Typology in Chronicles

Image via Amazon.com

Image via Amazon.com

I’m currently reading Scott Hahn’s masterful work on Chronicles, The Kingdom of God as Liturgical Empire: A Theological Commentary on 1-2 Chronicles (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012). Hahn so far has exhibited exegetical acumen (working both the MT and LXX), historical awareness, and theological brilliance. I realize this glowing description may seem to be so positive that it loses it’s value, but in my opinion it’s just that good. It’s worth its weight in whatever currency you currently carry.

One interpretive tool that Hahn uses par excellence is typology. Although the quotes below are lengthy, I think that his descriptions here may be the best descriptions of typology I’ve read. They take into account not only the historical pattern of events divinely orchestrated by YHWH, but also the conscious intertextual links between the OT authors’ descriptions of these events throughout the biblical canon.

The Chronicler’s history represents a deep reading of the canon of Israel’s scripture. Beginning in the Torah and continuing through the historical and prophetic books of the Nevi’im, as well as the liturgical and Wisdom literature of the Ketuvim, the Hebrew canon is filled with examples of inner-biblical exegesis. Later texts rewrite, comment upon, or reinterpret earlier ones; new situations and people are understood and characterized by analogy to earlier texts.

. . . Like any good historian, the Chronicler provides a record of past figures, places, and events; but his accounting is written in such a way that these figures, places, and events often appear as types – signs, patterns,and precursors – intended to show his readers not only the past but also their present reality from God’s perspective (6).

And again, reflecting on Paul’s note in 1 Cor. 10:11 that OT history “was written down for our instruction”:

“. . . the entire tradition of scripture was written for the instruction of [the Chronicler’s] audience. Indeed, the Chronicler’s patterns of inner-biblical interpretation made perfect sense to Jesus and the apostolic church; Chronicles might even be read as a workshop in biblical theology for the New Testament writers: we find operative in Chronicles many of the interpretive principles that become normative for the New Testament writer’s use of the Old Testament (64).

Hahn seems to me to be exactly right. Typology correctly understood is not an a-textual phenomenon, but instead a (the?) method the OT writers used to interpret contemporary events in light of previous Scripture. This method was used again by the NT authors, and it is especially seen in the Gospels, where Jesus is presented as a new Moses, David, Elijah, and Adam (among others). Thus, as Hahn continues to note throughout his commentary, the Chronicler uses Adam, Melchizedek, Abraham, Moriah, Sinai, the ark, Moses, and other OT people and events to help his readers understand his subject, namely David and God’s covenant with him. And, as he points out through continually demonstrating inner-biblical allusions, this is a textually warranted approach.

3 thoughts on “Typology in Chronicles

  1. Hi Matt,

    I have recently been introduced to intertextuality and reading the Bible through a compositional lens after reading Sailhamer’s Meaning of the Pentateuch. I was therefore very excited to find your blog today and really enjoyed this post! However, when I looked this book up on Amazon I saw that the author is a Roman Catholic and even focuses, at some points, on Mary in his book. I’m a bit thrown back by this. Do you think that the author does hold to a saving faith (though understood and explained in a mixed-up sort of way), or do you think he does not not (while still maintaining there is a lot to be gained by reading his insights)? Trust me I’m not accusing you of heresy or something, I am just trying to figure out how to regard seemingly helpful authors who are also seemingly far from evangelicalism.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Thanks for the comment, and I’m glad you’re not accusing me of heresy. 🙂

      I can’t say with any certainty yea or nay on the eternal destiny of anyone, since I’m not the Lord, but I will say that I of course do not affirm the Roman Catholic, and therefore Hahn’s, view of justification, sanctification, Mary, etc. etc.

      That being said, if I were only to read people with whom I agree 100% then I’d really only be reading myself. And I only 100% agree with myself 50% of the time. Or something.

      We all find helpful information, exegesis, and theology from people with whom we do not agree on everything, even from people with whom we have very serious differences. That’s the nature of scholarship and of learning in general. So I’d encourage you, like Paul encouraged the Bereans, to consider carefully everything that any biblical scholar says. Many times you’ll disagree with some things they say, and sometimes you’ll disagree with nearly everything they say. The important thing is to be a good sifter; let the bad fall through while keeping what’s good.

      • Matt,

        Thanks for the quick and gracious response! I haven’t yet been to seminary (aiming for SEBTS next fall), and I’m pretty new to the more academic side of theology. This is still surprising to me to an extent, but perhaps I do need to become more open to other sources providing textual insights outside the reformed or even evangelical perspectives. Nevertheless, I enjoy reading someone who has already done a good bit of sifting for me; I look forward to following your blog and hopefully learning more about intertextuality, typology, and biblical theology!

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