From Beelines to Plotlines: Typology That Follows the Covenental Topography of Scripture
Perhaps you have heard or repeated Charles Spurgeon’s famous axiom, “I take my text and make a beeline to the cross.” The trouble is Charles Spurgeon probably never said it.1 Worse, the simplistic axiom fails to account for the textual shape and biblical contours of the Bible, not to mention the infelicitous way it misjudges the course of honeybees.2 Hence, any bird-like—not bee-like—exposition flying straight to Jesus may result in a cruciform shape, but without properly adhering to the originating text. “Text-driven” preachers are right to critique sermons if they fly above the text to get to Jesus.3 Likewise, biblical theologians are right to insist expositors show their work when making typological connections.4
Addressing these concerns, this essay will argue for a thicker reading of Scripture. It will argue that standing underneath any legitimate type is a covenantal topography, a biblical terrain that rises and falls throughout Israel’s covenant history, which all types follow in their own unique way as they run toward Christ and his Church.5 Therefore, in addition to the standard “tests” for valid types,6 I will demonstrate how biblical types follow this covenantal topography from historical prototype, through covenantal ectypes, to their intended antitype—namely, the person and work of Christ. From there, by union with Christ, typology experiences a new birth, as supratypes share covenantal attributes with and carry out the offices assigned by Jesus Christ.7
Put figuratively, the springs of typology begin in Eden, flow through the Patriarchs and collect in the Law’s stone containers; then, fermenting in these caskets, the waters begin to turn to wine. Through a process of formation, deformation, and reformation, the wine of typology ages until the time of Christ, when the old wineskins are broken and the new wine is ready. Through this aging process, the types repeat—sometimes rising to glorious heights (formation), sometimes falling to calamitous ruin (deformation), but always following the topography of Israel’s covenant history until God’s appointed season of “reformation” in Christ Jesus (cf. Heb 9:10). In this way, biblical types are truly topographical, as they rise and fall, bend and break with the biblical terrain.
Typology, therefore, must be understood in relationship to the biblical covenants that unify and organize the Bible.8 But biblical types must also, as I will argue, be seen in relationship with creation, fall, and process of redemption found in God’s covenant history. In short, while this proposal may appear novel in some respects, it is of a piece with other Reformed and evangelical approaches to typology. It aims to give a cohesive vision for seeing biblical types as existing within the fabric of Scripture’s progressive revelation. Rather than identifying superficial or reader-created similarities between various persons, events, or institutions, biblical types are discovered in the text of Scripture, and specifically in “typological structures” that develop historical and longitudinally through the Bible.9 Standing against figural readings that invite readers to participate in creating their “network of traces,” the covenantal topography outlined below follows the Protestant Reformation dictate of sola scriptura, grounding all typological meaning in the sufficient text of Scripture.10
I will argue the typological structures of Scripture are fundamentally different from reader-generated figurations prevalent among postmodern hermeneutics.11 Because God has presided over redemptive history through his progressive covenants, the relationships between various stages in covenant history are more than superficial—they are both divinely-intended and organically-related. Hence, our task as interpreters is to discern an author’s intent from every horizon of interpretation—textual, epochal/covenantal, and canonical. While those who employ intertextuality may come to some of the same conclusions, their stated method fails to consider how God’s Word uniquely functions as a divinely inspired revelation. Therefore, instead of applying the world’s literary wisdom, we ought to be unashamed in reading Scripture according to its own stipulations and structures.
Therefore, biblical typology, in contradistinction from various practices of postmodern literary practices and general hermeneutics, must take its shape from the propositions and poetry of the biblical text. Most importantly, readers should follow the inspired and identifiable plotline of the canon to show how types are part of larger typological structures. We must not be satisfied with surface connections between various historical figures; we must show how correspondences arise in Scripture itself as types traverse the longitudinal topography of the Bible.
