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Bible Prophecy and History - Methodology
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Methodology
These are the standards we will use in the interpretation and the reasons why we have adopted these.
The methodology is based on the way God interpreted Daniel.
  1. Basis of Authority. Let the Bible be its own interpreter. First look at similar uses of words phrases and imagery to determine the meaning of difficult passages. Especially prophecy, which is clearly full of symbolic images. In comparing scripture to scripture give precedence or weight to the passage in the following order
    • Source: Who spoke the words. Was it God. Was it a direct vision?
    • Author: Who wrote the words. Was it God? Was it a known, respected prophet like Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel, John the beloved disciple or Elijah? Or was it from a second hand source?
    • Time: How long after the event was the story written.?
    I cannot answer doubts concerning how I know the author. None of us can go back in time to authenticate these facts. But I can point to the overall accuracy of the prophecies as they spanned thousands of years. There is sufficient evidence that words were written long before some of the predicted nations ever came into power.
  2. Preponderance of Evidence. If there is a dispute go with the most consistent use and give precedence to things that God said, wrote or instituted. Of these there are but a few things.
    • He wrote and spoke the 10 Commandments to Moses
    • The words Jesus spoke, the prophets he mentioned by name (Moses, Daniel, Elijah, Isaiah) and the people whose experience he held as fact (Jonah, Daniel).
    • On a personal visit on Mt. Sinai He established a sanctuary building and service to be "patterned after the one in Heaven".
    • On a personal visit on Mt. Sinai He established 7 important feasts and ceremonies.
    • The words of the prophets clearly identified as "the word of the LORD".
  3. Established Methods. Follow the examples of previous prophets and God. How did they interpret visions and symbols. Use these same principles. Give precedence to how God himself interpreted the visions in Daniel.
  4. Patterns. Use principles or patterns established by God in his interpretation of Daniel. For example, a prophecy generally refers to the present or the future ( at the time the prophecy is given). If a clear reference is made to the past it is used only to establish some fact about the object of the prophecy in the present or future. For example, why is the beast judged in Revelation. Why does he deserve such punishment? By studying Daniel and how God interprets it several patterns stand out:
    • Repetition: The same prophecy is repeated in another vision using different symbols.
    • Enlargement and Detail: A repeated prophecy usually brings out some aspect or event in greater detail.
    • Chronological Order: The order of each unit of prophecy (vision or scene) is generally the order of the events in time. Find the division or separation between each vision. See below for more details.
  5. Lessons Learned. Build on lessons learned in previous prophecy. Especially where God interprets it himself.
    • Symbols. - We have a set of defined symbols. We also know that more than one symbol can represent the same idea, but the same symbol does not represent different ideas. The symbols used in a single vision are also related (for example, the Nations are represented by different types of metals or different animals)
    • Symbol Structure. - We learned one more thing from the interpretation of the symbols of the beast. That is, the picture of the beast represents a snapshot of it's structure throughout time. For example, The leopard with four heads actually starts out with one head and then breaks up into 4 divisions. Sometimes the prophecy describes the transition (like the "notable horn" being broken into 4 horns) and sometimes it does not. The detail may be given in a later repetition of the prophecy.
    • Prophecy Structure. - The chronological order of the prophecy. While major groups are presented in order, we do find that within a single power, when details are given the one who gives the prophecy can do several things:
      • Finishes a complete thought or description about a single part of the prophecy. In doing so the prophecy may cover a long time span, and may repeat all or part of that time span when it covers the next item. So that several important points while summarized independently, may parallel each other at some points or follow in sequence. For example, If you are talking about the accomplishments of your children you will start with one child from birth through college, then proceed to the other child. If important events occur for each child at the same time you would then mention that separately or mention it while talking about one of the children. This pattern is less confusing for the human mind.
      • Might go back in time to justify claims about the entity in the present and since the structure of the power will be different over the centuries, it chooses to define it in terms of one of its phases and then adds details about its activity. The fact that this activity changes it slightly may or may not be outlined in a particular prophecy. The focus might be what it is doing and its effect not how it is structured at any given point in time because this is impossible when the activity being described covers such long periods of time.
      • The description of an element may be a snapshot of it in time. For example, Although the beast with 10 horns eventually ends up losing 3 horns to the little horn (giving a total of 8 horns) subsequent prophecies still refer to the 10 horns. Possibly, this simplifies identification and eliminates confusion. Once the power is identified at that crucial point in history you should be able to see the rest of its activity in subsequent prophecies.
      How can we tell where a break in thought occurs and a new prophecy or different view of a prophecy is being given?
      • By the language. "After these things I saw ..." could indicate a different prophecy or the continuation of a sequence
      • Sequential (numbered events). For example, the 7 seals
      • A physical break in the vision. This is obvious in Daniel but not in Revelation. Daniel received several visions years apart, revelation seems to be one long vision with many different scenes.
      • Since we know from experience with Daniel that the same visions are introduced as totally different symbols and that there is constant repetition we can assume that the same might occur in Revelation. Consequently, we can look at the clearer prophecies to shed light on the more difficult ones.
    • Pattern Of Repetition And Enlargement - In Daniel this unfolds as
      • Daniel 2 - The metal man - An overall view of the major political events from Daniel's time to the end
      • Daniel 7 - Beasts - Same period of time but more information about the characteristics of the kingdoms
      • Daniel 8 - Beasts - More characteristics about the kingdoms - powerful leaders are symbolized. Detail of the "little Horn" is introduced.
      • Daniel 9 - A portion of the previous vision is explained in detail (the vision of the 2300 days that speaks about the Messiah)
      • Daniel 11 - Very detailed history about the kingdom and its rulers that would rule when the Messiah appears. The recognition of the Messiah was so important that it describes in detail 3 successive Roman rulers up to His appearance and details of the political intrigues.
      • Daniel 12 - The time of the end.
      • Revelation - Gives details from John's time right up to the end. In Daniel, God's greatest detail was about identifying the Messiah and the "little Horn". In revelation, the greatest detail centers around the activities of the "little horn" at the end.
    • Sanctuary. - Since the Sanctuary was an example that was both a "pattern of things in Heaven" which was also full of symbolism. We also focus on the sanctuary because the prophecies are filled with the Sanctuary imagery.
  6. Be Consistent. A symbol cannot have several different or opposing meanings.
  7. History. Use the history that God has explained and follow the leading powers to verify succeeding prophecies and events. Because God himself gave full or partial interpretations to most of Daniel's prophecy we have a reliable starting point and a methodology of interpretation.
  8. Relevance. Recognize what is important to God, not what is happening everywhere in an historical period. For example, Prophecy seems to center around the people of God, their behavior and the powers that control them. Therefore a power is only significant because they have come in contact with God's people, not because of their size or strength when compared to other reigning powers in the same period.
    This importance may be due to the fact that
    • His people might benefit more from the revelation
    • His people are the possessors of something the rest of the world needs (a knowledge of God) and this sets them at center stage
  9. Position of Safety. When beginning a search for God, start from a position of safety, "Just in Case". Both in the interpretation of prophecy and in the question of the existence of God. Then make a prayerful decision after you have investigated the claims without prejudice.
    At that point you cannot choose God "just in case". You must come to him with complete faith and trust
    • For prophetic interpretation the safest position is the historicist view. This is the only view which states we have a message meant for us. Adopting any other view requires that you don't have to investigate anything because it doesn't matter. What if it does? The futurist view assumes that nothing applies to us. Everything is in the future. The preterist view assumes that this all occurred in the past and nothing applies to us. The historicist view assumes that prophecy is unfolding throughout history, so each generation can find their place in the prophecies. But the Bible itself does not support the futurist or preterist view. In the image of Daniel God clearly interprets the events as running from that time to the end. He also reserved some unfolding of prophecy at "the time of the end".
    • For a belief in God the safest position is to assume that he exists. There is a wonderful philosophical argument that states: What will you have lost if you believe or choose not to believe.
  10. Hermeneutics. - Follow established principles in looking at a text, and provide information that might enlighten our understanding.
    • The background and culture in which this was written. This might affect the meaning of words.
    • Do not study a text in isolation. Look at the texts around it to understand what is being discussed and how they affect the verse you are studying.
    • The author
    • Use only literal translations that attempt to be true to the original language.
    • If possible, make sure that alternate legitimate translations do not drastically change the meaning.

