Editorial: Thinking About Typology -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 21:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Editorial: Thinking About Typology
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Editorial: Thinking About Typology

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author with Peter Gentry of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012) and God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2015), and the co-editor of Building on the Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Crossway, 2015 with Gregg Allison), and Progressive Covenantalism (B&H, 2016 with Brent Parker), and author of God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of the Person of Christ (Crossway, 2016) and Christ Alone—The Uniqueness of Jesus as Savior (Zondervan, 2017).

All Christians believe in some notion of “typology.” In fact, it is hard to read Scripture and to do theology without it. For example, think of Christology, the study of Christ’s person and work. As we think through how Christ is presented biblically, just think of how Scripture speaks of him: he is the Son, the last Adam, our great prophet, priest, and king, the true Israel, vine, and so on. All of these descriptions, whether they are names, titles, or roles he fulfills, are built on typological structures, rooted and grounded in the OT. It is impossible to think biblically about Jesus apart from thinking about typology.

However, although all Christians embrace some idea of typology, there is still debate regarding what typology is, its nature, and how to determine it. In fact, within evangelical theology, ongoing debates between covenant theology, dispensationalism, and progressive covenantalism often center on different conceptions of typology, or at least its application. For example, dispensational theology will rarely affirm that Israel is a “type” of Christ, that Christ fulfills her role, and that all of God’s promises to Israel are realized in

himself and the church. Instead, dispensational theology will often view the Israel-Christ relationship in terms of an analogy, and that the role of Israel, as a national people, is not fulfilled in Christ and the church. Behind this view is a specific understanding and application of typology.

Or, think of covenant theology. When it comes to the genealogical principle—“to you and your children”—commencing in the Abrahamic covenant, and for them, continuing unchanged throughout the new covenant—they do not view this principle typologically. Baptists, on the other hand, do view the genealogical principle typologically...

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