Typology as a Means of Interpretation: Past and Present -- By: Stanley N. Gundry

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 12:4 (Fall 1969)
Article: Typology as a Means of Interpretation: Past and Present
Author: Stanley N. Gundry

Typology as a Means of Interpretation:
Past and Present

Stanley N. Gundry*

*Mr. Gundry is a graduate of Union College of British Columbia and is a faculty member of The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, Illinois.


In his Preface to Essays on Old Testament Hermeneutics, Claus Westermann writes:

The current debate within the Old Testament research [sic] appears to concentrate particularly on two questions: What is the relationship between the story of the acts of God as testified to by the people of God, on the one hand, and the history of Israel as the historical research of our time sees it on the other? And the second question: Can the interpretation of the Old Testament, in presupposing a unity of Old and New Testaments as the Bible of Christianity, presuppose some one concept which will guide and determine interpretation as a whole - some one concept, for instance, such as typological exposition? Is the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament essentially simple or is it complex?1

This question of the validity and use of typology is one of the central issues being discussed today in the field of methodology of Biblical interpretation, but so far there seems to be little agreement as to validity, terminology, rules, and method. But the typological approach is not without its supporters, some of whom are quite avid. For instance, M. D. Goulder says that when properly used, typology “is the golden key that unlocks many a problem door, and it is not difficult to show, at least in general, that it can he applied, and at the same time to say when it cannot. “2

But most proponents of the typological method are not that confident. Indeed, there is a lack of confidence as well as disagreement as to what a proper definition of typology and the “logical task should be. Goulder, who confidently says that it is the golden key that unlocks many a problem door, gives a tautologous definition of typology when he says that it is “the science of determining types which he behind the records of the New Testament.”3 But what is a type? B. W. Anderson comes much closer to giving an acceptable definition of the modern

typological method when he says that typology is a means to express the Biblical understanding of history. “Usually typology is regarded as a way to understand the dramatic unity of Scripture, on the supposition that events of the Old Testament, seen from the angle of Christian faith, foreshadow and point beyond to the decisive eve...

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