According to Thomas Hartwell Horne's standard definition in his Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, one requisite to constitute a type is,

THAT IT BE PREPARED AND DESIGNED BY GOD TO REPRESENT ITS ANTITYPE (2.517).

Furthermore, as Patrick Fairbairn, the great Victorian student of typology, points out, this divine origin of "the relation between type and antitype" implies important things about man, God, and the Bible.

It implies, first, that the realities of the Gospel, which constitute the antitypes, are the ultimate objects which were contemplated by the mind of God, when planning the economy of His successive dispensations. And it implies, secondly, that to prepare the way for the introduction of these ultimate objects, He placed the Church under a course of training, which included instruction by types, or designed and fitting resemblances of what was to come. (1.47)

The Christian is intended to receive these divinely ordained symbols as even more than a peculiarly adequate means of communicating spiritual truths. Indeed, the very existence of such types — the fact that God condescended to create them for man's benefit — tells us much about the relationship between man and his maker. For example, the types that prepared human beings for the eventual reception of the Gospel accommodated spiritual truths to fallen men, to beings still existing in a relatively primitive spiritual state. Fairbairn explains that since "the same great element of truth must of necessity pervade both type and antitype, we must also assuredly believe that in the former they were more simply and palpably exhibited — presented in some shape in which the human mind could more easily and distinctly apprehend them — than in the latter.... The transition from the one to the other must clearly have involved a rise in the mode of exhibiting the truth from a lower to a higher territory" (1.51). From this conception of typology as progressive revelation derive important interpretive rules. First of all, types generally exist as physical or material embodiments of spiritual ideas. As Fairbairn explains, whereas the type communicates "divine truth on a lower stage, exhibited by means of outward relations and terrestrial interests," the antitype presents a loftier stage or form of the same truth, one which possesses "a more heavenly aspect. What in the one bore immediate respect to the bodily life, must in the other be found to bear immediate respect to the spiritual life" (1.158).

For instance, when Moses acts as a type of Christ by redeeming the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, leading them through their desert wanderings, and preparing them to enter the Promised Land, he prefigures with physical acts what Christ does spiritually. Christ spiritually redeems all the children of God from the Egyptian slavery of sin and death; He leads them through the metaphorical desert of this world; and He prepares them to enter the spiritual, or true Promised Land of Heaven. At each place of correspondence, what had been physical in regard to Moses has become spiritual in regard to his antitype . This notion of a movement from physical to spiritual does not, however, hold for all typological relations, since — to provide an obvious example — Moses is also a type of Christ because he gave man the Old Law. Likewise, when Christ died physically on the cross, he fulfilled a large number of types provided by physical sacrifices. In both cases, none the less, the movement from type to antitype is a movement from something less spiritual to something more spiritual.

Furthermore, since the fulfillment must always be in some sense higher or more spiritual than its type, the interpreter must recognize the inevitable limitations of any particular typological correspondence or relation. Since Christ is greater than all men — indeed greater than all reality — he must far surpass each of his prefigurations. For example, when David conquered Goliath, or Samson laid down his life for his people, or Aaron the priest interceded for the people, they represented only a small portion of the full reality of the Savior. Not only does the spiritual reality of Christ's action far surpass that contained in each of his almost countless types, but that antitypical spiritual reality requires a wide variety of such types. Using a spatial analogy, one might say that the reality that is Christ is both wider and deeper than any of his types; and, to suggest that surpassing reality, God has thus employed a wide range of prefigurations. From this essential incapacity of the type to suggest the full nature of the antitype arises the standard interpretive procedure of juxtaposing a number of types to each other and to their fulfillment. In that way the interpreter can demonstrate the nature of the antitype more accurately while at the same time showing how wonderfully God prepared for its eventual fulfillment. This exegetical and homiletic habit of juxtaposing numerous types, which makes it easy for the believer to meditate upon the presence of Christ in all history, had a major effect on hymns and devotional verse. It also appears with a particularly High Church flavor in Victorian stained glass programs, eucharistic vessels, and vestments. William Holman Hunt's The Triumph of the Innocents, which embodies an Evangelical emphasis, exemplifies the effect of this exegetical practice on Victorian High Art.

