As Typology is such an important tool for understanding the Bible – in fact, the Bible is meaningless without it – it can seem odd that it’s largely unknown outside of the Orthodox and Catholic churches. For 1,000 years Typology was really the primary tool used to understand the scriptures, but today the twin errors of fundamentalism and literalism, both of which come in liberal and conservative versions, have deprived readers of this understanding. Those same errors have provided ammunition to antichristian attitudes which claim to know what the Bible says, based on the same fundamentalism and literalism. If you hear a politician or other “Talking Head” expounding on what “the Bible says” or “your Bible tells you to…” they have bought into these false ideas. The Bible is the Church’s book: reading it outside of the Church’s authority and spirit will always result in grave errors. You may read the text and even understand the meaning of the words as strung together, but if you have not the Holy Spirit and the mind of the Church, you will still be wrong.
Typology allows for the literal meaning of the text, the historical context, and the writer’s intentions whilst opening our eyes to the Spirit’s action in using the story to bring us, through the Bible, to the one and only proper context: Jesus, God and Man made one, dead and raised.
What is typology? Reading text while acknowledging and using the repetition of patterns.
Imagine a still, clear lake. Along the shore, there are massive groves of trees growing in the water. Everything is clear, still, silent. Imagine we are above the exact center of the lake. We can ses fish in the water. They swim here and there, but the lake us so deep and still that they do not disturb the surface. Everything is in perfect, quiet balance.
Now we drop a small pebble into the lake. Plop!
Ripples move out in perfect circles, but, eventually, the motion stops. The shape of the stone was repeatedly echoed in the widening circles.
Now… Let’s take a giant bolder and drop it in the lake. Kerploosh!
The widening circles will be giant and strong. Waves will wash on the shores. The fish will run away, the bottom of the lake will be churned up. The muddy water will wash among the trees around the lake, leaving high-water stains easily seen. Anyone with eyes to see can see the evidence of the event.
Typology reads the Bible in that way, tracing ripples from the central event of all history: the incarnation of God in human flesh, his life, death, and resurrection. The ripples are everywhere in our timeline: from the fall of Adam and Eve to the myths of the Hopi, from the Chinese Lao Tzu to the Irish Lugh. These ripples go from the past to the future as the life of Christ is continually echoed in the lives of his people, in the actions of the Church, in the Holy Mass.
Typology allows us to read history not as linear tedium, nor as a cyclical return, but rather as a great work of music carrying leitmotifs and interwoven fugal tapestries.
To correct Terence Mckenna, all of history is the shockwave of the Incarnation.
The question is not does this ancient event foreshadow Jesus, but rather how does it do so? The question is not does this current event echo Christ, but rather how faithfully does it do so?