Types, Patterns and Shadows

Evan R. C. Reynolds, Oxford

Category: Exposition

A MOST important ability cultivated by the Holy Spirit in a Christian is the interpretation of the Old Testament pictures to shed light on New Testament doctrine. The Lool for the task is 'biblical typology'. It rests on three divine and important principles. Firstly, God is immutable and consistent in the way He deals with His creatures throughout history. Secondly, God is in sovereign control of historical events from first to last. Finally, He reveals Himself progressively throughout the ages of human history. These principles operate from Genesis to Revelation, so that scripture is not merely historical, but it is interpretable to lead the believer to a fuller knowledge of His Lord and Saviour.

We have an infallible guide to the use of typology in the way that New Testament writers employed some of the Old Testament pictures. They gave the illustrations several somewhat distinct technical names (which we shall try to understand), and so distinguished them from the New Testament doctrines they picture, to which they gave other names.

Here is a table to show at a glance the five important and interrelated Greek words and, in brackets, the English words which the translators used in the Authorised Version in just four chapters of the epistle to the Hebrews. It was the translators' deliberate policy to introduce this variety, but it can make the student's task harder. To make matters worse, in different contexts there are other Greek words translated by these English words, and other English renderings of these five Greeks words. If we look in turn at the way the Holy-Spirit guided the New Testament writers to use these Greek words when interpreting the Old Testament, we shall be blessed in our Bible study. We have to admit that die two words 'type' and 'antitype' so commonly used in ministry today, although these are obviously the first two Greek words in our table, do not appear in our Authorised Version (but see the marginal translation of tupos in 1 Cor. 10. 11).

Table 1











Heb. 8. 5

Heb. 9. 24

Heb. 9. 23

Heb. 8. 5

Heb. 9. 9



Heb. 10. 1

Heb. 11. 19


Heb. 8. 5


Tupos is the most inconsistently translated. Coming from a root indicating the impression made by a blow, the word seems to have the senses, 'one of the class', 'of the same genre', 'one to which the rest should aspire', or even 'corresponding to'.

In Romans 5. 14 Adam in humanity as federal head, not in his transgression and condemnation, was the 'type' (AV 'figure') of what the Lord became by His gracious stoop, cf. 1 Cor. 15. 48, 49 and Heb. 2. 6-9.

The cloud, the Red Sea, the manna and the water from the rock united a•.-: Israelites to God's man, but this did not prevent them from being judged for their sin, 1 Cor. 10. 6, 11 (AV 'examples' and 'ensamples' respectively). This is a class with which we do not want to be associated: a comparison we should avoid. Judgement 'happened to them typically' (jnd footnote).

Stephen on trial told of the construction of the tabernacle, Acts 7. 44, and emphasised Moses' obedience to God's will in making it 'according to the fashion that he had seen'. When Exodus 25. 40 is quoted again in Hebrews 8. 5 the av translators gave 'pattern' for tupos. To render it 'model' in some translations is clearly wrong as models are copied from patterns.

Thus we see that tupos stresses similarity. An illustration might be the typewriter. The letters on the paper correspond to the metal type which hits the ribbon. So we delight to learn from similarities to Old Testament pictures or are warned of resemblances. Note that it is not the same as 'archetype' which emphasises the priority, if not superiority, of the pattern. 'Type' may be applied to the pattern or the copy, the original or the impression.

Antitupos, although it certainly does not convey the reality which the type or symbol represents (the meaning of the English 'antitype'), it does draw a contrast to a degree which tupos does not: the prefix suggests that it is 'against' or 'in place of. The correspondence is as a mould to a cast. This is rather lost by the av 'figure'.

The holy places which levitical priests entered were distinctly antitupa of the Holy Places in Heaven to which the superior Christ has right of access to take His place in Divine audience, Heb. 9. 24.

Explanations of the use of antitupos in 1 Peter 3. 21 (av 'figure') are often contradictory. The word 'also' suggests that both flood water and baptismal water are types (one from the Old Testament and the other from the New) of salvation through Jesus Christ's resurrection which procures the witness before God of cleared consciences (see too Vine's Dictionary, Vol. 2, p. 96). This may help us to appreciate that even a New Testament symbol is of no value unless it draws our attention to the Saviour's centrality.

Hupodeigma derives from the word meaning 'to show'. That is, it indicates something held up for consideration either to follow, to teach or to warn. It generally refers to the most obvious lesson to draw from the Old Testament example. The most touching use is when the Lord washed the disciples' feet and said, 'I have given you an example', John 13. 15. Only once does the word appear without its prefix, hupo-. This prefix perhaps suggests that the examples need discernment: that they are for disciples who want to discover the secrets of a sanctified life.

'Pattern' cannot be the correct translation of the word in Hebrews 9. 23, as the heavenly counterparts of the tabernacle and its vessels have been designated the 'pattern' in Hebrews 8. 5. Better suggestions have been 'similitudes', 'copies' or 'representations'. The translators' difficulty was that Hebrews 9. 23 refers to things, not a person, so that 'example' would not do. Even in Hebrews 8. 5, hupodeigma is more correctly applied not to the priests, but to the economy they served. Thus it is referring to the 'visualized' tabernacle model of the invisible heavenly things, a tangible teaching aid to conceive the heavenly things. The tabernacle is definitely not to be copied: it is a 'copy' or 'sketch' itself. Any misinterpretation is corrected by the addition of the complementary idea of its being a 'shadow'.

