type is an anticipation of Christ. Thus, Samson, who sacrificed his life for God's people, partially anticipates Christ, who repeats the action, endowing it with a deeper, more complete, more spiritual significance. Similarly, the scapegoat and the animals sacrificed in the Temple at Jerusalem, both of which atoned for man's sins, and Aaron, God's priest, are types. As Thomas Hartwell Horne explains in An Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, the text which was standard reading for British divinity students:

A type, in its primary and literal meaning, simply denotes a rough draught, or less accurate model, from which a more perfect image is made; but, in the sacred or theological sense of the term, a type may be defined to be a symbol of something future and distant, or an example prepared and evidently designed by God to prefigure that future thing. What is thus prefigured is called the antitype.

Horne further explains that the Bible contains three kinds of types: the historical, the legal, and the prophetical. Historical types, such as those provided by Moses, Samson, David. and Melchizedek, "are the characters, actions, and fortunes of some eminent persons recorded in the Old Testament, so ordered by Divine Providence as to be exact prefigurations of the characters, actions. and fortunes of future persons who should arise under the Gospel dispensation" (2.529). For example, as Newman explains in "Moses the Type of Christ," this first great prophet of the Jews prefigured Christ as redeemer, prophet, and intercessor for guilty man.

Newman begins this sermon by asserting that "The history of Moses is valuable to Christians, not only as giving us a pattern of fidelity towards God, of great firmness, and great meekness, but also as affording us a type or figure of our Saviour Christ." He next emphasizes the authority and authenticity of Moses" status as a type by pointing out that "no prophet arose in Israel like Moses, till Christ came, when the promise in the text was fulfilled. "The Lord thy God," says Moses, 'shall raise unto thee a Prophet like unto me:" that was Christ" (Sermons, 7.118). Then, having thus identified and authenticated a divinely instituted parallel, Newman proceeds to examine "in what respects Moses resembled Christ" (Sermons, 7.118). First, however, he makes the commonplace assertion, which was accepted by all typologists, that the history of the Jews recorded in the Old Testament was intended to serve as an anticipatory image of later eras, so "if we survey the general history of the Israelites, we shall find that it is a picture of man's history, as the dispensation of the Gospel displays it to us, and that in it Moses takes the place of Christ" (Sermons, 7.118). To begin with, Moses prefigures Christ the redeemer, for he rescued the Israelites, the particular children of God, from Egyptian slavery and led them to the promised land. Newman says:

How clearly this prefigures to us the condition of the Christian Church! We are by nature in a strange country; God was our first Father, and His Presence our dwelling-place: but we were cast out of Paradise for sinning, and are in a dreary land, a valley of darkness and the shadow of death. We are born in this spiritual Egypt, the land of strangers . . . [and] by nature slaves we are, slaves to the Devil. He is our hard task-master, as Pharaoh oppressed the Israelites. (Sermons, 7.119)

Fortunately for the Israelites, God sent Moses, armed with His power, to lead them forth from slavery. "And who is it that has done this for us Christians? Who but the Eternal Son of God, our Lord and Saviour, whose name in consequence we bear" (Sermons, 7.120). Christ leads us out of the slavery of sin, guides us through apparently insurmountable difficulties, and, at last, brings us to the true Promised Land. "Christ, then, is a second Moses, and greater than he, inasmuch as Christ leads from hell to heaven, as Moses led the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan" (Sermons, 7.121-2).

The second function of Moses as a type is to prefigure Christ as prophet and giver of the New Law of grace. "Christ reveals to us the will of God, as Moses to the Israelites. He is our Prophet, as well as our Redeemer" (Sermons, 7.12). As Newman points out, no other Old Testament prophet "was so favored as Moses," since "before Christ came, Moses alone saw God face to face; all prophets after him but heard His voice or saw Him in vision" (Sermons, 7.12). Moses returned from the mount with the Ten Commandments and the Levitical law of sacrifices by which men could make atonement for breaking them; Christ, who incomparably surpasses His type, brings the New Law of salvation.

