PROPHECY That Is Interpreted Using the Objective Conservative Evangelical Historical-Grammatical Method – Examples Explained

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EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 180+ books. In addition, Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

A Short Overview

The historical-grammatical method of interpreting Bible prophecy is a method used by conservative Christians to interpret the prophetic passages of the Bible. This method emphasizes the historical and grammatical context in which the prophecy was written, as well as the literary genre of the prophecy, in order to understand the author’s intended meaning. The main goal of this approach is to interpret the prophecy in the way that the original audience would have understood it while also considering the implications of the prophecy for the present day.

The historical-grammatical method has several key principles:

  1. Literal interpretation: The prophecy should be understood in its literal sense unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.
  2. Historical context: The prophecy should be understood in the context of the historical setting in which it was written.
  3. Grammatical context: The prophecy should be understood in the context of the grammar and syntax of the language in which it was written.
  4. Literary genre: The prophecy should be understood in the context of the literary genre in which it was written, such as poetry, apocalyptic literature, or prophetic oracle.
  5. Theological context: The prophecy should be understood in the context of the overall theology of the Bible and in relation to other prophetic passages.
  6. Progressive revelation: The prophecy should be understood in the context of the progressive revelation of God’s plan throughout the history of salvation, considering the historical and cultural context of when the scripture was written.

By using this method, conservative Christians aim to arrive at a historically and grammatically accurate understanding of the prophecy, to get at what the author meant by the words that he used, and to understand how it relates to the life of the Church and the world today.

Example Prophecies Explained

Isaiah 7:14

one example of a prophecy that can be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 7:14.

Bible verses: Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Interpretation: When interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, we would take into account the following factors:

  1. Literal interpretation: The prophecy states that a “virgin” will give birth to a son, which is a literal statement.
  2. Historical context: The prophecy was given during a time of political and military crisis in the kingdom of Judah, specifically to King Ahaz. It’s intended to assure the king that God will protect him and his kingdom from the threats posed by the neighboring kingdoms of Israel and Syria.
  3. Grammatical context: The Hebrew word used for “virgin” in this passage is “almah,” which specifically refers to a young woman of marriageable age, and it doesn’t have the same connotation of virginity as in English.
  4. Literary genre: The book of Isaiah is a prophetic book, and this passage is part of a prophetic oracle.
  5. Theological context: The prophecy is part of the larger theme of God’s redemption and salvation for his people, which is a recurrent theme throughout the Old Testament.
  6. Progressive revelation: The prophecy of Immanuel is fulfilled in the New Testament, where the birth of Jesus is announced by the angel to Mary, a young woman, who would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son, Jesus, who would be Immanuel, God with us.

By taking all these factors into account, we can understand that this passage is a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah, who will be born of a young woman, and that he would be Immanuel, God with us. The prophecy was given to assure the king and the people of Judah that God will protect them and will bring salvation to them, and it’s fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who came to save his people from their sins.

Daniel 9:24-27

Another example of a prophecy that can be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Daniel 9:24-27.

Bible verses: Daniel 9:24-27 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.”

Interpretation: When interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, we would take into account the following factors:

  1. Literal interpretation: The prophecy states that a certain period of time will elapse before the coming of the Anointed one, the ruler, and that he will be cut off and will have nothing, this is a literal statement.
  2. Historical context: The prophecy was given during the Babylonian exile, and it’s specifically referring to the coming of the Messiah and the end of the age.
  3. Grammatical context: The passage is written in chronological terms and it’s providing a detailed timeline for the coming of the Messiah and the end of the age.
  4. Literary genre: The book of Daniel is a prophetic book, and this passage is part of a prophetic prophecy.
  5. Theological context: The prophecy is part of the larger theme of God’s redemption and salvation for his people, and it’s providing a detailed timeline for the coming of the Messiah and the end of the age.
  6. Progressive revelation: The prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament, where the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is presented as the one who will bring salvation and an end to sin, and who will establish everlasting righteousness. The prophecy also alludes to the destruction of the city and the sanctuary, which was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 CE, and the end will come like a flood, a metaphor for the end times. The historical-grammatical method of interpretation helps us to understand the prophetic passage in its historical context and the intended meaning for the original audience and how it relates to the current understanding of the end times.

Zechariah 9:9-10

another example of a prophecy that can be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Zechariah 9:9-10.

