Brandon D. Myers’ Review of 40 QUESTIONS ABOUT TYPOLOGY AND ALLEGORY, by Mitchell L. Chase

Published on December 6, 2021 by Eugene Ho

Kregel Academic, 2020 | 320 pages

A Book Review from Books At a Glance

by Brandon D. Myers


Mitchell Chase (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) serves as preaching pastor at Kosmosdale Baptist Church and professor at Boyce College and Southern Seminary—where he completed his PhD under Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr. (13). His book is divided into four parts with the bulk of the book being in Parts 2 and 3 and each of the forty chapters ending with Reflection Questions. Chase’s hoped for outcome is to “orient Bible readers to the subjects of typology and allegory, that we might be more faithful readers of Scripture and behold more fully the glory of its story” (12).

Part 1 (The Bible’s Big Story) answers the first two questions with the first being an overview of the Bible’s unfolding message in compact and helpful summaries of Scripture’s storyline. The second (“How does the Bible Tell Its story?”)  deals with ways the Bible tells its story briefly unpacking its careful selection, interpretation of history, organic development and how Scripture uses Scripture and the variety of figures of speech.

Part 2 (Questioning Typology) is divided into three sections and answers questions 3-24. Chase offers a fuller definition of “a type” (Greek: tupos) that he continually draws from throughout the book as the following. Chase defines a type as “a biblical type is a person, office, place, institution, event or thing in salvation history that anticipates, shares correspondences with, escalates toward, and resolves in its antitype” (38, 65). In subsequent chapters, Chase examines the nature of types with some of the most interesting and helpful pages being Chase’s examination of the theological assumptions behind typology (41-45); his arguments against those who have claimed the “only valid types are ones that the New Testament identifies”—what he later calls the “constrictive view of biblical types (50, 104) and his engagement on the relationship between history, typology and prophecy (65-69).

Questions 10-15 briefly but clearly cover the history of typology from the post-apostolic church (AD 100-450) up to the present. Chase gives multiple quotes from key figures and draws heavily from church history, especially giving a nod to Craig Carter’s recent (and excellent!) book, Interpreting Scripture with the Great Tradition: Recovering The Genius of Premodern Exegesis (80, 82,92,97,103,108-109).

I especially appreciated a host of biblical examples of types found among the church history of how types were used (83-86) and Chase’s repeated willingness to reject and correct overly simplistic bifurcated thinking that can be found in some books about the history of biblical interpretation in the church. Chase details how careful typological exegesis and interpretation (what some termed ‘biblical application’) was built upon (or in conjunction with) a literal meaning or interpretation of Scripture and notes that many Christians did this throughout history (Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Perkins, etc. 91,96-97). Chase also introduces readers to some thoughtful individuals they may be less familiar with but who were influential in the 17th and 18th centuries (Thomas Goodwin, Samuel Mather, Herbert Marsh, Johann David Michaelis, and J.S. Semler).

In Questions 14 and 15 Chase answers how typology was practiced in the Late Modern Era (AD 1800-1900) and the Postmodern Era (AD 1900-present day). If you enjoy history and hermeneutics you will enjoy these sections, but if you do not these chapters might be more difficult for you. Either way, the chapters are packed with clear and helpful information on leading figures during these time periods. From the Late Modern Era, Chase overviews important general developments (i.e., elevation of human reason, historical-critical method) and briefly notes the contributes of scholars like Wilhelm Gesenius (AD 1786-1842), Ferdinand Hitzig (AD 1807-1875), Julius Wellhausen (AD 1844-1918) and David Strauss (AD 1808-1874) whose work eroded trust in the text of the Bible and the historical Jesus.

Drawing from the work of Richard Davidson (author of Typology in Scripture: A Study of Hermeneutical TUPOS Structures), Keith D. Stanglin,  Craig Carter, and the late Yale Old Testament scholar Brevard Childs (AD 1923-2007), Chase notes a few examples of “Some Who Stood Firm” (his subtitle)—E.W. Hengstenberg (AD 1802-1869), and Patrick Fairbairn (AD 1805-1874) but concludes “the practice of the historical-critical method undermined the reality and helpfulness of typology for understanding the biblical text” (110).

Chapter 15 engages again overview fashion with the famous (or infamous!) German New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann (AD 1884-1976), Gerhard von Rad (AD 1901-1971), Leonhard Goppelt who according to Chase wrote a classic work, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New, that any biblical studies or typology students must engage with when they write in these areas (112). Interesting, Chase quotes Richard Davidson as saying: “by the end of the 1940s, typology was still largely ignored within critical biblical scholarship” (112).