The "third point of resemblance between Moses and Christ" was that both interceded on behalf of their people in order to save them from a deserved punishment for sinning. "Moses was the great intercessor when the Israelites sinned" (Sermons, 7.127), for after the Jews had corrupted themselves with worshipping idols while Moses was on the mount receiving the tablets of the law, God would have cut them off from the Promised Land had not Moses interposed himself. Moses first begged God to delay His punishment and he then told his wayward people, "Ye have sinned a great sin; but now I will go unto the Lord; peradventure I shall make an atonement for your sin" (Exodus 32:30). According to Newman, "Here Moses, as is obvious, shadows out the true Mediator between God and man, who is ever at the right hand of God making intercession for us; but the parallel is closer still than appears at first sight" (Sermons, 7.128), since when Moses interceded on behalf of the Jews, he offered to sacrifice his own portion of blessedness in order to save theirs. "The exchange was accepted. He was excluded, dying in sight, not in enjoyment of Canaan, while the people went in under Joshua. This was a figure of Him that was to come" (Sermons, 7.128) .

Having thus emphasized that the historical Moses closely prefigures Christ as redeemer, prophet, and intercessor, Newman next proceeds to show how far short Moses none the less falls of his divine antitype. Since the purpose of typological exegesis of the Bible was always in part to demonstrate the way all sacred history centers upon Christ, the interpreter necessarily pointed out the many ways in which some person or thing in the Old Testament anticipated Christ or His Church. But once the interpreter had demonstrated that God had graciously provided anticipations of Christ in His dealings with those who lived in Old Testament times, he frequently went on to emphasize the essential incompleteness of such types and their essential inadequacy to save man. Newman, for example, points out that Moses "was not taken instead of Israel, except in figure" (Sermons, 7.129), and that, in spite of the prophet's willingness to sacrifice himself, the sinners died of the plague and only their children entered Canaan. In other words, the historical Moses was adequate as a means of suggesting man's universal need for intercession, but he was inadequate as an intercessor: Moses, who possessed his own historical reality, can function only as a symbol of Christ; he cannot be the reality of Christ.

Furthermore, argues Newman, Moses, whose nature falls far below that of Christ, actually 'suffered for his own sins" and not for the sins of his people. "True, he was shut out from Canaan. But why" Not in spite of his having "done nothing amiss," as the Divine Sufferer on the cross" (Sermons, 7.129), but because he disobeyed God's instructions during the desert wanderings and struck the rock a second time. It is important for the Christian to perceive "how apparently slight a fault it was for which Moses suffered; for this shows us the infinite difference between the best of a sinful race and Him who was sinless, — the least taint of human corruption having in t an unspeakable evil" (Sermons, 7.129). In other words, the history of Moses can lead the Christian to his savior in two ways: first, perceiving the significant resemblances of Moses to Christ enables the believer to see the essential human need for a redeemer, lawgiver, and intercessor; second, perceiving the differences between type and antitype enables him to see how much greater Christ is than Moses. Essentially Moses, like all other types, functions as an elaborate trope that permits man to begin to understand something otherwise too great for his comprehension by first providing a historical analogy to make that truth accessible and then emphasizing that the true reality vastly surpasses its historical image.

The second major branch of prefigurative symbolism is that provided by what Horne calls the "Legal types, or those contained in the Mosaic law" of ritual observance. According to Horne, who offers the standard explanation of these legal types, the entire ritual law "was typical of the Messiah and the Gospel blessings . . . and this point has been . . . clearly established by the great apostle of the Gentiles in his Epistle to the Hebrews" (2.528) . All interpreters of the Bible therefore follow St. Paul in holding that the legal types prefigured Christ by conveying the fundamental idea that only the sacrifice of innocent blood could atone for man's sinning against God.

Thus, the entire constitution, and offerings of the Levitical priesthood, typically prefigured Christ the great high priest (Heb. v. vii. viii.); and especially the ceremonies observed on the great day of atonement. (Lev.. xvi. with Heb.. ix. throughout, and x. 1-2) So, the Passover and the paschal lamb typified the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Exod.. xii. 3 et seq. with John xix. 36 and I Cor. v. 7). (2.528)

These legal types (which were also known as ritual, ceremonial, and Levitical types) provided a particularly popular occasion for the exercise of this form of scriptural interpretation. At first glance, the Book of Leviticus, which contains detailed instructions for rituals which even the Jews had not practiced for almost two millennia, hardly seemed relevant to Christians. Typology, however, demonstrated that these arcane rituals of an alien religion in fact contain continual glimpses of Christian truth, and in so doing it also demonstrated that the eye of faith could transform even the most apparently barren ground into fields lush with gospel flowers.

But since scriptural interpretation always implicitly follows the rule "seek and ye shall find," each Church party caught sight of its own gospel flower. For example, the Evangelicals within and without the Church of England, who stressed the primacy of Christ's atonement, urged that the believer meditate upon this central event in human history until it came imaginatively alive and the believer attained an "experimental" knowledge of Christ; by imaginatively experiencing Christ's sufferings, one could move toward a heartfelt conversion and then intensify one's faith. Evangelical Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, and Presbyterians thus read the Levitical types as divinely intended prefigurations of Christ's passion and death. According to the extraordinarily popular Bible commentary of Thomas Scott, the burnt-offerings mentioned in Leviticus 1:3 "especially typified Christ, in the intenseness of his sufferings, both of body and soul, when he gave himself a sacrifice for our sins . . . and they likewise shewed forth the perfection of zeal and love, with which he voluntarily went through his inexpressible sufferings." One may remark in passing that precisely such an Evangelical conception of the Levitical types informs William Holman Hunt's The Scapegoat (1856), which stands as a powerful meditative image of suffering innocence [Follow for discussion and illustration of Hunt's painting].

In contrast to the Evangelicals who placed their chief emphasis upon the individual believer's personal relation to Christ and thereby downgraded the Church as an institution, members of the High Church party stressed the centrality of the sacraments and the Church hierarchy. Consequently, Keble, Newman, and their followers interpreted the legal types as prefiguring both the priesthood and the sacrament of Holy Communion w which it administers. For example, in "The Gospel Feast," Newman explains how the legal types provide part of a chain or series of types reaching from patriarchal times into Christ's life to prefigure Holy communion.

Not in the miracle of the loaves only, though in that especially, but in all parts of Scripture, in history, and in precept, and in promise, and in prophecy, is it given to see the Gospel Feast typified and prefigured and that immortal and never-failing Supper in the visible presence of the Lamb which will follow upon it at the end. (Sermons, 7.162)

According to Newman, then, the ceremonial types of the Passover ritual, animal sacrifice, and first-fruits — like the historical types of manna and Melchizedek's bread and wine — all prefigure "that banquet which is to last for ever and ever" (Sermons, 8.178).

John Keble's "Our Sacrifice of Praise and Thanksgiving" similarly shows how a chain of linked types leads to fulfillment in the sacrament of Communion. Using a slightly different set of types from Newman's, Keble traces this gospel antitype of sacrifice through its various prefigurations in the firstlings of Abel's flock, the encounter of Abram and Melchizedek, and the sacrifices of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He then shows how the Levitical burnt-, free-will-, and sin-offerings, which were in part sacrifices of praise, were types of Holy Communion. Rightly understood, these three types show the Christian that his Church, like that of Moses, has its means of commemoration and praise. Indeed, since the believers under the Old Covenant had such opportunity, the Christian must also have 'sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving: and what was that Sacrifice? Chiefly, and before all else, it was the Holy Eucharist, the Bread and Wine first, and then the Lord's Body and Blood, offered up on the Christian altar by the priest in the Name of Jesus Christ, for this among other great purposes: that it may be a solemn and perfect acknowledgment of the Great God, and what He has done for us" (Sermons, 2.343).

