The Historical Situation of Biblical Prophecy

What are the consequences of ignoring the historical situation of biblical prophecy?

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If we ignore the historical situation of biblical prophecy we can sometimes come up with strange interpretations. For example, you have in Scripture, sometimes it talks about "the abomination of desolation." Well, the principle is repeatable. I mean, when Israel sinned, their temple would often be desecrated or destroyed. It happened more than once in history. But sometimes, we read those things as if they're specific future predictions, and in the context, like in Matthew 24, for example, it seems to be speaking to some things that would happen within that generation. You have some other examples where the ignoring of historical context can make some really serious, even economic difficulties. For example, in Deuteronomy 33:24 you have Moses' blessing of the tribes, and at one point it speaks of oil in the region of Asher. So, a few decades ago some Christian oilmen said, "Hey, it talks about oil in the region of Asher… Let's go drill there." They spent a lot of money, money that could be used for spreading the gospel, money that could be used for feeding the poor, but they spent this money because they knew they would get it back. They drilled in the region of Asher. The problem was that, for all the money they spent drilling, they didn't actually spend much time paying attention to the historical context of the text. You see, the oil that it refers to was not petroleum; it was olive oil.

Answer by Dr. Craig S. Keener

Dr. Craig Keener teaches New Testament studies at Asbury Theological Seminary.