Guide Encyclopedia of Prophecy

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Daniels Seventy Weeks Eschatological Day of the Lord. The Judgments Metaphors of Judgment. Millennial Views. New Testament Uses of Mystery. He established the Jewish sabbath Saturday as his day of worship. Papahurihia died in But his teachings live on, directly and indirectly. He was baptised into the Wesleyan Church in , taking the name Penetana penitance, or possibly Fenton Papahurihia. The first prophet — Te Papahurihia.

Share this page Post to Facebook Post to Twitter. Whereas the interpreter of the prophetic books must always keep in mind the inherent difficulty of conveying divine thoughts to finite, fallible, and sinful human beings, there is no solid basis for denying the simple teaching of the Bible that God spoke to the prophets and that the prophets passed on His messages. Denial that Biblical prophets have been able to predict the future. One of the first to try to explain the prophetic movement from a naturalistic basis was Celsus, a writer who attacked Christianity in the 2nd cent.

Celsus denied that the prophets had truly predicted the future. He dealt particularly with the Book of Daniel, claiming that its rather detailed predictions of Alexander the Great and his successors were not actually written until after the events had occurred, so that the alleged predictions were really based upon a later knowledge of what actually had happened. This attitude toward the prophetic predictions has continued to the present time and has been a prominent factor in the attempts of modern critics to date many of the books much later than the time they claim to have been written.

It was done doubtless to forestall this sort of interpretation in relation to the most important predictions of the OT—those relating to the life and death of Christ—that God caused that the OT should be completed some centuries before the time of Christ to make it obvious that the OT predictions of Christ were made long before His time. This, however, does not really destroy the force of the authentication. In addition, that Jehu would desire to fulfill the prediction was an authentication rather than the opposite.

In Israel, several dynasties had replaced one another during the three centuries between Jeroboam and Josiah.

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Only divine knowledge could have declared that the house of David would continue to rule Judah during all that time. Only divine knowledge could have shown that the man who would be king of Judah at this time would bear the name Josiah. It was part of the divine providence that Josiah would see the tomb and inquire whose it was, and be reminded of the prediction. The converse of this situation occurred in a.

Julian rejoiced to think that soon the prophecies of Jesus would be shown to be false, and it would be demonstrated that Jesus was Himself an imposter. The result, however, was the opposite of what Julian expected. The excavation had proceeded only a short time when fire shot out from the earth and a series of explosions occurred. The frightened workmen rushed from the spot and no entreaty or offer could persuade them to continue the work. The death of Julian, a few months later, prevented any second attempt. Even the cynical and antichristian writer, Gibbon, was convinced by the historical evidence that this event occurred.

However, he proceeded to assert that it was not a supernatural act, but simply the result of the fact that the gases imprisoned for many years in the subterranean chambers under the Temple had become so compressed that when they were released at the beginning of the excavation, explosions occurred. But Jesus had made no claim that divine intervention in supernatural form would cause the fulfillment of the prophecy. Another method used in the effort to prove that the prophets were not really messengers from God is to assert that certain prophecies in the Scripture were not actually fulfilled.

Such an argument, however, rests on no factual foundation. Jerusalem remained under Jewish control for eleven years after the death of Jehoiakim, and every Jew would have known whether he was buried with the usual ceremony attending the death of a king, whether he suffered a tragic fate through some conspiracy, or whether Nebuchadnezzar treated him with such indignity that his body was thrown out into the wilderness for a time before being buried, perhaps even remaining unburied. Many prophecies in the Scripture have been fulfilled in remarkable fashion.

The rise of the higher criticism. When the higher criticism was applied to the OT, and scholars began to divide the Pentateuch into various alleged sources supposedly written at different times, a new dimension was added to the naturalistic efforts to explain the origin of the prophetical books. In , Doederlein declared that Isaiah , which predicts the coming of Cyrus and the return of the Jews from exile, had been written more than a cent. Some of the same arguments that alleged that Isaiah could not have written chs.

Eventually many critics divided the entire Book of Isaiah into great numbers of separate sections, allegedly written by a great variety of authors who were said to have lived at various times. This approach was soon extended to nearly all the other prophetical books. It was long held by most critical scholars that Ezekiel was a unit though a few questioned it, but early in the 20th cent.

