Friday, June 23, 2017

[BTT023] How Does the Bible Interpret Prophecy?

[BT023] Doing A Better Job

When we look at the Scriptures, we see two ways in which the meaning of a prophecy is revealed:

1). Prophecies which have their meanings revealed almost immediately afterwards.

In other words, the prophet Abrabimilechaham has a dream or vision, he can’t understand it, and God reveals the meaning of the dream within the same chapter.

A good example of this is in Daniel 2, where Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In that case, Nebuchadnezzar has a prophetic dream, and Daniel provides the interpretation almost immediately after. There can be no doubt of what God was trying to tell Nebuchadnezzar, because the interpretation follows in the text immediately.

2). Prophecies which do not have their meaning revealed until much later.

In other words, the prophet Enochathan has a dream or vision, writes it down, and it is not until hundreds or thousands of years later that the meaning is revealed.

An example of this is Jeremiah 31:31-34, where Jeremiah prophecies of a day in which God will write His law on the hearts of His people, which Hebrews 10:15-18 says is fulfilled in Jesus. There's a fairly significant gap between these two, so there were hundreds of years where it was not fully understood.

Now naturally, the first type of prophecy takes care of itself. There’s no need to interpret a prophecy that comes with its own interpretation! It’s the second type that we’re concerned with.

For that reason, we’re going to focus on a very, very specific type of prophecy: Old Testament prophecies that are explicitly quoted as being "fulfilled" in the New Testament. This is to filter out literary allusions and references to the Old Testament, leaving only indisputable fulfillments of prophecy.

These limitations were chosen because the New Testament authors were interpreting prophecies from a book – the Torah. This closely resembles our situation today. We are not interpreting new dreams and prophecies received from God directly, but prophecies that have been written down and passed through the ages. We want to see how New Testament authors dealt with this same situation.

Additionally, since we believe that both the Old and New Testament are the inspired word of God, we can have full assurance that when the New Testament says 'this was in fulfillment of prophecy,' this interpretation is correct.

In order to do this, we will limit our study to New Testament passages that use the Greek verb plēroō (πληρόω, "to fulfill") in conjunction with a direct quotation of Old Testament prophecy. Plēroō can also be used in the sense of "fulfilling" or "filling" other things – Jesus fulfilling the requirements of the law, Christians being filled with love/grace/the Holy Spirit. Since we are only interested in prophecy at the moment, we will not look at verses that use plēroō in these other senses.

Additionally, we will not be looking at isolated verses, but the passages in which they appear. This is necessary to understand precisely what actions and events are fulfilling the prophecy in question. We will also look at the Old Testament prophecy in its original context and compare how the New Testament fulfillment compares.

By my count, there are 17 passages in which a specific Old Testament prophecy is explicitly fulfilled (plēroō) in the New Testament. Before looking at these passages, we will look at some examples of passages that were rejected to better explain why we are looking at these 17 passages in particular.

[BTT024] Cut Passages 001

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