Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Understanding Old Testament Prophesy

How the New Testament Authors Understood the Prophets:
A Look at Joel 2:28-32 and Acts 2:14-21.

Over the next few Wednesday I want to take a surface look at Acts 2:14-21 and Joel 2:28-32. This is actually part of a study that I was required to do for Bible Introdction to Old Testament (BIOT). The focus of these post will primarily be on understanding Old Testament prophesy, and how the New Testament authors understood the prophets. Peter's quotation of Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:14-21 will serve as a text case for out sudy. This is one of the hardest NT quotations of the OT to interpret, and fit into a theological system. As you will see in the post to come I think that we must take and "already not yet" approcah to this text (as well as other text). The fulfillment of Joel's prophecy is inaugurated in Acts 2:14-21 at the day of Pentecost. Peter’s message to the crowd in Jerusalem represents the first in a series of events that will lead to the ultimate fulfillment of Joel 2:28-32 at the second coming of Christ.


Lets look at the texts:

Joel 2:28-32

“It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.
“Even on the male and female servants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.
The Day of the Lord
“I will adisplay wonders in the sky and on the earth,
Blood, fire and columns of smoke.
“The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood
Before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes.
“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord
Will be delivered;
For bon Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who cescape,
As the Lord has said,
Even among the survivors whom the Lord calls.

Acts 2:14-21

But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: “Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.
“For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only the third hour of the day;
but this is what was spoken of through the prophet Joel:

And it shall be in the last days, God says,
That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
And your young men shall see visions,
And your old men shall dream dreams;
Even on My bondslaves, both men and women,
I will in those days pour forth of My Spirit
And they shall prophesy.
And I will grant wonders in the sky above
And signs on the earth below,
Blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke.
The sun will be turned into darkness
And the moon into blood,
Before the great and glorious day of the Lord shall come.
And it shall be that aeveryone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.



Prophesy makes up a significant amount of the Old Testament, and so in order to understand the Old Testament one must understand prophesy. To better understand how Old Testament prophecy applies to the Church age it is important to see how the New Testament authors interpreted it. There are few prophetic passages that are interpreted in more diverse ways than Joel 2:28-32. The major debate over this passage is how does Peter’s quotation in Acts 2:14-21 relate to the fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy. Many different hermeneutics, and various theological orientations are represented in the many different harmonizations of these two passages. Two popular approaches used to interpret these passages are Sensus Plenior, and a double referent view. Sensus Plenior has been unable to harmonize the meaning of Joel’s prophecy in Joel’s day with its fulfillment in Peter’s day. The double referent view, however, harmonizes the two aspects of this prophecy. The double referent view of Joel’s prophecy properly views the day of Pentecost as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy that as of yet has not been finally fulfilled.

*This post was originally posted on 11/9/2005, before the great crash. I have posted it again to restart a series of conversations on the subject. Look for more to come in the following Wednesdays.*


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