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Bridging the Gap between the Old and New Testaments

Greg Clarke
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This article is a follow up to Jumping the Gap (Joshua Ng) Christians often don't know what to do with the Old Testament. We know that Jesus has 'fulfilled', 'abolished' and 'reinterpreted' its teaching; but we also know that "all cripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" !" Tim #$%&'. o how are the food laws in (e)iticus going to train us in righteousness* What kind of rebuke do we get from the elaborate temple descriptions at the end of +,ekiel* -uestions like these lead us to push the Old Testament aside. .t's /ust too obscure, we tell oursel)es, and stick with more familiar literature such as the 0ew Testament epistles. We sense a huge gap between the Old and 0ew. .n the article "Jumping the Gap" !1riefing 2"34', we concluded that it is wrong5headed to feel there is an insurmountable cultural gap between the world of the 0ew Testament belie)er and the world of the twentieth centur6 Christian. 1iblical theolog6 shows us that we both li)e in the same age, the 'last da6s', and our common faith outweighs our peripheral differences. We also began to e7plore the wa6 8od's Old Testament promises and purposes are fulfilled in the 0ew, and what that sa6s for how we ought to treat the Old Testament. One of the ke6 ideas which was raised was how the two Testaments are related through t6polog6.

.n this article, we look at what t6polog6 is, and how it can help us to interpret the Old Testament with confidence. .n fact, as we shall disco)er, t6polog6 demonstrates that the temporal and theological gap between the Old and 0ew Testament is not a hindrance to our 1ible reading, but a help. .n fact, it is an essential part of understanding the 1ible as a whole.

The art of typology


9s we stated in :Jumping the 8ap', 8od's re)elation de)elops and unfolds throughout cripture, culminating in Jesus Christ and the 8ospel accounts. While Jesus is the pinnacle of 8od's plan and re)elation, the Old Testament gi)es us the categories of thought we need in order to understand Jesus. Old Testament e)ents, people and institutions ser)e as e7amples and patterns so that when we reach the 8ospels, we can clearl6 understand who he was and what he came to do. These patterns and e7amples are also known as t6pes. The6 function like )isual aids; the6 do more than tell us about an historical e)ent or person 5 the6 suggest that the e)ent or person is t6pical of certain characteristics. ;or e7ample, the tabernacle and the whole sacrificial s6stem are t6pes. 9s well as being 8od's instituted means of relating to his Old Testament people, the6 also s6mbolise the truth that sinful humanit6 cannot approach a hol6 8od, e7cept through a 8od appointed human mediator, who offers an acceptable animal sacrifice to cleanse mankind's sin. The6 are t6pical of how human beings and 8od must relate. The most important aspect of a t6pe is that it is incomplete. .t alwa6s points be6ond itself to some greater realit6; we often call t6pes 'shadows', since the6 re)eal the form of realit6 but aren't themsel)es complete. The sacrificial s6stem was ne)er enough to establish hol6 relations between 8od and his creatures; its inade<uacies are made ob)ious throughout the Old Testament !e.g. =s >3$&5?; cf. @eb %3$A5%3, =s A%$%&5%B; .sa %$%35%B'. 1ut without the t6pe, we wouldn't know that

something greater was re<uired. ince we know about the sacrifices which 8od re<uired for atonement for .srael's sin !(e) %&5%B', we are prepared for the coming acrifice who will atone for the sins of the world. This kind of corresponding 0ew Testament fulfilment of a t6pe !or shadow' is known as an anti5t6pe !or realit6', where 'anti' means not 'against' but 'in place of. The all5per)ading 0ew Testament anti5t6pe is Jesus. 9s =aul puts it, all of 8od's promises are '6es' in him; he is our great '9men' to all of 8od's plans !"Cor %$ "3'. @e is both the real high priest and the acceptable sacrifice$ he enables sinful humanit6 to approach 8od in hea)en b6 offering himself on the cross; his blood6 death cleanses us from all sin !@eb 45 %3'. There is thus a strong connection between the t6pe and the anti5t6pe. Cost importantl6, while the anti5t6pe is similar to the t6pe, it is 6et different and greater, /ust as a real plane is greater than a plastic model. Thus the real @ol6 =lace is hea)en itself !anti5t6pe', not an earthl6 tent !the tabernacle t6pe'; Jesus is a sinless and eternal high priest !antit6pe', unlike the sinful and mortal (e)itical priests !t6pe'; Jesus' death is effecti)e once for all !anti5t6pe', while animal sacrifices were ultimatel6 ineffecti)e !t6pe 5 see @eb B5%3'. The t6pe is thus referred to as a 'cop6' or 'shadow' of the real thing 5 recognisabl6 related, but lesser in meaning and significance !@eb ?$A, %3$%'.

