Home > Bible Study, eschatology, hermeneutics, Isaiah, S. Lewis Johnson > A Lesson in Hermeneutics: Zechariah Interpreting Isaiah

A Lesson in Hermeneutics: Zechariah Interpreting Isaiah


S. Lewis Johnson has mentioned that the apostle Paul in his epistles would often string together many Old Testament quotes, as part of his flow of thought.  The apostle John did likewise in Revelation, in which many passages contain allusions to Old Testament texts.  Often in Revelation, many different OT allusions are likewise strung together within the same sentence.  See Johnson’s exposition of Revelation 19:15, for example, which contains references to Isaiah 42, Isaiah 49 , and Psalm 2 in its references to a sharp sword and ruling the nations with a rod of iron.  I’ve observed a similar quality also in Spurgeon’s sermons, wherein he quotes various scriptures as part of his normal sentence structure.

Another principle of interpretation:  not only are we to interpret the Old Testament by New Testament, but also we should interpret the Old Testament (earlier texts) by later Old Testament texts that reference the earlier texts.  For example, Isaiah 53 describes the same event as Zechariah 12:10.  From these texts we can observe that Zechariah (a later prophet) was a student of the earlier prophet Isaiah.  Zechariah 3 also relates to similar content in Isaiah’s servant passages.  An excerpt from S. Lewis Johnson:

when you read the prophecy of Isaiah, some of the greatest of those chapters are the chapters I’ve referred to a number of times in this series.  Isaiah 42, Isaiah 49, Isaiah 50, Isaiah 52:13 through 53:12, and perhaps, chapter 16.  But all students of Isaiah agree that those four great sections are sections that have to do with “The servant of Jehovah,” a reference, ultimately, to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  But here, we have the same kind of thing referred to by Zechariah.  He refers to the Lord as the “servant.”  Now, we know Zechariah was a student of Isaiah.  Anyone who reads these two discovers that.  And if you read Zechariah, after having read Isaiah, you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

…  And, in fact, we can learn a great deal about the interpretive principles of the prophets, by the way in which they handle earlier Scripture.  And it’s obvious that this Book of Zechariah is one that we can learn a lot about hermeneutics from.  And, I think, we will see that when Zechariah interpreted previous Scripture, he interpreted it according to the grammatical, historical, theological method of interpretation.  That is, he did not give it spiritualized force. He interpreted it generally in the grammatical, historical fashion.  And here, he is using a term given to him, of course, in this vision by the Lord, which Isaiah had used and clearly a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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