This inadequacy of the type to antitype, which produces such heaping up of prefigurations, also required that the reader of scripture follow several obvious hermeneutic rules. First, as Horne explains, the interpreter must recognize that " There is often more in the Type than in the Antitype," by which he means that "we find many things in the type that are inapplicable to the antitype. The use of this cannon is shown in the Epistle to the Hebrews, in which the ritual and sacrifices of the Old Testament are fairly accommodated to Jesus Christ the antitype, although there are many things in that priesthood which do not accord. Thus the priest was to offer sacrifice for his own sins (Heb. v. 3.), which is in no respect applicable to Christ. (Heb. vii. 27.)" (2.531). Similarly, the exegete must realize that "Frequently there is more in the Antitype than in the Type." The reason for this rule, as we have already observed, lies in the fact that, "as no single type can express the life and particular actions of Christ, there is necessarily more in the antitype than can be found in the type itself (2.531).

In attempting to interpret such a divinely created symbol, the reader of scripture must also observe the apparently obvious rule that, as Horne states it, "The wicked, as such, are NOT to be made Types of Christ" (2.53D. Patrick Fairbairn similarly urges that "the wicked as such, and acts of sin as such, must be excluded from the category of types," since nothing can be "typical of the good things under the Gospel which was itself of a forbidden and sinful nature" (1.14-41). Horne and Fairbairn place such heavy emphasis upon what might seem to be a particularly obvious point as an explicit corrective to the excesses of earlier typologists. Many earlier writers asserted the existence of absurd, even blasphemous correlations between Old Testament people and events and Christ. Among the more infamous — they are frequently cited by nineteenth-century students of typology — are the claims that idolatrous rites introduced into the Temple at Jerusalem prefigured the Gospel, and that when evil Absalom hung by his hair from a tree he prefigured Christ on the cross. since what Horne calls such "extravagant typifications" (2.531n) had done much to discredit biblical typology, its defenders had to show they were not types at all.

None the less, although one must be careful not to take something evil as a type of something good, one can still interpret it as a type, since, as Fairbairn explains, "it is perfectly warrantable and scriptural to regard the form of evil which from time to time confronted the type, as itself the type of something similar, which should afterwards arise as a counter-form of evil to the antitype. Antichrist therefore, may be said to have had his types as well as Christ." It is not that Satan (or Antichrist) governs a scheme of types in a manner parallel to the christological one, but simply that "all the manifestations of truth have their corresponding and antagonistic manifestations of error" (1.145); so that where one encounters a type of Christ, one may often also encounter something suggesting His great opponent.

In other words, Old Testament history is given a structure by the presence of these divinely instituted types. Furthermore, according to Henry Melvill, the typological significance of a particular fact often explains why God included it in the sacred narrative:

We are not to regard the Scriptural histories as mere registers of facts, such as are commonly the histories of eminent men: they are rather selections of facts, suitableness for purposes of instruction having regulated the choice.... Perhaps more frequently than is commonly thought, it is because the fact has a typical character that it is selected for insertion: it prefigures, or symbolically represents, something connected with the Scheme of Redemption, and on this account has found space in the sacred volume.

Since typology is thus one of the axes or organizing principles of the Bible, one obviously loses sight of a great deal in the scriptures if one fails to perceive the presence of types and figures of Christ. Conversely, if one has "a correct knowledge and appreciation of the Typology of ancient scripture," claims Fairbairn, one discovers that the earlier portions of revelation receive "increased value and importance.... The whole of the Old Testament will be found to rise in our esteem as we understand and enter into its typological bearing" (1.177). For example, by perceiving how God accommodated His spiritual truths to man's earlier limitations, one can perceive many instances of divine mercy, and, similarly, one can also observe the continual presence of Christ in history and thus understand the meaning of the Old Testament narrative. None the less, although types had the major function of preparing man for the eventual appearance of Christ, that was not their only function . If it were, one would not want to pay too much attention to them, for their function would have ceased and they would now have become mere historical facts. Of course, anything instituted by God could never thus be a mere historical fact, because it will always bear the valued impress of its divine authorship. Thus Fairbairn can argue that types furnish "materials of edification and comfort to the end of time" (1.49).

From this point of view, which was very popular during the reign of Victoria, one can claim that the types are even more valuable now that they have been fulfilled than they were before. The Christian, unlike the Jew, knows precisely what they mean, and knowing what they mean, the Christian can now understand Old Testament history in the new, higher way. Furthermore, the types, though fulfilled, still contain their earlier epistemological value, and therefore, according to Fairbairn, "a truly scriptural Typology" provides essential assistance to "divine knowledge and practice" in "the aid it furnishes to help out spiritual ideas in our minds, and enable us to realize them with sufficient clearness and certainty." The crucial point here is that although Christians have been privileged by "a full revelation of the mind of God respecting the truths of salvation . . . it does not thence follow they can in all respects so distinctly apprehend the truth in its naked spirituality, as to be totally independent of some outward exhibition of it" (1.180). In other words, types, which were originally created by God to accommodate truth to man's limited post-lapsarian faculties, still retain their original usefulness.

