For decades, one of the sina qua non of dispensationalism has been the consistent use of a literal interpretation of the Bible.[1] In fact, it proved to be the ultimate and most primitive of the irreducible minimum of dispensational tenets. Dr. Charles Ryrie said that one’s hermeneutical principles should be determined before one’s theology is formed.[2] Earl Radmacher later forcefully contended that literal interpretation was the “basic principle” of dispensationalism.[3]

Principles of Biblical interpretation are indeed the first order of concerns in structuring a doctrine or a comprehensive method of interpreting the Bible—foundational to correct exegesis itself. Often the order is reversed. It is often asserted with vigor that Biblical hermeneutics must come from interpreting the Bible itself, i.e., a simple matter of exegesis. But this appears to be an almost viciously circular procedure—using unknown hermeneutical principles on the Bible in order to extract the Bible’s original hermeneutical principles to be used for interpreting the whole Bible. But I would argue for a Biblical first principle or a transcendental presupposition regarding human language in the first place. This is drawn theologically from the Bible’s own use of language by human beings who possess rationality that is traced to the image of God. Intelligible language was endowed in order to fulfill the dominion mandate to rule the earth (Gen. 1:26). Once understood, this first principle explains the relationship between God’s speech to the first human beings and their response to Him, and the humans between each other. Without this rubric the empirical relationship between God’s words and His actions is left unexplained.

The Origin and Purpose of Human Language

The Origin Of Human Language
This takes us back to the very beginning of the creation of all things, inclusive of all the phenomena on the time-space-mass continuum. This is to say simply that it is the original creation by God Himself of all that is not God. God could not have been more self-consciously active in making the universe. He planned it (decree), made it (creation), upholds it (preservation) and controls it (providence) in every facet down to every exchange of energy. Uppermost in the creation week is the immediate creation of human beings in the likeness of God on Day Six—finite replicas of the infinite Deity Himself.

As noted, human language began at the original creation; it is not eternal. God “has made man’s mouth” (Ex. 4:11). Language entered the time-space-mass order on Day Six of McCune Quote 5-3-16the creation week when God made man. While human language is not eternal, it would seem that language as such is probably eternal. It is indigenous to the triune God and, as such, is indigenous to each person of the Trinity. If the Divine Persons of the Trinity communicate with each other as rational beings, then they probably have some kind of “language” system involving propositions. It can be reasoned that propositions are necessary for rational, personal beings to communicate with each other. Propositional, i.e., subject-predicate material, is the only thing rational minds can process. But, does God have some form of a syntactical language system? It is very difficult to know, but He probably does, since propositions seem to be indigenous to rational communication, and propositions use syntax for intelligibility.

Human language is part of the image of God in man (Gen. 1:26-27). Man is composed of, or has the capacity of, that which makes him the very image of God. He is the image of God and, as well, has the image (1 Cor. 11:7); he is a finite replica of the infinite Deity. There are several components of this image. One is personality. Personality is usually said to consist of intellect, emotion and will. Some reduce personality to self-consciousness and self-determination. Self-consciousness means that man can be objective to himself; he can make himself the object of his own thought. Self-determination (popularly called free will) means that man can spontaneously make decisions from within his own rationality. He is not coerced or constrained in this regard. An aspect of personality is rationality, though it could probably stand alone as part of the image.  This is the ability to create and otherwise process ideas, form conclusions, use logic and handle propositions. This is the area where hermeneutics predominates.

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Dr. Rolland D. McCune served at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary from 1981 to 2009 as professor of systematic theology, dean of the faculty and president. He previously taught at Central Baptist Seminary for 14 years. He is the author of A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity, 3 vols. (Allen Park, MI: DBTS, 2008-2010) as well as other books and many journal articles. It is a truly a blessing to welcome him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.

Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Rolland D. McCune. Used by permission of the author.

Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (

[1] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today (Chicago: Moody, 1965), p. 45.

[2] Ibid., p. 89.

[3] Earl Radmacher, “The Current Status of Dispensationalism and Its Eschatology,” in Perspectives on Evangelical Theology, K. Kantzer and S. Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1971), p. 166.