Typology bridges the gap


T6polog6 bridges the time and theolog6 gap between the Old and 0ew Testaments. .t is a magnificent bridge, made with intricate craftsmanship, and lanes running in both directions. The Old Testament pro)ides the t6pes for the 0ew; the 0ew re)eals the realit6 of the Old. This t6pological wa6 of reading the 1ible is indicated too often and too e7plicitl6 in the 0ew Testament itself for us to be in an6 doubt that it is the right

approach to interpreting it. .n bridging the gap between the Testaments, t6polog6 shows us which aspects of the Old Testament are still appropriate for Christians to follow !continuities' and which aspects are no longer rele)ant !discontinuities'.

CONT N! T "#
;irstl6, t6polog6 forges the lines of continuit6 between the t6pe and the anti5t6pe 5 between 8od's word in the Old Testament epochs and 8od's word in Christ. Thus the reason wh6 8od's word to the e7odus generation can be applied so directl6 to the Corinthian Christians is because the6 are undergoing the same e7perience. ;or /ust as the e7odus generation had been sa)ed from sla)er6 in +g6pt, and fell while en route to the promised land !% Cor %3$%5A', so Christians ha)e been sa)ed from sla)er6 to sin, and face the real danger of falling while en route to hea)en !% Cor 4$"> 5%3$%>; compare @eb #5>'. The e7odus e)ent is thus a t6pe of the sal)ation e)ent which Christians e7perience. We are in the same situation as the6 were 5 not because our cultures are similar, but because of the wa6 8od is fulfilling his unfolding histor6 of sal)ation. Clearl6, our eternal sal)ation from /udgement is greater than their earthl6 sal)ation from +g6ptian sla)er6. The relationship between 9dam and +)e in 8enesis " is also a t6pe. Just as 9dam had authorit6 o)er the woman, so Christ is the head of his bride, the church !+ph A'. Christ and the church is the anti5t6pe 5 the real marriage of which the partnership between 9dam and his wife is merel6 a cop6 !+ph A$#%5#"'. Det this does not do awa6 with human marriages, nor with the need for the wife to be in submission to her husband. 1ecause marriage is a t6pe, it must reflect the structure of its anti5t6pe. The real meaning of marriage, as +phesians A tells us, is to reflect Christ's relationship with the church. .t should then not surprise us that this authorit6

structure in the famil6 is reflected in the church, since one of the ke6 images of the church is "8od's household" or famil6 !% Tim #$A, %A'. .t is within this conte7t that =aul applies 8od's word in 8enesis "5# to the role of women in church. 9gain, the 'hermeneutical gap' is bridged not b6 seeking to align our cultural particulars with those of the 1ible, but b6 appreciating how 8od re)eals himself through t6pes and their fulfilment.

