When I read the Old Testament, I strive to grasp the “inspired Word” of the text I am reading (see Mary Baker Eddy, Manual of The Mother Church, p. 15). But how to do that has always been a mystery. It’s difficult to see what is inspired about all the war, hatred, and revenge recorded in the Old Testament.
Recently, I read a section from the book Rolling Away the Stone, by Stephen Gottschalk, that really helped (see pp. 125–128). These pages describe how Mary Baker Eddy interpreted and taught the spiritual meaning of the Scriptures. It was powerful, and I thought even a glimpse of what was said might be helpful to you as it was helpful to me. (For more detail on the related history, see Michael Davis’s explanation below.)
The book describes the helpful practice of identifying the “type” that different characters, places, or things represent in the Bible. At first I didn’t understand this, but then I started studying the Glossary in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy—and I began to get a glimpse of what was meant by “type.” Mrs. Eddy used the word many times to describe, in part, several biblical terms:
“Benjamin (Jacob’s son). … a spiritual type” (p. 582). “Earth. … a type of eternity and immortality” (p. 585). “Euphrates (river). … a type of the glory which is to come” (p. 585). “Japhet (Noah’s son). A type of spiritual peace, flowing from the understanding that God is the divine Principle of all existence, and that man is His idea, the child of His care” (p. 589). “Moses. … a type of moral law and the demonstration thereof” (p. 592).
Now when I read the Old Testament, I look for how different things represent either types of spiritual ideas or types of material beliefs. For instance, could Pharaoh in Exodus represent a type of stubborn egotism found in mortal thought—a type that claims it is more powerful and more real than infinite Spirit?
To add to what Ian wrote about “types”:
It seems evident that Mary Baker Eddy believed that in reading accounts of the lives of biblical characters, one could discern both the spiritual and the mortal qualities they may have expressed, and this is what she was bringing out in her Glossary definitions.
Actually, Mrs. Eddy was by no means the first Christian to see these kinds of meanings in biblical characters and events. Doing so was an important part of the thinking of the most famous theologian in the New England Puritan tradition, Jonathan Edwards. Stephen Gottschalk writes in his biography of Mrs. Eddy, Rolling Away the Stone: “In the Edwardsian tradition in which [Eddy] was raised, biblical events had a meaning that transcended their specific circumstances. This pattern of interpretation was known formally as typology. It hearkens back to the early days of the Christian church, when it was used as a way of interpreting scripture. … It was this understanding of typology that Eddy inherited from the Edwardsian tradition, then generalized and broadened in her own way. Like her Puritan forebears, she repeatedly spoke of biblical events as ‘types’ ” (pp. 126–127).
(Researcher, The Mary Baker Eddy Library)
These two joint “insights” have been adapted and reprinted from two consecutive posts on the online discussion forums at time4thinkers.com.
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