Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Apologetical Significance of Typology [Pt. I]

by Hiram R. Diaz III


I. Typology and the Defense
of Christ’s Deity

In Scripture, a type is an Old Testament reality that foreshadows a greater New Testament reality centering around the person and work of Christ. Type and antitype are analogically related, the former being compared to a shadow of the actual reality, thus forming a movement from the lesser to the greater. Apologetically, this is very significant, seeing as human types of Christ in many cases push orthodox superlative descriptions of mere men to their limit, thereby revealing the divinity of the Greater One to whom these superlatives apply in a distinctly superior and literal manner.

The most striking example of this can be found in Psalm 45, where the human king Solomon is identified as “God.” The psalmist writes:
Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.[1]

Respecting his agentive function, Solomon is identified as “God,” i.e. as God’s representative. However, these verses also identify Solomon’s righteousness as nearly perfectly reflecting the righteousness of God when, in fact, Solomon did not hate wickedness as he should have, choosing instead to engage in idolatry as a result of his marriages to many pagan women.[2]

It is evident, then, that Solomon’s role as the king of Israel, and not his ontological and ethical nature, legitimizes this agentive identification of him as “God.” This appears to be the case as well in Ps 82:6-7, where the Holy Spirit declares:

I said, “You are gods,sons of the Most High,
all of you; nevertheless,
like men you shall die,
like men you shall die,and fall like any prince.”

As judicial representatives of God, these men are called “gods” and “sons of the Most High.” Their ontological and ethical nature, however, is clearly not divine. These men “shall die” for judging men unjustly,[3] which demonstrates that (i.)they are mortal and (ii.)sinful.

Given the trajectory of progressive revelation, the movement from the lesser to the greater, it follows that if Solomon and the unjust judges of Ps 82 are called “God” in an agentive sense, then it follows that the one who is greater than Solomon, and who judges with perfect justice, cannot be called “God” in the same sense that these OT figures are called “God” (i.e. the agentive sense).

Christ, in fact, makes this argument in John 10:34-38
, stating:

“Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he   called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—do you say of him whom the   Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”

The Lord Jesus here argues that if it is not blasphemy for the law to call the wicked judges of Israel “God,” in an agentive sense, then it cannot at all be blasphemy for Christ to claim to be the Son of God. Note that the Lord’s argument is itself a form of the lesser-to-greater movement. Whereas the “Gods” of Ps 82 were unjust and under the wrath of God, Jesus is without sin and in perfect union with God the Father. Whereas the “Gods” of Ps 82 held their titles “God” and “Sons of God” merely by the fact that they represented the Lord God, Christ Jesus shares in the exact nature of God and, therefore, is properly called the Son of God. Unlike the Jews, who repeatedly show that they do not share the attributes of, and therefore are not the sons of, Abraham,[4] Jesus’ works repeatedly show that he and the Father share the same ontological attributes.

Contrary to the claims of anti-trinitarians, Jesus’ does not reject the claim that he is making himself equal to God. Rather, he rejects the poor reasoning of his enemies, bringing their hypocrisy into relief. The teachers of Israel claim to love the Law, but they seemingly are unaware that even the wicked who perform an agentive function/representative function for God are called “Gods.” How could Christ’s claim to be the Son of God be blasphemy? It cannot. But, as has been noted, Christ goes a step further and identifies himself as the One to whom the terms God and Son of God apply in a distinctly superior and literal manner, as he is the just judge of men sent from God. He is not “God” in the agentive sense, but as regards his ontology (he is “sent” from God the Father) and his attributes (he does “the works” that the Father does).

If Christ is the Greater Judge of Israel, and the lesser judges of Israel are called gods and the sons of God, then Christ is God and the Son of God in a distinctly superior and literal manner. By virtue of the progression from the lesser to the greater,[5] therefore, Christ is God Almighty, the co-equal and co-eternal Son of God.

What is also of apologetical value in typology is its testimony to the unitary authorship of the Scriptures. We maintain that the Scriptures are the product of historically ensconced individuals, of course, but they wrote as they were led by the Spirit of God who unites even the most seemingly disparate texts of Scripture by means of an implicit and/or explicit focus on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. That the message of the Scriptures is the Lord Jesus’ person and work, i.e. the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is a truth derived from the Scriptures.[6] It is not imposed upon the text by men with overactive imaginations, but men who have eyes to see that Christ is the center is of God’s self-disclosure.


[1] Ps 45:6-7.
[2] See 1st Kgs 11:1-8.
[3] cf. Ps 82:1-2.
[4] cf. John 8:39-47.
[5] This movement forms a large of the teaching of the book of Hebrews, as has been noted by D.A. Carson in his lectures on the book of Hebrews, available here as a free PDF.
[6] See John 5:39 & Luke 24:25-27.