Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Understanding Old Testament Prophesy

Double Referent: "The already not yet."

Another methodology for ascertaining the meaning of Old Testament prophecy, and its New Testament counterparts sees more than one referent to a specific prediction. This view in many ways combines the three interpretive principles used to determine the relationship of the Old Testament to the New Testament. However, this differs slightly from the view that there is more than one meaning, or sense, to a specific prophetic prediction. A double meaning would be defined in this way:

If we ascribe to any passage of Scripture a literal, obvious, historical
sense, and interpret it as conveying the meaning which its words
naturally and obviously seem to convey, and yet at the same time
ascribe to these same words another meaning which is occult or
obscure but is still designed to be conveyed by those same words,
we then make out a double sense.

Whereas, to see more than one referent to a single prediction is to say that “an Old Testament prediction may have a single determinative meaning with multiple fulfillments.” One could say that these Old Testament predictions have a single sense to them, but that the referent of the predictions may not be specified until the fulfillment. The idea here is that a prophetic prediction “begins with a word that ushers in not only a climactic fulfillment, but a series of events, all of which participate in and lead up to that climactic or ultimate event in a protracted series that belong together as a unit because of their corporate or collective solidarity.”
According to this view the prophet may be able to see the future implications of a contemporary situation. He is divinely enabled to see both the near and the far effect of his prophetic predictions, and the two are so closely linked that the prediction possesses one meaning in a collective whole. That is to say:

In this way, the whole set of events makes up one collective totality
and constitutes only one idea, even though the events may be spread
over a large segment of history by the deliberate plan of God. The
important point to observe, however, is that all that parts belong to
a single whole. They are generically related to each other by some
identifiable wholeness.

And so the perspective of the prophet blended together the near and far aspects of a prediction into one vision. “Old Testament predictions have a sense, that sense would have been known to those who heard the prophecy uttered and to us through the application of historical-grammatical hermeneutics, but that the referent is not specified until the fulfillment.” And to say that there can be an expansion of referents within one meaningful prophetic prediction does not require that exclusion of the original referent is required. If one accepts the view that there is more than one referent to a specific prediction, then it is possible to properly account for the original determinative meaning of a prophetic prediction, and determine how the New Testament writers have interpreted these prophetic predictions.


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