Dispensational Distortions – Literally Literal Literature (Part Two)


Literally Literal Part Two

One the arguments presented in the previous chapter by those who hold to the Dispensational distinction of “consistent “literalism” is that Old Testament prophesies were fulfilled literally so it is necessary that the New Testament prophesies be equally fulfilled literally.

Here again we turn to Dr. Charles Ryrie to define exactly what the Dispensationalist argue regarding the Old Testament prophesies being fulfilled in a literal way.

 “The prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ . . . were all fulfilled literally. There is no non-literal fulfillment of these prophecies in the NT” Charles Ryrie

So the question remains do all Old Testament prophesies find the fulfillment in literal ways. Do New Testament writers interpret Old Testament prophesies in non-literal ways?

Let it be said from the outset that I am utterly indebted to the great work of Curtis Crenshaw and Grover Gunn in their fine work, Dispensationalism, for the presentation of material listed below.

Gunn and Crenshaw argue that not only do Old Testament prophesies find their fulfillment in literal and expected ways, but that the New Testament writers also found the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies in several other ways listed below. In fact, Crenshaw and Gunn actually propose that only 1/3 of Old Testament prophesies are fulfilled literally.


The first and most obvious way in which prophesies find their fulfillment is in a literal and direct manner. In a direct fulfillment items have a one to one correlation between what is prophesied and what is fulfilled. Below is an example.

Old Testament

Isa 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel

New Testament

Matt 1: 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:   23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel“

In this situation there is an obvious and direct correlation between the Old Testament prophecy and the New Testament fulfillment of that prophecy. There is no confusion here as there is an obvious one for one direct fulfillment.


But Crenshaw and Gun also note that many Old Testament prophesies find their fulfillment by a “type.” By that it is meant that the Old Testament literal words are expressed as a type of fulfillment or that an Old Testament fulfillment finds a secondary fulfillment by which the Old Testament image is seen as a type of Christ. This is most commonly found in the book of Hebrews as we see the New Testament author argue that the blood of bulls and goats was a “type” of picture of the work of Christ. But other types are found in Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfillment.

Old Testament

Hosea 11:1 When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

New Testament

Matt 2:14  And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Here we see how Jesus’ moving from Egypt after escaping the threat of death after King Herod’s decree to kill all the infants under the age of two is used by Matthew to be a fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy that literally was in reference to the nation of Israel’s exodus from slavery from Egypt. So, this prophesy is a fulfillment of “type” as the national of Israel served as a “type” of Christ.


Along with finding a fulfillment by direct correlation and by type the student of the New Testament will find Old Testament prophesies fulfilled by analogy. By that it is meant that a previous event serves as an analogy for a present or future event. This is not a “double fulfillment” of a single prophecy as is popularly argued buy rather the original and direct fulfillment is seen as an analogy for the later event.

Old Testament

Jer 31:15 “A voice is heard in Ramah … Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.”

New Testament

Matt 2: 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18″A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Here we find a prophecy relating to a particular historical event being used as an analogy for the future event by which the New Testament references the Old Testament prophesy. This is clearly not a direct or “literal” fulfillment of the Jeremiah.


The final way that an Old Testament prophecy can find fulfillment in the New Testament is by the way of “In a Sense.” This neither a direct, type nor analogous fulfillment of prophecy. It is by far the most indirect way a prophecy can find fulfillment. This is used by New testament writers to show how everything in the old testament law and prophets related to the work of Christ and the events that surrounded His life. Below is an example of how this type of fulfillment is derived.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 32:6-8 Jeremiah said, “The word of the Lord came to me:  [7] Behold, Hanamel the son of Shallum your uncle will come to you and say, ‘Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.’

Zech. 11:12-13

Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver.  [13] Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”— the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter.

New Testament

Matt 27: 9 Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

In this situation Matthew points to a prophecy of Jeremiah that was expounded upon in the prophetic work of Zechariah. Even though the most direct line of fulfillment appears to come from the writing of Zechariah, it is based on a passage from Jeremiah and that is what Matthew is relating the event of Judas’ betrayal to. Matthew is dealing with the price of redemption which would be 30 pieces of silver, but he also references the Potter’s Field which is clarified in the Zachariah passage.

So as these few quick passages point out, there is no consistent literal, one for one correlation between the Old Testament prophecy and the New Testament fulfillment. If this be the case then it is also important to possible consider that other Old testament prophesies as well as New testament prophesies may find their fulfillment in ways that are not as literal as the prophetic prognosticators may assume.

It is important to note that the fulfillment of any prophecy must correlate to the time text given that prophecy and, as we will see, that is where the dispensational system is it its weakest.


One Response to “Dispensational Distortions – Literally Literal Literature (Part Two)”

  1. Hello, i enjoy your article, however it would be great if you would supply a list. I’d also like you to visit my website @: http://www.atavistbiblicalchurch.com. i’m putting together a couple of articles on Pesher and Peshat. My name is Mark. Let me know what you think. God bless.

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