Conventions
All material written for this WEB site will use the following design conventions and style:
  • Bible: The King James Version (KJV) or Use the KJV Sword bible. It changes on the verbs of the old English. The New American Standard Bible (NASB) may be used but it also changes the Bible. So compare with the KJV versions. Do NOT use the NIV, It has been altered.
  • Methods: We will use the teaching methods used by God (repetition and pictures). This is most clearly evident in the treatment of the prophecies. This accommodates all learning styles and ages. In Addition, because there needs to be a consistent methodology (method and reason for applying an interpretation), we have stated ours clearly.
  • Document Structure: Wherever possible, all discussions will follow a similar structure
    • Introduction - What will be discussed
    • Discussion - Presentation of the topic
    • In Perspective - Wherever appropriate, short parables on how this relates to current life.
    • The Love of God - How does this information enlighten us about the Love of God, His power and His plan of salvation
    • Summary - What are my conclusions or synopsis of the discussion
  • There are extensive navigation sources on this site. Since we support a framed and a non-framed version, We will use the following symbol Framed version symbol to refer to the framed version, whenever we provide a link to both versions from one of our maps or within a page.
  • Site Resources: A link will be provided to these critical resource pages on every page.
    1. Prayer  Prayer: On every page is a prayer for you. You can pray with me. God promises to be present "where two or three are gathered in his name". By faith, I will believe I will be the second person in partnership with you as God guides you.
    2. Dictionary  Dictionary: A glossary or dictionary of terms is available.
    3. Symbols  Symbols and meanings: These are discussed in greater detail in their own section to avoid repetition.
    4. Links, Credits, References, symbol  Links, Reference and Credits: A separate Links page with comments will be maintained. Since this will be a multi-lingual site, we will rely on direct quotes (so that they can be translated). Links to the source will be through a reference on the links page.
    5. Site Map  Site Map and Search: A layout of the site. You can jump to any page. Note that this supports both the Framed and non Framed versions of the site.
    6. Individual lesson  Print Handouts: Since the major discussions are long, we have prepared short handouts to go with some of the major Bible study topics.
  • Home Page: There are basically 3 "Home" Pages
        International Home Page symbol  International Home Page: This is used to select a language.
        Lesson  Lessons: These are all the lessons and links to almost every page.
        Main Menu selection page symbol  Main Menu: This is the list of topics that we discuss.

