Wikipedia summarizes a traditional "Biblical Theology" approach to interpreting the Bible as follows:

Biblical theology seeks to understand the progressive unfolding of God's special revelation throughout history... Biblical theology is thus historical and chronological in its design; and in fact, a close synonym for biblical theology, at least in its wide-angle task of accounting for all of special revelation, is the term “redemptive history”. Biblical theology is not always pursued in so broad a fashion, however; sometimes, certain themes are approached in a biblical theological manner; for instance, a biblical theology of holy space in worship would seek to understand how that specific motif unfolded in redemptive history, from the beginning of revelation until the end. Another narrower application of biblical theology would be the study of the unfolding of revelation during a specific time period (for example, post-exilic biblical theology); or the study of the development of themes in a particular author (for example, Johannine biblical theology); but ultimately, even these narrower applications are truly biblical-theological in nature only as they seek to advance an understanding of the progression of redemptive history as a whole.

Likewise it describes the Dispensationalist approach as follows:

Each dispensation is marked by a cycle: God reveals himself and his truth to humanity in a new way. Humanity is held responsible to conform to that revelation. Humanity rebels and fails the test. God judges humanity and introduces a new period of probation under a new administration. Ultimately, dispensationalism demonstrates the progress of God's revelation to man and God's sovereignty through history.

The outcome of these approaches is markedly different: The dispensational view would say that the State of Israel is vitally important for the unfolding of God's plan. The Biblical Theological view would not rate it as a high priority. My question is what is different about the core hermeneutic in each approach that leads to such different end points? Where do they first deviate?

As a case study, say a modern dispensationalist were to read Graeme Goldsworthy's books on Biblical Theology. How would they criticize his basic hermeneutic? What interpretational framework in Graeme Goldsworthy's explanations would make it hard for a reader following his perspective to see the state of Israel in present history as an important part of God's New Testament plan?

  • 1
    This is more a question for the Theology SX not Bible hermeneutics. However, I will suggest that dispensationalism differs from other systems by starting with an a-priory assumption (3 cycles, 7 cycles or 12 cycles depending on the author) which is not Biblically explicit, and from that a-priory assumption flows much else.
    – user25930
    Oct 27, 2018 at 1:32

2 Answers 2


Dispensationalism as a modern systematic theology was started by J.N. Darby in Britain in 1828 who was only 28 years old. He claimed he got his insights by revelation! But his biographical research shows that he picked up ideas from other clergymen. Darby started out as a student of law, but dropped out of that profession.

He was influenced by the Catholic Apostolic Church teachings, the Powerscourt prophecy conferences...and especially by a Rev. Tweedy from Ireland. (See Tim LaHaye, No Fear of the Storm)

The Core Hermeneutic of Dispensationalism is not the idea of dispensations as a way of describing historical Redemptive History. There have been may scholars throughout time who have divided God's dealings (covenants) by various eras or time periods. Some divided time using eras of the Trinity: the era of the Father, era of the Son, and the present era of the Holy Spirit. Still others worked out more elaborate schemes using 5, 7, 10 times periods. Cyrus Scofield is famous for his list in the Study Bible that bears his name. (Innocence, Conscience, Human Government, Law, Grace, etc.)

They all depart from the simple two-fold Covenant plan used in the Bible: O.T. and N.T. (Hebrews 8:13)

But the main teaching that is the Core Hermeneutic which distinguishes Disp. from orthodox Christianity is the teaching that Mr. Tweedy planted in Darby's mind: the idea that there are two distinct destinies for the Jews and the Gentiles. The prophecies in the O.T. are to be still fulfilled literally with a physical Jerusalem and Judaea as the center of it all. The Gentiles (Gentile Church) is a "plan B" that must be gotten out of the way (secret rapture) so the Jews can finally be exalted in the earth!

This Core teaching is a heretical departure from the orthodox doctrines drawn from the N.T. which looks at the Old Testament redemption history as a prefigure of the New Covenant realities. First the natural, then the Spiritual All the O.T. worship practices, holy days, etc. were types, figures, symbols of things to come. (See whole book of Hebrews!). Disp. ignores all this teaching of the Early Church.

But more importantly, the CORE HERMENEUTIC of Disp. violates the whole work of Jesus and the Cross by maintaining a dividing wall between Jew and Gentile, whereas the clearest teaching of the Apostles and Jesus is that the Middle Wall of Separation has been torn down! Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Patriarchs. They are fellow-citizens in the Church (Kingdom of God) (See Ephesians 2, 1 Peter 2) For God so loved the WORLD that... (John 3:16)

Spiritual Kingdom Instead of emphasis on a Spiritual Kingdom, Disp. emphasis on the Jewish supremacy also violates the orthodox theology concept of Kingdom. Its view of a Physical Kingdom ruled by Jews goes against the teaching of Jesus.

  • For the Kingdom of God is not meat or drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17)
  • The Kingdom of God cometh not with observation...behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20,21)
  • The Law and prophets were until John; since that time the Kingdom of God is preached, and every an presses into it. (Luke 16:16)
  • But if I, with the finger of God, cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you. (Luke 11:20)

The CORE HERMENEUTIC of Disp. is the misunderstanding that Mr.Tweedy placed in the young mind of Darby: an erected Wall of Separation between Jew and all others. It has caused a misconstruing of the Church, Kingdom, redemption, Jewish hopes, prophecy, etc. In light of all these considerations, Disp. can in no way be considered orthodox, Christian, traditional religion. In spite of all the mass media presentations, and prophecy conferences.


Since there are zero answers here, this is what ChatGPT has to say on the subject:

Dispensationalism and traditional Biblical Theology differ in their
approach to interpreting biblical texts in several ways. Here are
some key differences:

  • Hermeneutics: Dispensationalism tends to place a greater emphasis on a literal, grammatical-historical approach to interpreting the Bible, while traditional Biblical Theology may use a broader range of interpretive methods, including typology and allegory.

  • Eschatology: Dispensationalism emphasizes the role of Israel and the future fulfillment of prophecies related to the nation of Israel, while traditional Biblical Theology may focus more on the spiritual and universal aspects of biblical prophecy.

  • Theology of the Church: Dispensationalism sees a distinction between the Church and Israel, with different roles and destinies, while traditional Biblical Theology sees the Church as the continuation of God's people throughout history, with a unified destiny.

  • Method of interpreting prophecy: Dispensationalism emphasizes a strict literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy, while traditional
    Biblical Theology may allow for a more flexible and symbolic
    interpretation of prophetic texts.

  • Approach to history: Dispensationalism sees history as divided into distinct "dispensations" or periods of time in which God works in different ways, while traditional Biblical Theology sees history as a unified story of God's redemptive work.

These differences can lead to different interpretations of specific biblical texts, particularly those related to eschatology and the relationship between Israel and the Church. For example, Dispensationalists may interpret prophecies related to the restoration of Israel in a more literal and future-oriented way, while traditional Biblical Theologians may see these prophecies as having a spiritual and universal significance. Similarly, Dispensationalists may see the Church as having a distinct and separate destiny from Israel, while traditional Biblical Theologians may see the Church as a continuation of God's people throughout history.

  • Please remove answers from ChatGPT.
    – hawkeye
    Apr 12 at 21:28
  • @User33515Please do NOT remove answers from ChatGPT! This list is the most comprehensive comparison of Disp. with Orthodox Christian theology! And the most accurate biblically speaking. Those who ask questions must be willing and humble to face the facts when presented with meekness and fear. We all are required to "Worship God in Spirit and in Truth" not just spirit. Thank you for your contribution.
    – ray grant
    May 30 at 21:46
  • Yeah, someone these days might just as well ask to remove any answers that were found through Google.
    – user33515
    May 30 at 22:36

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