Hermeneutical Principles and the Interpretation of Psalm 110 -- By: Elliott E. Johnson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 149:596 (Oct 1992)
Article: Hermeneutical Principles and the Interpretation of Psalm 110
Author: Elliott E. Johnson


Hermeneutical Principles and the Interpretation of Psalm 110

Elliott E. Johnson

Professor of Bible Exposition
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

In the developments within dispensationalism several passages of Scripture become focal points. Psalm 110 is one such focal point. Three issues in its interpretation are faced by the evangelical community as a whole. One issue is hermeneutical. When Psalm 110 is read in its historical context, what valid role does the added revelation of the New Testament have in reaching a proper interpretation of the psalm? In other words how does the meaning derived from the exegesis of Psalm 110 compare with the New Testament interpretation of the psalm?

The second issue is theological. What relationship, if any, does the Messiah’s session “at the right hand” of God the Father (Ps 110:1, 5) have to the kingdom of God today? Is Jesus’ present session in some sense related to the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant? The third issue is practical. What do the answers to the preceding questions imply for the ministry of the church today?

To address these issues, four questions will be discussed. (1) What hermeneutical principles are relevant to the interpretation of Psalm 110? (2) What range of interpretations are possible within a literal interpretation of Psalm 110? (3) What range of interpretations remain after the analogy of faith has been used to interpret Psalm 110? (4) What practical implications follow from the interpretation of Psalm 110?

Hermeneutical Principles

The dispensational tradition is known for its literal interpretation. Ryrie says literal interpretation is part of the sine qua non of dispensationalism.1 But what is meant by “literal” interpretation?

Some like Ryrie stress the “plain sense,” while others such as Walvoord stress the “literal” reference.2 Still others stress “normal language” usage. The most widely accepted understanding of literal interpretation among dispensationalists today is grammatical, historical interpretation. However, this is not distinctive to dispensationalism. Grammatical, historical interpretation is shared broadly ...

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