augustine's hermeneutic.

The second criteria, namely, that the antitype is literally prefigured in the type also seems to fail in the case of the heavenly relation. For in what sense are we to understand that the incarnation literally prefigures its fulfillment in the complete establishment of the kingdom of God. Rather than the language of prefiguration, this discussion has generally been understood through such terms as inauguration, commencement, or introduction. Clearly, Christ does not intend to provide a tentative or model understanding of the kingdom through his sermon on the mount in the same way the Mosaic system is said to prefigure the spiritual law of the kingdom of the Messiah. Nor are the apostles called by Christ to enter into a tentative kingdom. Christ's claim is crystal clear: the kingdom of God is at hand. Thus, since prefigurement ought not to be so stretched as to mean simply "begin", the conclusion must be made that the second criteria likewise fails to be met 43 .

The third criteria, namely that the type possesses an explanatory function in relation to the antitype and vice versa, seems likewise inapplicable to this relationship. For in the case of strict typology, the full significance and purpose behind the type remains dormant to the observer until the manifestation of the antitype. Such a situation might well be applied to agnostics or atheists who fail to see the significance of the incarnation without the fulfillment of the promises implemented through it. But it is simply not the case that the full significance and purpose of the incarnation lays hidden from the eyes of Christians, only to be understood when the ultimate fulfillment is revealed.

The fourth criteria, namely, that the type is understood to be functionally fulfilled by the antitype, creates in this heavenly relation the unacceptable conclusion that the incarnation and attending atonement are somehow as of yet unfulfilled. Whereas the claim might be made that the incarnation has not yet been fully expressed in the sense that the kingship of Christ was rejected, we cannot claim that the incarnation in and of itself remains partial and awaits completion in the future. For here, it is clearly necessary to distinguish between the incarnation and its potential implications. This distinction is also possible regarding the atonement, for whereas it is clearly the case that the potential application of the atonement continues to be realized as individuals of progressive ages accept its efficacy, the atonement in and of itself can in no way be said to lack completeness, such that it is currently partial and awaiting ultimate fulfillment. Thus, the quality of completeness must necessarily be ascribed to the historic incarnation and the atonement, such that even the complete establishment of the kingdom of God at the end of the age will not contribute to its status as whole.

Based on the arguments presented here, it is my conclusion that Augustine's triad consists only in part of a strict typology, and that confusion arises when the second heavenly relation is interpreted as an extension of the typology of the first. It seems clear that the second relation is one of prophetic utterance and fulfillment, and finds its connection with the strict typology of the first only in the fact that the temporal antitype itself is the medium of new promise. Auerbach's blending of these two under the common definition of figuralism, accompanied by his diminution of the historical actualities involved, resulted in what I have described as an allegorical interpretation of typology.

And indeed, typology has historically suffered most at the hands of those who would use it, though proceed to do so in ways unwarranted by a strict definition of typology. As has been clear in the case of the early exegetes such as Lactantius, Origen, and even Augustine, typology proper soon is forced to accommodate a variety of other nuances and interpretations. Nor does this seem to change as scholarship increases, as found in Auerbach's notion of universal typology, a typology which in the end neither functions nor appears like the strict typology of the early Christian and patristic writers 44 . The lack of a common consensus on a strict definition of typology will continue to result in its having to accommodate various interpretation theories as they come into vogue.

The definition which I believe embodies the typology of the early Christian and patristic writers, while allowing for its distinction from that which is merely allegorical, analogous, parallel, happy illustration, or resemblance has been utilized above in the critique of Augustine's triad. My definition may be stated thus: In order for a typological correlation to exist between the contents of the Old and New Testaments, there must be found, (i) two distinct and temporally segregated phenomena (generally categorized as object, person, institution, event, or ceremony) whereby (ii) the reality of the latter (antitype) is literally, physically, or functionally prefigured by the former (type), so that (iii) the antitype's meaning and significance is further explained through the type and vice versa, and that (iv) the type, if an object, institution or ceremony, may be said to be "fulfilled" by the antitype, such that upon the manifestation of the latter, the type as figure is made functionally obsolete.


In the future, this paper will proceed on two fronts. First, as noted above, the case must sufficiently be made that the biblical authors themselves adhered strictly to the definition here proposed. This definition has relied predominantly upon Auerbach's "Figura", and only secondarily upon actual exegesis. Secondly, an attempt at evaluating current theologies which espouse a very vivid typology will be made, such as that found in Dispensational Theology. Despite higher criticism's relegation of typology to a pre-critical naivete, its use and application reemerged and continued strongly in the Dispensational Theology movement spawned by the works of such men as J.N. Darby (1800-1882), C.I. Scofield, Lewis Sperry Chafer (1871-1935), and John F. Walvoord. Darby's thought and work is generally considered as seminal to the entire dispensational movement 45 . Chafer's eight volume Systematic Theology embodies the movement's classical theological position, and provides a statement on the movement's position on typology. Walvoord, former president of Dallas Theological Seminary, a leading conservative seminary situated squarely within dispensationalism, advocated dispensational theology and typology at both the academic and popular levels. But of greatest impact in maintaining the vitality of typology among the American Christian population was C.I. Scofield's translation and annotation of the Scofield Reference Bible (KJV). Through this single work, Scofield's dispensational perspective and use of typology, though not as precise as the others, reached millions of homes, and became engrained within the popular understanding of the Bible within the conservative Christian population. All of these dispensational theologians maintain that typology remains a necessary exegetical tool for understanding both Testaments, just as it had been in the pre-critical era.

