What is the hermeneutic approach to interpreting prophecy, if it has not already been interpreted by a prophet?

NASB, 2 Peter 1:20 - But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation ...

Christian texts seem to acknowledge that it is presumptuous to interpret Prophecy this way - "out of scope" of personal interpretation.

If there is not a valid hermeneutical method, that doesn't rely on opinion - how should the interpretation of prophecy be handled here?

Example Question : What is the significance of Ezekiel's description of God's heavenly chariot in chapter 1?

I feel that interpreting prophecy might be better suited for Christianity.SE, as it solicits a whole lot of opinion, and relies on injecting different theologies.

However, I feel that the Historical Interpretation of prophecy should definitely be on topic - for example, how prophecies were interpreted during the Temple Periods, in period texts, apocalyptic texts, Tannaitic/Mishnaic texts, (Not Talmud), New Testament texts, Papias, etc.

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    I down voted this because hermeneutics means "the science of interpretation, especially of the Scriptures." While I may not agree with various other interpretations (the UFO one in your example question is pretty out-there), prophecy is part of the Bible and should not be excluded from BH.SE.
    – user6503
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 3:13
  • @BrianWeigand - A.) The answers those questions seem to solicit - a lot of - opinions. B.) So, what should be the proper way the "interpretation of prophecy" be addressed here? How is it any different than Christianity.SE? C.) It seems like a pretty big loophole to have a whole bunch of modernistic doctrine injected into an objective hermeneutic pursuit. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 4:13
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    _"...modernistic doctrine..." With all due respect, that actually sounds like you just don't like seeing non-Rabbinical views.
    – user6503
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 13:03
  • @BrianWeigand - A.) Rabbinicism would be modernistic views - as it is not contemporary with any of the texts that are on topic, (Though Tannaitic writings probably would be.) B.) That is incredibly presumptuous on your part - What on earth gives you the idea that I give credence to any Rabbinical doctrine? There isn't one tradition that I wouldn't challenge - if there is no historical or textual evidence or primary source to back it up. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 16:34
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    The Mishnah consists of teachings by rabbis. That is why I said what I did.
    – user6503
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:28
  • @BrianWeigand - A.) Tannaitic writings are argued to have been written before Jesus, and some Mishnaic writings probably are contemporary. B.) For example, their interpretations of Messianic prophecy may either explain why they rejected Jesus, or may explain how they would have understood that Jesus was the Messiah. C.) However, injecting Assembly of God doctrine regarding the Book of Revelation - is a bit anachronistic; D.) On the other hand - Vedic / Akkadian Astrology might be very relevant regarding Ezekiel and even Genesis; E.) Hopefully this illustrates the dilemma. Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 19:36

2 Answers 2


Yes, these questions are most definitely on topic. The first reason for this is because many prophecies have already been fulfilled. For example, Isaiah prophesied about King Ahaz, Cyrus the Great, and about Jesus, and these prophecies have been fulfilled. This means that 1) there is a valid hermeneutical method for interpreting them and 2) these prophecies do not rely on opinion; we know definitively who they are about.

Secondly, One must realize that there is always at least one valid hermeneutical method vis-à-vis the principle of double fulfillment. This indicates that prophecies that have yet to reach their second fulfillment still have a first fulfillment that can be determined using a non-opinion based, valid hermeneutical method. In short this means that all prophecy questions are on topic.

This is not to say that all answers to questions about prophecy will be good however. These will tend to attract terrible and speculative answers - moreso than other types of questions. It will be our responsibility to diligently push answerers to support their claims and downvote those answers which inevitably do not and are highly speculative and opinion based.

This may need to involve defining exactly what we look for not just in good answers, but specifically good answers to questions about prophecy in these cases. For example, perhaps a requirement that unfulfilled prophecy focus on first fulfillment, and not second, as second could be speculative.*

*Disclaimer: double fulfillment is merely one valid hermeneutic principle, and this is merely an example. Canonical guidelines should be hashed out in a separate question


These questions are typically an even worse match for Christianity.SE than they are here. At least here the stand a fighting chance of getting answers that approach them in context. And we already have an approach to handling answers that get side tracked. Answers that inject a theological construct without connecting the dots showing how they arrived at an answer starting from the specific text in question are just as much NAA material on prophecy questions as they are for any other text.

In any event interpreting any genre of the Biblical text –whether that be poetry or narrative or prophecy or whatever– is squarely on topic here. Nothing about the genre of the text changes the rules about how this site approaches questions.

  • Caleb A.) The issue that I am pointing to, is : what is the hermeneutic approach to interpreting prophecy, if it has not already been interpreted by a prophet? B.) For example, "Seven Lean Cows" ... And "Stars bowing down". C.) It is perhaps a doctrine in and of itself - that prophecy (fore-telling) can be interpreted by just anyone - though some Christians say it cannot, (2 Peter 1:20); D.) Content of many prophecies actually appeals to mystic symbolism - even astrology - like Ezekiel's, or Jacob's blessings/prophecies over his sons. Or, "Do Daniel's Weeks mean "years"? Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 16:47
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    @elikakohen Those are the sort of things that a good answer would clarify. Vote up good answers, vote down bad answers. Nothing about this range of possible approaches to a question really changes its topicality.
    – Caleb
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 17:09

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