Because the Bible is given to us as a series of undulating and ultimately escalating epochs, we should expect to see historical repetition and recapitulation. And because God is aiming at bringing his Son in the fullness of time, it should not be surprising that all rivers lead to him (John 5:39). Therefore, in what follows, I will show how the priesthood follows this covenantal topography moving from Adam to Christ through the peaks and valleys of Israel’s history. By following this one concrete example, my hope is to demonstrate a covenantal topography that all types follow as they move from the shadows of the old covenant to the substance of the new.
Sketching a Covenantal Topography
To give a sense of where we are going, I will first present in chart-form the biblical texts that serve as milestones for the priestly type. These priestly milestones will be accompanied by two other lines of personal milestones for the biblical offices of prophet and king.12 Because these three offices interweave throughout redemptive history, they show in sketch-form how each biblical type develops through the canon.13 Such a presentation is lacking in biblical exposition—which is the point of this whole article—but I trust readers interested in typological and canonical studies will find the texts familiar. At the same time, my hope is that by putting these texts together graphically will prove serviceable for testing this conceptual proposal.14
Second, I will provide hermeneutical commentary on each phase of covenant history that helps explain how the priestly office develops across the canon. These stages of development are: (1) Creation, (2) Patriarchs, (3) Law, (4) Prophets including (a) historical formation, (b) covenant-breaking deformation and (c) eschatological reformation, (5) Christ, and (6) the Church. It is the formation, deformation, and reformation in the period of the Prophets that I believe is most original to this article. This section requires the most testing, but also it could be the most fruitful for developing an intra-canonical understanding of typology. Again, the proposal here is methodological and formal more than exegetical and material. Thus, in what follows I aim to show the potential for an intra-canonical typology which neither restricts exegesis to the textual horizon, nor imports imaginative (or imaginary) figurations from the mind of the interpreter.
See Fig. 1: Personal Typological Structures (page 50)
Creation: The Prototype
In the beginning, God created “images” created to reflect God’s glory. In fact, Genesis 1’s language of “image and likeness” is pregnant with eschatological potential.15 As the rest of Scripture confirms, Adam is the fountainhead for all personal types. Because his image and likeness is passed down from Adam to Seth (Gen 5:3), the train of redemptive history picks up steam as one generation of image-bearers bears another. This pattern of image-bearers begetting image-bearers has significance for our theological anthropology but also for our theological hermeneutics. Situated at the head of humanity, Adam’s vocation is significant because, as Moses records, God endowed him with covenantal responsibilities—royal rule and priestly service.
In Genesis 1 and 2, Adam and his helpmate are commissioned to have dominion over the earth. They are to subdue and rule all that God has made (1:26–28) and cultivate and keep the garden (2:15–17).16 As Psalm 8:5–6 later confirms, God “crowned man with glory and honor, … put[ting] all things under his feet.” This is a reflection on Adam and his role of ruling over creation.17 Likewise, Ezekiel 28 portrays the king of Tyre in priestly garb and situates him in Eden,18 which leads G. K. Beale to observe, “Ezekiel 28:13 pictures Adam dressed in bejeweled clothing like a priest.”19Thus, in looking at the creation of Adam, we find the beginnings of priest-king in Scripture.
The priestly type, therefore, does not begin with Melchizedek (Genesis 14) or the formation of the Levitical priesthood (Exodus 28ff.). Rather, as many OT commentators note, Adam is portrayed as “an archetypal Levite,” which is another way of saying that Adam was the first priest.20 Because God placed Adam in his garden sanctuary (Gen 2:8), commissioned him to guard God’s sacred space (2:15), and instructed him to keep covenant (2:16–17), we can see that Adam is far more than a prehistoric farmer. Materially, we find in Adam the first priest. Formally, we find strong evidence that typology begins on page one of the Bible. Thus, when reconstructing what Scripture says about typology, we must begin in the beginning. Eden is filled with typology and thus our typological structures must begin on the Mountain of God.
At the same time, we must consider how the Fall changed the priestly office. While Adam functioned more exclusively as an attendant in the household of God,21 later priests focused on making atonement and mediating the covenant between God and man. Observing this does not discount the priestly role of Adam, but it does remind us that after sin entered the world, the priestly office would take up the role of sacrificer and intercessor. Adam’s original calling to serve and guard God’s holy garden (Gen 2:15) remained in effect among the Levitical priests,22 but not without significant change in a Genesis 3 world.
