That Scripture Might Be Fulfilled: Typology and the Death of Christ. By Paul Hoskins. Longwood, FL: Xulon Press, 2009. 200 pages. Softcover, $15.99.
In this volume, Paul Hoskins aims to provide an “accessible introduction to typology” that will help demystify some of the “mysterious uses” of the Old Testament in the New Testament (xv). For Hoskins, the biblical writers demonstrate that in his death, Jesus fulfills a number of “types” found in Old Testament texts. To make sense of the New Testament portrait of the suffering and death of Christ, an interpreter must recognize that the biblical writers have connected their message to the witness of the Old Testament. Hoskins strives to demonstrate the enduring value of typology in the pursuit of this task.
In chapter one, Hoskins begins by acknowledging that there is “baggage associated with typology” and that “types and typology are widely associated with fanciful interpretations of the Old Testament” (18). In certain circles, typology can become a catchall term for bad interpretation. In this context, Hoskins maintains that a controlled, modest use of typology can prove fruitful for understanding the way the New Testament writers speak about Christ. He defines typology as “the aspect of biblical interpretation that treats the significance of Old Testament types for prefiguring corresponding New Testament antitypes” (20). In this scheme, “Events (like the Exodus), persons (like David), or institutions (like the Temple) are common categories for Old Testament types” (20). These types prefigure and correspond to the later appearance of an antitype. This typological relationship rests on a high view of God’s providence in history where God both shapes the history of Israel and also inspires the Scriptures that record and interpret that history. Thus, the typological relationship is designed by God. In this divine plan, the antitype does not merely repeat or echo the traits of the previous type, but rather fulfills, replaces, and surpasses that original event, figure, or institution. Hoskins seeks to show that the meaning of these terms is built upon their use in the New Testament (27–30).
In an effort to “curb the excesses that have damaged the reputation of typological interpretation” (25), Hoskins suggests a number of interpretive controls that can guide readers. For instance, Hoskins argues that a careful study of the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament is essential. Because typological relationships span the Testaments, the most convincing examples are ones supported by both Old Testament and New Testament texts. In other words, the biblical material “should produce convincing evidence for a correspondence” (25). Consequently, Hoskins argues that interpreters should put no more emphasis on a connection than is warranted by the biblical evidence. The identification of a typological relationship in the history of interpretation can also guide readers. In this respect, Hoskins presents the patristic period as a rich resource for typological interpretation, while noting some cautions. Returning to issues of definition, Hoskins points out the important differences between typology and allegory. He argues that in the church fathers, one can find examples of allegory, good typology, and also bad typology. Accordingly, contemporary interpreters should not collapse these categories and think of typology primarily as an allegorical endeavor.
After this introductory chapter, Hoskins examines specific examples of typology in the New Testament, beginning with texts from the Gospels. Hoskins first shows how the direct quotations of the Psalms of David in the passion narratives of the four Gospels point to an underlying David typology (chapter two). He next investigates the Old Testament texts that Jesus alludes to in his words at the Last Supper (chapter three) and also traces how Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of the Passover lamb in the gospel of John (chapter four).
In the last two chapters, Hoskins switches gears and examines the way the writer of Hebrews presents Jesus as the fulfillment of key old covenant institutions. Specifically, he traces how the writer uses Old Testament types to teach believers that they can enter into the true tabernacle through the blood of Jesus (chapter five) and how the unique sacrifice of the Messiah takes away sin (chapter six). Hoskins concludes that the writer “believes that God specifically designed the Tabernacle and its sacrifices to prefigure the better realities to come” (135). In these five chapters, Hoskins argues that a close study of the New Testament reveals a host of significant Old Testament types. For him, “the abundance of these types shows how abundantly God was predicting the climax of his saving work in Christ” (165).
Two important strengths of this volume relate to the sometimes neglected and misunderstood topics of typology and the Old Testament. In relation to an academic context, Hoskins provides a clear definition and illustration of traditional typology. Acknowledging that there are many ways to do typology poorly, Hoskins outlines the primary elements of the approach and offers a set of reflective controls for how to practice it responsibly. He strives to stay within the bounds that the New Testament writers set in finding and examining the relationship between types and antitypes. This typological modesty is instructive and should ease the apprehensions of some who have reacted to exaggerated caricatures of the approach.
In relation to a church context, Hoskins outlines the way that a pastor or teacher could recover the riches of the Old Testament for the interpretation of the New Testament. His chapters discuss at length significant New Testament texts that are frequently neglected due to their pervasive use of the Old Testament (e.g., Heb 8–10). Further, Hoskins sketches the context of several broad Old Testament themes (e.g. the old covenant sacrificial system). These expositions in particular will equip pastors with a framework that can help them lead their congregations in thinking about their practice of the Lord’s Supper. Hoskins also supplies a few sets of texts that readers can use in reflecting on the significance of Christ’s death during the Easter season (189–90). These elements serve one of Hoskins’ goals in writing, namely, to aid believers in their Bible reading and to encourage them in their worship.
One area where this volume might be strengthened relates to the understanding and identification of types in Old Testament texts. Though Hoskins helpfully highlights the way that types are identified by Jesus and the New Testament writers, there may also be room for reflection regarding the compositional strategies of the Old Testament authors. One might ask what role the Old Testament authors play in the way that types are originally portrayed. Is it possible that one of the reasons why a New Testament author has identified a person or event as a type is because an Old Testament author has portrayed it as such? For example, it seems that the Old Testament writers already view David as a paradigmatic figure whose life represents a pattern for the coming Messiah. Demonstrating that a typological relationship is a function of the compositional strategy of both Old Testament and New Testament writers would deepen the character of the connection. Even if only a few types fall into this category, it might be helpful to ask this kind of question more directly.
Moreover, many of the connections Hoskins notes between the two Testaments involve quotations and allusions. His arguments here might profit from further reflection on the nature of these intertextual connections and on the criteria for identifying and confirming their presence in New Testament texts. In other words, there may be a number of literary considerations that would complement Hoskins’ cogent historical and theological analysis.
In sum, for the reasons outlined above, pastors and scholars would benefit from carefully considering the approach and interpretive work presented in this accessible resource.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary