1902 Encyclopedia > Prophet


PROPHET (_____) is a word taken from the vocabulary of ancient Greek religion, which passed into the language of Christianity, and so into the modern tongues of Europe, because it was adopted by the Hellenistic Jews as the rendering of the Hebrew (_____, pl. _____). The word therefore as we use it is meant to convey an idea which belongs to Hebrew and not to Hellenic belief; but when it first underwent this change of application the age of the nebiim was long past, and the Jews themselves had a very imperfect conception of what they had been and done. Hence in actual usage the idea conveyed by the word prophet has never quite corresponded with its his-torical prototype; the prophets of early Christendom, for example, are not by any means exact counterparts of the Old-Testament prophets, and in general very various ideas have prevailed as to what a prophet is or should be, because up to quite a recent date the work of the Hebrew prophets has been habitually approached not in a purely historical spirit but under the influence of pre-conceived ideas.

In the present article no attempt will be made to follow those speculations about the nature of prophecy which belong to dogmatic theology rather than to history; but a brief sketch will be given (1) of the history of Hebrew prophecy (in supplement to what has been already said in the article ISRAEL or is to be found in the articles devoted to individual prophets), and (2) of prophecy in the early Christian Church. To speak of more recent religious phenomena within Christendom which have claimed to be prophetic would carry us too far; for them the reader is referred to such articles as MONTANISM, ANABAPTISTS. The conception of prophecy on which the Mohammedan religion is built has been sufficiently explained in the life of Mohammed; borrowed, somewhat unintelligently, from later Judaism, it is radically different from that of the Old Testament, and when narrowly looked at lends no countenance to the statement often made, and at first sight plausible, that prophecy is a phenomenon characteristic of Semitic religion in general.

1. The Prophets of the Old Testament.—The author of 1 Sam. ix. 9 tells us that " beforetime in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, thus he spake, Come and let us go to the seer; for he that is now called a prophet (ndbi) was beforetime called a seer." This remark is introduced to explain how his contemporaries spoke of Samuel. He was a " seer " (ver. 11), or, as he is also called (ver. 6 sq.), a " man of God," that is one who stood in closer relations to God than ordinary men; " all that he said was sure to come to pass," so that he could be consulted with advantage even in private matters like the loss of the asses of Kish. The narrative of 1 Sam. ix. is so vivid and exact that not many generations of oral tradition can have separated the writer from the events he records; it shows us therefore, at least broadly, what the word prophet meant' in the early times of the Hebrew kingdom, and it shows us that it had acquired that meaning after the age of Philistine oppression in which Samuel lived, and to which his younger contemporaries Saul and David put an end. That this is the sense of the author, and that we must not suppose that the word prophet had merely become more common in his time and supplanted an older synonym, appears beyond question a few verses further down, where we see that there were already in Samuel's time people known as nebiim, but that they were not seers. The seer, with his exceptional insight, is a man of prominent individuality and held in great respect: when Saul asks for the seer every one knows that there is only one person in the town whom he can mean. With the prophets it is quite otherwise; they appear not individually but in bands; their prophesying is a united exercise accompanied by music, and seemingly dance-music; it is marked by strong excitement, which sometimes acts contagiously, and may be so powerful that visions, or enigmatic utterances of the frenzied ixavTis. But in ordinary Greek usage the prophet of any god is in general any human instrument through whom the god declares himself; and the tendency was "to reserve the name for unconscious interpreters of the divine thought, and for the ministers of the oracles in general" (Bouche-Leclercq, Hist. de la Divination [1880], ii. 11). This probably facilitated the adoption of the term by the Hellenists of Alexandria, for, when Philo distinguishes the prophet from the spurious diviner by saying that the latter applies his own inferences to omens and the like while the true prophet, rapt in ecstasy, speaks nothing of his own, but simply repeats what is given to him by a revelation in which his reason has no part (ed. Mangey, ii. 321 sq., 343 ; comp. i. 510 sq.), he follows the preva-lent notion of the later Jews, at least in so far as he makes the function of the prophet that of purely mechanical reproduction; compare John xi. 51, and the whole view of revelation presupposed in the Apo-calyptic literature. But in any case the Greek language hardly offered another word for an organ of revelation so colourless as irpoipriTns, while the condition of etymology among the ancients made it possible to interpret it as having a special reference to prediction (so Eusebius, Dem. Ev., v., deriving it from _____).

'he who is seized by it is unable to stand, and, though this condition is regarded as produced by a divine afflatus, it is matter of ironical comment when a prominent man like Saul is found to be thus affected. Samuel in his later days appears presiding over the exercises of a group of nebiim at Ramah, where they seem to have had a sort of coenobium (Naioth), but he was not himself a nabi—that iname is never applied to him except in 1 Sam. iii. 21, where it is plainly used in the later sense for the idea which in Samuel's own time was expressed by "seer."

But again the nebiim seem to have been a new thing in Israel in the days of Samuel. Seers there had been of old ;as in other primitive nations; of the two Hebrew words literally corresponding to our seer, rdeh and hozeh, the second is found also in Arabic, and seems to belong to the primitive Semitic vocabulary. But the enthusiastic bands of prophets are nowhere mentioned before the time of Samuel; and in the whole previous history the word prophet occurs very rarely, never in the very oldest nar--ratives, and always in that sense which we know to be later than the age of Samuel, so that the use of the term is due to writers of the age of the kings, who spoke of oancient things in the language of their own day. The appearance of the nebiim in the time of Samuel was, it would seem, as has been explained in the article ISRAEL, oone manifestation of the deep pulse of suppressed indignant patriotism which began to beat in the hearts of the nation in the age of Philistine oppression, and this fact explains "the influence of the movement on Saul and the interest ootaken in it by Samuel. The ordinary life of ancient Israel gave little room for high-strung religious feeling, and the common acts of worship coincided with the annual harvest and vintage feasts or similar occasions of natural gladness, with which no strain of abnormal enthusiasm could well be ocombined. It was perhaps only in time of war, when he felt himself to be fighting the battles of Jehovah, that the Hebrew was stirred to the depths of his nature by emotions oof a religious colour. Thus the deeper feelings of religion were embodied in warlike patriotism, and these feelings the Philistine oppression had raised to extreme tension ;among all who loved liberty, while yet the want of a captain to lead forth the armies of Jehovah against his foemen deprived them of their natural outlet. It was this tense suppressed excitement, to which the ordinary acts of worship gave no expression, which found vent in the _enthusiastic services of the companies of prophets. In its external features the new phenomenon was exceedingly like what is still seen in the East in every zikr of dervishes—the oenthusiasm of the prophets expressed itself in no artificial form, but in a way natural to the Oriental temperament. Processions with pipe and hand-drum, such as that described in 1 Sam. x., were indeed a customary part of ordinary religious feasts; but there they were an outlet for natural merriment, here they have changed their ocharacter to express an emotion more sombre and more ointense, by which the prophets, and often mere chance ospectators too, were so overpowered that they seemed to Jlose their old personality and to be swayed by a supernatural influence. More than this hardly lies in the oexpression "a divine spirit" (DTISN nil), which is used mot only of the prophetic afflatus but of the evil frenzy othat afflicted Saul's later days. The Hebrews had a less oonarrow conception of the spiritual than we are apt to read .into their records.

