Home > hermeneutics, S. Lewis Johnson, typology > Typology (from S. Lewis Johnson teachings)

Typology (from S. Lewis Johnson teachings)


S. Lewis Johnson frequently taught on the subject of typology, and now after studying through several of his series I have a much clearer understanding of what typology is and is not.  I’m currently listening to two series, one a study through Old Testament narrative chapters (Lessons from the Life of David), the other a doctrinal study of “The Divine Purpose.”  In previous Old Testament series I encountered SLJ’s usage of typology as early as Genesis and again in the “Typology in  Leviticus” study.  The subject comes up rather frequently, such that this week included treatment of typology in both the David series, and in the doctrinal study (currently in the section about dispensational theology and the hermeneutic).

Typology is really just another word for “illustration” or “example,” and has specific characteristics, including historicity and pattern, with correspondences between people, things (or institutions), or events.  The type is found in the Old Testament, a historical reality, as distinguished from allegory, of which John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progess” is a classic example.  According to S. Lewis Johnson, types are not restricted to only those which are explicitly pointed out in the New Testament (I have heard that claim before), but still must follow the pattern established by the definition.

The Bible does not contain any true allegories — and here SLJ has discussed the case of Galatians 4:24.   Some translations use the word “allegorically” (such as the ESV), but the more accurate translation should be “typologically”  (or “figuratively” as in the NIV).  In any case, the reference in Galatians 4 is to an event (Genesis 21) that actually happened, unlike the story and characters of Pilgrim’s Progress.

What I find especially helpful in Johnson’s teaching, are his many actual expositions of a text, in which he gives a point-by-point typology, showing in a particular case all of the features of a “type.”  During the Genesis series he gave such an example from the life of Joseph, showing the correspondences between Joseph and what he did for his brothers, and what Jesus has done and will yet do.  In the “Lessons from the life of David” he points out similar correspondences between David in the wilderness and Jesus Christ during the present age.

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