$ #CONT N! T "#
T6polog6 also e7plains the lines of discontinuit6 between 8od's word in the Old Testament and 8od's word in Christ. Thus, it is because Christ's death !the anti5t6pe' is the all sufficient sacrifice for sins, that the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament !the t6pe' ha)e become obsolete and are no longer to be practised. This is an e7ample where in fulfilling the t6pe, the anti5t6pe actuall6 replaces the t6pe. imilarl6, on the issue of (e)itical food laws, t6polog6 holds the ke6 as to wh6 the6 ha)e become outmoded. The laws regarding clean and unclean food were t6pes s6mbolising the truth that cleanliness !or holiness' was crucial in approaching 8od. These laws marked out the Old Testament Jew as distinct, hol6 and set apart from the pagan nations around them. With the coming of Christ, there are no longer to be an6 distinctions between Jew and 8entile, for both are one in Christ !9cts %3, 8al "5#'. The kingdom of 8od is not about what we do or don't eat, but righteousness, peace, and /o6 in the @ol6 pirit !Eom %>$ %B'. 9gain such Old Testament laws ha)e become obsolete. @owe)er, this does not mean that we no longer need to read the Old Testament laws regarding animal sacrifices or food laws. The6 are not irrele)ant to us, for the6 still function as patterns so that we can full6 understand Christ and what his death has achie)ed. The6 ha)e instructi)e )alue for us, but there is no )alue in obser)ing them. The6 are not part of the wa6 we now relate to 8od; the6 do, howe)er, educate us

about how we relate to 8od. ;or instance, while we are no longer to make sacrifices for sin, we are to offer our whole sel)es as a li)ing sacrifice to 8od, worshipping him with the sacrifices of praise and good deeds !Eom %"$%5", @eb %#$%A5 %&'. 9nd while food laws are no longer applicable, we are still to "be hol6 as he is hol6", being different from the pagans 5 not in what we eat, but in our godliness of life !% =et %$%#5%&'. The <uestion is begged at this stage$ @ow do we know which t6pes ha)e become obsolete and which continue to ha)e )alue* Wh6, for instance, did we mention 8alatians #$"? without suggesting that the t6polog6 of male and female has also become obsolete, since =aul mentions this alongside Jew and 8reek, sla)e and free* The answer is that the 1ible tells us which t6pes continue and which don't. We are told that food laws no longer appl6 !e.g. Ck B$%4'; that di)ision between Jew and 8entile no longer applies !e.g. 9cts %35%%'; that structured relationships between men and women and parents and children do still appl6 !e.g. % Cor %%$%5%&; +ph A$""5##'. We need to use cripture itself as our guide to how an anti5t6pe fulfils its t6pe, and not appl6 e7ternal criteria to work out what li)ing in the age of fulfilment ought to in)ol)e.

%ritten for us
;or t6polog6 to pla6 its role in an unfolding stor6, there must be a significant passage of time between the displa6ing of the t6pes and the re)elation of the anti5t6pes. Time and reflection are re<uired to show how the t6pes operate, their structures and significance, and their incompleteness 5 the wa6 the6 point towards future fulfilment. The passing of time from Old Testament to 0ew Testament is, therefore, not a hindrance to comprehending the 1ible, but an aid to understanding. The passage of .srael from the da6s of the patriarchs, through sla)er6 and e7odus, promise and prophec6, blessing and curse, pro)ides for the 0ew Testament reader a whole series of ideas and images and s6mbols with which to understand the work of Christ.

9nd what a rich storehouse it isF There is almost no aspect of the gospel which does not call upon an Old Testament t6pe for its meaning$ Jesus as temple, Jesus as sacrificial (amb, Jesus as Word of 8od, the e7odus of sinners from spiritual sla)er6, the =romised (and of the 0ew Jerusalem, and so on. .t is legitimate e)en to look closel6 at particular e)ents and see them as anti5t6pes of Old Testament t6pes. ;or e7ample, the beginning of Catthew's 8ospel tells of Jesus' birth and earl6 ministr6 in terms of a new e7odus. 9s a bab6, he is e7iled to +g6pt due to @erod's slaughter of the children, and later returns to his homeland !Catt "'. @e undergoes temptation in the wilderness, and remains firm where .srael failed !Catt >'. uch t6polog6 is t6pical !of course' and comprehensi)e in the 0ew Testament. The complaint might be made at this point that we are not letting the Old Testament speak for itself 5 that we are imposing interpretations upon it that could ne)er ha)e occurred to its authors or original readers. To this charge, we must plead guilt6. ;or Christians, the Old Testament does not stand alone. .ts true meaning is not found outside of reference to the 0ew Testament. .n fact, the original readers of the Old Testament are not e)en its intended readership. Certainl6, 8od did speak to the .sraelites in the Old Testament; certainl6 the6 learnt true knowledge of 8od through his law and prophets; certainl6 the6 understood something of the truths which their t6pes represented. 1ut the6 also knew that their understanding of what the6 were hearing or speaking or writing was far from complete$ Concerning this sal)ation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to 6ou, searched intentl6 and with the greatest care, tr6ing to find out the time and circumstances to which the pirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. .t was re)ealed to them Gthe prophetsH that the6 were not ser)ing themsel)es but 6ou, when the6 spoke of the