In "The Priesthood of all Christians, and the Sacrifices they should offer," Keble provides an example of the second High Church interpretation of the ceremonial types, which is as prefiguring Christ-the-priest. According to him, Christ "is the only true Priest, of Whom all other priests, whatsoever their time and order, whether they followed Aaron or Melchizedek, whether they came before or after their Lord, are nothing more than shadows and types. He is a High Priest for ever, and therefore His people and members, in their measure and degree, are priests also" (Sermons, 2.319). Since each Christian is a priest, he must, concludes Keble, have something to sacrifice to the Lord, just as had priests of the OId Law. But since "we are spiritual, i.e. Christian priests, we must bring spiritual, i.e., Christian Sacrifices: not carnal sacrifices, such as were those of the Jews, appointed for a time, as figures and shadows, until Christ the True Sacrifice should come: but spiritual, Christian, Gospel sacrifices: such as these we must have, every one of us, Spiritual, Christian, Gospel, priests (Sermons, 2.320). This High Churchman's emphasis upon the priesthood of every believer, like his heated rhetoric, makes him sound much like an Evangelical. For example, he seems to be making exactly the same point as does Ruskin, writing during his early Evangelical phase, when the author of Modern Painters argued that no Christian priesthood exists separate from that composed of all believers. According to Ruskin:

the whole function of Priesthood was, on Christmas morning, at once and for ever gathered into His Person who was born at Bethlehem; and thenceforward, all who are united with Him, and who with Him make sacrifices of themselves; that is to say, all members of the Invisible Church become, at the instant of their conversion, Priests; and are so called in 1 Peter ii. 5, and Rev. i. 6, and xx. 6, where, observe, there is no possibility of limiting the expression to the Clergy, the conditions of Priesthood being simply having been loved by Christ, and washed in His blood. ("Notes on the Construction of Sheepfolds," l851; 12.537)

Having possibly suggested that he holds an extreme Protestant position which necessarily downgrades the Church hierarchy, Keble wastes no time in reassuring his High Anglican congregation that he means nothing of the sort. In fact, he begins his explanation by wondering how., St. Peter could have affirmed that all Christians constitute a priesthood 'seeing that there are priests according to our Lord's own law, to whom, through His Apostles, He said, Do this offer the Holy Communion, "in remembrance of Me" (Sermons, 2.320) . He quickly resolves this problem by pointing out that just as the ancient Jews were all 'so far priests to the God of Israel, yet this hindered not but that Aaron's sons had a special commission: so it remains true that the Apostles of our Lord and those who act by authority from them are the only Priests by office in the Church of Christ, yet is each Christian in some sense appointed to somewhat of a priestly work" (Sermons, 2.3~1). As Keble next explains, each Christian turns out to perform "somewhat of a priestly work" only in so far as he or she receives the sacrament of Communion from a true Priest, or, as Keble puts it, "there is no doubt that the chief thing, in which Christian people shew themselves priests, is devoutly joining in the Sacrifice of our Lord's Body and Blood in the Holy Eucharist" (Sermons, 2.32).

Granted, Keble had to resolve problems created by a long tradition of contradictory texts, but his use of "in some sense" and "somewhat of a priestly work" encourages one to sympathize with Ruskin's attacks on the High Church party's "bold refusals to read plain English" and "its elaborate adjustments of tight bandages over the eyes, as wholesome preparation for a walk among tracks and pitfalls." Interestingly enough, when attacking "Puseyism," Ruskin singles out for condemnation Keble's attempt in an anonymously published poem to defend his conception of Christian priesthood by referring to sacrifices of the Old Law. Ruskin savagely attacks "that dangerous compound of halting poetry with hollow Divinity, called the Lyra Apostolica," and scornfully rejects Keble's "suggested parallel between the Christian and Levitical Churches" in his poem "Korah, Dathan, and Abiram." [George Eliot's allusion to Keble] On Keble's threat that there are "Judgment Fires, For high-voiced Korahs in their day," this "high-voiced" Evangelical comments, "There are indeed such fires. But when Moses said, "a Prophet shall the Lord raise up unto you, like unto me," did he mean the writer who signs himself in the Lyra Apostolica? The office of the Lawgiver and Priest is now for ever gathered into One Mediator between God and man; and THEY are guilty of the sin of Korah who blasphemously would associate themselves in His Mediatorship." Making the usual Low Church point that High Churchmen tried to arrogate Christ's office to themselves, Ruskin thus dismisses Keble's position — and his reading of the legal types as well.

In contrast to the way in which both Evangelicals and High Anglicans read the legal types as precise prefigurations of identifiable events and rituals, Broad Churchmen, who rarely employed orthodox typology, found these types to be general symbols of basic religious ideas. Thus, F. W. Robertson (18-53), the popular workingman's preacher at Trinity Chapel, Brighton, from 1847 until his death, argued that the "Jewish sacrifices" had their origin in a combination of "two feelings: one human, one divine or inspired." The true feeling, says Robertson, is that we must surrender something to God, whereas the human, more primitive, feeling adds to it the mistaken notion that "this sacrifice pleases God because of the loss or pain which it inflicts." The "ancient spiritually-minded Jews," such as David, had an accurate and even Christian perception of the real meaning of sacrifice.... Men like David felt what lay beneath all sacrifice as its ground and meaning was surrender to God's will-that a man's best is himself- and to sacrifice this is the true sacrifice. By degrees they came to see that the sacrifice was but a form — typical; and that it might be superseded.

The sacrifice of Christ, which superseded the Levitical sacrifices, "satisfied" God, not because "it was pain, but . . . because for the first time He saw human nature a copy of the Divine nature -- the will of Man the Son perfectly coincident with the will of God the Father" ("Notes on Psalm Ll, (1851), Sermons Preached at Brighton (N. Y., nd), pp. 297-98.). Robertson interprets something in the Old Testament conventionally taken to be a type, he uses the vocabulary of typological exegesis, and he clearly accepts the theory of progressive revelation which is implicit in typology. None the less, when Robertson writes "typical," he means "symbolical" and not "typological." He examines these ancient Jewish ceremonies only to show the presence in them of universal spiritual principles, and he does not discover them to be divinely instituted signs of specific events or things. Like many Broad Churchmen, he employs terms figuratively that many among his listeners usually understand literally, and he does so for a variety of reasons: his audience expects to hear discussions of Christianity in such terms and will listen more sympathetically when it does; his audience — particularly the more orthodox — will believe he is more traditional than he in fact is; and his audience by these means can gradually be led to perceive the true "spiritualized" meaning of older words and ideas. Robertson, in other words, grows out of the long tradition of typological interpretation, but he is no typologist.

The third branch of typology is composed of the "PROPHETICAL TYPES [which] are those, by which the divinely inspired prophets prefigured or signified things either present or future, by means of external symbols. Of this description is the prophet Isaiah's going naked (that is, without his prophetic garment) and barefoot (Isa. xx. 2.), to prefigure the fatal destruction of the Egyptians and Ethiopians Perhaps the most important of all prophetic types was that which appears in Genesis 3: 15 when God tells the serpent, "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shall bruise his heel." As Henry Melvill, the great Evangelical Anglican preacher, points out in his sermon "The First Prophecy," God's words in Eden provide man with a summation of human history; and

Whether or no the prophecy were intelligible to Adam and Eve, unto ourselves it is a wonderful passage, spreading itself over the whole of time, and giving outlines of the history of this world from the beginning to the final consummation. It is nothing less than a delineation of an unwearied conflict of which this earth shall be the theatre, and which shall issue, though not without partial disaster to man, in the complete discomfiture of Satan and his associates. [Sermons , ed. C. P. M'llvaine, 2 vols. (N. Y. , 1851), I, 10-11.]

Other, non-Evangelical preachers agree that this first prophetic type shadows forth a fundamental battle of good and evil, thus providing believers with a view of the central law of human history. F. W. Robertson, the Broad Churchman, agrees that "it is the law which governs the conflict with evil. It can only be crushed by suffering from it.... The Son of man who puts His naked foot on the serpent's head, crushes it: the fang goes into His heel" ("Caiaphas's View of Vicarious Sacrifice" (1848), Sermons Preached at Brighton , p. 117. See also pp. 497, 596).

