Typology/Symbolism/Biblical Parallels

Jesus, the New Samson

David Garland believes Matthew is making a word play on the word “nazarite.” By doing so, he is comparing Jesus to Samson. Like Samson, Jesus  “was made holy to God from his mother’s womb (Judges 16:17) and was to save Israel from its enemies (Judges 13:5). Like Samson, Jesus is a specially consecrated person who will save his people. Like Samson, Jesus will save his people through his own death” (Reading Matthew, 31).

Innocence and Guilt…a connection

While Mary was with Elizabeth for three months, John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41). It was during this time where Mary supposedly betrayed Joseph while betrothed. As Matthew one unfolds, the angel confirms Mary’s innocence to Joseph. While Mary was innocent, the same John who leaped in the presence of his God would grow up to challenge the religious leader of the day of betraying his own brother by taking his wife (Matthew 14:3). One was innocent, the other guilty.

Ruth as Gospel

Ruth is the perfect proof for typology. It shows that typology is necessary to biblical interpretation. Observing the text of Ruth only from a grammatical perspective misses all sorts of treasures. The positive aspect of typology is that it is not hidden, but it is all over the place. The Spirit does not waster his breath.  Ruth is a fine example of this. Ruth is Israel in sin and Israel restored. Naomi is Israel unrepentant and Ruth is Israel clinging to God. The difficulty–and I should add the common distaste of biblical typology–in this form of hermeneutic is that it demands biblical knowledge. It demands knowing biblical history and it demands broadening your view of redemptive history. Redemption is the maturation of history. In Christ, the pieces, facts, details of the Bible come together. No longer will you be able to look at Genesis 1 without realizing its vast implications to the rest of sacred revelation.

Ruth does just that. It exposes us to laws in the Mosaic literature (Levirate Laws), to marriage themes (such as the union/clinging of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2), and to how eschatology functions (Israel exiled, Israel restored). Ruth is gospel, but it is just one of many pictures given to us in miniature form through Scriptures.

Head and Body

Mike Bull notes in his excellent book, Bible Matrix that a crucial element to grasp in systematic typology is that of the “head and body” (63). Adam, he writes, “goes through the pattern as the head of the human race. Then the race itself goes through the pattern. Adam builds the house and Eve fills it. Adam is structure; Eve is glory (63).”


Mike Bull notes in a footnote (Bible Matrix; pg. 49) that the three central patterns of Scriptures: Creation, Feasts and Dominion correspond to Word, Sacrament and Government. The pattern of Scriptures, which points us to Christ, also points us to His bride.

Birthing a New World…

The illustration used by Jesus in John 16:21 carries a far greater weight than a simple analogy to the disciple’s loss, which will take place in a “little while.” The birthing of this “anthropos/man” is the birthing of the New World. The resurrection is the new birth.

This woman is birthing a new humanity in Jesus Christ from the darkness of the womb to the light of the world; from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the world. The great reversal occurs. Those who wept will now sing and those who mourned will now dance. The resurrection brings joy to each disciple, but it also will bring joy to the world.

Leithart on Peter putting on the garment in John 21

Some oddities of the narrative of John 21. Peter, we’re told, has stripped, apparently to make it easier to do his fishing. When he hears that Jesus is on the shore, he puts ON his outer robe and throws himself into the sea. As a practical matter, this doesn’t make much sense; he’d be able to swim better without the outer robe. As a symbolic act, it makes a lot of sense at a number of levels: Peter is about to be re-installed as an apostolic shepherd, and prior to that he puts on a robe of investiture; the sea being an image of the Gentiles, Peter is a Jonah throwing Himself into ministry to the world; it appears also to be a baptismal scene, with Peter restored by washing and investiture to table fellowship and ministry with Jesus.

Fish and Dominion

An interesting point is that the fishermen do not seem to have dominion over the fish in John 21. The new gardener, Jesus does. In Him, the dominion mandate will be fulfilled, because He possesses all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28).

Resurrection and Veil

The Old Covenant was characterized by veils. The veil covered the Shekinah glory of God from view. Moses, for instance, wore a veil when he met with God. Those veils meant separation from God and His glory; it meant death. This veil folded and set aside after the resurrection is proof that the veil has been lifted. Isaiah 25 tells us that on that day the veil of death that is hanging over the nations would be removed. This veil is now set aside. The glory of God is revealed in His beloved and resurrected Son.

153 in John 21

Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not torn ( John 20:11).

Most Bible readers would simply skip over this little precise detail in the text, but we should consider always ask why the Spirit of God puts such a detail in the text. This is not just a round number. The text does not say “approximately 153,” but rather it states emphatically there were 153 fishes in the net. Why this precision? Is it simply to confirm that John’s eye-witness account of the event is accurate and that he was really there? Yes. The number serves this function in the text, but it is only an additional benefit in the text. The significance of the number “153” is symbolic.

Rich Lusk notes that:

While the use of triangulation (17+16+15+14….=153) and gematria (the numerical value of words) seems weird to us, there is almost no doubt these things are present in the passage. The number “153” pops out at you from the text, and cries for an interpretation. There are just too many easy-to-find connections to be merely coincidental.

James Jordan comments similarly:

This is one of those texts in the Bible that many people puzzle over. It is not a puzzle for some. They say this just happens to be the record of the number of fish that were caught, evidence of a true fisherman’s recounting (e.g., Leon Morris; William Hendriksen). It is true that there were exactly 153 fish caught, but that is not the reason the precise number is given. It does not occur to such non-literary interpreters that the Holy Spirit often does not give precise numbers, and that if the precise number were not important, the text would only say “many fish” or “about 150 fish.”

Far from allegorical coincidence or allegorical abuse (common in the early church), this is a clear and necessary point of the text. John is communicating the completeness and totality of the nations of world; Gentiles and Jews are now coming into the arena of redemption. They are being joined to form one new family, one new creation under One Lord.