Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Type and Figure

As Christianity consolidated its system based on the gospels and the writings of Paul, it faced the challenge of reconciling the Old Testament with the New. Paul wrote about the Old Testament as offering foreshadowings, types, of the truth revealed in the New Testament. Augustine wrote much about this, throughout works such as On the Spirit and the Letter.

A couple of good resources that might prove useful for understanding the later typological traditions of Biblical interpretation are:

Jewish Encyclopedia - allegorical interpretation (or typology)

Wikipedia - typology

Catholic Encyclopedia- types in scripture

A New History of Literary Terms - "typology"

As the last reference shows, the development of literary attention to typology owes much to Erich Auerbach, who sketched the idea in Mimesis, and wrote a seminal and very detailed essay entitled "Figura" exploring the terrain. In it he attempted to distinguish the sense of "figural" or typological interpretation from the more usual modes of literary tropes and figures inherited from classical rhetorical thought.

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