It is with thanks to the Kregel blogger review program that I am able to offer a review of Mitchell Chase’s book 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory (Grand Rapids, Kregel, 2020). Chase is the preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist church, in Valley Station, KY. He also serves as n adjunct professor for Boyce College and Southern Seminary. He has a Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Kregel has several works in the 40 Questions About series and this is the latest contribution.
Chase’s purpose in writing this book is to “orient Bible readers to the subjects of typology and allegory, that we might be more faithful readers of Scripture” (12). Chase puts forth that in view of the “big story” of the Bible, it is important to understand how that story is told, as much as that it is told (25). In highlighting typology and allegory, the book 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory, then, is an “invitation to a kind of reading, a kind of seeing” (12), a way of reading the Bible that helps the reader “see” the various connections and patterns of Scripture that reveal the message of the Bible to the reader.
The way to come about this “seeing” is by spending extended time reading and re-reading Scripture over and over, and in the process paying attention to the way the biblical story is told such as with the use of narrative recapitulation (29) or the use of metaphors or personification (30), even metonymy or symbolism (31). Typology, then, refers to “an impression, image, example, or a pattern” (35). Allegory occurs where a passage “says one thing in order to say something else” (193). Chase acknowledges that the notion of allegory in the Bible is controversial. Most often the only real place where there is allegory in the Bible is Galatians 4 where Paul, in talking about Hagar and Sarah, is speaking “figuratively” (Gal 4:21-31). However, Chase notes allegory “invites the reader beneath the surface to discern a deeper significance in the words used in the passage” (193-194). One example he cites is Isaiah 5 where there is language about destroying a vineyard but really it is an allegory for God’s coming judgment (193). In this, he fully acknowledges the dangers of allegory (196) but also beleives it should not be avoided altogether.
It is clearly stated that although though they are related, typology and allegory are not synonymous (197). Chase states:
“Both are examples of seeing significance in a text that is beyond the text itself. Unlike a type, an allegory does not have to be historical. For instance, allegories might appear in visions or parables that are not meant to be taken literally. Unlike and allegory, a legitimate type depends upon correspondences and patterns in redemptive history that link too, and escalate toward, the antitype…. Typological exegesis discerns organic connections and development across redemptive history and through progressive revelation … Allegorical interpretation views the text under consideration as having a deeper meaning, understanding the text too ‘say other” than what the words read” (197).
Chase spends several chapters exploring types and allegories and how to identify them throughout Scripture as well as showing how it was done in Church history through the Enlightenment into the modern era closing out with discussing how it should be practiced in the church today and why should it matter (that it helps reveal the interconnectedness of Scripture and seeks to magnify Christ in all of Scripture.
Some examples of types would be the Ark of Noah, which is a type of Christ. The Ark is the type, Christ is the antitype. Just as the Ark protected Noah and his family from the Flood, so those “in Christ” will be protected from the day of judgment (129). Another is the tabernacle in the wilderness which again, is a type of Christ. The Tabernacle is the type, Christ is the antitype. The Tabernacle is the symbol of God’s presence among and with Israel, Jesus is the true and greater tabernacle. He is fulness of God’s presence with and among us (142).
An example of allegory in Chase’s view would be that of Cain and Abel. Abel represents God’s people and Cain “was the template for future opponents of God’s people” (256). Chase states further, “The religious leadership in Jesus’ day was Cain, for they dishonored God despite their outward conformance to sacrificial laws” (Mt 15:8-9). Jesus is Abel who faces opposition and is put to death in the process. The Jews were Cain because “though he came to his own, his own received him not” (Jn 1:11), etc (256).
While I am leery of allegories and think any effort to explore types should be done with care and caution, I think Chase has provided a useful and valuable resource for the church and for the average Christian to read the Bible in ways probably not previously done. All too often types and allegories are done in excess and are abused so that most shy away from or avoid them altogether. However, it was practiced by Paul and the Apostles, and was practiced all through Church history (sometimes well, often in embarrassing ways). Exploring types and allegories is a perfectly valid way of doing biblical theology. If done with precision and care, and with a love for truth, I think it can lead to helping Christians know Christ and the Scriptures in new depths and will only deepen their love for God and his written word.