Bible verses: Zechariah 9:9-10 “Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”

Interpretation: When interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, we would take into account the following factors:

  1. Literal interpretation: The prophecy states that the Messiah will come riding on a donkey, and will bring peace to the nations, this is a literal statement.
  2. Historical context: The prophecy was given during the post-exilic period of the Jewish people, and it’s specifically referring to the coming of the Messiah who will bring salvation and peace.
  3. Grammatical context: The passage is written in poetic form and it’s providing imagery of the Messiah’s coming, and the end of war and conflict.
  4. Literary genre: The book of Zechariah is a prophetic book, and this passage is part of a prophetic poetry.
  5. Theological context: The prophecy is part of the larger theme of God’s redemption and salvation for his people, and it’s providing imagery of the Messiah coming in peace and humility and how his rule will extend throughout the world.
  6. Progressive revelation: The prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament where the coming of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is presented as the one who will bring salvation and peace. The prophecy is fulfilled in the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where he rides on a donkey, as predicted in Zechariah 9:9, and is hailed as the king of Israel by the people, as a fulfillment of this prophecy. The historical-grammatical method of interpretation helps us to understand the prophetic passage in its historical context and the intended meaning for the original audience, in this case the people of Israel and how it relates to the current understanding of the coming of the Messiah and his role as the bringer of peace and salvation.
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Psalm 22:1-18

Another example of a prophecy that can be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Psalm 22.

Bible verses: Psalm 22:1-18 “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: ‘He trusts in the Lord; let the Lord rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.’

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Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God. Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions that tear their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

Interpretation: When interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, we would take into account the following factors:

  1. Literal interpretation: The prophecy states that the Messiah will be forsaken by God, mocked and scorned by men, and will suffer and die, this is a literal statement.
  2. Historical context: The prophecy is written by King David, and it’s speaking of his own suffering and that of his descendants, and it’s also referring to the coming of the Messiah and his sufferings.
  3. Grammatical context: The passage is written in poetic form and it’s providing imagery of the Messiah’s suffering and death.
  4. Literary genre: The book of Psalms is a book of poetry and this passage is part of a poetic lament, expressing the feelings of despair and abandonment.
  5. Theological context: The prophecy is part of the larger theme of God’s redemption and salvation for his people, and it’s providing imagery of the Messiah’s suffering, and how he would be mocked and scorned by men and would ultimately die for the sins of his people.
  6. Progressive revelation: The prophecy is fulfilled in the New Testament where the suffering and death of Jesus Christ as the Messiah is presented as the one who would die for the sins of his people, and that he would be mocked and scorned by men, as described in Psalm 22. The historical-grammatical method of interpretation helps us to understand the prophetic passage in its historical context and the intended meaning for the original audience, in this case the people of Israel and how it relates to the current understanding of the coming of the Messiah and his role as the one who would suffer and die for the sins of his people.
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Isaiah 53:1-12

Another example of a prophecy that can be interpreted using the historical-grammatical method is the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Isaiah 53.

Bible verses: Isaiah 53:1-12 “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

How to Interpret the Bible-1

Interpretation: When interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, we would take into account the following factors:

  1. Literal meaning: The literal meaning of the passage is a description of the coming Messiah as a suffering servant who is rejected by mankind yet takes on the sins of the people and is punished for them.
  2. Historical context: The passage is set in the historical context of Israel, and the prophecy is given by Isaiah, a prophet in ancient Israel.
  3. Grammatical context: The passage is written in Hebrew, and the grammar and syntax used in the passage would be taken into account during interpretation.
  4. Literary genre: The passage is written in the literary genre of prophecy, which would also be taken into account during interpretation. Prophecy is a form of literature that speaks about future events in the context of God’s plan for history.
  5. Theological context: The passage is part of the Old Testament, which contains the religious and theological beliefs of ancient Israel. Therefore, the interpreter would also consider the theological context of the passage, including the beliefs about God, the Messiah, and the role of suffering in God’s plan.
  6. Progressive revelation: The interpreter would also take into account how this prophecy fits into the overall narrative of the Bible, including the progressive revelation of God’s plan throughout history. This prophecy may have been understood differently in the time it was written compared to how it is understood today in the light of the New Testament.

In summary, when interpreting this prophecy using the historical-grammatical method, the interpreter would consider the literal meaning of the passage, the historical context in which it was given, and the grammar and syntax used in the original Hebrew text, in order to understand the intended meaning of the prophecy and how it relates to the coming of the Messiah.

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