The Interpretation Of Old Testament Prophecy -- By: J. Randolph Jaeggli

Journal: Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal
Volume: DBSJ 02:1 (Fall 1997)
Article: The Interpretation Of Old Testament Prophecy
Author: J. Randolph Jaeggli


The Interpretation Of Old
Testament Prophecy

J. Randolph Jaeggli*

* Dr. Jaeggli is Professor of Old Testament Interpretation and Language at Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.

This article will take a broad overview of the process of interpreting prophecy and will suggest some aspects of expositional procedure. Perhaps there is no category of Scripture that is more neglected in today’s preaching than Old Testament prophecy. No doubt there are a few prophetic texts containing direct Messianic prediction that receive some attention. At Christmas, for instance, one might expect to hear a sermon on Isaiah 9:6–7. The vast majority of prophetic texts, however, have remained utterly ignored. The typical fundamental pastor may not preach from Old Testament prophecy in any expository manner for years. This situation is probably due to a sense of frustration that many expositors experience as they study a prophetic passage. The message seems on the surface far removed from today. As a result of an inability to bridge the gap between what a prophetic text meant to the original audience and what it means to the believer today, many interpreters have divorced prophecy from its historical context of dramatic interest and have failed to see the prophet as one who sought to meet the needs of his day with the revealed Word of God. Perhaps this situation has resulted from an overreaction to the rationalist’s insistence that prophecy is nothing more than the sage insight of astute men who sought to challenge and comfort their people close to the supposed fulfillment of their extremely short-range predictions. The wise interpreter, however, will affirm both the supernaturally predictive elements of prophecy and its applicability to the needs of the prophet’s contemporary audience. Only by understanding the meaning of a prophetic text to the original hearers is it possible to derive legitimate application to the modern audience.

Understanding The Prophet’s Message
To The Original Audience

In one sense, the exegetical process in interpreting prophecy is no

different from other categories of biblical material. The same elements of lexical/syntactical, contextual, cultural/historical, theological, and literary analysis the interpreter uses throughout the Bible, he uses in the Old Testament prophetic literature as well. There are some special considerations, however, that apply in the hermeneutics of prophecy. The seventh chapter of Isaiah will serve as a hermeneutic laboratory for exploring these distinctive elements. Perhaps actual examples of theory in practice will aid the reader in applying interpretational principles in his own ...

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