The one point from which all these hermeneutic emphases derive and to which they always return is that Christ is the central reality of human history. He is the center to which all things move and from which all other things derive their meaning and relative value. This vision of human life and history which perceives Christ as the center of all appears frequently in Victorian writings on typology. Newman, for instance, tells his congregation that "the Old Testament, as we know, is full of figures and types of the Gospel; types various, and, in their literal wording, contrary to each other but all meeting and harmoniously fulfilled in Christ and His Church" (8.163). Fairbairn presents essentially the same vision of Christ as divine center when he explains that "the blessed Redeemer . . . is Himself the beginning and the end of the scheme of God's dispensations; in Him is found alike the centre of Heaven's plan, and the one foundation of human confidence and hope" (1.48). Meditation upon types therefore enabled one to perceive that all the events of Old Testament history form powerful currents sweeping into the future towards the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ, the reign of His Church, and the time — or end of time — when He shall return to make a final judgment on the world. In other words, "before His coming into the world," writes Fairbairn, "all things of necessity pointed toward Him; . . . and with His coming, the grand Reality Itself came, and the higher purposes of Heaven entered on their fulfillment (1.48). Before Christ, all recorded Old Testament events served as a lens converging upon His appearance; after His death and resurrection, all things simultaneously point backwards towards His earthly life and forwards to His second coming.

According to this conception of things, any single type permits the Christian to observe a complexly ordered cosmos from a privileged position. Having been created in the first place in accordance with the central principle, or core, of history — Christ's conquest of evil by means of His self-sacrifice — the type allows one immediate access to the meaning of the universe. Considered from the point of view of the Bible reader, whether theologian or simple believer, such a conception of things means that any individual type immediately opens into the central meaning of history. Any type, therefore, permits one to meditate upon the whole of God's plan, and any type, furthermore, leads to any other. Considered from the point of view of the writer, whether of hymns or of poems like The Ring and the Book, such a powerfully imaginative conception of things means that he may use any type to place the reader in a completely ordered world. Therefore, one of the first things to emphasize about typology for the modern reader is that it is not simply a collection of individual biblical images, the understanding of which helps one better to appreciate Victorian and earlier literatures, arts, and ways of thought. Rather, typology bears with it a powerful, coherent conception of things which any artist, writer, or thinker may conjure into existence by employing a well-known type.

As theorists of the beautiful have emphasized countless times during the past two millennia, beauty depends upon a principle of order. Order, in fact, has often been spoken of as if it were beauty, pure and simple. In any case, typologists clearly took such pleasure, much of it aesthetic, in continually discovering the universal principle of spiritual, moral, and historical order in all things that they often indulged the desire to find Christ in unexpected places to the detriment of the text. Such "extravagant typifications," as Horne termed them, led to the decline of typology's reputation and usefulness, but it also led Patrick Fairbairn to produce The Typology of Scripture, probably the finest work written on the subject. Typological exegesis, as we have seen, was so central to nineteenth-century Protestant belief that major theologians, preachers, and commentators tried to formulate sufficient rational canons for its application which would protect it from the obvious abuses of the Hutchinsonians and their seventeenth-century predecessors. Nineteenth-century typologists were so successful that they produced a flowering of typological exegetics which had important influence on Victorian thought.

Even conservative Victorian typologists still ranged more freely than many modern students of the mode would consider permissible, and although the Evangelical denominations outside the Church of England are perhaps best known for abusing typology, High Churchmen, such as Newman and Keble, frequently indulge in the practice of asserting that parallels they have discovered are in fact divinely instituted types. The notion that Christ is to be perceived as the central principle of human history always functioned as a hermeneutic principle as well, for the assumption that Christ is at the center of all things encouraged the Bible reader to find Christ in the most unexpected places. As we have already observed, Victorian interpreters took particular pleasure in pointing out the typological meaning of Leviticus, and the Book of Psalms provided another stimulus for such imaginative interpretations.

