HOME CHAT NAB PRAYERS FORUMS COMMUNITY RCIA MAGAZINE CATECHISM LINKS CONTACT
 CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC SAINTS INDEX  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
 CATHOLIC DICTIONARY  A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Home
 
Bible
 
Catechism
 
Chat
 
Catholic Encyclopedia
 
Church Fathers
 
Classics Library
 
Church Documents
 
Discussion
 
Mysticism
 
Prayer
 
Prayer Requests
 
RCIA
 
Vocations
 
Ray of Hope
 
Saints
 
Social Doctrine
 
Links
 
Contact
 







Christ In Type And Prophecy: Volumes 1&2 by Rev. A.J. Maas S.J.

1. VERBAL DEFINITION.—a. Greek Etymology.—The meaning of the word prophecy in English is much narrower than that of προφητεία in Greek. Hence we must return to the original Greek meaning of the word, in order to obtain an accurate idea of what was meant by “prophets.” Eusebius (Demonstratio Evang. v. Proleg. M. 22, 345) derives the Greek προφήτης from προφαίνειν, to show beforehand, because God foreshows to the prophet what is to happen in the future. St. Thomas (Summa Theol. IIa. iiae., q. 171, a. 1) gives a similar derivation, compounding the word out of προ and φάνος, because to the prophet appears what is yet far off. Suarez rejects this etymology (De fide disp. viii. s. 3) as having no foundation in the Greek. He might have said the same about another derivation which St. Thomas has taken from St. Isidore (Etymol. vii. 8; M. 82, 283) and which also Sts. Basil (Comm. in Is. 102; M. 30. 284), Chrysostom (In illud “Vidi Dominum. hom. 2, 3; M. 56, 111), and Gregory (In Ezech. i. hom. 1, 1; M. 76, 786) had adopted, explaining prophet from προφάναι, as a predictor of the future. The particle προ has, therefore, a temporal meaning in this explanation. Sts. Chrysostom (Synops. S.S., M. 56, 317) and Gregory (l. c.), as well, as Theodoretus (In Psalm. Præf.; M. 80, 861), well understood that in reality the prophetic office was not limited to predicting the future. Cremer has suggested a local signification for the particle προ (Bibl. Theol., Wörterbuch der neutestamentl. Gräcität, ed. 4, Gotha, 1886, p. 826), so that “prophet” means any one speaking in public. Others have suggested that προφάναι means in general “to speak,” so that any speaker may be called a prophet. H. Stephanus (Lexic. ed. Hase and Dindorf, s. v.; vi. 2094; cf. Bleek Wellhausen, Einleitung, p. 308) is of opinion that where, in classical writers, interpretation is called prophecy, the preposition πρὸ is used instead of ὑπό; but such a substitution is by no means necessary in order to explain those passages. For as in πρόβουλος, πρόδικος, and other words the πρὸ signifies “instead of,” so προφήτης denotes one who speaks instead of another, especially of a god (cf. Liddell and Scott, S. V.), thus explaining the will of that god. Hence the primary meaning of προφήτης is “interpreter.” Apollo is called a prophet because he is the interpreter of Zeus (Æsch. Eumen. 19); poets are called prophets or interpreters of the muses (Plato, Phæd. 262 D); the priests attached to the temples are prophets, because they explain the oracles delivered by the unconscious and inspired μαντις (Plato, Tim. 72 B; Herod. vii. 111, note ed. Baehr).

b. Hebrew Etymology.—This may be called the classical use of the word προφήτης. If its biblical meaning be considered, we must keep in mind that it was introduced into the Testament version by the LXX. Now the LXX. translate Nabi (נָביא) always, and Roeh (ראֶה) sometimes, by προφήτης (cf. 1 Par. 26:28; 2 Par. 16:7, 10). Consequently, the latter expression has the meaning of the former. As to Nabi, it is uncertain whether it is an active, a passive, or an intransitive noun.

α. INTRANSITIVE MEANING.—Ewald, Fleischer, Delitzsch, König, Mülau, Volck, Briggs, and others maintain that the noun is intransitive. Their reasons may be reduced to the following: 1. Nabi is derived from the stem Naba (נבע, נבא), which is not found in the active or the passive species, but only in the reflexive, either Niphal or Hithpaël. 2. Nabi is allied to Nub (כרב), which is used of the coming forth of fruit. Thus in Prov. 10:31: “The mouth of the just shall bring forth wisdom.” 3. Nabi is similar to the Arabic Naba’a, to rise up, to become audible, to proclaim, to name; Nabi is therefore a spokesman, or preacher (cf. Briggs, “Messianic Prophecy,” p. 15, n. 2).

β. PASSIVE MEANING.—Tholuck, Gesenius, Kuenen, Hupfeld, Riehm, Schultz, Bunsen, Davidson, and others regard Nabi as a passive noun. The following are some of their reasons: 1. Naba, the stem of Nabi, is related to Naba “to boil up,” “pour forth,” so that the prophet is one caused to boil over with the divine word. 2. Rachash (רחשׁ) in Ps. 45:2 furnishes a similar expression for the utterance of a divinely inspired agent. 3. N’um (נאם) is a passive form, and has a meaning similar to Nabi. The opponents of the present view grant that N’um has a passive form and meaning, but they deny that Nabi is like it in form. 4. The Arabic Naba’ a is more likely a denominative, and its stem-noun is derived from the Hebrew. Hence the Hebrew form Nabi must not be determined by means of the Arabic, but the Arabic must be investigated by means of the Hebrew. The opponents freely admit that this is a satisfactory solution of their argument based on the Arabic alone, but they claim that it does not explain the Assyrian form.