Most of these higher critical approaches to the prophets derive from two causes: 1 unwillingness to believe that the prophecies could actually have been made in advance of the times when the events occurred; 2 application to the Bible of a method of literary study generally applied by 19th-cent. Form criticism and the traditio-historical approach.

Prophecy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Early in the 20th cent. He laid great stress on trying to discover the particular type of situation that would have given rise to a particular statement or to a particular type of lit. This approach has been greatly extended by a group of Scandinavian scholars, who have developed it into what is now called the traditio-historical approach. These men insist that little or nothing of the prophetic writings or perhaps of the rest of the OT was in written form until after the Exile. They hold that the prophets uttered short gnomic sayings that were passed on by word of mouth.

These statments were enlarged and added to by their followers during many generations and thus the material gradually assumed a definite form. According to this view, comparatively little of what is attributed to the various prophetic writers actually was composed by them. Some members of the traditio-historical school have strongly opposed many of the ideas of the documentary analysis approach that is typical of the higher criticism. For a time the followers of the documentary analysis strongly retaliated in kind. In recent years, however, a synthesis has been developing in which critics tend to combine both approaches denying the idea taught in the Bible that the prophet actually received messages from God and passed them on and also completely abandoning the idea that the Bible is an infallible rule of faith and practice.

Relation to the ceremonies of the Temple. The Wellhausen school of criticism, which succeeded in gaining wide acceptance of its ideas regarding the Pentateuch and the extension of these ideas to the rest of the OT, laid great stress on Hegelian principles of synthesis growing out of division and competition between opposing views. Its followers selected a few passages in the prophets that include strong language against dependence on formalism or ceremonial observances. It drew from these the idea that the prophets were a group that favored a return to the simple life of the desert in contrast to the highly developed ceremonial procedures described in the Book of Leviticus and supported by the priests.

Thus the Wellhausenists tended to praise the prophets as great opponents of the complex ceremonial or cult and to hold that the eventual development of the Pentateuch proceeded from a synthesis of the views of these two opposing groups. For several decades most of the critical lit. A change in this attitude was introduced by G. From this developed a widespread attitude among naturalistic critics that maintained that the prophets were actually a group of Temple servants, receiving their support from the Temple and supporting its ceremonial, though at times opposing corrupt elements that had crept in.

This attitude has been greatly stressed in recent years. Comparatively few scholars have as yet espoused this later view. The sociological approach. During the first part of the 20th cent. This approach to the prophets, greatly emphasized for a time, seems now to be somewhat in abeyance. Derivation of the prophetic movement from the culture of other ancient nations. During the past two centuries, the knowledge of the ancient Orient has been greatly extended. New discoveries in Egypt and in Mesopotamia have made available thousands of ancient records giving considerable information about the life and thought of people who lived centuries before the time of Moses.

Discoveries in Syria have greatly increased the knowledge of the ancient Canaanites.


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Instead of being an isolated picture of ancient life, the historical events in the Bible take their place in an extensive history that is far better known than ever before. Under these circumstances it is not surprising that there has been a search for antecedents of the prophets in other lands.

Some students of ancient culture have been carried away by enthusiasm for their particular area of specialization. In , the noted American archeologist, James Henry Breasted, wrote his book, The Dawn of Conscience, to prove that ethical understanding really began in ancient Egypt. Attempts have been made to show that the Israelite prophets were mere examples of a type of activity that was common at that period.

Some critics have held that they were a reflection of a phenomenon that occurred among the Canaanites but not elsewhere. Others have held that they represent an influence that was widespread throughout the Near E. Before looking at the alleged similarities a few points should be noted. The Heb. He was in most cases independent of any indirect control by a king or by ecclesiastical officials. He delivered the message that God had given him. He sometimes gave great promises of blessing for the future. Sometimes he gave directions as to specific actions to be taken at a particular time.

He did not hesitate to come into sharp conflict with the king or even to accuse him of wrongdoing and to declare that God would punish him for his deeds. Prediction entered into many of these activities but in an incidental way. The prophet was not primarily a foreteller, diviner, or soothsayer, though there were prob.

People everywhere desire to learn about the future. Among the Babylonians there was a highly sophisticated pseudo-science of examining the livers of slaughtered animals to foretell the future alluded to in Ezek In ancient Greece and Rome, observation of birds and other types of augury were regularly conducted before making important decisions.

