Series - McCune Literal

Concluding Thoughts

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 7

We have been considering four essential principles that are necessary to holding a proper understanding of literal interpretation. These are the univocal nature of language, the jurisdiction of authorial intent, the unitary authorship of Scripture and the textually-based locus of meaning.

Here are some concluding thoughts about the entire subject we have been studying.

Conclusion

What do these factors of literal interpretation mean for certain aspects of current dispensational interpretation? They rule out double fulfillment, near and far fulfillment, some prophecies that are considered “generic,”* “typological-prophetical” interpretation, “patterns” of fulfillment and certain forms of indirect “linkage” (including “complementary fulfillment”) between Old Testament prophecies and the present age. Despite the denials and nuances to the contrary, this all comes perilously near to simple resignification of a text. These all violate one or more of the above principles of literal interpretation, and result in the confusion of Israel and the church and other distinctions to one degree or another.

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The Textually-Based Locus of Meaning

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 6

To review very briefly, there are four essential principles we must keep in mind if we are going to have a proper understanding of literal interpretation. The first three are the univocal nature of language, the jurisdiction of authorial intent, and the unitary authorship of Scripture. The final element for literal interpretation is the textually-based locus of meaning. We began studying that topic in the previous installment of this series, and pick up with it here.

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The Unitary Authorship of Scripture

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 5

There are four essential principles that must be considered in order to understand literal interpretation. We looked at the first two, the univocal nature of language and the jurisdiction of authorial intent, in the last installment in this series. This time we will study the third element and then introduce the fourth and final one.

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The Components of Literal Interpretation

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 4

While it is true that “literal interpretation” is not the private property of dispensationalism, the claim is actually the consistent use thereof. A case can still be made that traditional dispensationalism can make good on this claim.

There is no lock-step consensus on what “literal interpretation” really is. In the 19th century, E. R. Craven, the American editor of Lange’s Commentary, with unusual clarity made the point that literal interpretation is better termed “normal” since both literal and figurative interpretation can be comprehended in the term.1 More recently, Roy Zuck differentiated, correctly, literal interpretation into “ordinary-literal” and “figurative-literal.”2 It is not the intent here to define precisely what “literal interpretation” really is, but rather to suggest four rubrics or principles that must be entertained in understanding literal interpretation. These must be held in relationship to other factors of good hermeneutics such as context, literary genre and the like. There may be other such fundamental underpinnings, but at least these must be comprehended in a proper approach to Scripture. The first two of these principles will be our focus in this installment.

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The Purposes of Human Language

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 3

Human language had a disruption at the incident of the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-10). There was an initial unity of human language; there was “the same language and the same words” (Gen. 11:1). (The KJV has “of one language, and of one speech,” Gen. 11:1. The NIV has “one language and a common speech,” Gen. 11:1.) There was an organic unity of speech. Vocabulary and syntax were a comprehensible unit understood by all.  Communication was swift. Philologists and linguists fairly agree that there was a parent language to all the languages of the world, based on similarities of vocabulary, grammar and syntax. No one knows what the original language was, although until the 19th century the theory that it was Hebrew was practically unquestioned.

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Language Requires a Rational Mind

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Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 2

A third component of the image of God in man is morality. This has to do with powers which inform one of right and wrong and enable him to act accordingly. A fourth aspect is spirituality. This is the capacity for fellowship with God, to understand and participate in spiritual things, the capacity for eternal life, and the like.

A last capacity in the image of God has to do with physical considerations.

There seems to be a physical dimension to the image of God since man did indeed have a body as a result of being created in the image of God (Gen. 2:7). One way of understanding this is in the sense that Adam’s body anticipated Christ’s body in the incarnation. God made Adam’s body after the blueprint or pattern for the enfleshment He had determined for Christ. The triune God was incorporeal before the incarnation; all the persons of the Trinity were spirit beings. Physical factors regarding God at the time of creation were largely anticipatory. God, however, undoubtedly was a Christophany (a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) when He walked daily in the garden (Gen. 3:8), and no doubt was also on Day Six when he made man’s body “from the ground” (Gen. 2:7).

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The Origin Of Human Language

From Dispensational Publishing House; used by permission.

Dispensationalism & the Literal Interpretation of the Bible, Part 1

For decades, one of the sina qua non of dispensationalism has been the consistent use of a literal interpretation of the Bible.1 In fact, it proved to be the ultimate and most primitive of the irreducible minimum of dispensational tenets. Dr. Charles Ryrie said that one’s hermeneutical principles should be determined before one’s theology is formed.2 Earl Radmacher later forcefully contended that literal interpretation was the “basic principle” of dispensationalism.3

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