The Pesher: Peter’s Method Of Interpretation

Peter’s Interpretation Of Joel’s Prophecy

When the prophet Joel penned the verse in chapter 2 of his famous prophecy of the last days, we were all surprised to learn that this new Spirit-filled Peter declared that Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the first day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were present and Jesus’ church was born.

Joel 2:28-29 “And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. 29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”

Peter not only attributed verses 28 and 29 of Joel Chapter 2 to the birth of the church, he also ascribed the entire text of Joel’s prophecy to the birth of the church.

Acts 2:14-21 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:17 “And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. 18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. 19 I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. 20 The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. 21 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.”

Verses 19-21 would appear to be applicable, only to the seven-year Tribulation Period; Peter describes this verse as applicable to the birth of the church in Acts Chapter 2.

Today, we call the technique that Peter used in interpreting the Old Testament prophecies of Joel Chapter 2, in light of their New Testament fulfillment, a Pesher. This term comes from the Hebrew word, peser, meaning: interpretation.⁠1 In the peser interpretation and application of an Old Testament prophecy, the importance is placed on the fulfillment, not on the exegesis of the prophecy’s technical points which it is interpreting.

It is this technique, whereby we can rightly attribute Old Testament prophecies which do not, at first glance, seem to be attributable to the Messiah—as applicable to Him. As we compare their text with the New Testament verses which appear to be a fulfillment of those Old Testament predictions, we learn that they have a valid application. The Pesher is a method of interpretation, which I have made use of in several instances where I could not see the Messianic application of certain verses, which I included in these hundreds of prophecies—until after I gave further diligent study. Once an Old Testament verse becomes a possible candidate for Messianic application, a search must be made to find whether there is a New Testament counterpart—which can be rightly attributable to the Old Testament verse in question. In many of the Old Testament verses which are included in this book, this was this exegetical technique that I used. I came to the conclusion that these obscure verses, did in fact, have a New Testament Fulfillment; therefore, they must be a Messianic prophecy.

In Peter’s sermon, in Acts Chapter 2 verse 17, the Apostle uses the phrase, And it shall come to pass in the last days…, whereas Joel actually said: (Joel 2:28) And it shall come to pass afterward

By changing afterward to in the last days, Peter is using the Pesher formula to interpret Joel’s meaning of his prophecy. In the Septuagint manuscripts of MT and LXX, afterwards is ahare ken, meta tauta. This is the same Greek phrase used in the Book of Revelation Chapter 4, where after speaking about the church and the things of the church, John states in chapter 3: After these things (meta tauta—after the things of the church, John was Raptured to heaven to see the visions Jesus showed him).

Joel was prophesying regarding the last days and specifically, events that would concern the coming of the Messiah; His ministry and the events of His wrath, as described in the Book of Revelation. These events will occur during the seven-year Tribulation Period.

We learn a great deal about the way that the early Christian leaders interpreted Old Testament prophecy, and the manner in which we should also interpret certain Old Testament prophecies, when seeking their New Testament fulfillment. Peter understood that what Joel had predicted was what God had said. Although at times what God has said through the Old Testament prophet is quite mysterious and puzzling, when we also search for a possible New Testament fulfillment as I have done; we see the deeper meaning and revealed mystery of these Old Testament scriptures.

I realize that for many, this will be a difficult concept to grasp or accept; but this is nevertheless the correct method for interpreting many of these prophecies of the Messiah which are found in the Old Testament. I am in good company with Peter who, on the day of Pentecost, used this method in interpreting Joel’s prophecy, in applying what Joel said—to the birth of the church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

One thing is certain about what Peter interpreted from Joel’s prophecy: From the birth of the church, in Acts Chapter 2—when the Holy Spirit was given to each person who came into a saving relationship with the Messiah; these events began the Last Days that Joel is speaking of. The days in which you and I are now living, are in greater respect, these Last Days. We are so much closer today to the appearance of Jesus for His church than we could possibly imagine. One of my constant thoughts in writing this book was that I may not finish it before the Lord comes for us at the Rapture. This is the reality that we live in today. The coming of the Lord was described as, near, 2,000 years ago. As I write, and you read these words—today, how much closer we are to His coming—even at the door.⁠2

One of the questions regarding Peter’s interpretation of Joel’s prophecy is how to apply such terms as: I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.

As we have seen, there is often an earlier and later fulfillment in many Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah Chapter 61. Moreover, this appears to also be true of Joel’s prophecy of the last days. Certainly, when the sun was obscured at noon, on the day Jesus was crucified, and the sun was turned to darkness; this is a reasonable application of Joel’s prophecy to the day Jesus died, without any incorrect application of this prophecy.

Matthew 27:45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

It should be noted that the full moon which occurred during the time—after Jesus was crucified, is described as, blood red. This event may have been caused by an atmospheric phenomenon which also obscured the sun from noon to 3 p.m., on the afternoon Jesus was crucified.

Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington were able to reconstruct the events that occurred during the darkness that occurred while Jesus was being crucified. By their calculations, a Blood Moon occurred from about 6:20 pm to 6:50 pm at the start of the Jewish Passover. This would confirm both parts of Joel’s prophecy that Peter declared as fulfilled the day Jesus was crucified.⁠3

The birth of the church and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, were a direct, earlier fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction in chapter 44:3, which is the subject of this Old Testament Prophecy from Isaiah. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the text of these verses when He birthed His church on the day of Pentecost.

Isaiah 44:3 “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, And floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring…”


NOTES:
1 Pesher: From Strong’s Hebrew Concordance #6592, defined as a “translation” or “interpretation.”
2 Revelation 3:20, “Behold I stand at the door and knock,”
3 Colin J. Humphreys and W. G. Waddington, The Date of the Crucifixion Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 37 (March 1985)
[1] Colin Humphreys, The Mystery of the Last Supper Cambridge University Press 2011 ISBN 978-0-521-73200-0, p. 193 (However note that Humphreys places the Last Supper on a Wednesday)