There’s a great interview with Greg Beale on Westminster Books’ website about interpreting the Bible, understanding typology, and how the New Testament authors use the Old Testament. I’m not sure that anyone has helped me to understand these and other related issues more than him.
Here’s his quick, helpful summary of biblical typology:
First of all you have to have an analogy between the Old Testament text and how that text is being compared in the New Testament. There has to be some sort of analogical correspondence.
Second, the type in the Old Testament has to be historical.
Third, the type has what I would describe as a “pointing forward nature.” It isn’t direct verbal prophecy, but there is a divine philosophy of history at work in which events are intentionally repeated again and again. The reason for this is that an earlier event has been designed by God to be so much like a later event(s) that it is inextricably lined to that later event, and is actually a foreshadowing of the later one.
Fourthly, there is usually an escalation in meaning. For instance, John 19 says of Jesus “not a bone of him was broken,” which comes from Exodus 12 describing the Passover Lamb, which is a historical narration that is foreshadowing Jesus. Jesus is a greater reality than a Passover lamb. There is escalation here.
Fifth, there is what we call retrospection. These sorts of things are realized most clearly after the coming of Christ, his resurrection, and the gift of the Spirit.
And here’s how typology helps us understand what Matthew is doing when he takes Hosea’s reference to an event in Israel’s history and says that Jesus “fulfilled” it:
The problem that many scholars have with typology is that events in the Old Testament that are merely narrated as history, the New Testament takes these historical narrations that are certainly not prophecies and understands them as prophecies. To some it appears that this practice is developing a passage in the Old Testament that is not in line with its original meaning. This is why Matthew’s use of Hosea 11:1 is difficult (“out of Egypt I called my son”). Matthew says that this text is “fulfilled” when Jesus goes into Egypt with his parents, but the Hosea passage is a historical reflection on the first exodus out of Egypt. This sort of thing can appear problematic…
I contend that throughout the book of Hosea itself not only is the first exodus mentioned quite a bit, but so too a second exodus that was to occur in the latter days. The best example is Hosea 11. In verse 1 he mentions the historical exodus, but the chapter concludes with the prophecy that God will bring them out of Egypt in the future. In fact, in the middle of the chapter it even says they will return to Egypt a second time. There are a number of places where Hosea mentions a first exodus and elsewhere a second exodus, and he does this right in chapter 11 multiple times. If you asked Hosea “Hosea, did you see that the end of Israel’s history was to be shaped like its beginning at the exodus?” I think he would say, “Yes.” That’s why Hosea sees that there is going to be a future exodus that is replicating or recapitulating a first exodus. If that’s the case, then Matthew is just recognizing Hosea’s own typological method. What I’m arguing here is that in a number of passages in the Old Testament itself there are hints and exegetical evidences that the author himself would’ve recognized a typological dynamic. If you can find these indications in the text it certainly enhances the probability that Matthew or any other New Testament author was right in discerning a type, and we should be aware of such evidence for types in the same way.
The 10-or-so minute read of the whole interview is worth it.