Wednesday, December 05, 2012

James Hamilton's definition of "typological interpretation"

In continuing to study for my lesson tonight on Exodus 30:1ff., I wanted to read something on typology. First place I turn (of course) is this excellent resource by my friend, Jim Hamilton. It in turn sends me to an article by him in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, where I find an expanded definition which I now share with you:
I would offer the following working definition of typological interpretation: typological interpretation is canonical exegesis that observes divinely intended patterns of historical correspondence and escalation in significance in the events, people, or institutions of Israel, and these types are in the redemptive historical stream that flows through the Bible.  Some exposition of aspects of this definition will perhaps be helpful, starting with the last part first: (1) the progress of revelation through salvation history as recorded in the Bible functions as banks of the stream for typological interpretation. Things that are outside the banks of this stream do not match the “type” of interpretations that qualify as valid typological readings. (2) Divine intention points to God’s sovereign, providential work in the drama of human history. (3) Typological interpretation of the Bible looks for the ways the human authors of the Bible have “read” God’s work in history, and it seeks to discern cues the human authors give as to how they have interpreted that work. (4) Typological interpretation then shapes the worldview of those who have learned interpretation from the biblical authors, and we who would learn from the biblical authors seek to interpret the world and our experiences in it in the same way that the biblical authors have. We seek to have our symbolic universe shaped by the symbolic universe portrayed in the Bible. We seek to build our interpretive framework after the pattern of the interpretive framework employed by the biblical authors. Our world is, as it were, read through the lens given to us by the Bible. ["Was Joseph a Type of the Messiah? Tracing the Typological Identification between Joseph, David, and Jesus," by James M. Hamilton (Vol. 12: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 12. 2008 [4] [49])
It's well-written and thus a bit dense. That's why I'm posting it, so you can mull and chew. Like I'm doing.


Julian said...

Interesting stuff. My wife and I recently listened to a sermon on Galatians 4, where the allegorical interpretation of Hagar and Sarah is introduced, along with a warning from the pastor to lean not too heavily on allegory unless Scripture itself provides the allegorical interpretation. My wife and I had an interesting discussion afterward about the difference between allegory and typology, and this passage you present certainly helps to elucidate.

Charlie Frederico said...

I think a more exegetically solid understanding would be the tracing of the Seed/seed-line throughout Scripture. Beginning in Genesis 3:15 and continuing until Christ. Thus, these men, in the sense of the Seed of the woman who was to come, are a type (pattern or kind) of Messiah. This avoids philosophical rhetoric and conclusions that can be confusing.

mikivered said...

Dan, have you read Richard Longenecker's book, BIBLICAL EXEGESIS IN THE APOSTOLIC PERIOD? The entirre book bears close study, but I was particularly thinking of his chapter on whether we can (or should) reproduce the exegesis of the Apostles. I read this book many years ago when it first came out and he has since issued a revised edition which interacts with Richard Hays. His conclusion discouraging our engaging in exegesis after the pattern of the Apostles has guided me for many years now and kept me from many errors, I believe.

DJP said...

I have the book but haven't read it; I have heard that perspective, and enthusiastically don't share it. I believe it's unwarranted by the text, very dangerous, and basically a counsel of despair.

Michael Rydelnik makes a good case for the necessity of our understanding and using apostolic exegesis.

mikivered said...

Dan, you should read Longenecker before you hop on the canonical train with Rydelnik who is following Sailhammer. Even you, in your glowing endorsement of Rydelnik's book, voice unease with many of his sleights of hand.It is one thing for us to understand the hermeneutical stance of the Apostle's and another for us to engage in such tactics ourselves, e.g. typology.

DJP said...

It's on my longer list of things to do. But honestly, if you convince me that Christianity is based on a hidden and previously undiscernible (and often antithetical) "meaning" of OT texts — a "meaning" NONE of the authors or readers could have divined, and sometimes a meaning PRECISELY OPPOSITE to what they all would have taken — you will at the same time convince me that it is false.

I've tried, but I can't see it any other way, and all the grand talk in the world hasn't yet convinced me, nor can I conceive that it will.

trogdor said...

I've never understood the appeal to the so-called "Apostles' hermeneutic" to make it seem like they were seeing stuff in the text that isn't there, completely re-interpreting the text with meaning that isn't possible to discern even after the fact. If that was true, how would we have any confidence in the things they wrote? Why would we think it's plain truth, without some hidden layer of undetectable meaning we're all doomed to miss until the next set of revelation reveals the true meaning to us?

I'm having a hard time seeing how that view is all that different from Rob Bell's nonsense. You know the one from Velvet Elvis - how he said it wouldn't really matter if the Apostles just made up the virgin birth to appeal to a Mithras cult; so long as the message is positive, it doesn't affect his faith at all if Scripture is full of such lies (and with his 'faith', I can't help but agree). Some say that the Apostles just made up stuff that isn't really in the OT, but that's OK because it gets the point across or something. Their hermeneutic is completely irrational and makes junk up, and we shouldn't really try to understand or follow it because it doesn't make sense with the original text. How is that different from the rank heretic Bell?

So working through that definition and trying to translate it into English:

(1) If I understand correctly, he's saying that typological interpretation must be along the lines of the plainly-apparent main flow of revelation. So, the sacrifical system and the Passover can be seen to point to Christ. But claiming Ibzan's 60 children are typologically pointing to, I dunno, the sons of Sceva or something, would be too out-of-bounds to even consider.

(2) Typology recognizes that these things didn't just happen. They were divinely orchestrated - not just in their occurrence, but in their recording in Scripture. Why, of the thousands of years of human history pre-Abraham, were those specific stories recorded (for Israel, and for us)? Why, of all the stories about Abraham's life that Moses could have recorded, did he pick those specific ones?

What is the point of the story in Genesis 12:10-20? Think of it in isolation. Now consider how it would relate to the Israelites that Moses was writing to. Make more sense? Typology would (I think!) say that event was orchestrated by God, predicting the escalated event of the Exodus. (The Nephilim in Genesis 6 and Numbers 13 could be another example)

(3) I think he's saying that Biblical authors, even the Apostles, were rational and consistent. When they saw event X pointing to escalated future event Y, there was a reason, and a thought process we can understand. They weren't just making these connections up. This study is an attempt to honor that God is a God of order and cannot lie; if He had the Apostles record one thing as 'fulfilling' another, it really, actually did, and we can see how.

(4) As usual, if Scripture declares something and I don't see it, I'm wrong. It would be arrogant (and dangerous) to suggest my interpretation of things is superior to, say, Peter's or Matthew's. Instead, I should seek to understand how they develop that meaning, and conform my own understanding of the text to that of the Apostles.

At least I think that's what he's saying.