γ. ACTIVE MEANING.—Ewald, Hævernick, Öhler, Hengstenberg, Bleek, Lee, Pusey, McCaul, Fürst, Reinke, and others maintain that Nabi is an active form. They too have their special reasons: 1. The active sense of “announcing,” “pouring forth the declaration of God,” is more in accordance with the use of the word. The passive sense may describe the state of the prophet while inspired, but the active is descriptive of the prophetic office. 2. The stem must be derived from the root “Ba” (cf. Greek “fa,” Latin “fari”), and the prefix Na. Hence the true meaning of Nabi is to “overcome one in speaking,” “to convince” (cf. Elliott, “Old Test. Proph.,” p. 21).

c. Use of the Word: α. NABI.—Exodus 4:14–16 may be regarded as the classical passage giving the meaning of Nabi: “The Lord being angry at Moses, said: Aaron the Levite is thy brother; I know that he is eloquent. Behold, he cometh forth to meet thee, and seeing thee shall be glad at heart. Speak to him, and put My words in his mouth, and I will be in thy mouth, and in his mouth, and will show you what you must do; he shall speak in thy stead to the people, and shall be thy mouth: but thou shalt be to him in those things that pertain to God.”

If we compare Exodus 7:1 with this passage, we shall gain a clear insight into the meaning of Nabi: “And the Lord said to Moses: Behold, I have appointed thee the God of Pharao, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” Hence Aaron is called the Nabi of Moses, because he shall speak in Moses’ stead to the people, and shall be the mouth of Moses. It matters little whether the words that Moses will put into Aaron’s mouth refer to the past, the present, or the future, or whether they contain universal truths abstracting from all time—in any case Aaron will be Moses’ prophet.

β. ROEH AND CHOZEH.—The other word which the LXX. translate by προφήτης is Roeh. But Chozeh too, like Roeh, signifies “one who sees,” and is often used in the Old Testament in this meaning. The three words Nabi, Roeh, Chozeh, seem to be contrasted with one another in 1 Par. 29:29: “Now the acts of King David first and last are written in the book of Samuel the seer (Roeh), and in the book of Nathan the prophet (Nabi), and in the book of Gad the seer (Chozeh).” Roeh is a title almost appropriated to Samuel. It occurs eleven times in the Bible, and in seven of these instances it is applied to Samuel (1 Kings 9:9, 11, 18, 19; 1 Par. 9:22; 26:28; 29:19), in two instances it applies to Hanani (2 Par. 16:7, 10), once it designates Sadoc (2 Kings 15:27), and in Is. 30:10 it is not applied to any definite person. Roeh was superseded in its general use by the word Nabi, which Samuel, who is himself called Nabi, as well as Roeh (1 Kings 3:20; 2 Par. 35:18), appears to have revived after a period of desuetude, and to have applied to the prophets organized by him. The verb Raah, whence Roeh is derived, is the common prose-expression signifying “to see,” while the verb Chazah, whence Chozeh is obtained, has a more poetic coloring. Chozeh rarely occurs outside the Books Paral., but Chazon regularly signifies vision.

γ. DIFFERENCE OF USE.—It has been much debated whether there is any difference in the usage of the three words, and in what that difference consists. The various opinions may be reduced to the following classes: 1. Hævernick (Einleitung, Th. 1, Abth. 1, p. 56) considers Nabi as the title of those who officially belonged to the prophetic order, but Roeh and Chozeh as designations of those who received a prophetical revelation. 2. Dr. Lee (Inspiration of Holy Scripture, p. 543) agrees with Hævernick as to the meaning of Nabi; Roeh he identifies with Nabi rather than with Chozeh in meaning, and Chozeh he explains as denoting a prophet especially attached to the royal house (2 Kings 24:11; 1 Par. 21:9; 2 Par. 29:25). 3. Dean Stanley (Lectures on the Jewish Church, xxviii., xxix.) is of opinion that Roeh was the oldest name of the prophetic office, superseded by Nabi shortly after Samuel’s time; Chozeh he represents as another antique title. We need hardly state that there is no sufficient ground for the latter opinion. On examination we find that Nabi existed before and after and alongside of both Roeh and Chozeh, but that Chozeh is a little more modern than Roeh. 4. Since there is nothing in the word Chozeh to denote the relation of the prophet to the king, and since a prophet appears to have been attached only to David, and possibly to Manasses (2 Par. 33:18), it would seem that the same persons are designated by the three words Nabi, Roeh, and Chozeh. The last two titles refer to the prophet’s power of seeing the visions presented to him by God, the first to his function of revealing and proclaiming God’s truth to men. This agrees with St. Gregory Nazianzen’s description of Ezechiel: ὁ τῶν μεγάλων ἐπόπτης καὶ ἐξηγητὴς μυστηρίων (Or. 28).

δ. OTHER NAMES OF PROPHETS.—It may not be out of place to mention here a few of the other titles by which the prophets are designated in the Old Testament. The following seem to deserve special attention: “Malakh Jahveh” (מַלְאַךְ יהוה), or messenger of the Lord (Is. 44:26; Agg. 1:13; Mal. 3:1), “ish elohim” (אִישׁ אֱלֹהִים), or man of God (1 Kings 2:27; 9:6), “ ‘bed Jahveh” (עֶבֶד יהנה), or servant of the Lord (Is. 20:3; Am. 3:7; Jer. 7:25; 25:4 …), “ro‘eh” (רֹעֶה), or shepherd (Jer. 17:16; Zach. 11:4), “shomer” (שֹׁמֵר), or guard (Is. 62:6; Hab. 2:1), “tsopeh” (צֹפֶה), or scout (Am. 3:6; Is. 56:10; Jer. 6:17; Ezech. 3:17 …), “bachon” (בָּחו̇ן), or approver (cf. Zschokke, “Theologie der Propheten,” Freiburg, 1877, pp. 354 ff.). The reader hardly needs to be reminded that these names express nothing but the various aspects under which the prophet may be regarded.

