In the introduction of his new commentary on Hebrews, Tom Schreiner covers four different structures under the heading of Biblical and Theological Structures. These four structures are:
Originally the third structure, Typology in Hebrews, was going to be the only section covered. However I enjoyed all four structures and thought I’d give them all their own fair share of space (links to the posts are above, in case you missed the dazzling blue color).
Schreiner defines typology like this: “Typology exists when there is a historical correspondance between events, institutions, and persons found in the OT and the NT” (36). Schreiner argues that “typology does not merely represent correspondence [between the OT and the NT] but a correspondence intended by God…. Biblical typology is characterized by escalation. This means the fulfillment is always greater than the type” (37). (You can also read my friend Lindsay’s post about typology which has helped me see some of the nuances in comparison to other ideas).
This is important, as all throughout the letter the author argues from the “lesser-to-the-greater.” If the message relayed by the angels is reliable, and every disobedience received its just retribution, how much more important is the word of Christ? How much greater is there a punishment to be received if his word is neglected (Heb 2.2-3)? If Jesus is greater than any and all of the OT persons and institutions, how can the readers turn away from him and go back to the Jewish rituals and sacrifices?
Schreiner provides an example of the use of Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1.8-9. I was happy to see this here as Mari and I have been curious about this use of the psalm (and the psalm itself) for weeks.
Psalm 45 says,
1 My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.
2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever.
3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your splendor and majesty!
4 In your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness; let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
5 Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; the peoples fall under you.
6 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness;
7 you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia. From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house,
11 and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him.
12 The people of Tyre will seek your favor with gifts, the richest of the people.
13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king, with her virgin companions following behind her.
15 With joy and gladness they are led along as they enter the palace of the king.
16 In place of your fathers shall be your sons; you will make them princes in all the earth.
17 I will cause your name to be remembered in all generations; therefore nations will praise you forever and ever.
Hebrews 1.8-9 quotes verses 6-7 saying, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’”
“[Psalm 45] is originally a royal psalm about the Davidic king. It is a wedding song celebrating the king’s majesty and greatness. When the king is identified as ‘God’ in the psalm (45:6), we have an example of hyperbole. The king (cf. Exod 7:1) is identified as God in the psalm given his stature and rule. As God’s vice-regent he is called ‘God,’ but no one in Israel interpreted the wording literally as if the Davidic king were actually divine. But what is said about the Davidic king was no accident, for it pointed forward in a deeper and truer sense to Jesus Christ. For this one truly is the Son of God, the one whom angels worship and who created the universe (1:2, 6, 10, 12). We see a prime example of escalation in typology here” (39).
Abel and Isaac
Both Abel and Christ were sacrificed as “innocent victims, but Christ’s blood speaks better than Abel’s, for Christ washes clean those who trust in him. Abel’s cries out for justice, but… through [Christ’s] death human beings can boldly enter God’s presence” (43).
The (almost) sacrifice of Isaac typologically portrayed the accomplished sacrifice of Christ (Heb 11.17-19). “Abraham was convinced that God would raise Isaac from the dead if he sacrificed him (Gen 22.4), but Jesus, in contrast to Isaac, was truly raised from the dead, fulfilling what was adumbrated in the ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac” (43).
Typology, therefore, is a pattern set in place by God. If all things have been created by, through, and for Christ (Col 1.16), then it’s reasonable to see that all things point to Christ. God could have created a clear box called “ ” (a.k.a. ‘nothing’) where millions of clear mannequins raise their hands to worship God in the same, equally-droning tone. Instead, we have colours, mountains, valleys, rocks, clouds, animals, and a variety of people and personalities. They all point to Christ, and they all represent God. Even more, events have been set in place to show us the greater-ness of Christ who is seated in the heavenlies. More on that in my next post.
BTS: Typology in Hebrews