Skia is the word for this 'shadow' in complete contrast to 'the very image', Col. 2. 17, 'substance' or 'the body' itself, Heb. 10. 5. We often think today of the 'shadow cabinet', 'shadow pricing' and so on. A shadow only exists by reason of the light shining on a real object. Where there is a shadow, there must be a reality close by. The shadow is an insubstantial, flat, unlighted area. Thus in scripture this word is used to differentiate between things which are being compared. One of the pair is in the shade of the other, either because it is for a time obscured, or because the Holy Spirit is emphasizing that it is less important.

Thus if we look again at Hebrews 8. 5, the word hupodeigma reminds us that the tabernacle system is a representation or example. But, lest we think it is to be awarded equal importance to the spiritual counterparts which exist today, it is in the same breath, skia. The tabernacle was real enough for the levitical priests to serve, but it is put into second place as a shadow of that eternal place where Jesus ministers. But being a shadow, the tabernacle makes us look up for the reality so that a study of that system will be a blessing to a believer.

Hebrews 10. 1 uses 'shadow' in the sense of 'foreshadow'. The emphasis is not so much that the law is insubstantial itself, but rather that it casts an insubstantial shadow of future things. The law is not an exact replica of the coming 'good things' (in a general sense, but Christ and salvation in particular, Heb. 9. 16-18) and is therefore ineffective in satisfying seekers.

Similarly, in Colossians 2. 17 Paul writes of some observances of the ceremonial law as a shadow cast forward through the ages, across the dispensations. The substantial body of which these rites are only shadows is the Person of Christ, cf. John 5. 39; Luke 24. 27.

In sum, attention is diverted from the shadow. The Old Testament shadows are superseded, but there is a perpetual danger of shadows becoming snares for those who have escaped from these rudiments, Col. 2. 20. After the revelation of the New Testament, the shadows are no longer to be the means of approaching God: their time of usefulness has passed and they are worse than useless if trust is placed in them. In every way 'Christ is the end of the law', Rom. 10. 4. Skia is the least positive way of interpreting the Old Testament.

Parabole, as might be guessed, is hardly ever translated into English by any other word than 'parable'. However, twice it is applied to the interpretation of the Old Testament and translated 'figure'. Essentially it is used when two ideas are deliberately brought together so that the comprehensible may illuminate the less tangible, or more abstract, thought. Usually the comparison is extended to several facets. It is unusual for contrast to be intended, though it could occur. The fact that the word used for the New Testament parables is also made to refer to the Old Testament pictures strikingly suggests that the method the Lord demonstrated with worked examples to interpret His parables, Matt. 13. 10-23, 36-43 is similar to the way we should understand Old Testament stories (as in Heb. 11. 19) or the deliberately constructed illustration, the tabernacle, Heb. 9. 9. In the latter case, the Newberry margin actually has 'parable'.

The Holy Spirit originated the significance of the tabernacle construction, Heb. 9. 9 to help believers in the Gospel age (SV 'A parable for the time now present': the AV gives a wrong idea in having 'then present', and even JND's complicated footnote unnaturally restricts the parable to an interim age. The gifts, offerings, sanctuary and high priest, verses 11-12 must all be interpreted in terms of the New Covenant. The tabernacle model itself (or the substituted temple) would not long be allowed to coexist with the new dispensation ('the way into the holiest was not yet made manifest while as the first tabernacle was yet standing'). There came a point when the model had to be laid aside since its servitors were in conflict with the gospel. Whereas the description in the Old Testament is a blessed illustration for us, it must not be physically projected into the church age as clergy, ritual and sanctuary. Hebrews 11. 19 tells of the figurative resurrection of Isaac. The words 'in a figure' undoubedly refer to this specific point in the story, although just as certainly the whole story is figurative, making us look at the counterpart, our blessed Lord's journey to the land of Moriah to offer Himself.

Conclusion. What general lesson may we draw from our studies of the words used to describe the great Old Testament illustrations of New Testament doctrine? We do not find that some of the illustrations are types, that others are shadows, and yet another is an example. Rather the words are used to complement one another. This is obvious in Hebrews 8. 5 where 'shadow' (skid) and 'example' (hupodeigma) are used together to speak of the tabernacle system. But in Hebrews 9. 23-24 'example' (hupodeigma) and 'figures' (antitupori) are used of virtually the same illustration, which is called a 'figure' (parabole) in Hebrews 9. 9. Then all these relate back to the glorious 'pattern', 'fashion' or 'type' (tupos) of Hebrews 8. 5 and Acts 7. 44. So we must endeavour to bear in mind the meanings of all five of these Greek words when studying any Old Testament types, in order more fully to appreciate the great Antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His heavenly purposes.