What Is the First Mention Principle?

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In order to understand the Bible systematically, theologians and philosophers have developed the study of hermeneutics, which deals with the general ways for interpreting Scripture and other written texts. The First Mention Principle is one of the many hermeneutical techniques that exist in order to interpret the Bible.

Other techniques for understanding the Bible include Exegesis (investigation of the original meaning of a text within its context) and Eisegesis (read a particular meaning into the text). It is a subdivision of the "Context" principle, which says that God gives light on a subject by either remote or near sections on the same subject.

Under the First Mention principle, the idea is that God indicates the truth that stands in His mind that will not change later on. This means that the initial discussion of any subject in the Bible would have unusual significance by this standard, as Benjamin Willis Newton (a 19th century Plymouth Brethren member) observed.

First Mention Example

Under the Progressive Principle, God declares His mind on the subject more clearly as His word moves towards its consummation. The Full or Complete Mention Principle concerns God's revealing His full truth on a given matter that is very important to our spiritual lives.

An interesting application of the First mention hermeneutical principle comes from the verse discussing (if obliquely) the coming Savior and Messiah in Genesis 3:15. This verse is considered the first prophecy in the Bible.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He will bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel (Genesis 3:15, HBFV).

Later on, this theme develops in Genesis at length. It becomes clearer from the promise God made to Abraham to bless all families of the earth through him.

And I will make of you a great nation. And I will bless you and make your name great. And you shall be a blessing.

And I will bless those that bless you and curse the one who curses you. And in you shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:2 - 3, HBFV).

And I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and will give to your seed all these lands. And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed . . . (Genesis 26:4, HBFV).

God promised to use Abraham's "seed" to bless the world after he passed God's test to nearly sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:18). These would be progressive references of this theme.

In Galatians 3, however, we find Paul's interpretation that the "seed" was a reference to Christ. Based on the first mention principle, this could be the consummation of what God obliquely promised in Genesis 3:15.

Now in the Scriptures, God, seeing in advance that He would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." . . .

Now to Abraham and to his Seed were the promises spoken. He does not say, "and to your seeds," as of many; but as of one, "and to your Seed," which is Christ. (Galatians 3:8, 16, HBFV).

Admittedly, there is some speculation here, for people can dispute concerning the interpretation of Old Testament Messianic texts and its relationship to the first mention principle.

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