3 Stars Out Of 5
September 11, 2015
UNDERSTANDING PROPHECY: A Biblical-Theological Approach, Alan S. Bandy & Benjamin L. Merkle, Kregel Academic, Grand Rapids MI, 2015
The aim of this book is to give the reader a framework of how to interpret any passage in the context of the Bible (p.9). The book is unique because the authors have different views of prophecy. Brandy is a historic premillennialist and Merkle is an amillennialist, however both seem to be writing from a covenant theology view. The emphasis seems to uplift areas they have in common and downplay the differences. They also write from a biblical-theological approach, as the title states.
The book is divided into three sections:
Chapters 1-3, deal with the general subject of prophecy and the biblical-theological approach. They clearly uphold inspiration pointing out that Prophecy is the vehicle for divine revelation (p. 17). They clearly bring out that the term eschatology is slippery term referring to different aspects of the term which can be all-encompassing theologically. They give good keys to understanding prophecy, including the progressive nature of prophecy, thematic, Christocentric, and to be seen from a Biblical-theological perspective. Their general view is to downplay the popular culture caught up in the idea that prophecy is mainly predictive of the future (although they do not deny it, they certainly downplay it), looking more at historical context and its relevance to the original readers. They clearly hold that most prophecy is not predictive in nature, rather centers upon aspects of repentance, social justice, and theological understanding in the historical context of the prophet. Prophecy is primarily forth-telling, and only a small part is fore-telling. They hold that the messages of the prophets are encapsulated in three points:
The covenant has been broken, therefore repent!
If you refuse to repent, then judgment.
Yet, there is hope beyond the judgment for a glorious, future restoration.
These points are well taken. They go on to deal with the forms of prophecy (poetry, pose, apocalyptic, and the challenge of symbolism (which is an attack on the dispensational method). It gives the reader their idea of what biblical theology is, and how it deals with prophecy. To their credit they declare the important presupposition of biblical theology, which all can appreciate:
The Bible is Gods Word.
Gods Word has a unified message.
The unified message of Gods Word centers on Jesus.
Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension are the climax of redemption history.
Chapters 4-6 focus on Old Testament prophecy. In these chapters they center up the types of Old Testament prophecy: unconditional, conditional, and fulfilled prophecy. They take time to discuss restoration prophecies (Chapter 5). They admit that many passages point to the restoration of Israel, however, they are overly cautious of literal fulfillment of these prophecies. They seem to be more than willing that those should be interpreted mainly symbolically. The reasons in the nature of biblical religion, the unique genre of biblical prophecy, symbolic manner in which the New Testament interprets Old Testament prophecies, and the role of Jesus death and resurrection in salvation history. They seem to be saying that these descriptions are fulfilled in some type of codeThe meaning is not expressed in the actual language, but through the actual language of the prophecies (page 123). The last area they center upon is the Messianic Prophecies that center upon the three offices of Christpriest, prophet, and king.
Chapters 7-10 deal with the New Testament prophecies. This section is divided into three areas: the coming of Messiah in the gospels and Acts; the epistles, and the book of Revelation. In this section they deal with major prophecy areas in the New Testament. I was especially interested in their comments on the Olivet Discourse. I was somewhat unsatisfied in their treatment; much was oversimplification on the views, especially the futurist view. Although I found their view, Already-Not Yet was somewhat interesting, and brought in some good points. Their comments about left behind are noteworthy.
In the epistles they center upon the last days. They reject a pretribulational rapture, and the doctrine of the any moment return of Christ. They clearly hold that at least four events must happen before the return of Christthe gospel preached to the whole world; the conversion of all Israel; the great tribulation; and the coming of Antichrist. They fail to see any differences between the gospels, epistles, and Revelation; common among Covenant theologians.
On Revelation they readily amid that it is one of the most difficult books of the Bible to interpret (p. 224). They take the view that the key of understanding symbolism and spend much of the chapter of this. In the areas of book they consistently chose the figurative or symbolic interpretation. This is true of their overall approach to prophecy saying in their conclusion: We must resist becoming obsessed with knowing the details of the future because it takes us beyond Scripture into the realm of speculation (p. 242).
This work on prophecy centers upon common elements between the two authors. The only place that shows disagreement is the two appendixes, and they are very limited: Future conversion of Israel with Bandy seeing it a mass conversion of ethnic Israel in the future. Merkle on the other hand sees it as referring to the Ethnic elect remnant through all history. The other hand is the meaning of the Millennium; which Bandy holds a historical premillennialist and Merkle holding to the amillennialist view. Otherwise, in the major portion of the book one would be hard press to see any difference between the two. There are more differences between historical premillennialist and amillennialist than what are given in the book. Part of the reason for this is both are coming from a Covenant theological view. They downplay literal interpretation of prophecy and the futurist views, and magnify the non-literal view. Do not get me wrong, there are areas in the book that all will agree with, but to me it was lacking and not a satisfying treatment of the subject. They seem to have sacrificed their distinctiveness on the altar of unity.
I received this book free from Kregel Publications for the purpose of reviewing it. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255.