Riddlebarger On The Reformation Principles Of Interpretation

Three major presuppositions underlie the historic Protestant system. The first is that the New Testament should explain the Old. This is one of the most basic principles of Bible study. The New Testament must be seen as the final authority and interpreter of the Old Testament. As Richard Gaffin asks in this regard: Is the New Testament to be allowed to interpret the Old as the best, most reliable interpretive tradition in the history of the church (and certainly the Reformed tradition) has always insisted? Does the New Testament as a whole—as the God-breathed record of the end point of the history of special revelation—provide the controlling vantage point for properly understanding the entire Old Testament, including its prophecies? Or alternatively, will the Old Testament … become the hermeneutical fulcrum? The answers to Gaffin’s rhetorical questions seem self-evident, but this is not always the case and certainly not with dispensationalists. Historically, Protestant interpreters have argued that the New Testament provides the controlling interpretation of the Old Testament. The goal of the interpreter of eschatology is to determine how prophecies made in the Old Testament are treated and applied by writers of the New. If the New Testament writers spiritualize Old Testament prophecies by applying them in a nonliteral sense, then the Old Testament passage must be seen in light of that New Testament interpretation, not vice versa. Moreover, a major step toward finding an answer to the millennial question is to develop a contextual framework of interpretation from the New Testament itself.

Kim Riddlebarger | A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding the End Times, Expanded Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013), 50-51.


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Posted by Tony Phelps | Saturday, February 24, 2024 | Categorized in HeidelQuotes, Reformation History, Scripture. Tony Phelps. Bookmark the permalink.

About Tony Phelps

Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children. Meet all the Heidelberg contributors»

One comment

  1. Thank you, Tony. Both Christ (Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25) and his apostles (2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24) referred to the “new covenant” of Jer. 31 (mentioned nowhere else in the canonical OT) as being ratified/inaugurated by Christ’s bloody death, commemorated in the Lord’s Supper. Yet Jeremiah predicted that this “new covenant” would be made with “the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” because such language was the language that designated God’s visible people on earth in Jeremiah’s day. The OT prophetic anticipations of Christ and his work ordinarily had this provisional, open-ended quality to them, and only latter revelation would enable us to realize that the new covenant realities now pertain even to us Gentiles, who are neither of the tribe of Israel or of the tribe of Judah. Dispensationalism, in this regard, has a “literal” hermeneutic; historic Protestantism has a “canonical” hermeneutic (often called the “analogy of faith”).


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