Wright’s Typological Interpretation

This is a fourth post on Wright’s models of interpretation in Old Testament Ethics and the People of God. The Paradigmatic Model related the OT Law to Creation, where it sought to restore God’s creative purposes for humans and creation that had been tarnished by sin. The Eschatological Model related the OT Law to the End, where God will ultimately and completely bring redemption. In the Typological Model, Wright relates the OT Law to what was being accomplished by Christ in the NT. Christ completes and fulfills the Law, so the OT Law must naturally be understood in light of what was being accomplished by Christ. Wright states the following:

So then, the typological interpretation of the land, which relates it to the person and work of Jesus the Messiah, does not come to a ‘dead end’ with Jesus himself. Rather, it carries the social and economic thrust of the Old Testament ethics onwards into the ethics of practical relationships within New Testament Israel, the Messianic community. Citizenship of the kingdom of God most certainly has a social and economic dimension. This is a dimension that has transcended the land and kinship structure of Old Testament Israel, but not in such a way as to make that original  structure irrelevant (Wright, OT Ethics, 196).

There are several things to note here.

First, I find it extremely helpful that Wright considers the Old Testament in light of the other major movements of Scripture (Creation, Christ and the Consummation of Ages). This fits within the basic structure for the message of the Bible:

  • Creation
  • Community of Israel
  • Christ
  • Community of Christians (Church)
  • Consummation of Ages

This structure is chiastic with God’s ultimate purposes in the outer most part of the outline, God’s institution of his will with fallen humanity in the next innermost sections, and Christ at the center of the picture, who perfectly reveals the Father and brings the two worlds together in reconciliation.

Second, there is a definite progression in the revelation and attainment of God’s will. A fallen creation overturned God’s original desires for humanity. The Law began a re-institution of God’s will in a sinful world. Christ perfectly revealed the Father, highlighting and intensifying the message while providing an avenue for forgiveness that was absent from the first covenant. And Christ’s work was fulfilled in anticipation of ultimate redemption in the End.

Third, the OT must be understood in light of the NT. The old is completed in the new. God’s will finds full fruition in Christ. Without Christ, there is a huge gap in understanding of the OT.

Fourth, the inverse is true, too. The NT must be understood in light of the OT. This means that approaching the NT necessitates a consideration of the social and ethical implications of the OT. The major thrusts of the OT should not be discarded, leaving the NT to comment only on the “spiritual.” The NT has real and valid implications for society, and a healthy understanding of the OT helps illuminate these.

Fifth, the typological method of interpretation illustrates that manner this connection is often explicitly (and implicitly) made. The NT provides types, or intentional correspondences between the figures and events of the OT. The OT prefigures and sets the stage for what is to come, and the NT shows intentional connection with its past.

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5 Responses to Wright’s Typological Interpretation

  1. Pingback: Wright’s Escatological Interpretation | Theological Sweets

  2. Douglas R says:

    Did Wright say anything about typology being in reverse in the OT? Did he sequential types of Messiah in reverse in the books of Moses?

    • Jeremy says:

      I don’t recall anything along those lines, but it has been a little bit of time since I have read it. I know that Wright also has books on God, the Spirit, and Jesus in the OT, so there may be something in the book about Jesus in the OT.

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