The Patriarchs: The Promised Type
If the priestly prototype begins with Adam, it continues with Noah, whose life is fashioned by Moses to re-image Adam.23 In fact, Genesis 6–9 is written to show Noah as a “second Adam,” one in whom God reissues his creation covenant, complete with commands to be fruitful and multiply in order to have dominion over the earth. As Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum observe, “Noah is presented in the narrative as a new Adam.”24 And like Adam, Noah functions as a priest. Observing that “Noah’s sacrifice is effective for all mankind,” Gordon Wenham states, “we can view Noah’s offering of sacrifice as a prototype of the work of later priests, who made atonement for Israel.”25 Accordingly, Noah offers a sacrifice that pleases God and ratifies a covenant that will preserve creation. For our consideration, it is important to see this priestly office takes another step forward in this patriarch. Thus, a priestly typology should not miss this Patriarch.
Following Noah, Abraham also functions as a new Adam26 and a new priest.27 In fact, there are multiple evidences of Abraham’s “priesthood.” In list form, we can observe at least five pieces of evidence for his priestly role: (1) Abraham’s calling to bless the nations is by its very nature priestly (cf. Num 6:24–26); (2) Abraham’s pattern of sacral worship and altar-building indicates his priestly status;28 (3) Abraham’s intercession for Lot reflects his work as a priestly intercessor (Genesis 18); (4) Abraham’s role in the covenant ceremonies of Genesis 15 and 17 relate to his priesthood; (5) finally, Abraham’s offering of Isaac is clearly priestly (Genesis 22). Situated at the temple mount (cf. 2 Chr 3:1), Abraham offers a substitutionary sacrifice for his beloved son, a sacrifice which in turn secures God’s covenant oath (Gen 22:15–18; 26:5).29 Add to this the historical and cultural evidence that first-born sons were understood to be priests, and it becomes very evident that Abraham’s life takes on a priestly form.30 Accordingly, if Abraham is a priest, than his covenantal position in Israel’s history becomes an important coordinate on the typological map of the priesthood. And more foundationally, Abraham becomes a significant figure on the road between Adam and Moses. Covenantal history, therefore, gives an important hillock to incorporate in its topographical map.
The Law: The Legislated Type
The most familiar place to find the priesthood in the OT is the Law of Moses. In fact, it is not too much to say the book of Exodus formalized the patriarchal priesthood, even as it took the priesthood from firstborn sons to the sons of Levi (see Num 3:40–51).31 In Exodus 19:5–6 Yahweh identifies his people as a “treasured possession among all the peoples … a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Yet, this is only the beginning of the way God cements the mold for his priests. What follows in Exodus–Deuteronomy is a series of “legal documents” which solidify the shape and standards of the priesthood.
For instance, Exodus 28–29 describes the priestly apparel, a visible representation of God himself, the one whom the priest is to image. Then, Exodus 32 recounts the historical event that qualified the Levites to priests. As Deuteronomy 33:8–11 explains, the Levites willingness to side with God against their brothers earned them the right to be priests. Deuteronomy 33:8–11 also lists the various responsibilities of the Levites—divination (v. 8a), instruction (v. 10a), ritual sacrifice (v. 10b), and the destruction of adversaries who would arise against God’s holy people and his holy place (v. 10b).32 Leviticus 8–10 outlines the ceremony which appointed the Aaronic priest and Leviticus 21–22 clarified the purity and holiness required to be a priest. Moreover, Numbers 25 recounts the story of Phineas, whose atoning work earned for him and his Levitical tribe a perpetual priesthood, a covenant which it seems to secure the Levites as the covenant teachers during the period of the Mosaic Law (cf. Mal 2:1–9). All in all, these various chapters in Israel’s law cement the formation of the Levitical priesthood. The rest of Israel’s history will measure itself against the standards of the Law.
