Thomas Birks Picture

Thomas Birks


Thoughts on the Times and Seasons of Sacred Prophecy

Theologian, Controversialist, and Cambridge Professor

Why Read This Paper




"What then is the literal sense of prophecy? False notions on this point have been very general. Absurd consequences have been grafted upon these, in order to justify a system of glosses and allegories, and to transfer all the Jewish promises to the Gentile Church." Today such transference is often called "replacement theology," and it is widespread in conservative Presbyterian and Reformed circles. Here Birks lays out the evidence for the literal interpretation of prophecy, more often described as "grammatical-historical interpretation." His presentation is well done, and he makes a very strong case.

Thomas Rawson Birks was Professor of Moral Philosophy and Theology in the University of Cambridge during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century. The paper presented here is chapter three from the book Thoughts on the Times and Seasons of Sacred Prophecy (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1880). In this chapter, Birks first defines literal interpretation and then shows through examples how the use of figures and symbols in OT prophetic passages does not conflict with this system of interpretation. Finally, he examines various NT passages that are often cited as examples of non-literal interpretation.

Chapter 3

"The Principles of Prophetic Interpretation"

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