things that ha)e now been told 6ou b6 those who ha)e preached the gospel to 6ou. % =eter %$ %35%" While the Old Testament people were the first to hear 8od's word, that word to them was but the preparator6 part of what 8od was intending to sa6 to us who li)e in the age of fulfilment, the age of the anti5t6pe, the age of the gospel of Jesus. Those who hear the first four parts of a fi)e5part /oke might ha)e heard it first, but if the punch line has been withheld from them the6 can hardl6 be )iewed as the intended audience. .t is we who are pri)ileged to hear the punch line who are the real intended audienceF The 0ew Testament is )er6 e7plicit about the purposes of Old Testament e)ents. ;or instance, the wilderness /udgements on the e7odus generation "happened to them as t6pes and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfilment of the ages has come" !% Cor %3$%%'. =aul is at least asserting that those /udgements are still rele)ant for us. 1ut he is sa6ing more than that. The /udgements upon them were but t6pes which pointed forward to the potential anti5t6pe, namel6 the /udgement that will come upon us in the age of fulfilment if we too fall into idolatr6. While those /udgements ser)ed as a warning sign for the Old Testament people !0um "&$ %3; =s 4A', the6 were preparator6, written down in preparation for the warning that 8od is now gi)ing to Christians. .t is not /ust that the Old Testament record of these e)ents is still rele)ant for us, but in 8od's re)elator6 plan the6 were primaril6 intended for us. ;inall6, it is onl6 in the age of the gospel that the Old Testament itself is acti)ated to re)eal what had pre)iousl6 been hidden in it. Consider =aul's do7olog6 at the )er6 end of Eomans$ 0ow unto him who is able to establish 6ou b6 m6 gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the re)elation

of the m6ster6 hidden for long ages past, but now re)ealed and made known through the prophetic writings b6 the command of the eternal 8od, so that all nations might belie)e and obe6 him5to the onl6 wise 8od be glor6 fore)er through Jesus ChristF 9men. Eomans %&$"A5"B There is a m6ster6, a secret, that has been hidden from Old Testament times, and is now re)ealed in the gospel age. .f we had been writing to the Eomans, we most likel6 would ha)e said the m6ster6 had been re)ealed 'in the gospel'; =aul writes that it was "made known through the prophetic writings" 5 through the Old Testament itself. 16 8od's command, the Old Testament now re)eals things that were there pre)iousl6, but hidden. The light of the gospel illumi5 nates the shadow6 e)ents and figures of the Old Testament; through the anti5t6pes, we recognise the t6pes. The implications of this are profound. 8od used the passage of time in order to de)elop a deep and far5reaching s6stem of t6pes which would help us make sense of who Jesus is. @e re)ealed himself graduall6, then ultimatel6 in Christ, the .mage and Word of 8od who brings together all of 8od's promises and purposes. The 0ew Testament e7plains for us the wa6s in which the Old Testament t6pes ha)e their anti5 t6pe in Christ. When we e7amine the Old Testament in the light of this unfolding t6polog6, its application to Christians toda6 becomes more apparent. We li)e in the age of fulfilment, so we focus not upon the t6pes, but upon the anti55 t6pes. .n them we ha)e true and liberating knowledge of 8od.

"ndnotes
=eter's )ision and his encounter with Cornelius is an interesting multi5la6ered t6pe in)ol)ing food and race. ee also 9cts %A for clarification of how law5abiding Jewish Christians and 8entile con)erts are to relate. The fulfilment of a t6pe can result in some comple7ities; it is rarel6 a straightforward abolition of the t6pe.
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