What is a type and a shadow in the Bible?

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People often wonder: what is a type and a shadow? A type, shadow, pattern, or figure is a prophetic foretelling of future events. God has inspired His prophets to give detailed accounts of what is going to happen, but he didn’t reveal too much information that anyone can fake it.

A type and a shadow

In the New Testament, the Greek word týpos, meaning “example,” describes a model or pattern in the Old Testament that is fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. The word týpos in KJV Bible is also translated as “pattern” (Titus 2:7; Hebrews 8:5), “form” (Romans 6:17), “print” (John 20:25), “ensample” (1 Corinthians 10:11), “fashion” (Acts 7:44), “figure” (Acts 7:43; Romans 5:14), and “manner” (Acts 23:25).

The primary person, story, or event is the type, whereas the fulfillment is the anti-type. The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed. The apostle Paul explained it this way, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (I Corinthians 10:11)

A shadow has no substance; it is cast by something substantial. It is the physical form of a heavenly reality (Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). The Jewish ceremonies were shadows cast by heavenly realities. Christ’s life, work, and kingdom are the reality.

Types connect two or more historical persons or events by common characteristics. Whereas shadows connect two or more persons or events by common themes. Types and shadows may thus be used interchangeably to some degree.

Specific examples

1-Adam was a type for humanity and for Christ: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” ( (Romans 5:12-14 also Genesis 1-3).

2-Moses was a type for Christ: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18:15 also Matthew 1:21)

General Examples

Typical persons are Abel, Melchizedek, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Jonah.

Typical events are the “Flood,” the “Plagues of Egypt,” the “Passover,” the “Brazen Serpent,” “Crossing the Jordan,” “Cities of Refuge.”

Typical ceremonies are the “Offerings,” “Ceremonial Cleansing,” “Feasts,” “Year of Jubilee,” “Day of Atonement.”

Comparisons between types and allegories

Types are different in kind from allegories or parables in that types refer to a literal object pointing to a literal fulfillment or anti-type. Types are historical realities while comparisons and connections in allegories are more indirect.

How do we check the validity of types, shadows, and figures?

1- To acquire the right meaning, allow the Bible to interpret its own types, shadows, figures and patterns. In Revelation 1:20, Christ explains the meaning of the seven stars and the seven lampstands within the context of John’s vision.

2- The interpretation of types, shadows, figures, and patterns must be consistent and in harmony with the rest of the Scriptures. All the verses on a given topic should be examined in context to get the correct and complete understanding of the type or shadow. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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