2. DEFINITION FROM EFFECTS.—a. New Testament.—St. Paul (1 Cor. 14:3) has well summed up the prophetic functions and characteristics: “He that prophesieth,” the apostle says, “speaketh to men unto edification and exhortation and comfort.” Unto edification the prophets speak to men when as divinely inspired theologians they teach the people what to believe and what to do in order to insure their eternal salvation. Unto exhortation the prophets speak when they pour forth their powerful and efficacious pleadings in order to soften and move men’s hearts. Unto comfort finally do the prophets speak when they predict the future glory of the chosen people, and the rejection of the gentile world, the end of the Old Dispensation, and the approaching establishment of the Church. For the Law and the Prophets have their centre in Christ, so that prophecy is the figure of Christ as Christ is the fulfilment of prophecy (cf. Goldhagen, Introductio, ii. p. 354; a Lap., In prophet. prooem. iii.). Becanus (Anal. V. et N. Test., viii. qu. 2) maintains that the primary end of the prophets is to teach and reform the people in the true worship of God, and thus prepare them for the coming of Christ (cf. Paul Scholz, “Theol. d. A. B.,” pp. 77 ff.; Knabenbauer, “Der Prophet Isaias,” Freiburg, 1881, p. 5). Hence we may call the prophets the supreme and authentic teachers instituted by God to preserve, explain, and evolve the Mosaic covenant and to prepare the Christian dispensation.

b. Old Testament.—α. PROPHETIC AUTHORITY EXTENDS TO ALL ISRAELITES.—If this statement stands in need of any further proof, it may be confirmed from the Old Testament history. God says to Ezechiel (3:17–19): “Son of Man, I have made thee a watchman to the house of Israel, and thou shalt hear the word out of my mouth, and shalt tell it them from me. If when I say to the wicked: Thou shalt surely die, thou declare it not to him, that he may be converted from his wicked way and live: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand. But if thou give warning to the wicked, and he be not converted from his wickedness and from his evil way, he indeed shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul.” Consequently we find that the prophets exhorted and warned kings, priests, and the influential persons of their time with the same liberty with which they spoke of the waywardness of the poor and the lowly. Samuel announces the coming judgment to Heli and Saul, Elias faithfully fulfils his mission at the court or Achab, and similar instances from the Old Testament might be multiplied indefinitely (cf. 1 Kings 2:27; 13:10–14; 15:12–30; 2 Kings 12:1 ff.; 3 Kings 11:29 f.; 2 Par. 16:7; 19:2; Is. 1:10 f.; 7:1 ff.).

β. EMBRACES PRIVATE MATTERS.—The authority of the prophets not only extended over all the Israelites, but embraced also all the details of their private, public, and religious life. St. Jerome says that many examples prove the existence of the custom among the Jews to ask God by means of His prophets whatever they desired to know (In Ezech. 20:1). Thus Saul asks Samuel concerning the lost asses, Jeroboam sends his wife to ask the prophet Ahias concerning his sick son, Ochozias is upbraided for consulting Beelzebub, the god of Accaron, rather than Jehovah himself about the issue of his infirmity (cf. 1 Kings 9:3 ff.; 3 Kings 14:1 ff.; 4 Kings 1:2 ff.; 4 Kings 5:15 ff.).

γ. POLITICAL AFFAIRS.—The influence of the prophets in affairs of state was much more important than their authority in private matters. Even after God had granted kings to his people, he himself retained the supreme authority over it. The prophets constantly watched that the kings might rule according to the divine law. Samuel elected the first king, wrote the constitution of the new kingdom, rejected the sovereign in the name of God, substituting David in his place; the prophets following Samuel are constantly engaged in directing and instructing David’s successors. Nor was their office strictly limited to the kings of Israel. Foreign nations and rulers were at times the object of their prophetic warnings and threats (cf. Is. 8:19; 30:2; Jer. 37:3; 42:2; 1:10; 25:15; 40–51; Is. 2:7–9; 31:1; 8:6; 13–27; 1 Kings 8:4; 10:25; 15:23–28; 16:1 ff.; 3 Kings 12:22 ff.; 13:1 ff.; 14:7 ff.; 2 Par. 16:7 f.; 18:6; 19:2 f.; 20:14 ff.; 25:7; 3 Kings 19:15; 4 Kings 8:10 ff.; Ezech. 25–32; Knabenb., Stimmen, 1880, xviii. p. 274).