In addition to shadowing forth an essential principle of human life in this world, this type also announces coming salvation and the means by which it will be purchased. Since the final clause of God's pronouncement, that the serpent shall bruise the heel of the woman's seed, was conventionally taken to prefigure the Crucifixion, this first prophecy was commonly understood to contain the entire so-called "Gospel scheme" for man's redemption. As John Charles Ryle, the Evangelical Bishop of Liverpool, argued in one of his many tracts, "one golden chain runs through" the entire Bible:

no salvation excepting by Jesus Christ. The bruising of the serpent's head, foretold in the day of the fall, — the clothing of our first parents with skins, — the sacrifices of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, -- the passover, and all the particulars of the Jewish law, -- the high-priest, — the altar, — the daily offering of the lamb, — the holy of holies entered only by blood, -- the scapegoat . . . all preach with one voice, salvation only by Jesus Christ. ["Evangelical Religion"Knots Untied, p. 40.]

Similarly, the High Anglican Keble combines historical and prophetic types when he urges upon his listeners that Christ, "the true Seed of the woman, God the son, . . . would, in His own good time, bruise the head of the tempting and corrupting serpent. He, the true David, would cast down the true Goliath, would take from him all his armour wherein he trusted" ("The Deadly Peace of the Unawakened Conscience," Sermons, 3.195). In one of his Short Sermons for Family Reading , John William Burgon, Fellow of Oriel and Vicar of what had been Newman's church, makes the same point as does Keble when he holds that "our savior therefore slew Satan with his own weapon; — by tasting of Death destroyed the author of Death; — even by dying, bruised, if he did not cut off, the Tempter's head. . . Yes, you are requested to note the prominence given to what befel the head of the giant [Goliath].... for indeed it is full of Gospel meaning.... What does all this signify but that the true David should hereafter "bruise the serpent's head," and then ascend on high, leading captivity captive" ("David and Goliath: Part I" Ninety-One Short Sermons for Family Reading: Following the Course of the Christian Seasons: Second Series, 2 vols. [Oxford, 1867], 519.). The way in which both High and Low Churchmen link this prophetic type with other prefigurations of Christ reveals that for them it points directly to His presence at the center of human history.

Furthermore, as all Church parties agree, this type also speaks directly to the individual believer. Melvill makes this usual point in "The First Prophecy" when he holds that "according to the fair laws of interpretation . . . the prophecy must be fulfilled in more than one individual," and while the seed of the woman is chiefly Christ Himself, this prophetical type necessarily has additional antitypes or fulfillments. Taking Eve as a type of the Church, Melvill points out that this divine institution may be considered from "three points of view" -- "first, as represented by the head, which is Christ; secondly, collectively as a body; thirdly, as resolved into its separate members" (Sermons, I, 13). In setting forth the many ways the individual believer can become an imitatio Christi by suffering in the battle against Satan, Victorian preachers pointed to those party doctrines they wished to enforce Thus, Keble, who advocates fasting as a High Church practice, argues that Adam and Eve 'sinned by eating, He [Christ] overcame sin by fasting, — They began to yield to the serpent by longing after the forbidden tree, He began to bruise the serpent's head by abstaining from food itself lawful and innocent" ("On Fasting," Sermons, 3.42). Hence the true believer must continue the bruising by appropriate fasting. Charles Clayton, the Cambridge Evangelical, makes a point characteristic of his party, which urged the major importance of preaching the Gospel, when he claimed that "This word, "testifying" of "the blood" of Jesus, is now preached everywhere, fully and constantly; and wherever this is done, believers find Satan bruised beneath their feet" ("Satan Falling from Heaven," Sermons (Preached in Cambridge) [London, 1859], p. 197.). In contrast to these precise fulfillment's in party doctrine, the Broad Churchman Robertson, we recall, finds instead a general rule of life — namely, that one must suffer in contending with evil, for only in that way can it be conquered.


Victorian Web main screen Contents Next Section Biblical Typology

Print version published 1980; web version 1998