More familiar to pastors or other readers of this site might be those who Chase engages with at the end of this chapter (the works of Princeton’s Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), Louis Berkhof, J. Barton Payne, or Edmund Clowney (AD 1917-2005), R.T. France (AD 1938-2012), Westminster’s G.K. Beale, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s Kevin Vanhoozer (AD 1957-present day) and Southern Seminary’s Jim Hamilton -who Chase studied under and dedicated the book to). All of these and others are highlighted by Chase who succinctly mentions them mainly in terms of their key contributions to biblical theology in general and typology more narrowly. Readers would likely do well to consult Dr. Hamilton’s book in conjunction with or prior to reading Chase’s book “What is Biblical Theology: A Guide to the Bible’s Story, Symbolism and Patterns.”  He closes the section by favorably quoting the late Dallas Theological Seminary’s S. Lewis Johnson who claimed “one of the happier results of twentieth-century scholarship has been the rediscovery of the importance of typology for understanding the Bible (116).

The next few chapters (Questions 16-24) were thoroughly enjoyable with clear help on how to identify types and then Chase gave examples of each throughout each book of the Old Testament (you read that right!). Chase is a careful, thoughtful guide who gives clear instruction on proper typological exegesis (his term) which he defines as “an act of diagnosing types through a deliberate (not arbitrary) and careful (not reckless) evaluation of correspondences, escalation, and redemptive or covenantal significance” (121).

First, he notes New Testament identification (examples he gives are Jonah, Solomon, Adam, manna, the rock, the lamb, priests, kings, prophets); Parallels to Identified Types (119-120), and refreshingly invitation and encouragement towards “prayer and patient whole-bible reading” along with “dialogue and engagement with [Spirit-indwelt] faithful confessing community” and “saints of old of the Great Tradition” (121-122). Chase carefully highlights examples of Old Testament types some of which are commonly known (including Eden, marriage, the tree of life, garments of skins, exile, Israel, Moses, tabernacle) and others that are more obscure and less well known (the plagues, Sodom and Gomorrah, the raised hands of Moses, Samson, Esther, Job’s Righteous sufferer, Destruction of the Nations).  It is a very thoughtful but also praise-to God-producing section that will deeply edify readers! One example to your whet your appetite was The Lion’s Den where Chase engagingly writes:

Daniel maintained his devotion to the Lord…despite the king’s reluctance he was thrown into the den, a stone was rolled over the entrance, the den was secured with the king’s seal and Daniel’s death was certain…but the next morning the stone was rolled away, Daniel emerged victorious and delivered from death. Those who planned Daniel’s demise were themselves thrown into the den and instantly devoured by the lions…Likewise, the Lord Jesus would not compromise his mission or obedience. This devotion put him on a collision course with the Jewish leaders, who convinced the Romans that Jesus was a political threat. And political threats get crucified. Despite Pilate’s reluctance, he ordered Jesus be killed. After his crucifixion, Jesus was laid in a borrowed tomb, a stone was rolled over its opening…those who are opposed to Christ, and those who oppose him now will face the judgment of God, if they do not repent and trust in Christ as their savior and redeemer. The jaws of God’s wrath will consume them in justice.” (186).

That will preach! There are many other equally excellent sections pastors especially will find rewarding.

Part 3 (Questioning Allegory) addresses what Chase referred to as “in the history of exegesis there is perhaps no more controversial word than allegory” (193). The sections are divided into three main categories (Section A: Understanding Allegory, Section B: Allegory in Church History, Section C: Identifying Allegories) and he follows Benjamin Keach (AD 1640-1704) who in his book, Preaching from the Types and Metaphors of the Bible, defined allegory as “a passage that says one thing in order to say something else (193). Chase notes an obvious example in Isaiah 5 where destroying a vineyard is really about God’s judgment on Israel (193) and then cautiously but clearly distinguishes between allegory and allegorical interpretation (according to Chase the former is a way of writing and the latter a way of reading (194). Especially of benefit was his discussion of the theological assumptions of allegory.

In Section B’s Allegory in Church History Chase helps readers understand the reasoning behind much allegorical interpretation in light of key Scriptural grounding (Galatians 4:24, 1 Corinthians 10:1-4). He gives a host of direct quotes and insights into how Augustine (AD 354-430), Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335-395), Ignatius of Loyola (AD 35-108), Irenaeus (AD 140-202), John Chrysostom (AD 347-407), Origen (AD 184-253) interpreted scripture allegorically John Cassian (AD 360-436) (with his fourfold Quadriga that endured for centuries: Historical sense and Spiritual senses divided into: 1) the tropological/moral instruction-duty, 2) the allegorical/Christological meaning/belief, 3) the analogical/future-oriented hope) interpreted Scripture allegorically.