First, the legislated type of the priesthood is filled out in men like Phineas (Numbers 25). Next, it will be deformed by Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10), the sons of Eli (1 Samuel 2) and other unclean priests (Mal 2:1–9). Last, it will be reformed as the Prophets, under divine inspiration, look forward to a new priest(hood), which will supersede the sons of Levi. Indeed, this super-fulfillment which terminates in Christ seems to already be work in the days of Abraham and David, as Melchizedek and the promise of 1 Samuel 2:35 adumbrate a new kind of priest. In this way, we can observe that the topography of the type is not without textual variations and nuances, nor does it follow a perfectly chronological order. Like any mountainous trail, there are switchbacks and S-turns. Therefore, like reading any map, we must let the text speak in order to discern Scripture’s typological structures. Still, we can affirm at this point that what began in creation and developed in patriarchs finds its most clear delineation in the Law of Moses. Importantly, as Fig. 1 indicates, the same pattern of development is also found with the prophet (Deut 13:1–18; 18:15–22) and the king (Deut 17:14–20). That all three offices are formalized in the Law adds strength to this argument that the Law is the place where the shape of the types are cemented in covenant history.33
The Prophets: The Formed, Deformed, and Reformed Type
Nowhere does the formation of types experience more turbulence than in the history of Israel. As Israel strains the Sinai covenant to the point of breaking, the tectonic plates of redemptive history buckle and shoot skyward. Accordingly, the biblical types are formed and confirmed according to the standards laid out in the Law. At the same time, the priestly office experiences radical deformation because of sin. What God prescribed for Israel is lost, and while the Prophets call Israel back to Moses’ original standard, ultimately God’s covenant messengers must look to the future when a new covenant, a new kingdom, and a new priesthood is created. Anyone considering typology, therefore, must come to grips with what happened to the biblical “types” as they move through mountainous region of the prophets. It is my contention every type begun in Eden, promised in the Patriarchs, and legislated by Moses dies and rises again in the Prophets. In other words, following a gospel-pattern, each type lives, dies because of sin, and rises again (if only in prophetic hope) through the superlative promises of the Prophets. These three stages can be labeled formation, deformation, and reformation. Consider how this works with the priesthood.
First, after the trouble with the Levites in Judges 17–19, the Levitical priesthood comes into glory when David and Solomon establish the temple in Jerusalem. First Chronicles 22–26 lists the roles and functions of the priests in Jerusalem. Appointed by the king, these priests serve the Lord and the nation, even as David’s son functions as a priest-king.34 Importantly, these chapters carry out God’s priestly design from Exodus–Deuteronomy. They also foreshadow what a kingdom of priests might look like. Therefore, in any full-fledge typology, the period of Solomon’s glorious temple with its well-organized priesthood must be considered.35
Sadly, the glory of the priesthood was short lived. Just as Solomon’s royal reign tumbled downhill because of his sin and the sin of his son Rehoboam, so too the priesthood descended in the period of the divided kingdom. Anticipated before its climax, the fall of Levi’s house is foreshadowed in Judges 17–19 and fixed in 1 Samuel 2:12–36.36 Because of the sins of Eli’s sons, 1 Samuel 2:35 promises a new priesthood—one that is best understood as being promised to an heir of David.37 This promise of a new priesthood slants the text forward, and from 1–2 Samuel to 1–2 Chronicles, we can observe how the priests of Israel falter until they fall. In truth and time, the final death knell comes when Jesus makes the final sacrifice and the temple veil is torn, but it is apparent throughout the Prophets that the Levitical priests are under the judgment of God (e.g., Malachi 2:1–9).38 For instance, Hosea accuses the priests for failing to teach the people (Hos 4:6) and Zechariah identifies Joshua, who represents the priesthood, as defiled, unable to stand before God, and in need of cleansing (Zech 3:1–10). Under God’s wise plan of redemption, the priest’s shadowy existence was soon to be eclipsed by the true priest.