Modern nations have their astrologers and fortune tellers, occasionally patronized even by seemingly sophisticated leaders—so great is the desire to know what is ahead. The mere fact that individuals in many lands have claimed to predict the future is hardly evidence of the existence of a movement at all comparable to the activity of the Heb. On examination of the thousands of ancient records that have been discovered, the amount of material that can be presented in support of the claim that there existed in any of these countries a movement really similar to the prophetic movement in Israel is extremely meager.

Although the Ugaritic material tells much about the Canaanite religion and culture in the period prior to the Israelite entrance into Canaan, it has as yet yielded very little that can be considered as in any way supplying a background for Heb. Among all the archeological discoveries that have been made, just about the only one that has been alleged to show a Canaanite background for the Heb. Much has been made of this Egyp. For many weeks the prince of Byblos refused to see him. All that the account actually says is that when this man was in his trance he said that Wen-Amon represented the god Amon and should be allowed to present his message, and that the king of Byblos then gave the Egyp.

Nothing further is said about the man who had the trance.

There is no evidence that he made any prediction about the future, or that the prince of Byblos considered his behavior as having any great importance; in fact, all that the prince did was to allow the messenger the opportunity for a conference. He refused to admit any obligation to Egypt and would not supply the lumber that was requested until Wen-Amon had sent to Egypt for additional money.

Events such as this occurred in many lands from time to time, but have little in common with the Biblical account of the work of the prophets. Babylonian tablets from Mari and elsewhere include a few alleged letters from a god to a king. Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria in the latter part of the 7th cent. Dreams of this type are occasionally described in ancient records, but such experiences are recorded from most countries, although they present merely a superficial similarity to one small phase of Heb. In the great mass of available Egyp.

The first tells how at the time of the 4th dynasty, a man predicted the coming period of anarchy and the rise of a great pharaoh who would stabilize conditions. Most scholars think that it actually originated during the twelfth dynasty, as a story in praise of its first king. The other describes the terrible conditions in the land during the period of chaos before the Middle Kingdom and blames the negligence of the rulers.

It has been said that this was similar to the denunciation by an Israelite prophet of a wicked king. In the search for an origin for the Heb.

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Even if the alleged similarity were to be accepted to its fullest extent, it would be in reality only the slightest basis on which to construct a theory that anything existed in Egypt at all comparable to the long-continuing prophetic movement in Israel. Ecstasy and the prophet. It often is asserted by naturalistic-minded interpreters that one of the most characteristic features of the activity of the Heb. The activity of the prophets has even been compared to that of the whirling dervishes of Islam, more than a thousand years after their time.

And they limped about the altar It should be noticed that this is not an account of Heb. The quiet and dignified attitude of Elijah, the true prophet of God cf. It is not at all impossible that among the Canaanites there were groups of religious votaries who frequently engaged in ecstatic practices, although evidence is not at present available to prove that this was the case. Actually there is very little evidence in the historical books or in the prophetic books that the Heb. Assertions that Israelite prophets behaved in a manner similar to the prophets of Baal have been based on very few verses, since most references to the prophets contain no suggestion whatever of such an attitude.

On four principal passages, such assertions are based Num ; 1 Sam ; ; Ezek It should be noticed that only one of these Ezek relates to a writer of one of the prophetic books. Examination of these passages in the order in which they occur would begin with Numbers , although this passage is not usually much stressed by those who advance such a theory. The passage states that seventy elders prophesied in a group by themselves and that two men prophesied within the camp.

It would hardly fit with the rest of what is told in the Pentateuch about the character and attitudes of Moses to think that he was referring with commendation to an activity that could be described as orgiastic or ecstatic.

From the context it seems much more likely that the men were praising God and extolling His goodness in a way that would arouse the admiration of the rest of the people. Much more is made of certain passages from 1 Samuel. The first of these is in 1 Samuel 10 , where Samuel said to Saul:.

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Then the spirit of the Lord will come mightily upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man vv. The fulfillment of this prediction is described in vv. When they came to Gibeah, behold, a band of prophets met him; and the spirit of God came mightily upon him, and he prophesied among them. Is Saul also among the prophets? It is reading too much into the passage to claim that it describes a group of prophets as singing wildly, dancing like dervishes, or falling into a trance.