δ. RELIGIOUS QUESTIONS.—Throughout their work it was the constant aim of the prophets to preserve and confirm the Mosaic covenant, and to prepare Israel for the new Christian dispensation. Hence their special care was always directed to the increase and the furtherance of the national religious life. Witness their constant war against idolatry, their incessant endeavor to stir up their fellow-citizens to the one true worship. At the same time they are not content with a merely external worship. They inculcate the principle that obedience is better than sacrifice, and that humility is more excellent than the fat of goats (1 Kings 15:22 ff.). “Wash yourselves, be clean, take away the evil of your devices from my eyes, cease to do perversely, learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge for the fatherless, defend the widow,” such are the exhortations we find in the prophet Isaias (1:16 f.). Meanwhile, it would be a mistake to think that the prophets neglected the observance of the ritual law or thought little of it. They repeatedly insist on this observance too, and even add new determinations and explanations of the law promulgated by Moses. “Blessed is the man,” says Isaias (56:2 ff.), “that doth this, and the son of man that shall lay hold on this: that keepeth the Sabbath from profaning it, that keepeth his hands from doing any evil.” And again (66:17): “They that were sanctified and thought themselves clean in the gardens behind the gate within, they that did eat swine’s fiesh, and the abomination and the mouse; they shall be consumed together, saith the Lord” (cf. Jer. 17:20–27; 33:17 f.; 44:21; Ezech. 20:12ff.; 22:8; 4 Kings 17:13; 4:23–42; 2 Par. 29:25). But the most important function of the prophets in regard to the religious life was to increase the deposit of faith, and to keep the eyes of the pious Israelites on the glorious Messianic future, thus offering them consolation and strength to bear up under the heavy trials and national calamities which were constantly befalling them (cf. Cornely, Introduct. U. T. II. ii., pp. 271 ff.; Elliott, “Old Testament Prophecy,” New York, 1889, pp. 26–28).

3. DEFINITION FROM PSYCHOLOGICAL CONDITION OF THE PROPHET.—Thus far we have drawn a description of the Old Testament prophets from the effect they were intended to produce on the Jewish nation. Zachary in his celebrated hymn of thanksgiving has well described the moral effects produced by the prophets on their contemporaries (St. Luke 1:76–79): “And thou child shalt be called the prophet of the Highest; for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people, unto the remission of their sins, through the bowels of the mercy of our God, in which the Orient from on high hath visited us, to enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to direct our feet into the way of peace.” It is now incumbent on us to describe the Old Testament prophets according to the physical condition in which they received the divine communications, referring either to the future or to the present.

a. Purely Intellectual or Sensible.—From what has been said thus far, it is plain that prophecy is a supernatural fact, i.e.—a fact tending, at least indirectly, to a supernatural end. But this of itself does not throw much light on the psychological condition of the prophet while he is under the divine inspiration. St. Thomas (IIa. iiae., q. 174, a. 2, 3) and Suarez (IIIa. pars, q. 30, a. 4, disp. ix., sect. 2) tell us that prophecy is either purely intellectual or sensible. In the former case, the prophetic communication is given directly to the intellect without the intervention of any sensible image. This seems to happen very rarely, and in the Sacred Scriptures we know of no other instance except that of St. Paul (2 Cor. 12:2): “I know a man in Christ above fourteen years ago—whether in the body, I know not, or out of the body, I know not—God knoweth—such an one rapt even to the third heaven.”

b. Seven Kinds of Sensible Prophecy.—The second manner of prophetic inspiration, or that by means of a sensible medium, is subdivided by St. Thomas into seven classes: The first is ecstasy or spiritual rapture, such as we find in St. Peter when he saw the linen cloth filled with the divers kinds of animals; the second is vision, as we find in the case of the prophet Isaias, where he says: “I saw the Lord sitting”; the third class is the prophetic dream, as Jacob had when in his sleep he saw the miraculous ladder (Gen. 22:12); the fourth is the miraculous cloud, such as appeared to Moses; the fifth is the voice from heaven, like that which Abraham heard when about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:12); the sixth is the parable, such as Balaam received (Num. 23:7); the seventh is the condition of being filled with the Holy Spirit, as were nearly all the prophets. Though this division is very ingenious, it is not altogether satisfactory. The seventh class, e.g., seems to embrace all the other six; the distinction between vision and ecstasy is hard to draw for one who does not know the difference by experience. Perhaps the following classification will be found more intelligible, since it reduces the seven kinds of sensible prophecy to three.

α. WORDS.—There is in the first place the prophetic communication by means of words (cf. Vigouroux, “Manuel Biblique,” t. i. pp. 461 ff.; Trochon, “Introduction générale,” p. xii.). Not as if there were always question of articulate language striking the prophet’s bodily ear, but there is, at least, an internal voice, or the sensation representing certain articulate sounds. Many divine communications happened in this manner, though in a number of instances (1 Kings 3:4; Ex. 3:4, etc.) really articulate sound seems to have existed.

β. VISIONS.—The second manner of sensible prophetic communication is the vision, instances of which occur frequently in the prophets, especially in the case of Ezechiel (1:4; 2:9; 8:2; 10:1; 37:1; 40:2; Is. 6:2, etc.). If it be asked in what these visions consisted, there is a diversity of opinion. Some think that in the case of visions the prophet was really acted upon by external objects, i.e., God produced the objects which the prophet saw outside of the prophet. Others are of opinion that in case of vision God produced the sensation only in the prophet’s interior, so that nothing external corresponded with the prophetic vision. St. Jerome embraces this second opinion (M. Patrol. Lat. t. xxv. col. 347), where he speaks of Ezechiel’s well-known vision of the dry bones. “Eduxit eum in spiritu, non in corpore, sed extra corpus” are the words of the holy Doctor. In any case, the visions of the prophets were not mere fictions, but they were really produced by God, either interiorly (directly) or by means of external objects (indirectly) (cf. Vigouroux, l. c., p. 462; Cornely, “Introduct.” II. ii. pp. 291 f.).

1. Views of Philo, etc.—Here the question arises whether the prophets, when actually seeing the prophetic visions or hearing the prophetic words, were always in a state of unconsciousness. Philo and the Alexandrian school answer in the affirmative. “The human understanding,” says Philo (Quis rerum divin. hær., t. i. p. 511), “leaves when the divine spirit arrives, and when the latter leaves the former returns to its home; for the mortal must not dwell with the immortal.” The same writer (De vita Mosis, l. i. t. ii. p. 124) describes Balaam as an unconscious instrument through which God spoke to men. In the writings of Josephus (Antiq. IV. vi.) Balaam excuses himself before Balak on a similar principle. Prophecy is by these writers altogether identified with the pagan soothsaying. The Montanists adopted the same view of prophecy, as we see from the writings of Tertullian (Adv. Marc. iv. 22): “We hold that an ecstasy of grace, i.e., unconsciousness, is part of the new prophecy. For man constituted in spirit, especially when he sees the divine glory, or when God speaks through him, necessarily loses his sensibility, being overshadowed by the divine power; and about this there is a difference of opinion between us and the Psychists [Catholics].” And according to this view of Philo, the pagan philosophers, and the Montanists, the so-called ecstasy lasted not only while the divine communication was made, but also while the prophet communicated the same to man.

2. This Theory Rejected.—The Fathers of the Church are unanimous in combating this view of the prophetic state. Miltiades composed a whole book against it (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. v. 17); Origen and St. Basil insist on the difference between the prophet and the unconscious soothsayer; St. Jerome (In Nahum, prooem.) says: “The prophet does not speak in ecstasy, as Montanus, Prisca, and Maxillima insanely maintain, but what he prophesies he fully understands.” And again, the same Saint says (In Is. prooem.): “The prophets did not, as Montanus with his insane women dreams, speak in ecstasy, so as not to understand their own words, and remain ignorant while instructing others.” St. Chrysostom (Hom. Xxix in epist. ad Corinth.) is still more explicit: “This is the peculiarity of the “mantis” (μάντις), to be beside himself, to suffer constraint, to be struck, to be stretched, to be dragged like a madman. The prophet, however, is not so, but he speaks everything with calm understanding and with sound self-possession, and knowing what he proclaims, so that we can distinguish between the mantis and the prophet even before the fulfilment.”

3. The Prophets Passive in their Visions.—At the same time the Fathers use very clear and forcible terms to show that the prophets were passive under the divine inspiration, though they make a clear distinction between heathen soothsaying and Montanist ecstasy on the one side and Hebrew prophecy on the other. Thus the Fathers describe the prophets as passive instruments, as a flute (Athenagoras, Leg. pro Christianis, c. ix.; Clement of Alex., Cohort. ad Gent. c. i.), or a lyre (Justin Martyr, Cohort. ad Græcos, c. viii.; Ephræm. Syr., Rhythm. xxix.; Chrysost., ad popul. Antioch., Hom. i. t. ii)., or a pen (St. Gregory the Great, Præf. in Mor. Job). Expressions such as these (many of which are collected by Dr. Lee, Appendix G) must be set against the passages which were directed against the Montanists. The biblical account of the individual prophets confirms this view of the patristic writers. Jonas and Ezechiel even resist and struggle against the divine communication, but still they finally act according to their impulse from on high.

γ. DREAMS.—The third manner of sensible prophetic communication is the dream; it differs from the vision, because the latter happens in the waking state, while the former takes place in the sleep. What is told us of Nathan (2 Kings 7:4) shows that the vision may be had during the nighttime. Instances of divine communication in the dream occur repeatedly in the Old Testament (Gen. 20:3–6; 28:12–14; 1 Kings 28:6; Joel 2:28; Dan. 2; Job 33:14–16). Even the gift of interpreting dreams is represented as a special favor of God, which the false prophets pretended at times to possess (Jer. 23:25, 27, 28). It is surprising how any one can confound the vision with the dream as Smith (Dictionary of the Bible, see Prophet) seems to do.

δ. ECSTASY NOT EXCLUDED.—By classifying the sensible prophetic communication as hearing, seeing, and dreaming, we do not wish to exclude the ecstatic state from the possible conditions in which the prophet may find himself at the time he receives the divine communication. Such a state seems to be described in Job (4:13–16; 33:15), and more plainly in the Book of Daniel. In the case of Daniel we find first a deep sleep (8:18; 10:9) accompanied by terror (8:17; 10:8). Next, he is raised up (8:18) on his hands and knees, and then on his feet (10:10, 11). He then receives the divine revelation (8:19; 10:12), after which he falls to the ground in a swoon (10:15, 17); he is faint, sick, and astonished (8:27; cf. Smith, “Dictionary of the Bible,” see Prophet). We may compare with this description the state of the apostles at the transfiguration, of St. Peter before the divine commission to receive the Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10:10; 11:5), of St. Paul when he was commanded to devote himself to the conversion of the Gentiles (Acts 22:17), and again when he was caught up into the third heaven (2 Cor. 12:1); finally of St. John when he received his message for the seven churches (Apoc. 1:10). But while we fully grant the possibility that a prophet may be in such a supernatural state when he receives his message, we at the same time maintain that the message itself is communicated to him as a vision, or as an audible voice, or as a dream, unless it be purely intellectual.

ε. PROPHETIC CERTAINTY.—It may be asked: How did the prophets know that what they saw or heard or dreamed was a divine message, and not an illusion of the evil spirit or a mere hallucination? Have not even the most devout and upright persons been thus deluded? We understand that the question is not answered by the fact that the same difficulty exists in every divine inspiration, and especially in the inspiration, properly so called, under which the canonical books of the Old and the New Testament were written. But without answering the question fully, the parallel case at least illustrates what may have happened in case of the prophetic communications. A moral certainty that our inspiration is good, that our motive is supernatural, is a sufficient reason for performing the action in question and for following the inspiration. Add to this the supernatural certainty which the divine light of prophecy infuses into the mind of the prophet, and at the same time the powerful impulse given to his will to announce his divine message, and the earnest conviction with which the prophets speak is sufficiently explained. In case the prophet were endowed with the gift of working miracles in confirmation of his mission, he might even rely on this extrinsic motive for the truth of his prophetic announcements.

4. RATIONALISTIC THEORIES.—After establishing our own position regarding the psychological condition of the prophet at the time of his receiving the divine communication, we may cast a glance at the explanations that some of our opponents give of this same condition. The theories of Ewald, Réville, Kuenen, and, in short, of all those who reduce the prophetic state to a merely natural phenomenon, need not be considered. For it appears from the analysis of the prophetic argument that the prophetic light surpasses all natural causes, and can therefore proceed from God alone, either mediately or immediately. Whatever moral power these writers may ascribe to the prophets, however they may laud their creation of ethical monotheism, they explain all this as a purely natural process, founded on the natural endowment of the prophets, and proving nothing beyond a great power of intellect and will. At the same time, these writers must shut their eyes to all the supernatural phenomena of prediction and fulfilment which are related in the Bible history. This position has been already sufficiently considered in a previous chapter.

a. Briggs’ Theory.—Here we must draw attention to the position of a few Christian writers who fully admit that the prophetic phenomenon is supernatural, but do not seem to explain it satisfactorily, or at least they allow their explanations to be influenced by the claims of the rationalists. Prof. Briggs (Messianic Prophecy, New York, 1886, pp. 2–22) gives the following exposition of our question. 1. “Prophecy as a religious instruction claims to come from God and to possess divine authority. The prophet is an officer of the Deity, with a commission from the God he serves.” It appears from the whole text that this description is intended to apply to any prophet, whether true or false, whether serving the true God or an idol. Here the rationalistic spirit which places the pagan religions of antiquity on a level with the revealed religion, and the soothsayers of paganism on a level with the prophets of Jehovah, has moved Dr. Briggs to call pagan soothsaying and Hebrew prophecy by the same name. He might as well give the same generic definition of gold and brass, of the picture and the object.

2. Then Dr. Briggs goes on to say that “there are three phases of prophecy which are common to the religions of the world—the dream, the vision, and the enlightened spiritual discernment.” Here again the three kinds of prophecy which we have already described are placed on the same level with their counterfeits. That the Doctor actually does this is plain from what he says in the following paragraph: “The dream is the simplest phase of prophecy. It may arise from an abnormal condition of the body, or from the stimulation of a higher power. It may be genuine prophecy or spurious prophecy. There is need of discriminating tests.” In a similar manner does the writer speak about his second phase of prophecy, the vision: “The most common phase of prophecy is the ecstatic state. This may be either natural, as in epileptics and persons who through nervous derangement have an abnormal intellectual and emotional development, or artificial, where the nervous organization is excited by external stimulants, or the agency of evil spirits, or the divine Spirit.” Finally, even the third phase of prophecy which Dr. Briggs acknowledges is of a very equivocal nature. “There is also a higher order of prophets, who through retirement and contemplation of the sacred mysteries of religion have been spiritually enlightened to discern truths of a higher order than their fellows, and to experience emotions of a deeper and more absorbing intensity. They have wondrous powers of insight and forecast. They read and interpret character and affairs. They are the masters of the past and the present, and they point the way confidently into the future. Such prophets of a higher grade exist among the various religions of the world.” In all the three phases of prophecy, therefore, Dr. Briggs confounds the divinely inspired knowledge of the future with pagan divination and with natural penetration of genius.

3. In the third place, Dr. Briggs states the Montanistic view and the naturalistic theory of prophecy. The former is by no means refuted by him, but merely described and developed. In the course of development we meet the strange statement: “The most primitive form of prophecy among the Hebrews was doubtless of the lowest phases—external revelations through dreams or in ecstatic vision” (p. 14). As if in the divine revelations there were a development from the less to the more perfect way of communicating with man, or as if man himself had been in the beginning much less developed in his spiritual faculties than he was at a later period. The biblical account of man’s condition in the garden of Eden is here, at least implicitly, called in question.

4. Finally, the Doctor gives his description of the Hebrew prophet. “The prophet of Jahveh is personally called and endowed by Jahveh with the prophetic spirit. He speaks in the name of Jahveh and in his name alone. He is one of a series of prophets who guide in the development of the Hebrew religion. He absorbs and reproduces previous prophecy. He transmits prophecy with confidence to his successors. Hebrew prophecy is an organism of redemption.” All this does not yet touch the point we are considering just now. It merely describes or defines the Hebrew prophet by means of the effect he produces. But it is interesting as fitting in closely with the following description of the prophetic call and endowment: “Hebrew prophecy originates in a personal revelation of God to man in theophany. It is communicated to successive prophets by the influence of the spirit of God. The divine Spirit assures the prophet of his possession of the truth of God and of his commission to declare it; endows him with the gifts and spiritual energy to proclaim it without fear or favor, and despite every obstacle; guides him in the form of its delivery, and directs him to give it its appropriate place in the prophetic system.” The point in which this description agrees with the preceding concerns the organic connection in which every Hebrew prophet is supposed to stand with his predecessors and his successors—a connection that can by no means claim the undisputed certainty of a fact. This will appear clearly where we shall treat of the prophetic order and the schools of the prophets. What the author requires for the prophetic call and endowment besides this organic connection is so vague that it is hardly worth considering. Of course, there is the light for the intellect and the strength for the will; but then these are gifts that are bestowed in common inspiration too, so that according to this view the prophet hardly differs from the common canonical writer.

b. Riehm’s Theory.—Riehm’s explanation of prophecy, too, deserves a few moments’ reflection (Messianic Prophecy, transl. by Muirhead, Edinburgh, 1891, pp. 1–101). 1. First, then, Riehm protests: “We also are persuaded that an historical understanding of Old Testament prophecy is impossible apart from a recognition of the reality of the divine revelations imparted to the prophets” (p. 14). The supernatural character of prophecy is therefore acknowledged by the author. What is meant by the historical understanding of prophecy is well illustrated by Davidson in the Introduction to Riehm’s “Messianic Prophecies” (p. 12): “He who in a temple that is an acknowledged architectural masterpiece does not survey the structure as a whole may easily look for more beauty and perfection of form in the details than they by themselves really possess. The spectator, however, who admires the whole building need have no scruple in acknowledging the imperfections, in their isolated character, of details which make the temple great and splendid only by their co-ordination and harmonious articulation. One who in like manner has gained an insight into and a view of the whole Old Testament economy, and has, as a consequence, attained a full and clear conviction that the Old Covenant, as a whole, has been planned with a view to a future fulfilment in the New, and that the whole trend of religious development in the Old Testament is towards Christianity, will, in the exegesis of all particular Messianic passages, without scruple recognize only that measure of knowledge of God’s saving purpose which, when examined according to the rules of a strictly historical method of exegesis, they are found really to contain.” And previously the same author had defined the historical sense of prophecy as “the purport of individual utterances considered as members of the entire developing body of Old Testament prophecy” (p. 7). A few lines further on, we read: “A definition of the contents of a prophecy can include only the sense—albeit the full sense—in which at the time of its utterance the prophecy could be understood, and was necessarily understood. For what can be recognized only in the time of fulfilment is precisely what is not contained in the prophecy itself.”

2. After thus professing his belief in the supernatural character of prophecy, Riehm goes on to explain God’s way of communicating his revelation to the prophets. “To assume,” he says (p. 58), “that revelations were made to the prophets in a way that condemned their previous apprehensions of truth to absolute disuse involves surely an unworthy conception of God.… He [God] rather makes it his function to develop the germs that lie concealed in existing apprehensions, to bring them by constant impulse to the point at which they shall discover their hidden treasures, and cause the new truth organically to blossom forth from them under the reciprocal action of those influences which by the laws of their own life-force they exert upon one another in the natural progress of their development.… The question as to the origin of a Messianic prophecy is answered in a truly satisfactory way only when it is shown how that origin has been psychologically mediated, or more particularly, what roots and germs of it were contained in the previous consciousness of the prophet, and in what way it was organically developed from them.” This principle is illustrated by a fact of animal life. As no nourishment can be taken into the animal system that has not previously an organic formation, so in the intellectual life no truth can be digested, as it were, that has not previously conformed to the preliminary conditions of its natural development in the faculty.

3. If it be asked in the third place which are the germinal ideas from which the Messianic prophecies have been organically developed, Dr. Riehm answers (p. 66): “There are three ideas which, above others, demand our special attention: the idea of the Covenant, the immediately related idea of the kingdom of God, and, as the germ of the Messianic prophecy in the narrower sense, the idea, not indeed, Mosaic, yet still pre-prophetic, of the theocratic kingship.” The author then shows how the prophecies may have been developed out of these three primary ideas. As to the idea of the Covenant, the Messianic prophecy in the wider sense resulted, firstly, from the contradiction between idea and reality consequent upon Israel’s various disloyalties, and secondly, from the contradiction between idea and reality inherent in the entire character of the Old Covenant and its theocracy (p. 78). The same two contradictions between idea and reality would tend to evolve the Messianic prophecy out of the idea of the kingdom of God (pp. 90, 91). And if we regard the theocratic kingship, we find that the king is on the one hand the representative of the invisible and Divine King, and on the other he is also the representative of the people; hence he represents not merely the ideal prophet and judge, but also the ideal priest. And since reality was lagging far behind the idea, it is but natural that the Messianic prophecy in its narrower sense should evolve out of the theocratic kingship (p. 117 ff.).

4. It logically follows that the single Old Testament prophecies according to Riehm’s view must be strictly adapted to the times in which they originated. This the author shows, first, from the destination of the prophecies for their respective present; secondly, from the limits of the prophetic prospect. Every prophet had a definite prophetic horizon beyond which his ideas could not carry him. Thirdly, from the fact that the circumstances of the relative times had to unfold the germs of the Messianic apprehension; and finally, from the general parallelism between the course of history of the kingdom of God and the development of the Messianic prophecy (Riehm, l. c., part ii., pp. 124–217).

5. In the third part of his book (pp. 217–324) Riehm treats of the relation between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament fulfilment. He first reminds us again of his distinction between the contents of prophecy, i.e, the sense in which the prophets understood their utterances, and its ultimate reference to fulfilment through Christ (p. 219). The author regards the attempt to piece together in one complete picture all the individual features of Messianic prophecy, and to find in Christ and his kingdom the fulfilment of every individual feature, as unwarrantable and impracticable (p. 221). The single prophecies are not the fragments of a picture, but rather the different forms of a living organism, which advances through a series of phases of development. As individual leaves fall from the plant and are replaced by new ones, and as in the development of brute-organism every organ assumes just the form in which at that particular state of development it can best fulfil its intended purpose, so it is with the Messianic prophecies. The importance of individual prophecies is limited to the time during which the circumstances that evoked them continue, and during which the historical stage of development lasts to which the prophecy belongs. When the historical circumstances were substantially altered, most elements of the prophecy had found their proper times-adapted fulfilment, and so far as this was not the case, they could never be fulfilled in the sense which contemporaries gave to the prophecy. Hence, as soon as the circumstances have substantially altered, something new takes the place of the old that has been outlived and has lost its significance and effective force. Thus a very considerable portion of Messianic prophecy remains outside the sphere of New Testament fulfilment, either because it has found already its times-adapted fulfilment before the fulness of time, or through its remaining altogether unfulfilled.

c. Verdict on Riehm’s Theory.—α. IT IS BASED ON A FALSE PRINCIPLE.—Regarding Riehm’s theory we must say that it appears to us altogether unsatisfactory and even inconsistent. For the author claims on the one hand that God’s intervention in prophecy is absolutely necessary, and on the other he establishes a gradual development of the prophetic ideas, similar to the gradual process in the vegetable and the animal life. Of course, he admits the latter, because according to him God could not reveal any truth to man that is not already contained in what man knows beforehand. Now this position is in the first place entirely gratuitous. The analogy from the lower life proves only that our intellectual faculty cannot grasp anything that is not essentially related to it; but all truth is essentially related to the intellect, as philosophers prove. As it stands, the argument would prove that no animal can assimilate any food that is not already contained in its stomach,—cannot, in other words, take any fresh nourishment.

β. ITS ASSUMPTIONS ARE GRATUITOUS.—And when we come to examine the single stages of Riehm’s theory, its entire gratuitousness and sophistry become evident. For, to begin with the starting-point of the theory, we are asked to assume the three ideas of the Covenant, the Kingdom of God, and the Theocratic Kingdom. Now these three ideas are either mere natural developments of previous concepts, in which case the whole superstructure is a merely natural system of religion, or they are directly revealed by God. But if this latter explanation be given, Riehm’s own theory of the intellectual development of religious ideas falls to the ground.

γ. THE PROCESS OF DEVELOPMENT IS MERELY NATURAL.—In the next place, a word may be said about the development of the prophetic concepts out of the previous germinal ideas. As the process is explained, it excludes anything we might be apt to call a supernatural divine assistance. For we find similar processes in the development of almost every scientific or ethical idea. The gradual perfection in the application of steam and electricity which has now produced the transatlantic steamer and the telegraphic cable might thus be represented as a prophetic process, prefiguring our present state of mechanical perfection. In the same manner the revolutionary ideas developed during the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, culminating in the murder of Louis XVI. with its concomitant horrors, might be called prophecies of the French Revolution. For as the horrors perpetrated by the revolutionists far outran the principles laid down by the revolutionary philosophy, so has, according to Riehm, the Christian fulfilment surpassed the prophetic predictions of the Messias.

δ. THE DEFINITENESS OF THE PROPHECIES IS NOT EXPLAINED.—Then it must be noted that the historical events which, according to Riehm’s theory, developed the prophetic germs into fuller growth are by no means sufficient to account for the definite Messianic predictions which they produced. Take, for instance, the prophecy of Isaias 7:1–14: the desire of King Achaz to conclude an alliance with Assyria is the occasion of Isaias’ appeal to the king to place his confidence in the God of Israel. Achaz’s rejection of the divine alliance and his preference for Assyrian help sufficiently account for the unfavorable sign that the prophet announces to the house of David: the crown and the glory of the house of David, the Messias, shall be reduced to the food of the poor, shall eat butter and honey, and the king of Assyria, who is preferred before God Almighty, shall become the instrument of Juda’s scourge. Thus far the predictions correspond exactly with the historic occasion on which they were pronounced, though mere human wisdom could have by no means evolved them out of the previous concepts of Covenant and Theocratic Kingdom. But then, where was the need of predicting precisely on this occasion that a virgin should conceive and bear a son, and that the son’s name was to be Emmanuel? What is true in the case of this particular prophecy applies to all the other prophecies, from the victory predicted for the seed of the woman even to the description of the Messias’ vicarious suffering as contained in the prophet Isaias.

ε. THE IDEA OF FULFILMENT IS DESTROYED.—Finally, Riehm’s view about the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies is even less satisfactory than his opinion concerning their origin and development. It may be all very well to omit in a steam-engine all superfluous wheels and screws, though they have been present at some past period when the machine was not yet fully developed; but, surely, no one will or can maintain that the various stages of the machine’s growth were real prophecies of what we see at present. If Riehm perseveres in the system which he now holds about the Christian fulfilment of Messianic prophecy, he must either cease to speak about prophecy in connection with this subject, or he must change his definition of prophecy. Delitzsch’s remark, therefore, that Riehm does not do justice to the literal meaning of the Messianic predictions must be understood in this sense: that Riehm abandons such a meaning entirely with regard to the great bulk of prophetic writings. It may be a depressing observation, but it is true, nevertheless, that Judaism has a strong support in such writers as Riehm. Why should a son of Abraham leave his particular set of views and opinions, naturally developed out of the Old Testament Messianic ideas, in order to adopt a set of religious ideas and opinions that have grown from the same root in another portion of the world, or in another school of religious teachers? The Jew, too, may point to that part of fulfilled prophecy which found its completion before the fulness of time; the Jew may claim that the Messianic prophecies not yet fulfilled were never intended to find their fulfilment, but were like the numberless leaves that fall from the plant as soon as they have attained their special end. Surely every Christian as such, however he may understand the relation of the divine to the human in the person of Jesus, must recognize in him the unmistakable end of Old Testament development, and in Christianity the infallible completion of Israel’s religion.








Copyright ©1999-2018 e-Catholic2000.com