To give a name to this new phemonenon the Israelites, it would seem, had to borrow a word from their Canaanito neighbours. At all events the word nabi is neither part of the old Semitic vocabulary (in Arabic it is a late loan word), nor has it any etymology in Hebrew, the cognate: words "to prophesy" and the like being derived from the noun in its technical sense. But we know that there were nebiim among the Canaanites; the " prophets" of Baal appear in the history of Elijah as men who sought to attract their god by wild orgiastic rites. In fact the presence of an orgiastic character is as marked a feature in Canaanite religion as the absence of it is in the oldest religion of Israel; but the new Hebrew enthusiasts had at least an external resemblance to the devotees of the Canaanite sanctuaries, and this would be enough to deter-mine the choice of a name which in the first instance seems hardly to have been a name of honour. In admit-ting that the name was borrowed, we are not by any means shut up to suppose that the Hebrew nebiim simply copied their Canaanite neighbours. The phenomenon is perfectly-intelligible without any such hypothesis. A wave of in-tense religious feeling passes over the land and finds its expression, according to the ordinary law of Oriental life, in the formation of a sort of enthusiastic religious order. The Nazarites and the Rechabites are parallel phenomena, though of vastly inferior historical importance.

The peculiar methods of the prophetic exercises described in 1 Samuel were of little consequence for the future development of prophecy. The heat of a first en-thusiasm necessarily cooled when the political conditions that produced it passed away ; and, if the prophetic asso-ciations had done no more than organize a new form of spiritual excitement, they would have only added one to the many mechanical types of hysterical religion which are found all over the East. Their real importance was that they embodied an intenser vein of feeling than was ex^ pressed in the ordinary feasts and sacrifices, and that the greater intensity was not artificial, but due to a revival of national sentiment. The worship of the local sanctu-aries did nothing to promote the sense of the religious unity of Israel; Jehovah in the age of the Judges ran no small risk of being divided into a number of local Baals, givers of natural good things each to his own locality. The struggle for freedom called forth a deeper sense of the unity of the people of the one Jehovah, and in so doing raised religion to a loftier plane; for a faith which unites a nation is necessarily a higher moral force than one which only unites a township or a clan. The local worships, which subsisted unchanged during the greater part of the Hebrew kingship, gave no expression to this rise in the religious consciousness of the nation : on the contrary we see from the prophetic books of the 8th century that they lagged more and more behind the pro-gress of religious thought. But the prophetic societies were in their origin one symptom of that upheaval of national life of which the institution of the human sove-reign reigning under the divine King was the chief fruit; they preserved the traditions of that great movement; they were, in however imperfect a way, an organ of national religious feeling, and could move forward with the movement of national life. And so, though we cannot follow the steps of the process, we are not surprised to leam that they soon had an established footing in Israel, and that the prophets came to be recognized as a standing sacred element in society. What was their precise place in Hebrew life we hardly know, but they formed at least a religious class which in all its traditions represented the new national and not the old communal and particularistic life. One characteristic point which appears very early is that they felt themselves called upon to vindicate the laws of divine righteousness in national matters, and especially in the conduct of the kings, who were not answerable to human authority. The cases of Nathan and David in the matter of Uriah, of Elijah and Ahab after the judicial murder of Naboth, will occur to every one, and from the Hebrew standpoint the action of Gad in the matter of the census taken by David belongs to the same category. Such interventions with an Eastern king demanded great moral courage, for, though to some extent protected by their sacred character, the persons of the prophets were by no means legally inviolable (1 Kings xix. 2 ; xxii. 27 ; 2 Kings vi. 31). Another point of the first importance in the development of the class was the absorption into it of the old seers, which, as we have already seen, must have occurred comparatively early. The great prophecy of Nathan (2 Sam. vii.) is of too disputed a date to be cited in evidence, but already in David's time we find that Gad the nabi is also the king's seer (2 Sam. xxiv. 11 ; comp. 1 Sam. xxii. 5), and by and by it comes to be clearly understood that the prophets are the appointed organ of Jehovah's communications with His people or His king. The rise of this function of the prophets is plainly parallel with the change which took place under the kings in the position of the priestly oracle; the Torah of the priests now dealt rather with permanent sacred ordinances than with the giving of new divine counsel for special occasions. Jehovah's ever-present kingship in Israel, which was the chief religious idea brought into promin-ence by the national revival, demanded a more continuous manifestation of His revealing spirit than was given either by the priestly lot or by the rise of occasional seers; and where could this be sought except among the prophets 1 It does not of course follow that every one who had shared in the divine afflatus of prophetic enthusiasm gave forth oracles; but the prophets as a class stood nearer than other men to the mysterious workings of Jehovah, and it was in their circle that revelation seemed to have its natural home. A most instructive passage in this respect is 1 Kings xxii., where we find some four hundred pro-phets gathered together round the king, and where it is clear that Jehoshaphat was equally convinced, on the one hand that the word of Jehovah could be found among the prophets, and on the other that it was very probable that some or even the mass of them might be no better than liars. And here it is to be observed that Micaiah, who proved the true prophet, does not accuse the others of conscious imposture; he admits that they speak under the influence of a spirit proceeding from Jehovah, but it is a lying spirit sent to deceive. The sublime and solitary figure of Elijah, whom we are apt to take as the typical figure of a prophet in the old kingdom, has little in com-mon with the picture even of the true prophet which we derive from 1 Kings xxii.; and when his history is care-fully and critically read it is found to give no reason to think that he stood in any close relation to the prophetic societies of his time. He is a man of God like Moses and Samuel, a man admitted to a strange and awful intimacy with the Most High, and like them he combines functions which in later times were distributed between prophet and priest. The fundamental idea that Jehovah guides His people by the word of revelation is older than the separation of special classes of theocratic organs; Moses indeed is not only prophet and priest but judge and ruler. But as the history goes on the prophet stands out more and more as the typical organ of revelation, the type of the. man who is Jehovah's intimate, sharing His secrets (Amos, ii. 7 ; Jer. xxiii. 22), and ministering to Israel the gracious-guidance which distinguishes it from all other nations (Amos ii. 11; Hosea xii. 10, 13), and also the sentences, of awful judgment by which Jehovah rebukes rebellion. (Hos. vi. 5). The full development of this view seems to lie between the time of Elijah and that of Amos andc Hosea,—under the dynasty of Jehu, when prophecy, as represented by Elisha and Jonah, stood in the fullest, harmony with the patriotic efforts of the age. This, growth in the conception of the prophetic function is. reflected in parts of the Pentateuch which may be dated with probability as belonging to the period just named j the name of nabi is extended to the patriarchs as Jehovah's, intimates (Gen. xx. 7), and Moses begins to be chiefly-looked at as the greatest of prophets (Num. xi. xii. ,-. Deut. xxxiv. 10), while Aaron and Miriam are also placed in the same class (Exod. xv. 20; Num. xii.) because they too are among the divinely favoured leaders of IsraeL (comp. Micah vi. 4).

