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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ezekiel, Hermeneutics

The 20th century end times prophecy movement has times without number been castigated for employing a “literal” hermeneutic. The phrase “a literal interpretation of the bible” has often been employed in a manner which implies the ignorance and stupidity of anyone who reads the biblical text and takes it seriously. In the popular “end times” literature the hermeneutical model is often lacking in sophistication. On the other hand, serious biblical scholars like Charles Feinberg show a full appreciation of literary genre and figurative language in the prophetic literature.

The book of Ezekiel includes visions and oracles. Within the oracles we find metaphor and allegory as well as non-figurative prediction of future events. Generally there is little difficulty keeping these sorted out. The visions of the throne chariot are announced as visions. In chapter 24 the figurative nature of the oracle is explicitly announced. In chapter 37 the symbols are explained.

In the oracles against the nations we find some easily identifiable ancient peoples and their leaders like Egypt and Pharaoh. On the other hand we have problems knowing exactly what to do with Gog and Magog. Throughout the book of Ezekiel “the house of Israel” and Judah function as global VIPs (very important participants). With Israel and Judah the referent is never severed from its connection with the historical entity known by that name. Ezekiel did not provide any signals that indicate Israel and Judah should be read as a figurative indirect reference to something else. This is one of the main points under discussion. I am setting if forth here as an axiom with the intention of looking for contrary evidence. 


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