Spectrums of Scripture: Typology

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

1aredsea-crossTypology involves an ancient author’s building upon a specific concept, idea, or symbol found in another text.[1] This is among the most common thematic correspondences, where a writer takes a particular theme and makes it the point of their writing.[2] 1 Clement does this concerning the theme of concord (ὁμόνοια), weaving a range of citations into his discussion. Ancient writers employed a variety of typologies, including literary, theological, and historical themes.[3] Particularly common were Summaries of Israel’s Story, which would often trace a particular theme throughout Israel’s history.[4] Even more widespread were brief mentions of persons and circumstances, drawing thematic connections between an ancient exemplar and the contemporary audiences of a writing.[5]

For example, 1 Clement 55:3-6 employs a short-form historical typology in discussing the “manly” actions of Judith and Esther. Clement writes,

Many women were empowered by the gracious gift of God to perform numerous “courageous” deeds. The blessed Judith, when her city lay under siege, asked the elders for permission to go out to the foreigners’ camp. And so she handed herself over to danger, going out because she loved her homeland and the people under siege. And the Lord handed Holofernes over to the hand of a female. No less did Esther, a woman perfect in faith, put herself in danger to rescue the twelve tribes of Israel who were about to perish. For through her fasting and humility she petitioned the all-seeing Master, the God of eternity, who saw the humbleness of her soul and rescued the people for whom she put herself in danger.[6]

Although this passage contains little by way of direct verbal correspondence to either Judith or Esther, Clement clearly relies on these narratives for his account. The typological connections of this passage represent yet another way in which ancient writers utilized available sources.

[1] Jana Sweeney, “Typology,” Salem Press Encyclopedia Research Starters, Online. 2016. [2] Brugge, 24. Kenneth D. Bailey, “Typology Construction, Methods and Issues” in Encyclopedia of Social Measurement (ed. K. Kempf-Leonard, Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2005), 3: 889-98. [3] Alison Schofield, “The Wilderness Motif in the Dead Sea Scrolls” in Israel in the Wilderness: Interpretations of the Biblical Narratives in Jewish and Christian Traditions (ed. K.E. Pomykala, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2008), 38-40. Schofield (38-9) elaborates, “we should recognize that later biblical and post-biblical writers frequently superimposed additional layers of meaning to biblical motifs as they appropriated and reworked scriptural themes to fit their present context.” On the thematic use of early Christian epistles, see Gregory and Tuckett, 79. [4] Strawbridge, 7. See Ex.15.1-8, Psalm 136, 1QS 1.21-2.6, Assumption of Moses 1-10, Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities 5.9.4, Acts 7.2-53, 1 Clement 17.1-19.2, and Athanasius’ Letter to Marcellinus 2-8 for just some of the examples of a summary of Israel’s story. [5] Dimant, 391. [6] Ehrman, 132-133.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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