Elisha, the successor of Elijah, stood in much closer relations to the prophetic societies than his great master-had done. As a man of practical aims he required a. circle through which to work, and he found this among; the prophets, or, as they are now called, the sons of the prophets. According to Semitic idiom " sons of the pro-phets " most naturally means " members of a prophetic-corporation," which may imply that under the headship of Elisha and the favour of the dynasty of Jehu, which owed much to Elisha and his party, the prophetic societies, took a more regular form than before. The accounts w& have certainly point in this direction, and it is characteristic that in 2 Kings iv. 42 first fruits are paid to Elisha. But to an institution like prophecy national recognition,, royal favour, and fixed organization are dangerous gifts. It has always been the evil fate of the Hebrews to destroy their own highest ideals by attempting to translate them into set forms, and the ideal of a prophetic guidance of the nation of Jehovah could not have been more effectu-ally neutralized than by committing its realization to the: kind of state church of professional prophets, "eating bread" by their trade (Amos vii. 12), which claimed to-inherit the traditions of Elijah and Elisha. The sons of the prophets appear to have been grouped round the lead-ing sanctuaries, Gilgal, Bethel, and the like (comp. Hos. ix. 8), and to have stood in pretty close relation to the-priesthood (Hos. iv. 5), though this comes out more clearly for the southern kingdom, where, down to the last days of Hebrew independence, the official prophets of Jerusalem were connected with the temple and were under the authority of the chief priest (Jer. xxix. 26). Since the absorption of the aborigines in Israel Canaanite ideas had exercised great influence over the sanctuaries—so much so that the reforming prophets of the 8th century regarded the national religion as having become wholly heathenish; and this influence the ordinary prophets, whom a man like Micah regards as mere diviners, had certainly not escaped. They too were, at the beginning of the Assyrian period, not much more different from prophets of Baal than the priests were from priests of Baal. Their God had another name, but it was almost forgotten that He had a different character.

The rise and progress of the new school of prophecy, beginning with Amos and continued in the succession of canonical prophets, which broke through this religious stagnation, has already been discussed in the article ISRAEL (vol. xiii. p. 410 sq.) ; for from Amos and still more from Isaiah downwards the prophets and their work make up the chief interest of Hebrew history. From this time, moreover, the prophets appear as authors ; and their books, preserved in the Old Testament, form the subject of special articles (AMOS, HOSEA, &c). A few observa-tions of a general character will therefore suffice in this place.
Amos disclaimed all connexion with the mere professional prophets, and in this he was followed by his successors. Formerly the prophets of Jehovah had been all on the same side: their opponents were the prophets of Baal. But henceforth there were two parties among the prophets of Jehovah themselves, the new prophets accus-ing the old of imposture and disloyalty to Jehovah, and these retaliating with a charge of disloyalty to Israel. We have learned to call the prophets of the new school " true " prophets and their adversaries " false "; and this is perfectly just if we take the appellations to mean that the true prophets maintained a higher and therefore a truer view of Jehovah's character, purpose, and relation to His people. But the false prophets were by no means mere common impostors ; they were the accredited expon-ents of the common orthodoxy of their day—and even of a somewhat progressive orthodoxy, for the prophets who opposed Jeremiah took their stand on the ground of Josiah's reformation, and plainly regarded, themselves as conservators of the prophetic traditions of Isaiah, whose doctrine of the inviolability of Jehovah's seat on Zion was the starting point of their opposition to Jeremiah's pre-dictions of captivity. No doubt there were many conscious hypocrites and impostors among the professional prophets, as there always will be among the professional representatives of a religious standpoint which is intrin-sically untenable, and yet has on its side the prestige of tradition and popular acceptance. But on the whole the false prophets deserve that name, not for their conscious impostures, but because they were content to handle religious formulas which they had learned by rote as if they were intuitive principles, the fruit of direct spiritual experience, to enforce a conventional morality, shutting their eyes to glaring national sins, after the manner of professional orthodoxy, and in brief to treat the religious status quo as if it could be accepted without question as fully embodying the unchanging principles of all religion. The popular faith was full of heathenish superstition strangely blended with the higher ideas which were the inheritance left to Israel by men like Moses and Elijah; but the common prophets accepted all alike, and combined heathen arts of divination and practices of mere physical enthusiasm with a not altogether insincere pretension that through their professional oracles the ideal was being maintained of a continuous divine guidance of the people of Jehovah.

Amos and his successors accepted the old ideal of prophecy if they disowned the class which pretended to embody it. " The Lord Jehovah will do nothing, but He revealeth His secret to His servants the prophets." " By a prophet Jehovah brought Israel out of Egypt, and by a prophet" in each successive age Israel had been watched over and preserved. But in point of fact the function of the new prophecy was not to preserve but to destroy Israel, if Israel still meant the actual Hebrew nation with its traditional national life. Till Amos prophecy was optimist—even Elijah, if he denounced the destruction of a dynasty and the annihilation of all who had bowed the knee to Baal, never doubted of the future of the nation when only the faithful remained; but the new prophecy is pessimist—it knows that Israel is rotten to the core, and that the whole fabric of society must be dissolved before reconstruction is possible. And this it knows, not by a mere ethical judgment on the visible state of society, but because it has read Jehovah's secret written in the signs of the times and knows that He has condemned His people. To the mass these signs are unintelligible, be-cause they deem it impossible that Jehovah should utterly cast off His chosen nation; but to those who know His absolute righteousness, and confront it with the people's sin, the impending approach of the Assyrian can have only one meaning and can point to only one issue, viz., the total ruin of the nation which has denied its divine head. It is sometimes proposed to view the canonical prophets as simple preachers of righteousness; their pre-dictions of woe, we are told, are conditional, and tell what Israel must suffer if it does not repent. But this is an incomplete view; the peculiarity of their position is that they know that Israel as it exists is beyond repentance. Only, while they are hopeless about their nation they have absolute faith in Jehovah and His purpose. That cannot be frustrated, and, as it includes the choice of Israel as His people, it is certain that, though the present commonwealth must perish, a new and better Israel will rise from its grave. Not the reformation but the resur-rection of Israel is the goal of the prophets' hope (Hos. vi. 1 sq.).

This of course is only the broadest possible statement of a position which undergoes many modifications in the hands of individual seers, but on the whole governs all prophecy from Amos to Jeremiah. The position has, we see, two sides: on the one side the prophets are heralds of an inexorable judgment based on the demands of abso-lute righteousness ; on the other they represent an assured conviction of Jehovah's invincible and gracious love. The current theological formula for this two-sided position is that the prophets are at once preachers of the law and forerunners of the gospel; and, as it is generally assumed that they found the law already written, their originality and real importance is made to lie wholly in their evan-gelical function. But in reality, as has been shown in ISRAEL and PENTATEUCH, the prophets are older than the law, and the part of their work which was really epoch-making for Israel is just the part which is usually passed over as unimportant. By emphasizing the purely moral character of Jehovah's demands from Israel, by teaching that the mere payment of service and worship at Jehovah's shrines did not entitle Israel's sins to be treated one whit more lightly than the sins of other nations, and by en-forcing these doctrines through the conception that the approach of the all-destroying empire before which Israel must fall equally with all its neighbours was the proof of Jehovah's impartial righteousness, they gave for the first time a really broad and fruitful conception of the moral government of the whole earth by the one true God.

It is impossible to read the books of the older prophets, and especially of their protagonist Amos, without seeing that the new thing which they are compelled to speak is not Jehovah's grace but His inexorable and righteous wrath. That that wrath must be followed by fresh mercies is not in itself a new thought, but only the neces-sary expression of the inherited conviction that Jehovah, whom they preach as the judge of all the earth, is never-theless, as past history has proved, the God who has chosen Israel as His people. That this is so appears most clearly in the fact that with Amos the prophecy of restora-tion appears only in a few verses at the end of his book, and in the still more instructive fact that neither he nor Hosea attempts to explain how the restoration which they accept as a postulate of faith is to be historically realized. One point only in their picture of the great restoration appears to present the germ of an historical principle. The Israel of the future is to be one united nation as in the days of David. The Davidic kingdom is accepted by both prophets, and by Hosea even more explicitly than by Amos, as the type of the future kingdom of Jehovah. But one sees from the way in which this thought is handled that it is the idea of that kingdom as it was in days of old which is before the prophet's mind ; the actual state of Judah, which was not religiously better than the greater Israel, though it perhaps still possessed elements of greater political and social stability, was not such as to suggest the thought that when Samaria fell the continuity of Jehovah's relations with His people could be preserved at Jerusalem. It was in the great northern kingdom-— still Israel par excellence—not in the petty region that had remained loyal to David, that the drama of divine justice and mercy was to be acted to its end: to Hosea, at least in his later prophecies, the fate of Judah does not appear separable from that of the northern realm—when Israel and Ephraim fall by their iniquity Judah must fall with them (Hos. v. 5). Thus even on this side there is no real bridge over the chasm that separates the total ruin impending over the Israel of the present from the glorious restoration of the Israel of the future. There is a unity in the divine purpose, of which judgment and mercy are the two poles, but there is as yet no conception of an historical continuity in the execution of that purpose, and therefore no foundation laid for the maintenance of a con-tinuous community of faith in the impending fall of the nation.
From this we can see the enormous importance of the work of Isaiah as it has been exhibited in the article ISRAEL, vol. xiii. p. 413 sq.; his doctrine of the remnant, the holy seed, never lost to the nation in the worst times, never destroyed by the most fiery judgments, supplies the lacking element of continuity between the Israel of the present and of the future. Jehovah's kingdom cannot perish even for a time; nay, Isaiah argues that it must remain visible, and visible not merely in the circle of the like-minded whom he had gathered round him and who formed the first germ of the notion of the church, but in the political form of a kingdom also. Zion at least, the sacred hearth of Jehovah, the visible centre of his king-dom, must remain inviolable; it can never be delivered into the hands of the Assyrian. Thus, with Isaiah in the days of Sennacherib's invasion, the prophetic word became again, as it had been in the days of the Syrian wars, " the chariots and horsemen of Israel," the stay and strength of all patriotic hope.

3 We should be apt to say " the true idea of God," but that is a way of putting it which does not correspond with prophetic thought. To the prophets knowledge of God is concrete knowledge of the divine character as shown in acts—knowledge of a person, not of an idea.
Yet even at this crisis the resemblance between Isaiah and Elisha, between the new prophecy and the old, is more apparent than real. Elisha still stands firmly planted on the old national conception of the religion of Jehovah; his ideals are such as do not lie beyond the range of practical politics. In doing battle against the Tyrian Baal he is content with a reformation for which the whole nation can be heartily won, because it makes no radical change in their inherited faith and practices of worship. And in stimulating resistance to Syria he is still the prophet of the old " God of the hosts of Israel "o—a God who works deliverance by the thews and sinews of His earthly warriors. But Isaiah's ideal of religion was one which could never have been realized by a political move-ment ; to root out all idols, all superstitions inconsistent with his lofty conception of the just King of Israel, who cares not for sacrifice and oblation, who can be acceptably approached through no religion of rote, whose sovereignty can receive practical recognition only by a thoroughgoing reformation of all parts of social life—this was an ideal which could not be carried out by the mere education and concentration of any forces inherent in the nation. The true Israel of Isaiah is not an historical possibility; it is a transcendental ideal for which he himself demands as a preliminary condition an outpouring of Jehovah's spirit on king (Isa. xi. 2) and people (Isa. xxxii. 15), working an entire moral regeneration. And so too it is not through the material organization of the Judamn kingdom that Isaiah looks for deliverance from Assyria. He sees with absolute clearness the powerlessness of the little realm against that great empire: the Assyrian must fall, and fall before Jerusalem, that Jehovah alone may appear to all the earth as the one true God, while all the idols appear as vain to help their worshippers; but he falls by no earthly sword, but before the direct interposition of Jehovah Himself. These conceptions break through the old particularistic idea of Jehovah and His religion at every point. Zion is now not the centre of a mere national cult, but the centre of all true religion for the whole world; and more than once the prophet indicates not obscurely that the necessary issue of the great conflict between Jehovah and the gods of the heathen must be the conversion of all nations, the disappearance of every other religion before the faith of the God of Israel. But this all-conquering religion is not the popular Jehovah wor-ship ; why then can the prophet still hold that the one true God is yet the God of Israel, and that the vindica-tion of His Godhead invol ves the preservation of Israel 1 Not because His providence is confined to Israel—it embraces all nations; not because He shows any favour-itism to Israel—He judges all nations by the same strict rule. If Israel alone among nations can meet the Assyrian with the boast " with us is God," the reason is that in Zion the true God is known —not indeed to the mass, but to the prophet and to the " holy seed" which forms the salt of the nation. The interpretation which Isaiah puts on this fact depends on the circumstance that at that date religion had never been conceived as a relation between God and individuals, or as a relation between God and a purely spiritual society, but always as a relation between a deity and some natural social group—a stock, a tribe, a nation. It was therefore only as the God of Israel that the true God could be known within Israel; and so on the one hand the little society of faith—which had not in reality the least tinge of political coherence—is thought of as yet forming the true kernel of the nation qua nation, while on the other hand the state of Judah profits by the prophetic religion inasmuch as the nation must be saved from destruction in order that the prophetic faith—which is still bound up with the idea of the nation—may not be dissolved. This connexion of ideas was not of course explicitly before the prophet's mind, for the distinctive features of a national religion could not be formulated so long as no other kind of religion had ever been heard of. When we put down in black and white the explicit details of what is involved in Isaiah's conclusion of faith we see that it has no absolute validity. True religion can exist without having a particular nation as its subject as soon as the idea of a spiritual community of faith has been realized. But till this idea was realized Isaiah was right in teaching that the law of continuity demanded that the nation within which Jehovah had made Himself known to His spiritual prophets must be maintained as a nation for the sake of the glory of God and the preservation of the "holy seed."

The catastrophe of Sennacherib's army, in which the doctrine of the inviolability of Zion received the most striking practical confirmation, was welcomed by Isaiah and his disciples as an earnest of the speedy inbringing of the new spiritual era. But these hopes were not fulfilled. The prophetic teaching had indeed produced a profound effect; to the party of reaction, as the persecution under Manasseh shows, it seemed to threaten to subvert all society; and we can still measure the range and depth of its influence in the literary remains of the period from Isaiah to the captivity, which include Micah vi. 1-8, and that noble essay to build a complete national code on the principle of love to God, righteousness, and humanity— the legislation of Deuteronomy. Nay more, the reception of the book of Deuteronomy by king and people in the eighteenth year of Josiah shows what a hold the prophetic teaching had on the popular conscience; it was no small triumph that there was even a passing attempt to introduce such a code as the law of the land. But it was one thing to touch the conscience of the nation and another to change its heart and renew its whole life. That no code eould do, and, as every practical government must ;adapt itself to actualities and not to a purely ideal standard, it must have appeared at once that the attempt to govern by prophetic ideas was only sewing a new piece on an old garment. The immediate result of Josiah's reformation was the complete dissolution of anything that could be called a political party of prophetic ideas; the priests and the ordinary prophets were satisfied with what had been accomplished; the old abuses began again, but the nation had received a reformed constitution and there was nothing more to be said.

Thus it was that, though beyond question there had been a real advance in the average ethical and spiritual ideas of the people since the time of Isaiah, Jeremiah found himself more isolated than Isaiah had ever been. Even in that earliest part of his book which is mainly a recapitulation of his experiences and work in the reign of Josiah, his tone is one of absolute hopelessness as to the future of the nation. But we should quite misunderstand this pessimism if we held it to mean that Jeremiah saw no signs of private morality and individual spiritual con-victions among his people. To him as a prophet the ques-tion was whether Israel as a nation could be saved. In Isaiah's days the answer had been affirmative; there appeared to be at least a potentiality of national regenera-tion in the holy seed when once it should be cleansed from the chaff by a work of judgment. But, now a cen-tury of respite had been granted, the Chaldaeans were at the gates, and there was no sign of valid national repentance. The harvest was past, the season of ripe fruits was over, and still Israel was not saved (Jer. viii. 20). The time of respite had been wasted, all attempts at national reformation had failed; how should Jehovah spare a nation which had shown no tokens of fitness to discharge the vocation of Jehovah's people 1 The question was not whether there was still a faithful remnant, but whether that remnant was able to save the state as a state, and this Jeremiah was forced to deny. Nay every attempt at genuine amendment was frustrated by the dead weight of a powerful opposition, and when the first captivity came it was precisely the best elements of Judah that went into captivity and were scattered among the nations (xxiv. 5 ; xxiii. 2 sq.). And so the prophet was compelled to teach that the immediate future of Israel was a blank, that the state as a state was doomed. He did not even dare to intercede for such a nation (vii. 16); though Moses and Samuel stood pleading for it before Jehovah, He could not but cast it out of His sight (xv. 1). It was the death-struggle of the idea of a national religion (vi. 8); the con-tinuity of true faith refused to be longer bound up with the continuity of the nation. Still indeed the New-Testa-ment idea of a purely spiritual kingdom of God, in this world but not of it, is beyond the prophet's horizon, and he can think of no other vindication of the divine purpose than that the true Israel shall be gathered again from its dispersion. But the condition of this restoration is now changed. To gather the dispersed implies a call of God to individuals, and in the restored Israel the covenant of Jehovah shall be not merely with the nation but with men one by one, and " they shall no more teach everyone his neighbour saying, Know the Lord, for all shall know Me from the least of them even to the greatest of them " (xxxi. 33 sq.). In a word, when the nation is dissolved into its individual elements the continuity and ultimate victory of true faith depends on the relation of Jehovah to individual souls, out of which the new state shall be built up (Jer. iii. 14).

Thus, for the first time in the world's history, the ultimate problem of faith is based on the relation of God to the individual believer; and this problem Jeremiah is compelled to face mainly in relation to his own personality, to assure himself that his own faith is a true possession and lifts him above all the calamities that assail him, in spite of the hopeless ruin of his nation. The struggle is a sore one; his very life is bitter to him ; and yet he emerges victorious. To know that God is with him is enough though all else fail him. Now as soon as the relation of God to a single soul has thus been set free from all earthly conditions the work of prophecy is really complete, for what God has done for one soul He can do for all, but only by speaking to each believer as directly as He does to Jeremiah. Henceforth revelation is not a word to the nation spoken through an individual, but a word spoken to one which is equally valid for every one who receives it with like faith. The New Testament joins on not to the post-exile prophets, who are only faint echoes of earlier seers, but to Jeremiah's great idea of the new covenant in which God's law is written on the individual heart, and the community of faith is the fellowship of all to whom He has thus spoken. The prophets of the restoration are only the last waves beating on the shore after the storm I which destroyed the old nation, but created in its room a fellowship of spiritual religion, had passed over; they resemble the old prophets in the same imperfect way in which the restored community of Jerusalem resembled a real nation. It was only in so far as the community of faith still possessed certain external features of nationality that post-exile prophecy was possible at all, and very soon the care of the national or quasi-national aspects of religion passed altogether out of their hands into those of the scribes, of whom Ezekiel was the first father, and whose Torah was not the living word of prophecy but the Penta-teuchal code. From the time of Jeremiah downwards the perennial interest of Old-Testament thought lies in the working out of the problems of personal religion and of the idea of a spiritual fellowship of faith transcending all national limitation; and these are the motives not only of the lyrics of the Psalter but of the greater theodiceas of Isa. xl.-lxvi. and of the book of Job. The theodicea of the prophets is national; they see Jehovah's righteousness working itself out with unmistakable clearness in the present, and know that all that He brings upon Israel is manifestly just; but from the days of Jeremiah the fortunes of Israel as a nation are no longer the one thing which religion has to explain ; the greater question arises of a theory of the divine purpose which shall justify the ways of God with individual men or with His " righteous servant"—that is, with the ideal community of true faith as distinct from the natural Israel. The discussion of these problems constitutes a quite distinct type of Old-Testament literature beginning with the book of the Great Unknown, which is now appended to the writings of Isaiah ; but this is an accident of arrangement that ought not to lead us to include among the prophetic writings proper a work so entirely different in origin and scope, and addressed not to an actual nation but to the ideal Israel, whose vocation is no longer political but purely religious.


