The Spartan warrior watched with interest as the ancient blacksmith worked. Placing a red-hot rod of iron on his anvil, the smithy struck heavy blows with his hammer. His goal was to make the rod as flat on the anvil top, eventually producing a sword.
The Greek word for the anvil in this story was typos (TOO poss). The same word was used in a variety of ways, each having to do with shaping a material into a desired
form. The hollow mold for making the image of an idol was called a typos. The mark left by a seal in hot wax was called a typos. The stamp for making a coin was also called a typos.
Recently I watched the ancient scene re-enacted at Silver Dollar City. The blacksmith took a metal object and carefully made its imprint (typos) in sand. Then he filled the imprinted sand with melted aluminum and produced an exact replica of his original. In this kind of work both the original object and the imprint it leaves in the sand are called a “pattern.”
It was in this way that the ancient word typos became a common word for “pattern.” (We retain something of this usage in our word “archetype,” the first pattern.) In the Old Testament, Moses was told, “Make them according to the pattern (typos) shown you on the mountain” (Exod 25:40). Similarly, when we find prophetic patterns (such as the table with bread in the tabernacle) we often call them “types.”
In the New Testament Paul was fond of the word typos, the pattern used to make identical replicas. He said in Romans 6:17 that we should all obey the “form (typos) of teaching we have received” (by allowing it to mold us into its own pattern). On his missionary journeys he was diligent to make himself “a model” (typos) for his converts to follow (2 Thess 3:9). When they were faithful he commended them for becoming “a model (typos) to all the believers” (1 Thess 1:7). He challenged Timothy to “set an example (typos) . . . in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim 4:12). Likewise, he told Titus, “In everything set them an example (typos) by doing what is good” (Titus 2:7). The challenge for all of us is to “live according to the pattern (typos)” that he has given (Phil 3:17).