scripture study

Typology in a Nut shell: What is Typology?


If you’ve been in church within the last thirty years you’ve seen, bad or good, typology. If you’ve been in church only the last five years you probably don’t have a clue what it is.

Typology is the study of pictures or patterns that function in some sort of predictive way—though not necessarily foretelling the future. That doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s really way too simplistic so I’ll have to explain it in three levels while first telling you why this is important.

apologetics hermeneutics

Shadows and Not Typology in Colossians 2:17

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day— things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Col 2:16-17 // NASB95)

I’ve seen this passage used quite a number of times to support several conclusions: (1) that the ceremonial portion of the Law were a type that pointed to Christ (the anti-type) and therefore should not be followed anymore—whereas the moral portions should be followed; (2) that the Torah was integral to pointing to Christ so that a person currently has the freedom to keep it (yes, including the ceremonial portions) as long as they do so in respect to Christ; and (3), that all those things that belonged to Israel (law, tabernacle, priesthood) were shadows that now belong to the body of Christ, the Church, to be used by her as she sees fit. Obviously some disagreement on to what should be done with the shadows in Colossians 2—but they are in agreement that the shadows are the things from the past. I deny all three positions.