At the same time that the sons of Levi were tempting death with their sin, a hope was rising that a new priest-king would be raised to life. Interestingly, the prophetic word about a new priesthood is presented with resurrection language (1 Sam 2:35: “I will raise up for myself a faithful priest”).39 From this opening word of 1 Samuel, we find a royal king who exhibits priestly characteristics. In David, we find a new kind of priest. To be sure, the Law kept separate priest and king, but from ancient days, Adam, Abraham, and Melechizedek all functioned as royal priests. Accordingly, throughout the Prophets we find promises of a new king who would draw near to God (Jer 30:21). Even more, most of the exalted visions of the coming priest are that of priest-kings (see Psalm 110; Jer 30:21; Zech 3:1–10, 6:9–15). In this way, the Prophets do not merely re-present an old, dead priesthood. Rather, anticipating the letter to the Hebrews, the prophets foretell of a royal son who would ask for the nations (Ps 2:8), a son of David who be given a perpetual priesthood (Ps 110:4).
Accordingly, when we consider all the biblical data in the Former and Latter Prophets, we see more than a few predictions of a coming priest. We find instead a thick presentation of a biblical type that rises, falls, and rises again from the dead. For those with eyes to see, this rising and falling not only escalates the priestly type from the Old Testament to New, it also anticipates the gospel itself, a message of salvation that centers on the priestly and sacrificial work of Jesus Christ. As God created the OT priesthood to prepare the way for his Son, so now the failing of the shadow sets the stage for the substance. And in Christ, we find the perfect priest come to offer atonement, make a new covenant, and create a new holy nation, one that will be a royal priesthood. In this way, any biblical typology that moves from Moses to Christ without attention to the covenantal topography of the Prophets will miss the full revelation of the priestly typology.40 Moreover, it misses the building expectation of the substance to which all the shadows pointed.
In typological studies, this is called escalation. And while escalation has long been a feature of biblical typology, close attention to covenantal history informs us that escalation between type and antitype is a bumpy ride. Types are both formed, deformed, and formed again with greater expectations as they move from Moses, through the Prophets, to the final instantiation found in Jesus Christ.
Christ: The Sovereignly Intended Antitype
Ultimately, all priestly types find their telos in Jesus Christ. While some studies in Christology have observed priestly features in the Gospels, Jesus’ priestly status is most well-documented in Hebrews.41 In that sermonic letter, the author explains how Christ is a priest like Melchizedek who is greater than anyone from the line Levite (ch. 5–10). Important to the OT discussion about the priesthood following royal lines, Hebrews 5, citing Psalm 2:7 and Psalm 110:4, paints Christ as a priest and a king.42 As any Hebrew would understand, Jesus is not a son of Levi and thus not qualified in the flesh to be a priest. But rather than apologizing for Jesus’ Judean heritage, Hebrews explains how Jesus is an even greater priest than the “dying men” of Levi.43 In the end, his Davidic line does not disqualify him from the priesthood; it proves he is a priest of a greater order.
Hebrews argues Jesus is a greater priest than Aaron and solicits the priest-king Melchizedek to show why (see esp. 5:1–10). Accordingly, we find Jesus is a priest not based upon lineage but upon his superior life: Jesus “has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life” (7:16). This indestructible life is related to Christ’s resurrection and affords him the right and ability to mediate a covenant with eternal life (5:9; 9:12, 15; 13:20).44 In other words, as Hebrews 7:11–12 indicates, his priesthood ushers in a new covenant, with all of its attendant rights and privileges, but especially forgiveness (see Hebrews 8–10).
Christ, therefore, is the superior antitype to all previous priestly types. And as Hebrews 10:1 states, he is the substance to which all previous types were shadows. Accordingly, Christ becomes the final type, of which there is no greater formation. In this way, he fulfills all that the Prophets foretold (cf. 2 Cor 1:20) and becomes the transcendent antitype. That being said, Christ’s priesthood does not finish the story, nor does it exhaust the pattern of typology in Scripture. Rather, his new covenant priesthood inaugurates a new priesthood, namely the multi-national people redeemed by his final sacrifice (cf. Isa 66:18–21).
