Forthtelling, Not Foretelling

Steven L. McKenzie

in How to Read the Bible

Published in print September 2005 | ISBN: 9780195161496
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199850419 | DOI:
Forthtelling, Not Foretelling

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Christian readers typically misunderstand prophecy in the Bible because they assume that its primary intent is to foretell the future. This chapter shows that the intent of the genre of prophecy in the Hebrew Bible was not primarily to predict the future—certainly not hundreds of years in advance—but rather to address specific social, political, and religious circumstances in ancient Israel and Judah. This means that there is no prediction of Christ in the Hebrew Bible. The writers of the New Testament and later Christian literature reinterpreted or reapplied the Hebrew prophecies. This is not to disparage these later Christian authors, however, for they were participating in a long-standing process of reinterpretation that goes back to the prophetic books themselves.

Keywords: Hebrew Bible; prophecy; ancient Israel; Judah; New Testament; reinterpretation

Chapter.  10100 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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