All that is said is that they moved down the hill in a procession, prophesying, preceded by instruments of music. The only really unnatural circumstance described in the passage is the fact that Saul joined them. This will be discussed below. The work of the prophet is generally represented as an individual activity. At this time Samuel was the only individual who is described as performing the true prophetic function of receiving messages from God and passing them on, but it would be most natural that other individuals might join together to follow him and to spread the message that he presented.

At this period of Philistine oppression, it would be particularly natural that such activities, partly religious and partly nationalistic, should develop. It is reading into the passage something that is not there, to say that these men were giving evidence of an abnormal psychological condition. Even if they had been doing so, it would prove nothing as to the attitude of Samuel and the many other individual prophets, both before and after, of whom nothing at all similar is ever stated.

Another passage cited in this connection is 1 Samuel Whether this was the situation, or whether the prophets were merely praising God in various ways, there is nothing in this statement to suggest that they were engaged in highly emotional or ecstatic activities. The ground for reaching such conclusions is based upon what was done by the three groups of messengers that Saul sent, and more particularly on what was done by Saul himself.

It should be noticed, however, that there is here no clear evidence of anything psychologically strange or ecstatic. These messengers may well have been men who truly believed in the God of Israel and realized that Saul was departing from the principles of justice that God had commanded through the prophet Samuel, who had anointed Saul to be king.

When they stood in the presence of Samuel and his associates and saw them praising God, they may well have felt strongly impelled to show their oneness with the followers of the Lord. There is no statement that any of the messengers fell into a trance. What is said about them does not necessarily prove any ecstatic characteristics of the followers of Samuel. The only forceful argument that can be drawn from either of these passages to support the idea that ecstasy was characteristic of the prophets relates exclusively to what is said about Saul.

The first passage ch. This king, who was turning against the God who had placed him upon the throne, had been highly emotional before, and at this time he was in a neurotic condition, moving rapidly from one extreme of emotion to the other. Rapid changes of emotion, or even highly ecstatic states of mind, could have been typical of Saul, but this is no proof that they characterized the prophetic movement. Two other passages from 1 Samuel and two from 2 Kings might be mentioned, although with far less reason than in the case of the two passages from 1 Samuel already discussed. The first of these is in 1 Samuel One day an evil spirit came upon Saul.

The other passage in 1 Samuel is in ch. The woman claimed to be able to bring back the spirits of the dead. Saul asked her to bring up Samuel. Verse 12 says,. You are Saul. The context makes it evident that the woman, accustomed to pretending to bring up the spirits of the dead, either through some fraud or because evil spirits impersonated them, was surprised and terrified when Samuel actually appeared.

It is a strange episode, quite out of line with usual human experience, but hardly such as to support the description of the ecstasy of the prophets quoted above. Those describing the alleged ecstatic character of the Heb. Actually the incident is isolated and, in addition, can be explained far more reasonably in a different way. The context suggests that Elisha was so disgusted at being asked to give help to the wicked son of Ahab that it was difficult for him to compose his thoughts.

Music was a help to Elisha in composing his spirit so that he could listen to the quiet voice of the Lord and overcome his antipathy at facing the wicked Jehoram. Reference sometimes is made to a statement in 2 Kings where Elisha sent one of the sons of the prophets to pour oil on the head of Jehu and thus start his revolt against the successors of Ahab.

The representative of Elisha asked to speak privately with Jehu and went with him into an inner chamber. Under the circumstances, however, this would be a very natural way for the onlookers to speak of the messenger who talked privately to Jehu and then rushed out of the house, and does not necessarily throw any light on the real nature of the prophets.

It thus is evident how few are the references to the prophets that could give the slightest suggestion that they engaged in orgiastic activities or fell into trances. When one of the most generally reliable of the critical writers can make the unfounded statement quoted above about the activities of the prophets in 1 Samuel, it is not at all strange that other critics should make extremely dogmatic assertions about the alleged ecstasy of the prophets, going far beyond any evidence that can be drawn from the Biblical data.

The only evidence of any importance that can be drawn from the prophetic books themselves to support the idea of an unnatural psychological state of the prophets is taken from the Book of Ezekiel. In a situation very different from that of modern western nations Ezekiel used peculiar methods to attract attention. These, however, are hardly evidence that the prophet was in a distorted mental state.

