Apologetics Thursday – How the New Testament Uses Prophecy

In a discussion in how we need to use context to define short passages, a critic writes:

Did Christ and the writers of scripture violate your reading comprehension rules when they quoted scripture?

I respond (edited):

The writers of the New Testament engaged in a lot of near quoting of the Old Testament. This is not exact quoting but using parallel concepts. Basically every single Matthew prophecy is this. Paul quotes Hosea as applying to Gentiles when in context it applies to Jews.

Let’s examine this passage:


How is this used in Romans?
How is this used in Hosea?
Who do they refer to in each passage?


  1. Chris, can you comment on how we use scripture today? It seems I often hear passages quoted in a ecbatic way. For example, Jeremiah 29:11 is often “claimed” as a promise by Christians. Clearly, this isn’t the context of that passage. So how am I not justified in telling Christians to be careful in “claiming” such passages? Are Calvinists justified in taking Romans 9 out of context to prove their points?
    How do we reconcile the ecbatic use of scripture by the NT writers with our own approach to scripture?
    BTW, I’m not challenging the points you made in your podcast by way of asking. This question just came to mind, and I’m hoping you have some insights.

    1. Usually when Christians claim that Jeremiah 29:11 is for us, they are not using it in an ecbatic way. They are not saying “as God once had plans for Israel this is comparable to Him now having plans for us”. Notice in the ecbatic sense the claim understands that the original message was not for us and the current claim is not “proved” by the original, just that there are similarities.

      They are instead saying: “we see from Jeremiah 29:11 that God has plans for His people, thus God now has plans for us.” They are using it as a logical proof. God has plans for His people. We are God’s people. Thus, God has plans for us. This is different than describing how God is working in your life, and then pointing to how God worked in the life of King David or just pointing to the fact that God has worked in the lives of others before.

      Another example: In modern culture, I would be using ecbatic sense if I were to say: “As was East Germany under socialism, so too modern Venezuela under socialism.” It is drawing parallels. History repeats itself, and things tend to happen in the same patterns although the details vary.

      The writers of the New Testament were convinced:
      1. They were living in the end times.
      2. That God was acting in new and powerful ways.

      They used parallels to the Old Testament to explain what was happening in their own time. Matthew uses it to point to Jesus and the coming the Kingdom of God. Paul uses it to point to God changing people group requirements. These were new teachings, acknowledged by the writers. They were writing primarily to an audience that already accepted the Old Testament. They were not building logical proofs of systematic theology, but explaining current events.

      Calvinists attempt to say their theology is rooted in the meaning of the original writers. They believe the original writers believed what they did. So, near quoting does not work. It is not helpful in proving what Calvinists want to prove. If both near-quoting was legitimate for building theology (such as on the nature of God) AND near-quoting can prove opposite points simultaneously, then it is worse than helpful.

      When a charismatic says: “I have seen God heal people as found in the Bible” or “I have heard people speak intelligibly in languages they do not know as found in the Bible”, I am sympathetic. They are using the Bible much like how Matthew did. Even when a dispensationalist claims the end is nigh because of specific world events mirroring a pattern, I am skeptical but sympathetic.

      When the same charismatic or dispensationalist (this is a hypothetical) will claim that Malachi 3 is a prooftext for immutability, this is just a different type of claim altogether.

      I am a little long winded, but I hope that helps.

      1. Not long-winded at all brother. And it does help clarify. I certainly didn’t think taking passages—as with Jeremiah or Malachi—out of context was valid. Seeing that distinction helps. I have to admit, it’s going to take some time for me to wrap my head (and heart) around the idea that some of the fulfillments of prophecy are not a direct but ecbatic sense. Thanks for the reply and the great work you’re doing. God bless.

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