The Principle of Double Fulfillment in Interpreting Prophecy -- By: David Jeremiah

Journal: Grace Journal
Volume: GJ 13:2 (Spring 1972)
Article: The Principle of Double Fulfillment in Interpreting Prophecy
Author: David Jeremiah

The Principle of Double Fulfillment in Interpreting Prophecy

David Jeremiah

Pastor, Blackhawk Baptist Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana

[The author holds the B. A. degree from Cedarville College, and the Th.M. degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. He is presently pursuing doctoral studies at Grace Theological Seminary.]

The controversy over the principle of “double-fulfillment” in the interpretation of prophecy is not a new theological development. As far back as Theodore of Mopsuestia, there were conflicting opinions as to the validity of applying one prophetic passage to more than one situation. Theodore (350–428 A.D.), who was labeled “The Exegete” by his contemporaries, refused to accept any prophetic interpretation that approached duplicity.

In Frederick Farrar’s History of Interpretation, Theodore of Mopsuestia is mentioned in connection with Zechariah 9:8–10. Farrar says:

In the ninth chapter of Zechariah, Theodore thought it an instance of frigid and foolish interpretation to apply one clause historically and another allegorically, to refer one to Zerubbabel, the next to Christ, and then to go back again to Zerubbabel. He refuses to read the latest revelations into the earliest utterances….1

Time has not solved the problem. Today there are good men on both sides of the debate. Perhaps Dwight Pentecost has stated the case in favor of the “double-sense” principle better than any other:

Few laws are more important to observe in the interpretation of prophetic Scriptures than the law of double

reference. Two events, widely separated as to the time of their fulfillment, may be brought together into the scope of prophecy.2

Other men who have agreed with Pentecost as to the legitimacy of this principle are: Berkeley Mickelsen, Bernard Ramm, C. L. Feinberg, Charles Ryrie, and John Walvoord.

The other side of the issue is championed by Milton S. Terry. He has devoted several pages in his book on Hermeneutics to the objections which he has to the “law of double reference.” Some of these objections will be answered later, but perhaps this statement by Terry will open the door to debate:

…the moment we admit the principle that portions of Scripture contain an occult or double sense, we introduce an element of uncertainty in the Sacred Volume, and unsettle all scientific interpretation.3

Terry also quotes...

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