That the prophet, while having this vision, was in a very unusual mental situation cannot be denied. That it was ecstatic, however, is highly questionable, and that it was characteristic of the prophets in general is improbable. This section has included a cursory examination of the various antisupernaturalistic explanations given to the activities of the prophets. These explanations often strikingly contradict one another.

Since most of the writers holding these views feel free to accept as genuine or to cast out as spurious whatever portions of the Bible that seem to fit their theories, their conclusions rest on no solid ground. Even where, as in the argument regarding the alleged ecstasy of the prophets, the conclusions are said to be based on the Biblical data, examination of the data proves such conclusions to be unwarranted. If one believes in a personal God there is no difficulty in accepting the Biblical claim that He spoke to the prophets and gave them messages to pass on.

If one a priori rejects such a possibility there is no end to the variety of possible explanations that human ingenuity may devise, but for which no solid basis exists. An unusual type of literature. One of the first considerations in examining any written material is to determine what sort of lit. It might be a narrative, a love letter, or a poem celebrating a victory or mourning a death. Many of the types of lit. It claims to be the presentation of a divine message through the mouth of a divinely selected spokesman.

The Christian believes that the writers of the Bible were divinely commissioned to write material that infallibly presents the Word of God, but that no one else has ever been given a similar task. Many other sections of the Bible deal with situations that can be paralleled wherever human beings have lived. They describe rejoicing at birth and at weddings, and sorrow at death.

They describe the enthronement of rulers and the shouts of victory after deliverance in battle. These parts of the Bible have many analogies in other lit. Such analogies can rarely be found for the prophetical books. Therefore, interpretation of prophecy, to be dependable, requires very special preparation. Prophecy not exclusively prediction. In line with the present common use of the word prophecy, there are those who consider all prophecy as simply prediction, and this brings confusion into the understanding of the prophets. In reaction against this approach, other writers have attempted to reduce the element of prediction almost to nothing.

Both errors should be carefully avoided. Prediction has so important a place in prophecy that its part will be specifically discussed under C below , yet it should be remembered that there is far more to prophecy than prediction, and that many important prophecies include little or no prediction. Importance of the historical background. This principle applies in a modified way to the study of the prophets. The prophecies were not given simply to write a book that should be of help for future ages.

Everything that God caused to be included in the Bible is of real importance for His people throughout the ages, yet the prophets spoke directly to men of their time. In interpreting any part of the prophetical books it is very important to consider whatever can be learned of its historical background. The historical books contain accounts of the activities of various prophets and quote many of their messages. In the prophetical books the historical background must frequently be ascertained by careful examination of incidental statements, or learned from other parts of the Bible.

For example, knowledge of the historical background described in 2 Kings is essential to the understanding of Isaiah 7 and These and various other sections of the prophetic writings cannot be properly interpreted without first determining their historical background. An important caution in this regard, however, will be noted below under sec. Relation to the specific divine purpose.

This is so important that section B below will be devoted to an inductive examination of the purposes of the various types of prophetic messages. Special problems regarding prediction. Certain principles in connection with the interpretation of prediction need special treatment. Some of them will be examined under heading D below. The need of starting at the right place. A principle important to almost any field of study but that is more neglected in Bible study than in most other areas, is the principle that one should advance his understanding by proceeding from the simple to the less simple and from the clear to the less clear.

All too often an exhaustive study of a difficult passage in the prophetical books is done first and then this is used as a basis on which to interpret other passages. In some cases this is done to explain away the obvious intent of other passages. Proper method requires that the passages that are fairly obvious or simple to interpret should be carefully examined first, and that principles drawn from them provide the light in which the more difficult passages can be understood. For example, it is advisable that any careful study of the prophetical books, particularly their predictive sections, should begin with an exhaustive study of the life, activities, and messages of Elijah and Elisha.

Here the historical situation is clearly set forth and easily understood. Here the purpose of each prophetic message is usually deduced easily from the nearer or larger context. Here the fulfillment of the prediction is described in most cases, and it is therefore easy to see exactly how the prediction should be interpreted in the light of its actual fulfillment. From careful study of the material between 1 Kings 17 and 2 Kings 13 , a proper foundation can be laid for the understanding of much of the material in the prophetical books. No extensive study of the prophetical books should be undertaken without this reasonable preparation.