1 This is not to imply that all prophetic utterances found in the Old Testament were literally fulfilled in the incarnation event. Old Testament prophecies could indeed have been fulfilled prior to the incarnation, or could refer to events yet to be realized. The emphasis here is simply that those prophecies pertaining to the Messiah were understood to reveal a relation of promise and fulfillment between the Old and New Testaments.

2 Cited without reference in G.W.H. Lampe's "The Reasonableness of Typology", p.13; Located in Lampe, G.W.H., and Woollcombe, K.J. Essays On Typology . (Naperville: Allenson, Inc.; date unknown)

3 "tupos". Literally "imprint". English equivalents to biblical references include: Image or statue (Ac 7:43); form, figure, pattern (Ro 6:17; Ac 23:25); (arch)type, pattern, model (Ac 7:44; Hb 8:5; cf. on both Ex 25:40); [moral] example, pattern (1 Ti 4:12; Phil 3:17; 1 Th 1:7; 2 Th 3:9; Tit 2:7; 1 Pt 5:3); type [of Adam] (Ro 5:14; cf. 1 Co 10:6). These references reflect the interpretations of Bauer, Walter, Gingrich, F. Wilbur, and Danker, Fredrick W.. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature . (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press; 1958) 829. Hereafter BGD .

4 "hupodeigma". Literally "example". English equivalents in biblical references include: Example, model pattern (Jn 13:15; Js 5:10; Hb 4:11; 2 Pt 2:6); and copy, imitation (Hb 8:5). BGD , 844.

5 Reasonableness , 15.

6 Spinoza's work On Prophets proceeds on the thesis: "To suppose that knowledge of natural and spiritual phenomena can be gained from the prophetic books, is an utter mistake, which I shall endeavour to expose, as I think philosophy, the age, and the question itself demand. I care not for the girdings of superstition, for superstition is the bitter enemy of all true knowledge and true morality." (Chapter 2)

7 Lewis Sperry Chafer laments, "That typology is neglected is evident from the fact that upwards of twenty works of Systematic Theology examined, but one lists this subject in its index and this author has made but one slight reference to it in a footnote." Systematic Theology . (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press; 1948) vol.3. 116. I might likewise add that out of all the systematic theologies consulted in the course of preparing this paper (and I only consult the best!!), only Chafer's offered any theological statement on the typological method whatsoever.

8 As will be seen in the subsequent discussion, typology, whether biblical or otherwise, necessarily assumes that a transcendent reality exists. Therefore, if it is simply on this ground that the possibility of typology is precluded, this paper will not be of much help to the reader. However, if questions regarding the plausibility of typology arise due to its historical connection with demonstrably implausible applications of the allegorical method, this project may indeed shed some light.

9 Found in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature: Six essays . (Meridian Books, Inc.; 1959)

10 Hans Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative . (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press; 1974) 325.n1.

11 "Figura ", 12.

12 See Appendix for a schematic outline of the historical development of the term figura which I have constructed based on the history represented by Auerbach.

13 9.2. Varro designates the plural form figura multitudinis and the five nominal cases nomina quinque habent figuras . Cited in " Figura ", 14.

14 Ibid.

15 4.8.11. Literally, "the grand, the middle, and the simple figura ". De oratore 3.199, 212, lists the plena, mediocris, and tenuis figura ("the full, middle and plain"). Cited in Ibid., 20.

16 Ibid, 26-7, (italics mine).

17 Although Vitruvius does see a relation between the figura (e.g., "plan") and the actual architectural structure, this relationship clearly lacks the depth which belongs to its original meaning.

18 Figura , 45.

19 It is perhaps at this point that a slight digression pertaining to terminology is necessary. Auerbach, except in dealing with the Hellenization of the Roman educational system in the first century BC, adheres strictly to the Latin terminology pertinent to this discussion. However, the nomenclature employed by biblical theologians derives from the Greek, as found in the texts of the New Testament. Tupoj or "type", is therefore, in this context, synonymous with figura rerum . Antitupoj or "antitype" refers to that substantial reality to which the type corresponds. It is here that it is beneficial to utilize both terminologies, since the Latin offers no apparent corresponding term for antitupoj (Hence we find Auerbach having to resort to the designation "something else" frequently; E.g., in "Figura ", 29.). The Greek terminology among Christian writings, however, phases out with the later patristic writers, and once again, the Latin terminology is employed, only this time with the loanword typus . Typus , however, fails to gain popularity, most likely due to the fact that it is a loanword and not pure Latin, thereby pointing to the likelihood that its nuances were quite limited.

