[K:NWTS 3/1 (May 1988) 40-42]

Book Review

Leonhard Goppelt, Typos. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1982.

ISBN: 0-8028-3562-7 (now, unfortunately, out-of-print).

Leonhard Goppelt's Typos is at the very least a thoroughly scholarly, perhaps the definitive treatment of the topic of its subtitle–"The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New." If it were nothing more than that it would be worth the reading, for the sheer volume of reference and prooftext in defense of its thesis. It is not an easy book, nor is it what one could call fun, except insofar as it is always a happy thing to watch a case being argued well. That much is to be said on its more or less technical side.

Typos has another dimension however. It could be taken simply as a wonderful compendium of themes, with brief commentaries, for biblical-theological sermons. Used for this purpose alone, it is a gold mine, well worth the price. Goppelt touches on everything from the more obvious first and second Adam and the church as the spiritual Israel to the less frequently rehearsed relationships between Jesus and Moses and Christ and the tabernacle. Goppelt's chapter on Hebrews, by the way, the New Testament book that "draws most extensively from the Old Testament for the development and support of its exposition" (161), is an especially rich source for biblical-theological subject matter.

Besides Hebrews there are chapters on the Synoptic gospels and Acts, the Pauline epistles, John, an appendix on James, and all of it preceded by an introductory section on typology in late Judaism and followed by a new chapter (added to the revision of 1965) on "Apocalypticism and Typology in Paul".

But Goppelt's purpose is not simply to provide us with a catalogue of Old Testament types and New Testament antitypes. It is to argue that typology was the hermeneutic normative for Judaism and is the hermeneutic of the New Testament–which is to say that both Old and New Testament are bound together in their mutual witness to redemptive history consummated in Christ. This much, at least, must be reckoned with if we are to understand the New Testament (and the Old Testament) in the way the writers intended. Even so, Goppelt maintains, typology is not for the New Testament writers a technique, not a rational scheme or "hermeneutical method with specific rules of interpretation." It is rather "a spiritual approach that looks forward to the consummation of salvation and recognizes the individual types of that consummation in redemptive history" (202). In other words, the typological interpretation of the Old Testament in the New is not something "applied"; it is not, for instance, a reading back into the Old Testament of New Testament ideas–but is of a piece with or the expression of the very structure of redemptive history itself. So that while the New Testament writers (and Jesus) were throughout conscious of their place in the Old Testament's fulfillment, they did not force connections. Neither is the type-antitype relationship "mere fulfillment" of a mechanical sort (although of course there is fulfillment), nor simply history repeating itself. No, true types are historical facts which are "divinely ordained representations . . . of future realities that will be even greater or more complete" (18). That is, not only must the new go beyond the possibilities of the old, fulfilling the old on a higher level (65), but the true antitype points, eschatologically, even beyond itself. But definitions of this sort are integral to the argument of the book and are understood best in their context. So are Goppelt's discussions of prototypes, false types and the important difference between type and allegory.

One question perhaps remains. What is the relationship between the more or less special topic of typology as interpreted by Goppelt and the biblical theology of, say, Geerhardus Vos? That is a question which requires more space than we have here, but suffice it to say that Typos, especially perhaps in the concluding chapter (of the original edition), is in a sense an expansion of Vos's treatment of "Symbol and Type" in Biblical Theology and could be read in conjunction with or in the context of Vos's broader discussion.

The book's orientation is decidedly evangelical, its purpose being to demonstrate the integrity of Scripture, even though there is the occasional reference to Deutero-Zechariah or Pseudo-Daniel. For anyone serious about biblical theology Typos is, if not a must, certainly an excellent choice for the shelf; one that won't remain there!