society, and were often in the hands of men who claimed! to speak as prophets in the name of Jehovah. But the great prophets disallowed this claim, and the distinction which they draw between true prophecy and divination is-recognized not only in the prophetical law of Deuteronomy but in earlier parts of the Pentateuch and historical books. " There is no augury in Jacob and no divination in Israel;. in due time it is told to Jacob and to Israel what God doth work" (Num. xxiii. 23). The seer, in the sense in which all antiquity believed in seers, is simply a man who sees what others cannot see, no matter whether the thing seen be of public or of mere private interest; but the prophet is an organ of Jehovah's kingship over His people— he sees and tells so much of the secret purpose of Jehovah as is needful for His people to know. We have already seen how Amos and Hosea put this (supra, p. 817 ), and it does not appear that they were introducing a conception of prophecy formally novel—the new thing was their con-ception of Jehovah's purpose. And so too with the fol-lowing great prophets; the important thing in their work was not their moral earnestness and not their specific predictions of future events, but the clearness of spiritual insight with which they read the spiritual significance of the signs of the time and interpreted the movements of history as proofs of Jehovah's actual moral sovereignty exercised over Israel. So long as the great problems of religion could be envisaged as problems of the relation of Jehovah to Israel as a nation the prophets continued to speak and to bring forth new truths; but the ultimate result was that it became apparent that the idea of moral government involved the destruction of Israel, and then the function of prophecy was gone because it was essentially national in its objects. But meantime the relation of God to the prophet had acquired an independent significance; the inner life of Isaiah during the long years when his teaching seemed lost, or of Jeremiah through the whole course of his seemingly fruitless ministry, was rich in experiences of faith triumphing over temptations and trials, of personal converse with God sustaining the soul in the face of difficulties hopeless to the eye of sense, which formed the pattern of a new and higher stage of religion in which the relation of the individual soul to God should be set free from those limitations which had been imposed by the conception that the primary subject of religion is the nation. But the religion of the Old Testament did not become merely individualistic in becom-ing individual, and now the problem was to realize a new conception of the society of faith, the true Israel, the collective servant of Jehovah—in a word to form the idea of a spiritual commonwealth and to show how it was pos-sible for faith to hold fast, in spite of all seeming contra-diction, to the truth that Jehovah had chosen for Himself a spiritual people, every member of which was in truth the object of His saving and unfailing love, and which should ultimately in very deed inherit that glory of which the carnal Israel was unworthy. This is the post-prophetic problem which occupies the more profound of the later Old-Testament books, but first received its true solution in the gospel, when the last shreds of the old nationalism disappeared and the spiritual kingdom found its centre in the person of Christ.

Old-Testament prophecy therefore forms only one stage in a larger development, and its true significance and value can only be realized when it is looked at in this light. In this as in all other matters of transcendental truth "wisdom is justified of her children"; the conclusive j vindication of the prophets as true messengers of God is I that their work forms an integral part in the progress of spiritual religion, and there are many things in their | teaching the profundity and importance of which aro


It will be evident even from this rapid sketch, neces-sarily confined to a few of the most cardinal points, that Hebrew prophecy is not a thing that can be defined and reduced to a formula, but was a living institution which can only be understood by studying its growth and observing its connexion with the historical movements with which its various manifestations were bound up. Throughout the great age of prophecy the most obvious formal character that distinguished it was that the pro-phet did not speak in his own name but in the name of Jehovah. But the claim to speak in the name of God is one which has often been made—and made sincerely—by others than the prophets of Israel, and which is suscep-tible of a great variety of meanings, according to the idea of God and His relation to man which is presupposed. Every early religion seeks to realize such an intercourse with the object of worship as shall be two-sided; when the worshipper approaches the deity he desires to have an answer assuring him of acceptance and divine aid. The s revelation thus looked for may be found in natural omens, in the priestly lot or some similar sacral oracle, or, finally, in the words of a seer who is held to be in closer contact with the deity than common men. Broadly speaking these methods of revelation are found in all ancient religions, but no other religion presents anything precisely analogous to prophecy. It is true that the prophets absorbed the old seers, and that the Israelites, as we see in the case of the asses of Kish, went to their seers on the same kind of occasions as sent heathen nations to seers or diviners. There is sufficient evidence that down to the last age of the Judaean monarchy practices not essentially different from divination were current in all classes of


much clearer to us than they could possibly have been to their contemporaries, because they are mere flashes of spiritual insight lighting up for a moment some corner of a region on which the steady sun of the gospel had not yet risen.

A less complete but yet most powerful vindication of the spiritual prophets was furnished by the course and oevent of Israel's history. After the captivity it was no longer a question that the prophetic conception of Jehovah Tvas the only possible one. Thenceforth the religion of Jehovah and the religion of the prophets are synonymous; no other reading of Israel's past was possible, and in fact the whole history of the Hebrews in Canaan, as it was finally shaped in the exile, is written from this point of "view, and has come down to us, along with the remains of -actual prophetic books, under the collective title of "The Prophets."

To some extent this historical vindication of the prophetic insight went on during the activity of the prophets themselves. From the time of Amos downwards the prophets spoke mainly at great historical crises, when events were moving fast and a few years were often sufficient to show that they were right and their opponents wrong in their reading of the signs of the times. And here the _controversy did not turn on the exact fulfilment of detailed predictions; detailed prediction occupies a very secondary place in the writings of the prophets; or rather indeed what seem to be predictions in detail are usually only free poetical illustrations of historical principles which neither received nor demanded exact fulfilment. Isaiah, for example, in the time of Ahaz sketches the fatal results ol Assyrian intervention, and pictures the sufferings of Judah when it should become the battlefield of the rival empires of the Tigris and the Nile, in a way that was by no means realized in detail; but this does not affect the fact that he alone in Judah had correctly appreciated the historical situation, and that he did so not because he was a better statesman than his opponents, but because he had a different conception of the religious significance _of the crisis. All through the prophetic period it was _plain that the true prophets differed from the mere pro-fessional prophets and statesmen in their view of the political duties and prospects of the nation because they had a different idea, or, as they themselves would have osaid, a truer knowledge, of God, and so the prophets and their successors—notably Isa. xl.-lxvi.—look on the event of Israel's history, not so much as proving that Isaiah or _Jeremiah was a true prophet, but as proving that the Jehovah of the prophets is the true God, whose word _cannot return to Him void, but must surely accomplish that which He pleaseth (Isa. lv. 11).

The prophets themselves required no historical verification of their word to assure them that it was indeed the -word of God, nor do they for a moment admit that their contemporaries are entitled to treat its authority as unproved till such verification is offered. The word of God carries its own evidence with it in its searching force and fire : " Is not my word like as a fire, saith Jehovah, and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces 1" (Jer. xxiii. 29). To the prophet himself it comes with imperi-oous force : it constrains him to speak (Amos iii. 8), seizes him with a strong hand (Isa. viii. 11), burns like a fire within his bones till it finds utterance (Jer. xx. 9); and it Is this force of moral conviction which ought also to com-mend it to the conscience of his hearers. The word is true because it is worthy of the true God. When Deut. xviii. 21, 22 seeks the legal criterion of true prophecy in the fulfilment of prediction, the writer is no doubt guided by the remembrance of the remarkable confirmation which the doctrines of spiritual prophecy had received in history then recent, but his criterion would have appeared inade-quate to the prophets themselves, and indeed this passage is one of the most striking proofs that to formulate the principles of prophetic religion in a legal code was an impossible task.