The Church: A Gathering of Supratypes
The final (and often overlooked) phase of typology comes after Christ. While Christ is the telos of the Old Testament, he repeatedly speaks of the way his fulfillment of the Law (Matt 5:17–20) will result in gathering his sheep (John 10), building his church (Matt 16:18), and saving his children (John 11:51–52). Accordingly, the NT authors regularly demonstrate the way Christ, as the head of the Church, is in union with his people. Thus, whatever is true of him, becomes true of them by way spiritual and covenantal union.45 When Paul calls Jesus the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16), he immediately enlarges that to all those who believe (Gal 3:26–29). While Jesus is the true suffering servant and light to the nations (Luke 2:32), Paul is able to appropriate Isaiah 49:6 to describe his own gospel ministry (Acts 13:47). Likewise, Christ shares his priestly ministry with every living stone brought into the house of God. For instance, building on the words of Psalm 118:24 in 1 Peter 2:4, he continues
You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9)
In this way, Peter identifies the believer as a royal priest. Paul does something similar in Romans 15:16 when he speaks of his evangelistic ministry in priestly language. And Hebrews itself speaks of Jesus as the “source of eternal salvation” (5:9). In other words, in covenantal union with Christ, the head shares with his body all his roles and responsibilities. In this union there is no confusion about who is the head, but the body of believers does possess, reflect, and recapitulate the offices that Christ himself experienced. Likewise, the church is comprised of royal priests who retrospectively image Christ himself. They are by no means superior to Christ, but they advance his work in the world—hence, Christians can be labeled as “supratypes” as evidence of Christ’s finished work. Moreover, because Christ’s priesthood continues (Heb 7:25), they carry out his work on earth. Admittedly, typological reflection in the church will alter from age to age, from place to place, and even person to person, but like the Spirit-inspired prophets of old, we should not miss the way in which new covenant believers image the Christ whose Spirit enlivens them. For this reason, typology does not end with Christ, rather it continues in the church—in this age and the next.
Such application to the church has been observed by Richard Hays and Richard Davidson. Hays calls this Paul’s “ecclesiocentric hermeneutic” and Davidson speaks of it in terms of ecclesiological structures.46 Both rightly perceive the way the New Testament applies the OT to the Church, but here it must be clarified that such ecclesial applications necessarily come through Christ.47 Jesus is the prism by which the OT promises are beautifully refracted in the Church. In other words, only in union with him do we find explanation for how Christians reflect Christ, how the church has the capacity to bear his image, and how Scripture applies the OT to the NT church (cf. 1 Cor 10:1–11). Therefore, rather than conceiving of ecclesiocentric typology as another kind of typology which runs parallel to or distinct from Christological or soteriological typology, I am arguing that it is better to understand typology in the Church as an extension of a covenantal, Christotelic typology. In this way, we see how a passage like Jeremiah 33, which promises the reconstruction of the Levitical house, to be fulfilled in the life and ministry of the Church.
This, I would contend, is the final phase of biblical typology in redemptive history.48 Whereas Adam and Eve were created to bear the image and likeness of Christ, now all new creations, through their union with Christ, are also being remade into the image of God (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). Thus, if Christ is the telos of every typological structure, his final stage is to re-create each typological structure in the Church, as he prepares his people for his return (John 14:1–3). This may even indicate why priestly language is used in Revelation to describe God’s people in this age and the age to come (1:6; 5:10; 20:6). All in all, this kind of development means that Christian formation is rooted in all God has done through redemptive history, now fulfilled in Christ. Accordingly, typology is not just something that moves from some persons, events, and institutions in the OT to Jesus, it actually moves in both directions, so that Jesus Christ stands as the unmistakable center of all creation. All types in the OT point towards him, but so do all new covenant disciples, who by their position in Christ are imitating him.
Typing Up Sola Scriptura: Covenant Topography and the Priority of the Canon
By laying out the contours of the priestly office, I have sought to demonstrate the plausibility of covenantal topography. The argument is that typology is more than a superficial similarity between two types, and it is more than a spiritual participation in the creation of intertextual figurations—something that arises in the mind of the reader’s imagination. Typology, instead, is a grammatical-historical approach to the biblical canon, which identifies “typological structures” that follow the semi-predictable contours of covenantal history. I have labeled this underlying terrain “covenantal topography” in order to stress the way “types” are created, developed, legislated, reformed, and finalized in Christ and the Church.
