Forthtelling, Not Foretelling

Steven L. McKenzie

in How to Read the Bible

Published in print August 2005 | ISBN: 9780195161496
Published online April 2009 |
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, but rather to address specific social, political, and religious circumstances in ancient Israel and Judah. The prophets in the Hebrew Bible had their own original contexts, and their prophecies had their own original meanings. The prophecies at that time were perfectly understandable as addressing those particular contexts. Thus, Jewish interpretation of those prophecies as unrelated to Jesus Christ hundreds of years later is entirely appropriate. However, the fact that prophetic texts from the Hebrew Bible had their own original contexts does not rule out their fulfillment in the New Testament nor render the New Testament use of such prophecies illegitimate. The prophetic texts were routinely reinterpreted and reapplied to later situations. The New Testament writers used the same methods of reuse and reinterpretation found among contemporary Jewish authors. The differences between Jewish and Christian interpretations stem not from different methods but from different religious convictions.

Keywords: Hebrew Bible; prophets; New Testament; biblical prophecy; Christians; Jews; interpretation

Chapter.  10193 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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