Arguments against particular interpretations


The Messiah has not come yet.

Past event

Out of textual context

Not in historical context

Out of cultural context

Ambiguity

Translation problems

Uncommon usage

Not about the Messiah

Not about Jesus

Contrary to widely-accepted interpretation(s)

Several types of arguments are offered that a particular passage is not a prophecy or that a particular interpretation is wrong. (Brown, 2003) Many of these issues can arise any time text from a different time or culture or language is being interpreted. Interpretation problems can even exist between generations or social groups

The Messiah has not come yet.

Past event

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    The passage is not prophetic because it refers to an event that had already occurred when the passage was written.
     

Context errors

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Out of textual context

The passage is taken out of context from the surrounding text.

Not in historical context

The interpreter is assuming a particular historical situation that is not accurate.

Out of cultural context

The passage is not being interpreted through the moral and cultural values of the time when it was written.

Ambiguity

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    The text is ambiguous. It might be talking about the Messiah but it could reasonably be interpreted in other ways.

    Particular problems with the source text are: (a) Hebrew does not have upper- and lowercase letters; (b) the original Greek text was written all uppercase; and (c) the original texts had no punctuation, paragraphing, etc., not even spaces between words. In some instances, the source text makes sense whether a letter is at the end of one word or at the beginning of the next, but the meaning varies significantly.
     

Translation problems

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Inaccurate translation

The translation the interpreter is using does not accurately translate the original text. For instance, the New Living Translation (NLT) is a paraphrase, not an actual translation. The authors frequently add text to make the point clear. (This practice is sometimes called dynamic translation, as opposed to literal translation.)

Translator's bias

A particular Hebrew word can be translated by several different English words. The translator chose a word that fits his particular theological interpretation.

Uncommon usage

A particular word may technically be accurate but it probably does not convey the intended meaning. For instance, if someone says, "Is there a draft in here?" he is probably talking about cool moving air, not a preliminary version of a document—unless, of course, he is looking through a stack of papers.

Not about the Messiah

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    The passage is not referring to the Messiah. This is one of the most common objections by Jews to Christian interpretations. The fact is that very few passages in the Hebrew Bible specifically use the term Messiah. (Brown, 2003)
     

Not about Jesus

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    "If you could read it in Hebrew you would realize it is not talking about Jesus." That is one of the most common objections Jews raise when someone claims that a passage in the Hebrew Bible is referring to Jesus. (Brown, 2003)
     

Contrary to widely-accepted interpretation(s)

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The interpretation is contrary to all of the following:

  • One (or a small number) of interpretations already exist.
  • There is general agreement that the interpretation(s) are reasonable.
  • The vast majority of scholars and other experts accept one of the existing interpretations.
  • The proposed interpretation is inconsistent with each of the widely-accepted interpretations.
  • The proposed interpretation is not based on better information that was generally unavailable when the other interpretations were accepted.

For instance, a new interpretation based on new archaeological discoveries or availability of documents not available to earlier interpreters, e.g., the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Nag Hammadi documents could probably survive this objection.

A new interpretation may survive this objection on the grounds that it is a clarification or a more precise statement or analysis even though all information used was previously available.