The mass of the nation, of course, was always much more struck by the " signs " and predictions of the pro-phets than by their spiritual ideas; we see how the idea of supernatural insight and power in everyday matters dominates the popular conception of Elijah and Elisha in the books of Kings. At a very early date the great pro-phets became a kind of saints or welis, and the respect paid to the tombs of the prophets, which ultimately took in almost every particular the place of the old local shrines (Mat. xxiii. 29; Jerome, Epit. Patdee, § 13; see OBADIAH), can be traced back to the time before the exile.
After the extinction of the prophetic voice, an ever-increasing weight was not unnaturally laid on the predictive element in their writings. Their creative religious ideas had become the common property of religious-minded Jews, at least in the somewhat imperfect shape in which they were embodied in the law, and their work on tliis side was carried on by the great religious poets. But the restored community which was still making a sort of faint attempt to be a religious nation as well as a church felt very pain-fully the want of a direct message from God in critical times such as tlie prophets of old had been wont to bring. And in this need men began to look at the prophetic books, mainly in the hope that there might be found in them predictions which still awaited ful-filment, and might be taken as referring to the latter days of Persian or Greek oppression. By ignoring the free poetical form of pro-phecy, and still more by ignoring the fact that the prophetic pictures of the ideal future of Israel could not be literally fulfilled after the fall of the ancient state had entirely changed the sphere in which the problems of true religion had to be worked out, it was possible to find a great mass of unfulfilled prophecy which might form the basis of eschatological constructions. To use this material for the purpose in hand it was necessary to symbolize what was literal and to literalize what was figurative, to harmonize and to rearrange, above all to introduce some sort of prophetical chrono-logy of future events. But all this was quite in the vein of later Judaism, and so at length the unfulfilled predictions of the prophets served as the raw material for the elaborate eschatology of the apoca-lypses. See APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE and MESSIAH. In spite of superficial resemblances, mainly due to the unavoidable influence of current exegetical methods, the New-Testament conception of prophecy as fulfilled in Christ is fundamentally different from the Jewish apocalyptic view of unfulfilled prophecy. Not external details but the spiritual ideas of the prophets lind their fulfilment in the new dispensation, and they do so under forms entirely diverse from those of the old national kingdom of Jehovah.

Literature.—In the ancient and mediaeval chnrch and in the dogmatic period of Protestantism there was little or no attempt at historical study of prophecy, and the prophetical hooks were found instructive only through the application of allegorical or typical exegesis. For details the reader may refer to Diestel, Geschichte des Alten Testaments, Jena, 1869, and for the final form of orthodox Protestant views to Witsius, De Prophctis et Prophetia. The growing sense of the insufficiency of this treatment towards the close of the period of dogmatism showed itself in various ways. On the one hand we have the revival of apoca-lyptic exegesis by Cocceius and his school, which has continued to influence certain circles down to the present day, and has led to the most varied attempts to find in prophecy a history, written before tlie event, of all the chief vicissitudes of tlie Christian church down to tiie end of the world. On tlie other hand Louth's Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, and tlie same author's Commentary on Isaiah (1778), show the beginnings of a tendency to look mainly at the aesthetic aspects of the prophetical books, and to view tlie prophets as enlightened religious poets. This tendency culminates in Eichhorn, Die Hebräischen lJropheten, 1816. Neither of these methods could do much for tlie historical understanding of the pheno-mena of prophecy as a whole, and the more liberal students of the Old Testament were long blinded by the moralizing unhistorical rationalism which succeeded the old orthodoxy. The first requisite of real progress, after dogmatic prejudices had been broken through, was to get a living conception of tlie history in whicli tlie prophets moved ; and this again called for a revision of all traditional notions as to the age of the vaiious parts of Hebrew literature—criticism of the sources of the history, among which the prophetical books themselves take the first place. In recent times therefore advance in the understanding of the prophets has moved on pari passu with the higher eriticism, especially the criticism of the Pentateuch, and with tlie general study of Hebrew history ; and most works on the subject prior to Ewald must be regarded as quite antiquated except for the light they cast on detailed points of exegesis. On the prophets and their works in general the best book is still Ewald's Propheten des Alten Bundes (1st ed. 1840-41, 2d ed. 1867-68, Eng. tr. 1876-77). The subject is treated in all works on Old Testament introduction (among which Kueneu's Onderzoek, vol. ii., claims the first place), and on Old Testament theology (see especially Vatke, Religion des A. T., 1835). On the theology of the prophets there is a separate work by Duhm, Bonn, 1875, and Knobcl's Prophetismus der Hebräer, 1SO7, is a separate introduction to the prophetical books. Kuenen's Prophets and Prophecy in Israel (1875, Eng. tr. 1877) is in form mainiy a criticism of the traditional view of prophecy, and should therefore he compared with his Onderzoek and Godsdienst van Israel. Most English books on the subject are more theological than historical, but a sketch of Hebrew prophecy in connexion with the history down to the elose of the 8th century is given by W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel, Edinburgh, 1882. A useful commentary on the prophetical books in general forms two volumes of Reuss, La Bible (Paris, 1876); the special literature is referred to in the articles on the several prophets. The literature of the theological questions connected with prophecy is much too copious to be cited here ; lists will be found in several of the books already referred to. (W. R. S.)

2. Prophets in the Christian Church.—The appearance of prophets in the first Christian communities is one proof of the strength of faith and hope by which these bodies were animated. An old prophecy (Joel iii. 1) had foretold that in the Messianic age the spirit of God would be poured out on every member of the religious community, and in point of fact it was the universal conviction of those who believed in Christ that they all possessed the Spirit of God. This Spirit, manifesting His presence in a variety of ways and through a variety of gifts, was to be the only ruling authority in the church. He raised up for Himself particular individuals, into whose mouths He put the word of God, and these were at first regarded as the true leaders of the congregations. We find accordingly that there were prophets in the oldest church, that of Jerusalem (Acts xi. 27; xv. 32), and again that there were "prophets and teachers" in the church at Antioch (Acts xiii. 1). These were not office-bearers chosen by the congregation, but preachers raised up by the Spirit and conferred as gifts on the church. When Paul says (1 Cor. xii. 28; cf. Eph. iv. 11), "God has set some in the church, first as apostles, second as prophets, third as teachers," he points to a state of things which in his time prevailed in all the churches both of Jewish and heathen origin. We here learn from Paul that the jirophets occupied the second position in point of dignity; and we see from another passage (1 Cor. xiv.) that they were distinguished from the teachers by their speaking under the influence of inspiration,—not, however, like the "speakers in tongues," in unintelligible ejaculations and disconnected words, but in articulate, rational, edifying speech. Until recently it was impossible to form any distinct idea of the Christian prophets in the posfc-apostolic age, not so much from want of materials as because what evidence existed was not sufficiently clear and connected. It was understood, indeed, that they had maintained their place in the churches till the end of the 2d century, and that the great conflict with what is known as Montanism had first proved fatal to them; but a clear conception of their position and influence in the churches was not to be had. But the discovery, by Bryennios, of the ancient Christian work called _____ has immensely extended the range of our knowledge, and has at the same time thrown a clear light on many notices in other sources which for want of proper interpretation had been previously neglected or in-correctly understood.