This argument has used the priestly type to illustrate its approach, but its argument is both larger and smaller than the priesthood. First, it is smaller, in that even if someone disagrees with how the priesthood has been argued here, the point is not to provide a final justification for the priestly type. Second, it is larger in that all types should be considered with respect to every biblical covenant, and should accordingly be considered across the whole canon. Covenantal topography is a conceptual term meant to help identify the rise and fall of these typological structures.
At the same time, I must add a caveat. Just as early cartographers of America misjudged the shape and size of the continent they were exploring, so I expect what is presented here may not fit every ridge and rivulet in Scripture. Moreover, just because one typological structure follows these contours in its way, does not mean that every other type will perfectly mirror the same rise and fall. For instance, some redemptive institutions like Passover and the Exodus may not have a starting place in Eden. Then again, an argument can be made that the creation narrative is written to a people on the other side of the Red Sea and that Moses is writing his creation narrative with an eye to later exodus themes.49
This caveat, in my estimation, does not overturn the argument made here. Rather, it calls us to have a Protestant word ethic, which means we give final authority to the text, not our conceptualizations thereof. Like multiple vehicles traversing parallel mountain roads, each will weave and bob in their own way. So in Scripture, every typological structure must be read on its own terms. That being said, because every type is formed within the same canon, experiences the same covenantal history, aims towards the same end (i.e., the person and work of Christ), and serves the same Church (1 Cor 10:11), they will show an unsurprising unity in their development.50 As Fig 1. indicated the triple office of Prophet, Priest, and King show remarkable signs of parallel development.
This approach to Scripture is not a method to “create types” in Scripture. Rather, it is a method of reading Scripture carefully, and seeing how any perceived type must have both a history and a future to qualify as a genuine type. With the boundaries set by Scripture itself, interpreters of the Word must abide by the “rules of the road.” These parameters ought not to be defined by outside traditions or ever-changing literary philosophies. They should be dictated by Scripture itself. In the name of sola scriptura, the Bible alone should show us how to read the Bible. And if it repeats itself with escalating shadows, types, patterns, and persons, we should be construct our reading habits accordingly. In fact, as James K. A. Smith has argued with respect to spiritual formation, creativity is not hampered by boundaries; it can often be its greatest catalyst.51
Accordingly, those interested in “figural readings,” may find that what appeals to them about reading spiritually may be better conceived through a careful reading of the text which hovers over the Word, as it moves from creation to new creation, from Genesis 1-2 to Revelation 21-22. Likewise, those most wary of allegorizing the text, may find that Scripture itself leads us to read the OT eschatologically, hence doing justice to typology, because every covenantal office, event, and institution builds off previous revelation and leads us to Christ. What has been argued here is not intended as a via media per se,but it is intended to further discussion about how any (purported) type relates to the rest of the Scripture, and ultimately to the one who is reading God’s life-giving words.
In the end, the only typology worth preaching is that which we find in Scripture. Fortunately, we do not need to “go over hedge and ditch” to “make a way” to get to Christ, as the old Welsh preacher said it.52 All of Scripture already is written with a plotline that flows from Eden through Israel’s hills and valleys until it terminates and overflows in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We do not need to fear typology nor create new spiritual meaning. Rather, following the terrain of the text, we need to keep reading the Bible until we like beekeepers find the sweet scent of gospel honey in the pages of God’s Word. If we do that, we will not (need to) add meaning to the text through some spiritual method of interpretation. Rather, we will hear what the Spirit originally intended as we pay careful attention to the contours of the biblical plotline.
We may call this approach to reading canonically “covenantal topography” or not, but whatever we do, let us endeavor to read Scripture with the very methods it commends and commands. In short, let us be unashamed of God’s Word, and in the five-hundredth year of the Reformation, let us continue to read it as Protestants committed to Scripture alone.