Regarding the interpretive schools of Alexandria and Antioch Chase notes, “the difference between them is not allegory versus the literal sense. That dichotomy is a caricature”—both employed and affirmed literal and spiritual senses with the Antiochene School concerned the Alexandrian school’s allegorical could be prone to ‘overshadowing’ the literal sense (211-212).  His next few chapters note the “Multiple Senses” that Exegetes had during the middle ages including the influential Quadriga (which does not deny the literal sense but rather was viewed as the foundation though not the ‘endpoint of exegesis’ (216). Origen, Augustine, Aquinas, and the lesser-known Nicholas of Lyra (AD 1270-1349) share similar views and were the heavy hitters during the Middle Ages before moving into the modern period with Erasmus (AD 1466-1536) and Luther (AD 1483-1546) who said, “Allegory is a sort of beautiful harlot, who proves herself especially seductive to idol men” (222).

Chase cites helpful guidance from John Calvin who writes, “Allegories ought not to go beyond the limits set by the rule of Scripture, let alone suffice as the foundation for any doctrines” (224). Chase summarized for Calvin “If Calvin weighted a  ‘deeper’ interpretation for a text, it was never the result of rejecting the plain sense” (224). The chapter closes with a few paragraphs given to William Perkins (AD 1558-1602 AD) and Francis Turretin (AD 1623-1687). Both emphasized a single sense and rejected “the Quadriga with its multiple senses” with Chase nothing in the Summary of the chapter that “Christian interpretation during the early modern era was in continuity with convictions of previous interpreters within the Great Tradition” (226). Question 30 (How was Allegory Practiced in the Enlightenment) focuses on AD 1650-1800

Part 4 (Reflecting on Typology and Allegory) is just one question “Why Should Interpreters Care about Typology and Allegory? Here in short summary fashion, Chase compellingly and convincingly argues that because of: “The Testimony of Christ”, “The Interconnectedness of Scripture”, “The Practices of the Great Tradition”, “The High Task of Preaching” and “The Blessings for the Reader” readers should care about the typological and allegorical interpretation of the Bible (365). In some ways putting this last chapter as the very first might have been more advantageous because the points were so helpful and compelling and address “why one should care (359). Though Chase does mention or reinforce these same ideas earlier and throughout the book at different times I think it would be stronger at the beginning.

Chase clearly has a very high view of Scripture’s authority and infallibility and holds to and argues persuasively for Scripture’s coherence without being overly simplistic, sloppy, or caricaturing.

The larger drawbacks in this book were very minimal in my opinion but briefly here are three:

First, it would have been nice to have a full rather than a Select Bibliography at the end (and for those like me who originally complained about this but may want to nerd out more deeply see the full bibliography in his doctoral dissertation).

Second, Evangelical preachers and pastors who fully adopt or are more inclined toward a “Christiconic” interpretation of Scripture will likely take issue with Chase who clearly has a Christ-Centered view of OT stories and types (see this Books At a Glance Review for more on differences in OT Preaching and definitions of Christoconic vs. Christocentric preaching). However, all readers and preachers will appreciate Chase’s labors to carefully handle the intention of the text of Scripture in light of God’s Covenantal plan, Pre-Christ biblical characters, and the horizontal and vertical direction of typology (see especially 53-57).

A third drawback is more a suggestion. At a few points throughout the book, the book can be somewhat technical or complex. A more forceful recommendation about reading this book in the context of a community with those knowledgeable in the areas of allegory and typology would be helpful. I imagine reading this alone might be difficult at points even for many seasoned pastors, seminary students, or mature Christians.

This is not mainly Chase’s fault as it is heavy content with a rich and complex history. However, particularly in the middle sections and in some of the later Reflection Questions I found myself having to reread certain sections to understand the arguments and discussion points and had my own questions a community may have helped with. For verbal processers, some direction at the beginning of the book encouraging it to be read with a few brother-pastors with prior knowledge could be very helpful and go a long way. Even with my own prior knowledge as a seminary graduate and pastor, I had to reread a few sections to track along with the arguments. A pastor’s reading group or lay elder team would be very blessed by discussing many of the Reflection Questions together.

Overall Chase does an excellent job of making the vast majority of what he writes very accessible for non-specialists. I finished Chase’s book in awe of God and even more eager to slowly, prayerfully read God’s Holy Word. This is not common nor is it hyperbole. Read this book and you will learn more about God’s greatness, glory, and goodness as revealed in His precious rich Word

All in all, Mitch Chase has written an outstanding book in Kregel’s 40 Questions Series. I highly recommend it to be read in a church community and am confident it will be very profitable overall for all Christians who love God’s truth but especially busy pastors, professors at Bible colleges looking for an engaging introductory text to these massively important yet easily confusing topics. While I have not read all of them (yet!) the five 40 Questions books I have read so far in the series have been excellent. They serve busy churchmen very well in that they are accessible (and the short chapters are appreciated as you sense you are making progress!)


Brandon D. Myers serves as pastor of First Baptist Church of Niles—The Country Church in Niles, IL.

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Kregel Academic, 2020 | 320 pages

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