Recognition of figurative language. Like all lit. This does not mean that it is necessarily obscure. The language is definitely fig. If prophecy is so interpreted as to consider that the fig. Such a method of interpretation is entirely misleading, and is not a conclusion of valid literary criticism. In the Bible, figures of speech usually are clear from the context.

Thus when Isaiah described the failure of a future Assyrian attempt to conquer Jerusalem and then declared that the Assyrian empire itself would be destroyed, this prediction is given by the figure of speech of the cutting down of a forest vv. This is followed by the prediction of the greatness of the coming Messiah. The literal meaning of the fig. Vividness and beauty of expression are greatly increased, but no obscurity is introduced.

There is little difficulty in deciding what is literal and what is fig. Most of the words in any meaningful passage must be interpreted literally. In interpreting prophecy it is a safe rule to consider the literal meaning first and see whether it gives a clear idea, or whether a fig. In the latter case it is always well to look for uses of a similar figure elsewhere in the Scripture, as a precautionary measure against misinterpretation. One should not assume, however, that a particular figure will always be used in the same way. Interpretation of figures sometimes requires careful study. Usually its result is to cause a passage to mean anything that the interpreter may desire.

There are even commentaries that assert that a certain book or portion of a book is to be taken entirely fig. Song of Solomon as fig. The result of such an approach is to make it possible for any reader to draw from the passage anything that he sees in it. Thus a portion of Scripture is made practically useless. Such an approach dishonors the Word of God.

It sometimes is difficult to know exactly what a passage of the Bible means. It may be impossible in some cases to be absolutely sure of interpreting a passage correctly. If one moves forward carefully and cautiously, however, interpreting the obscure and the difficult in the light of what is plain and clear, definite results can be attained for most portions of the prophetic writings.

Realization of the principle of progressive revelation. The Bible is not simply a book of rules or of theological propositions. It sets forth the way in which God presented His truth to human beings. Little by little He revealed great and important truths as He led people into the understanding of what He desired them to know. The principle of progressive revelation needs to be recognized if Scripture is to be correctly interpreted. Effective communication of precise ideas from one mind to another is difficult. Communication of the ideas of the infinite God to finite man is ever more difficult.

Sometimes an idea is lightly touched upon, then suggested more clearly, then expressed more fully, then misunderstandings are corrected, and finally the idea is reiterated. Thus an idea can be traced through Scripture and the understanding of it can be gradually increased and clarified. Several times during His earthly ministry Jesus told His disciples that He would be crucified and raised from the dead, but His words sounded so strange that they made no impression.

Until they fully realized the fact of His death and Resurrection many important ideas would have been meaningless to them. It was necessary that much be left to be revealed to them by the Holy Spirit after His Ascension. Later portions of revelation may be more complete than earlier ones, but not more true. God never reveals anything that is contrary to the truth. Early portions of revelation on a certain matter may be incomplete, but they are never untrue. For example, a whole series of forms and ceremonies looked forward to the crucifixion of Christ and taught about His first coming in fig.

There were a considerable number of these, since they looked forward to something that could as yet be only vaguely understood. After the fact became visible it was no longer necessary to continue these ceremonies, but a much smaller number could be substitued that would look back to the first coming and forward to the Second Coming.

Recognition of divine oversight of the contents of the Bible. Any study of the prophetical books that is to unlock their true message must have this as a basic principle. God inspired the writers in such a way that what was written down for permanent retention as part of His enduring message to His people should be complete in itself.

Proper interpretation of the prophetic messages requires comparison of Scripture with other Scripture. Everything that can possibly be learned from the Bible alone about the historical background of the prophetic messages is important for their interpretation. It is unnecessary, however, to have additional knowledge beyond what can be gathered from the statements in the Word of God itself. All the principles necessary for correct interpretation of prophecy can be found in the Bible.

To ascertain them may require much careful study. External material can be helpful, but is not essential for understanding the divine message. Knowledge gained from study of other ancient writings or from archeological material may throw light on certain events or on certain aspects of interpretation, but the correct understanding of the messages that God has placed for His people through the ages can be correctly and completely gathered from the Bible as it stands.

This recognition of the divine preparation is a necessary prerequisite to proper interpretation of the prophetical books.