Saturday, December 13, 2008

Interpretation of Prophesies

The following material is based on the books:
1. Carl B. Gibbs Principles of Biblical Interpretation
2. Understanding the Bible (published by ICI)
3. Geoff Bennett The Bible: Dig a Little Deeper

A prophesy is an announcement of God's will made by a prophet. Sometimes prophets predicted future events. Sometimes they pronounced God's will related to the present time. They explained God's will, often exposing people in their sines and encouraging to repent. They also announced God's judgment if the people would not repent. So, there are two kinds of prophesies - those that are related to the future and those related to the present..

There are prophesies not only in the books of prophets, but also in other books of the Bible.

Some prophesies were interpreted in the Bible. Then we need just to find this interpretation in order to see how the prophesy was fulfilled.

Some prophesies have a time interval between events that the prophets did not realize. For example, in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1-2. The whole prophesy is Isaiah 61:1-3. However, Jesus stopped in the middle of verse 2 and then said, "Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." The first half of Isaiah's prophesy was fulfilled in Christ's first coming. The second half will be fulfilled in His second coming. However, Isaiah did not know about the time interval between the two parts of this prophesy. He saw them as one event.

Some prophesies are typological. They are being fulfilled two times: in the time of the Old Testament and in the time of the New Testament. For example, in Hosea 11:1, it is said, "When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son." On the one hand, this verse was about Israel's exodus from Egypt in the time of Moses. On the other hand, Matthew 2:15 quotes this verse referring to Jesus return from Egypt to Nazareth with Joseph and Mary after Herod's death. So, this verse was fulfilled two times.

Prophesies are often poetic and contain parallelism and figures of speech.

Principles of interpretation of prophesies:
1. Read the text of prophesy carefully and consider whether the words should be interpreted literally or metaphorically. If it is possible, try to understand the text literally. Otherwise, try to understand figure of speech used in the text.
2. Consider historical background. The knowledge of history at the time of when the prophesy was spoken is very important for understanding it. You can find this information in the same book, in other books written at about the same time, and in literature - Bible dictionaries, Bible encyclopedias, and Bible commentaries.
3. Pay attention on the context. Do not take a verse from its context.
4. Consider how the prophesy was described. Some prophesies are written in the past tense. This prophetic past tense stresses that the prophesy undoubtedly will be fulfilled.
5. Find out if the prophesy was fulfilled in Gospels or in the time of the early church.
6. Try to find interpretation of the prophesy given by Christ and apostles. Read the parallel texts.

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