 
What if - A Safe, Common Sense Approach
From time to time I will appeal to this argument as the basis for investigating the claims of God. It is based on Pascal's Wager. I basically argue, that if there is a possibility that a friendly God exists, then you at least ought to do a reasonable amount of investigation. Pascal argues that you should believe. I simply argue that you should investigate.

This is the consequence.
If you believe and you are right then you would have gained everything. If you are wrong then you would have lost nothing but the freedom to do anything no matter who gets hurt. You may also loose whatever donation you have given to a church or charity. Big deal! You would have lived a peaceful life that your fellow human beings would be thankful for.

But, if you do not believe and you are right - you would have lost nothing. But if you are wrong you have just lost everything.

It is unreasonable to bet your life on theories that cannot be proven in your lifetime. Deliberate ignorance is not an excuse. I am not saying that you should suspend your reasoning, just suspend your decision for either side until you have done a fair and honest investigation.
Since most people resist the notion of God, because they reject the idea of right and wrong, you must be honest about what it is you fear most about belief.
It is a fact that many scientists clung to the notion of evolution, because they wanted the freedom to do anything they wanted - if they could find a way to dismiss God. This is foolish because it does not get rid of God if he does exist. It only gives God more reason to justify why He has to abandon you - willful disobedience.
Finally, I do not wish to leave you searching forever. That is being an agnostic. Making no decision is not a decision. Although, God cannot be proven by the scientific method, He does say the following:
  • He has given every person a reason to believe.
  • He will respond if you search for him. Your encounter will not be scientifically provable because it is not observable by all, but it is the basis on which you and God will affirm each other.
  • He will not give you all your answers (for a variety of reasons), but he will give you answers you can cling to.
  • He will give you peace. In all my experience and in talking to other Christians this wonderful peace and the ability to love seems to be the one constant thing that He always does. I do not know why. Probably because these attributes will be eternal.

A Message to Foreign Language Readers (Not English)
These pages were originally written in English. We hope that God will reverse the punishment given the tower of Babel and bring many languages together again. This time to build something that leads to God.
A machine translator will be used, therefore I expect many errors. Sometimes when several different English translations of the Bible are used, the meaning we are trying to emphasize will be lost.

I am not familiar with the languages, therefore if the translator does not translate a word, I will use a dictionary to find the substitute, however, if it is a verb I may not get the correct form of the verb. If it is a noun, I may not get the correct gender and I may not know how to form the plural noun. And the order of the words may be incorrect.

Pray for God to help you to understand. And I apologize for any errors in translation. I pray for the miracle at Pentecost and at the Tower of Babel to work in your favor.

If you understand English and you can compare both versions, I am asking for your help by volunteering to give me a correct translation.

Thank you.
Laverna Patterson

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.   Matthew 4: 4 Time: 20 minutes
Print: 4 pages
Copyright     Updated : December 18, 2002
Author: Laverna Patterson.   Editor: