Teaching Children About Biblical Typology

Biblical typology is an area of Scripture study that points out persons and events in the Old Testament called “types,” prophetic signs of Jesus in his incarnation, teachings, death, and resurrection. Calling Jesus “the New Adam” and Mary “the New Eve” are examples of typology. Typology helps us understand how the Old and New Testaments are related.

Catholic mother and school teacher Maura Roan McKeegan believed that children could appreciate biblical typology. Her books in the Old and New series (Emmaus Road Publishing) place Old Testament stories side by side with the Gospel events that they prefigure. Colorful illustrations plus simple text make it clear to young readers that, in the words of St. Augustine, “The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old is unveiled in the New.”

McKeegan talked to Catholic Digest about her concept, and the book’s illustrator — Catholic Digest creative director Ted Schluenderfritz — spoke about his artistic contributions.

The author discusses the importance of Biblical typology

Please further explain the meaning of biblical typology. How can Old Testament persons and events be symbols of Jesus when they themselves are real people and events? What are some examples of biblical types?

Each Old Testament story has value on its own, but the New Testament brings the stories into a new light. St. John says that “we are God’s children now; what we shall be has yet not been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Biblical typology is similar. When the events of the Old Testament happened, they carried great significance for Israel, yet their full significance did not appear until Jesus came and his likeness appeared in them. They were a promise, a hint of greater things to come.

Scripture is filled with types: Manna prefigures the Eucharist; the Ark of the Covenant prefigures Mary; the sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac prefigures Calvary; and Noah’s ark prefigures Baptism. Jesus talks about “the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 12:38-42) that prefigures his death and resurrection.

Tell us how you conceived the idea for these books.

I’d never heard of biblical typology until I enrolled in a graduate theology program in my 20s. When my professors, especially Scott Hahn, talked about typology, it fascinated me. As a teacher, I immediately wanted to share this concept with children. I remember thinking, Kids could totally get this! I envisioned picture books that would focus on one example at a time, presenting Old Testament stories side by side with their Gospel counterparts so children could discover the connections. The idea never left me. Years later, after I had children of my own, I finally sat down and wrote the first book.

Some might see typology as mere biblical trivia and feel that it should be a low priority, given all the other things children must learn as they prepare for the sacraments and advance through school. Why is teaching biblical typology worthwhile and important at this age?

Once children begin to see how biblical typology works, they have a key to open the door to a greater understanding of Scripture that will last a lifetime. When they understand how the two Testaments are connected, all the details that might have seemed trivial suddenly gain incredible significance.

A child who read my first two books said he couldn’t wait to read more, because “now I understand that the Bible stories have a match!” That understanding grows in complexity as a child matures. An older child told me that while reading Genesis, she noticed that Joseph’s brothers sold him for silver just as Judas did to Jesus. On her own, she discovered that Joseph is a type for Jesus, because she had the key — the basic understanding that the Testaments are united. She knew that those details were not extraneous, but rife with meaning. Biblical typology had given her that key.

How might a catechist, teacher, or parent use these books (beyond just reading them aloud)? Do you have any tips on how to discuss the text or the pictures as one reads?

The Holy Spirit speaks to individuals in different ways through Scripture. Instead of spelling out a particular interpretation or trying to elicit specific answers, I would keep the atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable, so that children feel free to ponder these new ideas without pressure.

After hearing the book read aloud, children could:

*locate source texts in the Bible;

*volunteer to do a shared reading aloud with an adult or with another child — one person reads the Old Testament side and one reads the New Testament (reluctant readers could simply listen); or

*use sticky notes to mark pages where they have comments or questions.

The illustrator shares insights about the book’s pictures

How did you get involved and chosen as the illustrator?

Emmaus Road contacted me because I’d done other illustration work for them. I was very excited because I have always loved exploring the connections between the Old and New Testaments. I think finding the links of biblical typology makes reading the Old Testament much richer and more spiritually satisfying.

The vibrant colors and the symmetry of your art really stand out. Tell us about these choices and any other particular aspects of these illustrations.

We had initially thought we’d use a much simpler style, but I’ve long been interested in the Eastern and Western traditions of iconography in the Church and wanted to explore the themes in Maura’s writing using those.

Can you describe the collaboration process between author and illustrator?

Along with the text, Maura usually wrote brief descriptions of the basic scene her text describes. I then created a thumbnail dummy with my sketches that incorporated her ideas. She was incredibly supportive of what I wanted to try to do with the images — even rewriting a page to support the images I wanted to create. My work as a designer doesn’t leave much time for illustration, so I’m very grateful for the patience of both the publisher and author. It takes about a year once my sketches are approved to create the final artwork.

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