As one might expect, the later followers of Hutchinson exemplify such nineteenth-century readings of the Old Testament in terms of Christ at their most extreme. Samuel Eyles Pierce, an avowed follower of "the learned Mr. Hutchinson," quotes his leader's opinion that the Psalms were intended by God to supplement the Gospel record of Christ's life on earth:

The Psalms contain all the circumstances of our Lord's private employment, on which the Evangelists are silent. His meditation on the law day and night. His firm trust in Jehovah. His fervent prayers, and mournful ejaculations. They refer to all the emblematic institutions, typical sacrifices, deliverance's, and persons, and apply them to the gospel state with as much assurance, and with the present tense, as if certainly and already transacted. [The Book of Psalms, 2 vols. (London, 1817), I, xv]

Thus, according to the Hutchinsonians, although the Psalms are ostensibly spoken in the historical past of the Old Testament, many of them are in fact the direct pronouncements of Christ speaking through David. Pierce's Psalm commentaries, for example, hold that

Every one of the sacred poems, recorded in this part of Scriptures entitled the Book of Psalms, is founded on this revelation of Christ, expressed in the representations of the Messiah. In each of them we have a new and distinct part of this revelation of Christ given us. They are as so many optic glasses, in which we may see and behold the similitude of our Lord. (1.18D

When the interpreter emphasizes too much the Christian message of the Old Testament, he always risks suggesting that the Old already contained everything of essential value in the New. Hutchinsonians, like Pierce, often succumb to such risks. This author of a commentary on the Book of Psalms thus claims that the scriptures of the Old Testament saints

were as full of Christ as ours are. Yes, the whole book of Psalms is as full of Christ as the whole New Testament put together. For what is the later, but quotations from Psalms, with full proof and realization of the accomplishment of the same, in the person of our glorious Immanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ? (1.134)

Obviously, when one has stated that the Gospel is "but quotations from the Psalms" with relevant proofs of them in the person of Christ, the attempt to demonstrate the essential unity of Old and New Testaments has got out of control! Even though more orthodox commentators were careful not to carry their search for Christ in the Psalms to such outlandish extremes, they too found Him in many of these ancient prayers and hymns of praise. For example, the Anglican John Morison's An Exposition of the Book of Psalms (1832), which occasionally looks askance at the Hutchinsonians, begins with the recognition that

The most vital inquiry, perhaps, involved in the legitimate interpretation of this inspired book is that which relates to it as a prophecy of Messiah and the times of the Gentiles. To deny its prophetic character would be to repudiate the express authority of the New Testament, and to dim that lustre by which, through the spirit of prophecy, it has been so sweetly irradiated. [I, viii; Morison, who claims to represent orthodoxy, employs the term "irradiate," which is one of Hutchinson's favorites.]

Therefore, the chief problems which the interpreter must solve are, first, to what extent "is the Book of Psalms to be regarded as prophetic? and, second, "what are the rules of interpretation by which we are to determine this question?" The answer to both questions, says Morison, must be to rely upon "the comments and appropriations of Christ and his apostles," for "where they have set the example of recognizing the prophetic spirit, we are safe in following in their footsteps; beyond this all is doubt and uncertainty" (1. viii-ix). Morison is here simply restating the old hermeneutic rule that the interpreter can only take something to be a type when he has the authority of the New Testament to do so. As Thomas Hartwell Horne explains in relation to historical types, persons "declared by Jehovah himself to be typical, long before the events which they prefigured came to pass . . . have been termed innate, or natural historical types; and these may be safely admitted. But inferred types, or those in which typical persons were not known to be such, until after the things which they typified had actually happened . . . cannot be too carefully avoided . . . because they are not supported by the authority of the inspired writers of the New Testament" (2.52~30). Morison, like many another Anglican observes the letter, if not the spirit, of this rule in what seems to be a characteristic Victorian approach to typology, against which few writers on the subject protest: he will only interpret something from the Old Testament when he has a specific New Testament warrant to do so, but once he begins to set forth the typological significance of such an authenticated type, he gives his imagination free rein. Morison, Melvill, Scott, Newman, and Keble all indulge in the practice of transforming innate, or authenticated, types into inferred ones. In fact, Morison, who was commended in the sixth edition of Home's Introduction to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures for paying proper attention to both the literal and typological meanings of Psalms, often sounds strangely like a follower of Hutchinson.

