St. Augustine in His Study, Vittore Carpaccio (1502)

What is Typology?

Since the beginning of Christianity, the Church has studied the connection between the Old Testament and the New Testament through “typology”. Typology is the practice of reading the God’s works in the Old Testament and seeing how it points to Jesus Christ in the New Testament.1

St. Augustine said, “the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.” In other words, there are hints of Christ and His Church lying hidden in the Old Testament.1

And it’s not about looking for simple similarities. In practicing typology and studying the Old Testament, we ask ourselves, what great future reality are these events, people and places pointing to? What is so significant about these things? Do these things tell us something more about Christ and His Church?2

Examples of Typology

For example, when God gave Moses the Law, did it tell us something about a new law? According to Hebrews, yes, it pointed to the New Law that Christ was to give.2

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. – Hebrews 10:1

Did Adam point to someone important in creation in the future? According to St. Paul, yes, Adam pointed to Christ who is the head of the New Creation.2

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. – Romans 5:14

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. – 1 Cor. 15:45

Regarding the Church, did the flood point to any new great reality? According to St. Peter, yes, it pointed to Baptism.2

…God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you… – 1 Pet. 3:20-21

The Importance of Typology

Typology helps us answer questions about Christ and the Church where the answers aren’t so clear.

For example, when Christ said to St. Peter that He would give Him the keys to the kingdom, what role was St. Peter to have in the future? (We will discuss this later when we talk about the Papal Office).

When Christ said to His mother on the Cross, “Woman, behold your son”, what role was His mother to have in the future? (See “The New Eve“). Typology helps us find the answer.2

By studying the Old Testament, we can look for events and people in similar circumstances and see what God is pointing to in the future.