The most important facts known at present about the manner of life, the influence, and the history of the early Christian prophets are the following. (1) Down to the close of the 2d century the prophets (or prophetesses) were regarded as an essential element in a church possess-ing the Holy Ghost. Their existence was believed in, and they did actually exist, not only in the catholic congrega-tions—if the expression may be used—but also in the Marcionite church and the Gnostic societies. Not a few Christian prophets are known to us by name; as Agabus, Judas, and Silas in Jerusalem; Barnabas, Simon Niger, &c, in Antioch; in Asia Minor, the daughters of Philip, Quadratus, Ammia, Polycarp, Melito, Montanus, Maximilla, and Priscilla; in Borne, Hennas; among the followers of Basilides, Barkabbas and Barkoph ; in the community of Apelles, Philumene, &c. Lucian tells us that the impostor Peregrinus Proteus, in the time of Antoninus Pius, figured as a prophet in the Christian churches of Syria. (2) Till the middle of the 2d century the prophets were the regular preachers of the churches, without being attached to any particular congregation. While the " apostles " (i.e., itinerating missionaries) were obliged to preach from place to place, the prophets were at liberty either, like the teachers, to settle in a certain church or to travel from one to another. (3) In the time of Paul the form of prophecy was reasoned exhortation in a state of inspiration ; but very frequently the inspiration took the form of ecstasy—the prophet lost control of himself,, so that he did not remember afterwards what he had said. In the Gentile-Christian churches, under the influence of pagan associations, ecstasy was the rule. (4) With regard to the matter of prophecy, it might embrace anything that was necessary or for the edification of the church The prophets not only consoled and exhorted by the recital of what God had done and predictions of the-future, but they uttered extempore thanksgivings in the congregational assemblies, and delivered special directions, which might extend to the most minute details, as, for example, the disposal of the church funds. (5) It was the duty of the prophets to follow in all respects the example of the Lord (_____), and to put in practice what they preached. But an ascetic life was-expected of them only when, like the apostles, they went about as missionaries, in which case the rules in Mat. x. applied to them. Whenever, on thè contrary, they settled in a place they had a claim to a liberal maintenance at the hands of the congregation. The author of the Aibaxq even compares them to the high priests of the; Old Testament, and considers them entitled to the first-fruits of the Levitical law. In reality, they might justly be compared to the priests in so far as they were the mouthpieces of the congregation in public thanksgiving. (6) Since prophets were regarded as a gift of God and as moved by the Holy Spirit, the individual congregation had no right of control over them. When anyone was ap-proved as a prophet and exhibited the " conversation of the Lord," no one was permitted to put him to the test or to criticize him. The author of the _____ goes so far as to assert that whoever does this is guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost. (7) This unique position of the prophets could only be maintained so long as the original enthu-siasm remained fresh and vigorous. From three quarters primitive Christian prophecy was exposed to danger,-— first, from the permanent officials of the congregation, who, in the interests of order, peace, and security- could not but look with suspicion on the activity of excited prophets ;. second, from the prophets themselves, in so far as an increasing number of dishonest characters was found amongst them, whose object was to levy contributions on the. churches j third, from those prophets who were filled with, the stern spirit of primitive Christianity and imposed on churches, now becoming assimilated to the world, obliga-tions which these were neither able nor willing to fulfil. It is from this point of view that we must seek to understand the so-called Montanistic crisis. Even the author of the _____; finds it necessary to defend the prophets who practised celibacy and strict asceticism against the depre-ciatory criticism of church members. In Asia Minor there was already in the year 160 a party, called by Epiphanius " Alogi," who rejected all Christian prophecy. On the other hand, it was also in Asia Minor that there appeared along with Montanus those energetic prophetesses who charged the churches and their bishops and deacons with becoming secularized, and endeavoured to prevent Christianity from being naturalized in the world, and to bring the churches once more under the exclusive guidance of the Spirit and His charismata. The critical situation thus arising spread in the course of a few decades over most of the provincial churches. The necessity of resisting the inexorable demands of the prophets led to the introduction of new rules for distinguishing true and false prophets. No prophet, it was declared, could speak in ecstasy,—that was devilish; further, only false prophets accepted gifts. Both canons were innovations, designed to strike a fatal blow at prophecy and the church organization re-established by the prophets in Asia,—the bishops not being quite pre-pared to declare boldly that the church had no further need of prophets. But the prophets would not have been suppressed by their new methods of judging them alone. A much more important circumstance was the rise of a. new theory, according to which all divine revelations were summed up in the apostles or in their writings. It was now taught that prophec}' in general was a peculiarity of the Old Testament ("lex et prophetse usque ad Johannem "); that in the new covenant God had spoken only through apostles; that the whole word of God so far as binding on the church was contained in the apostolic record—the New Testament; and that, consequently, the church neither required nor could acknowledge new revelations, or even instructions, through prophets. The revolution which this theory gradually brought about is shown in the trans-formation of the religious, enthusiastic organization of the church into a legal and political constitution. A great many things had to be sacrificed to this, and amongst others the old prophets. The strictly enforced episcopal constitution, the creation of a clerical order, and the for-mation of the New Testament canon accomplished the overthrow of the prophets. Instead of the old formula, " God continually confers on the church apostles, prophets, and teachers," the word now was—"The church is founded in the (written) word of the prophets (i.e., the Old-Testa-ment prophets) and the apostles (viz., the twelve and Paul)." After the beginning of the 3d century there were still no doubt men under the control of the hierarchy who experienced the prophetic ecstasy, or clerics like Cyprian who professed to have received special directions from God; but prophets by vocation no longer existed, and these sporadic utterances were in no sense placed on a level with the contents of the sacred Scriptures.

See Bückmann, " Ueber die Wunderkräfte bei den ersten Christen und ihr Erlöschen," in the Ztschr. f. d. ges. hither. Theol. u. Kirche, 1878, p. 216-255 (learned but utterly uncritical); Bonwetsch, "Die Prophetie im apóstol, und nachapostol. Zeitalter," in the Ztschr. f. kirchl. Wissensch, u. kirchl. Leben, 1884, part 8, p. 408 sq., part 9, p. 460 sq.; Harnack, Die Lehre der zwölf Apostel, 1884, p. 93-137. (A. HA.)

The above article was written by:

Introduction; Prophets of the Old Testament
Prof. William Robertson Smith, LL.D.
Prophets of the Christian Church
Prof. Adolf Harnack

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