Like Pierce, he accepts that many Psalms have a double sense because they contain types: "Belonging literally to David and the nation of Israel, they have at the same time, a mystical or spiritual reference to Christ and the vicissitudes of the New Testament Church. This double sense has its foundations in the well-established fact, that the patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings, of the former dispensation, were, in their persons, offices, and history, appointed types" of Christ (1. ix) . Accepting in the usual orthodox manner that the Psalms contain many divinely instituted types, he assures his reader that anyone who "would study the Book of Psalms with profit, must accustom himself to look for Christ and the Church. In doing so, however, let him not force his way through every opposing barrier" (1.x) — as apparently the Hutchinsonians had done. In his introductory comments to Psalm 34, Morison claims that Hutchinson argued on very shaky grounds that the entire Psalm refers to Christ:

His great maxim is, that wherever a single sentence is found, in any psalm, applicable to the mystic David [Christ], that sentence must determine the force and bearing of the whole psalm. Such canons of interpretation are, to say the least, very arbitrary, and ought to be received with becoming caution on the part of all sound biblical students." (1.418)

Stating that he himself has " "been looking unto Jesus," yet not in such a sense as to wrest scripture from its original design," Morison sets forth three distinct classes of prophecies in the Psalms. First are those "in which the inspired writer personates the Messiah, and identifies himself with the suffering or triumphant church of the redeemed." Psalms 2, 8, 16, 19, 2, 110, 118 exemplify this first group, while 45, 72, and 132 exemplify the second: "those in which something is predicated of a third person, who from inspired comment is proved to be Immanuel." The third class, which is exemplified by Psalms 24 and 68, is formed by those "in which from the literal and the typical, the mind is carried forward to the great spiritual antitypes furnished by Christ and the gospel" (I.x).

Despite taking such care to set forth interpretive rules, Morison sounds much like Pierce and the Hutchinsonians at times, although, to be sure, he never bases wide-ranging allegorizations upon the initial assumption that everything in the Psalms must refer to Christ. While discussing the first verse of Psalm 16 — "Preserve me, O God: for} in thee do I put my trust" — he informs his lay audience that

There is not a single scene in the Redeemer's history, from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, which does not illustrate the peculiar adumbration of this prayer.... In these circumstances, the incarnate Redeemer is here represented as pouring forth a prayer to his divine Father, for the interposition of his sustaining and preserving influence. (1.167)

This Psalm, one of the class in which David "personates" Christ, is authenticated for Morison by Acts 2:25 31 and 13:327; and once he has this assurance, he feels free to exercise his considerable ingenuity. Thus, when he encounters the fifth verse — "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot" — he comments that this "language evidently belongs to the Messiah in his character as an High Priest; and seems borrowed from the ancient Jewish ritual, according to which it was ordained that the Priesthood should have no patrimony with the other people of the land, because the Lord was, in an especial sense, their portion, their inheritance" (1.174). Similarly, about Psalms 2:16, which closes with the statement that "they pierced my hands and my feet," Morison expectedly comments that "Here we almost forget the prophecy of the narrative; so minute and circumstantial are the references of this Psalm to the suffering Messiah" (1.304), and continues with a long account of the Crucifixion itself. In Psalms 5 and 24, which allude to the legal types, these types, rather than any prophetic statement, carry the reader into the future time of the antitype. Thus Morison explains that Psalm 24, which opens with "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof," makes an elaborate allusion to Temple rituals which, in turn, had various fulfillments. According to Morison,

The tabernacle, temple, and ark, were significant symbols of Christ and the Church, and of the heavenly state: and hence we find David, under the afflatus of the prophetic spirit, embracing an allusion to the whole. The language is evidently adapted to the temple, though not at that time reared, — to the events of gospel history, though then far distant, — and to the celestial sanctuary, though the pervading image is simply the introduction of the ark into the sacred tent which had been erected for its reception. (1.335) In fact, the image of the temple which supposedly pervades this brief Psalm appears nowhere in it, and apparently only a tradition that it was composed for the occasion of placing the ark "in some position of distinction and security" (1.335)

In fact, the image of the temple, which supposedly pervades this brief Psalm appears nowhere in it, and apparently only a tradition that it was composed for the occasion of placing the ark "in some position of distinction and security" (1.335) prompts such a typological interpretation. Thus, on the assumption that Psalm 24 was written for the occasion of moving the ark, this commentator based the further assumption that an inspired David actually speaks of a temple not yet built, and this unbuilt temple in turn was known by David to prefigure distant Gospel events and those even farther off at the end of time.


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Print version published 1980; web version 1998