Religion, Theology and Self-Improvement Sundays: What Is Prophecy? Part XII

This week and next, we will look at the concept of "types" and what it means in connection to prophecy. This is a very important concept for us to nail down which is why we are spreading it over two weeks. The best introduction that I have seen of the concept of "types" and how it pertains to prophecy was written in 1982 by Minister Jabril Muhammad, an excellent theologian taught by The Honorable Elijah Muhammad. Today, we quote from a writing of his, some years back.

His writing refers to the work of others in this critical area. On December 28, 1982 for his Farrakhan The Traveler column, Minister Muhammad wrote:

I'm aware that the definition of "type" that makes up this article may be boring or tedious for some. However, it is very important to the whole purpose of this series. So I'm asking my readers to read on with patience.

On pages 50-53 of his book, Things To Come, Dr. Pentecost quotes from several scholars on the definition of the concept of "types", which are one of the prime means by which God has revealed future events.

He quotes one scholar, Milton Terry by name, who wrote: " In the science of theology it (types) properly signifies the preordained representative relation which certain persons, events and institutions of the Old Testament bear to corresponding persons, events and institutions in the New."

All right, he then quotes two scholars who co-authored the work he cites. I am now going to paraphrase some of their words for the sake of clarity. The type has its own place and meaning, which is independent of the anti-type. The anti-type is symbolized or prefigured by the type. The anti-type (which is that to which the type points) is the ideal, and transcends the type, which points to the anti-type. That is to say, it (the anti-type) is greater than the type. It follows, then, that the type (person, event, etc.) may not have been fully understood by most or all of the people during the time of its appearance.

If something is in front of us which was ultimately made by God to point to something yet to come (in the future), we will understand it only to the extent that we know why he, she or it is in front of us and God's ultimate purpose. We may know much about what we are looking at. But, if we do not know the deeper reason for the existence of the person, thing or event - in terms of God's purpose - we really don't have the best understanding of what we are looking at. This is especially true of that which is front of us which is a sign of that which is to come in the future and is instruction for people yet unborn.

Two other observations made by these authors are that the essence of a type must be distinguished from its accessories. This helped those living in the time of the fulfillment (anti-type) of the sign (type) to see the essential connection between sign and reality; prophetic and fulfillment; type and anti-type. The other point they made was that the writers of the scriptures provided the clue, or means, by which one could properly match, or properly perceive the true relationship between the type and anti-type (or of prophecy and fulfillment). However, they warn that the mere perception of an analogy or resemblance between that which is recorded (of the past) and that which seems to fulfill it, is not enough to justify a claim that a given type is fulfilled in "such and such" supposed anti-type.

Next week we will go a little bit further on this and move onward towards the ultimate process of proving whether a prophecy has been fulfilled or not.

Cedric Muhammad

Sunday, August 20, 2000