Mitchell L. Chase. 40 Questions About Typology and Allegory. 40 Questions. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2020. 320 pages. $23.99 (paperback).
The concepts of “typology” and “allegory” have been the subjects of much debate and controversy in church history. The former is often ill-defined and the latter frequently viewed with suspicion. Discussions of either can prove more confusing than edifying. In 40 Questions about Typology and Allegory, Mitchell Chase (senior pastor of Kosmosdale Baptist Church and adjunct professor at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY) attempts to bring clarity to the conversation while also showing how an understanding of both can equip readers to better see how the Old Testament in its entirety points to Jesus Christ.
While the opening section of the book consists of chapters on the Bible’s storyline and the fourth (and final) section closes with a chapter on the importance of the book’s subject matter, the bulk of the material is found in sections two and three. In the former, Chase addresses the topic of typology, defining a “type” as “a person, office, place, institution, event, or thing in salvation history that anticipates, shares correspondences with, escalates toward, and resolves in its antitype” (p. 38). In the latter, he focuses on allegory, defined as “a passage that says one thing in order to say something else” (p. 193). Each of the two middle sections begins with a discussion of the concept, followed by an examination of its use or neglect in church history, and concludes with several examples of typological/allegorical interpretations from Scripture.
Conversations on typology and allegory often take place in the realm of academia rather than in the local church; yet Chase writes at a level that is easily accessible to laypeople. He continually emphasizes the importance of these topics for rightly understanding and applying the Old Testament, supplying the reader with abundant illustrations of what these hermeneutical methods look like in practice. Chase’s chapters on the history of typology/allegory are particularly insightful. He dispels the common misconception of the Church Fathers as arbitrarily spiritualizing texts of Scripture, instead arguing that they followed clear theological and canonical guidelines in their interpretations that stemmed from their belief in the unity and divine authorship of the Bible (in contrast to the form of spiritualizing promoted by Protestant liberalism).
One weakness in Chase’s treatment is the lack of exegetical argumentation for interpreting non-allegorical passages allegorically. While he mentions the Church Fathers’ citation of 1 Corinthians 10:4 and Galatians 4:21–31 in justifying their allegorical methods (pp. 200–201), he offers only a few brief comments on these passages (pp. 288–89). This contrasts with the strong case he makes for the practice of typological interpretation earlier in the book (chaps. 5–9). Still, his insights here are helpful in establishing hermeneutical safeguards against subjective eisegesis, and he does provide a plethora of examples of interpreting passages allegorically without violating the intention of the human authors or the historicity of the text. Overall, Christians who want to read and apply the Old Testament in a way consistent with the Church Fathers and the biblical authors themselves will find much to benefit from in this volume.
Drake Isabell is an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as Content Manager for Book Notices for the Center for Biblical Studies.