20 Adversus Marcionem , 4.40. Cited in " Figura ", 31.

21 De memoria et reminiscentia , 450a.31. Cited in Ibid.,15.

22 Divinae institutiones , 7.14. Cited in Ibid., 35.

23 Despite Origen's notoreity as a pure allegorist, his contribution to biblical exegesis is undeniable. Peter Schaff refers to him as "the father of the critical investigation of Scripture".For a survey of his works and contributions to exegesis, see Schaff's History of the Christian Church . (Grand Rapids: Eerdman's; 1910). 792f.

24 Ibid., 36.

25 Sermons , 2.6. Cited in Ibid., 39.

26 Book 20, chapter 14. Cited in Ibid., 37.

27 De civitate Dei , 15.27. This list of references is gleaned from Ibid., 38.

28 E.g., De civitate Dei , 10.8, or 18.11.

29 De civitate Dei , 17.4.

30 De civitate Dei , 16.31; 17.3; Expositio ad Galatas , 40.

31 De civitate Dei , 16.42.

32 I.e., "by being anointed by the prophets bore a prefiguration of the Christ". De civitate Dei , 17.4.

33 De civitate Dei , 20.28. Cited in Ibid., 40.

34 Contra Faustinum , 4.2. Cited in Ibid., 41. Augustine completes this passage by quoting 1 Corinthians 10:6 and 11.

35 I do not, however, claim to know whether Auerbach personally agrees with Augustine or not, though his explicit inclusion of Augustine's method into his own definition of figuralism would seem to point to a dependence upon, if not appreciation for what he sees.

36 "Figura", 58. Italics mine.

37 Ibid., 59.

38 There is no evidence in the immediate context to suggest that the "eschatological future" I here refer to is understood by Auerbach to be that envisioned by the early Christian writers. Upon reading Auerbach's description of this futuristic manifestation, one is left with the impression that the reality of hope in the fulfillment is for him more significant than the future reality itself.

39 Ibid., 58.

40 Divinae institutiones , 7.14. Cited in Ibid., 35.

41 This, of course, would be said only of those types which are comprised of institutions, ceremonies, or possibly objects. Here, it must be understood that the type is considered obsolete only pertaining to its historical function. This must not be understood as a statement regarding the status of the type's meaning or reality.

42 Of course, this distinction between antitype and divine sovereignty inevitable blurs in those cases where Christ, understood as the incarnate second Person of the Trinity, is said to be the antitype.

43 One might suggest that when speaking of Israel's place in the eschatological kingdom, this scenario may be viewed differently. For here, the Messiah may be understood to have offered himself to the Jews, who then refuse his kingship. This results in what Paul refers to as a time during which "the full number of Gentiles come in" the kingdom, following which, "all [the elect of] Israel will be saved". (Ro. 11:25-26) Thus, to the degree one is willing to consider the time of the Gentiles a contingency of the original kingdom (or as some understand it, a "parenthetical church age"), a proportionate distinction is possible between the kingdom Christ inaugurates during the incarnation and the kingdom which ultimately fulfills the promises originally intended for Israel. This distinction between the church age and the kingdom is traditionally maintained by dispensational theologians, based on the belief that the temporal promises made to the Jews in the Old Testament find their ultimate and temporal fulfillment in the eschatological (millenial) kingdom. This perspective seems to differ from that mentioned in relation to Augustine, for it was clear that for the latter, the temporal promises received their temporal fulfillment in the incarnation. This claim by Augustine will be seriously questioned if he intends to apply it to prophetic utterances and the attending promises found in the Old Testament, for one need only find one unfulfilled prophetic promise in order to demonstrate the inadequacy of this claim. Augustine's claim here, however, is made in reference to phenomenal prophecy only, pertaining solely to figura . Thus the discrepancy is avoidable granted that dispensational theologians maintain consistency is arriving at conclusions pertaining to the contingency of the church age through consideration of prophetic utterances rather than typology. For the criteria of strict typology thus set forth does not seem to allow for the notion of "partial fulfillment", which is the operating assumption behind any typology which both claims to understand the type as fulfilled, yet extends that completion of that fulfillment into the future.

44 I admit that the case has not been sufficiently made in this paper for the conclusion that the biblical authors themselves adhere to such a strict typology. This will be an necessary area of expansion in order to pursue this topic further.

45 Dispensational models are found, however, in the writings of Pierre Poiret (1646-1719) in L' O Economie Divine , Jonathon Edward (1639-1716) in his two-volume A Compleat History or Survey of All the Dispensations , and Isaac Watts (1674-1748) in a forty-page essay entitled, "The Harmony of all the Religions which God ever Prescribed to Men and all his Dispensations towards them." For a brief survey of the dispensational scheme of each, see Charles Ryrie's Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody Press; 1965) 71ff.