Chapter 2

God Speaks Through Prophets

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Communication Before Sin
How God Bridges the Gap of Sin
Prophets-the Most Recognized Form of Divine Disclosure
The Prophet's Work
Long Line of Splendor
Low Success Rate
Names Applied to the Prophetic Messages
How God and Prophets Interact
How Prophets Delivered Their Messages
Letters Carry Authority
Literary Assistants
Paul's Several Assistants
Obvious Differences Between 1 and 2 Peter
How Luke Was Written
Verbal Inspiration or Thought Inspiration
Prophets, Not Words, Are Inspired
Some Prophetic Messages Not Preserved
God Is Gender Blind
Deborah More Than a Judge
Dreary Gap Between Malachi and John the Baptist
The First Century, A.D.
The Prophet Jesus
Since Apostolic Times
Teaching Replaced Prophecy
Study Question

“God, who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets . . .” (Heb. 1:1). “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream” (Num. 12:6).

God has been communicating with human beings ever since He created Adam and Eve.1 Human beings were created as God’s counterparts, made “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). He made them responsible—that is, able-to-respond to Him and to other persons. God provided everything imaginable for our first parents’ happiness. He “planted a garden” (Gen. 2:8) already in blossom, full of plants suitable for food. Our first couple did not have to scratch out an existence, using trial and error, in order to survive.

Further, God made men and women with the ability to produce children in their image, even as Adam and Eve were created in His image. Nothing was left out; everything that men and women needed was in place—the right kind of food, the joy of work, a dazzling flower-and-garden show daily, no rain or rust, perfect companionship with each other and with God Himself. God’s plan for our first parents remains a workable blueprint for us today as we seek peace and health amidst a sad breakdown of what the Lord intended for the human family.

Communication Before Sin

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Before our first parents sinned, they were in constant communication with God and His angels. In this way they learned how to care for all living creatures and to provide for their own needs as stewards of this fantastic paradise called Planet Earth. Perhaps every day they had sundown worship with God “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8). And they learned that not all was safe, even in Eden! Evil lurked in the shadow of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17).

But terrible changes took place when Adam and Eve sinned. They no longer could speak with God face-to-face. Not because God had changed, but the first couple had—sin reconfigured their mind and emotions. Isaiah starkly described this new situation: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isa. 59:2).

Sin damages the neural paths. No one is ever the same after he or she sins—new boutons in the neural pathways are formed that make sinning easier to repeat. To think clearly again requires special help from God. Thus, when our first parents sinned, God had to change His communication system with human beings. Not all the deplorable results of sin happened to Adam and Eve immediately, but the sad degeneracy of the human race began that day when they yielded to “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

How God Bridged the Gap of Sin

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How could the sin-gulf be bridged? God always has a solution. He knows how to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, instead of face-to-face communication He “speaks” to everyone through “conscience” (see John 1:9; Rom. 2:15). In some meaningful way, the Holy Spirit calls reasoning people to choose right over wrong, whatever their situation. Further, for those who specifically call for divine help, even though not much may be known about God, the promise is open to all: “In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:6).2

He also reveals Himself through angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14).3

Though marred by the results of sin, the physical world still reveals much about the nature and character of God: “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). People on all continents and throughout history have associated God with such “attributes” as order, beauty, predictability, and design that they have seen in the heavenly bodies or the wonders of earth, both animate and inanimate.4

Before Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt God had been communicating with men and women through such patriarchs as Noah (Gen. 5-9), Abraham (Gen. 12-24), Isaac (Gen. 26:2-5), and Jacob (Gen. 32:24-30). Moses was the shining example of a human being with whom God conversed (Ex. 3, etc.).

In relating to the nation of Israel in its early years, God “spoke” through the Urim and Thummim, two precious stones set in the breastplate (the ephod) of Israel’s high priest. When the nation’s leaders wanted to know the will of God, the high priest asked specific questions that were answered by light resting on either the Urim or Thummin.5 For a young nation so soon out of slavery and before the establishment of the written Word, this dramatic communication method was decisive and affirming.

God also spoke through dreams. Think of Joseph’s dream that had prophetic significance (Gen. 37), the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker (Gen. 40), Pharaoh’s dream (Gen. 41), the dream of the Midianite soldier (Judges 7), and Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams (Dan. 2, 4).

Beyond question, the clearest revelation of God and His will for men and women has been through Jesus Christ: “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Heb. 1:1, 2). Jesus was explicit: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). But Christ did not point to God as all prophets must; all prophets had pointed to Him.

Prophets—the Most Recognized Form of Divine Disclosure

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Although God used many methods, the “prophet” was the most recognized form of divine communication. Priests in Israel were the people’s representatives before God; the prophets were God’s official representatives before His people. The priest’s calling was hereditary; the prophet was specifically called by God.6

Prophets have been the most visible channel in God’s communication system. “Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). “The Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people” (2 Chron. 36:15).

God said very clearly that if people would not listen to His prophets, He had no other remedy to help them in their personal or national problems: “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets. . . till there was no remedy” (2 Chron. 36:16).

In A Prophet Among You,7 T. Housel Jemison listed eight reasons why God used prophets rather than some dramatic attention-getting device such as writing on the clouds or thundering out His will every morning at dawn:

1. Prophets prepared the way for Christ’s first advent.

2. As representatives of the Lord, prophets showed the people that God valued human beings enough to choose from among them men and women to represent Him.

3. Prophets were a continual reminder of the nearness and availability of God’s instruction.

4. Messages through the prophets accomplished the same purposes as a personal communication from the Creator.

5. Prophets were a demonstration of what fellowship with God and the transforming grace of the Holy Spirit could accomplish in a human life.

6. The presence of the prophets tested the people as to their attitude toward God.

7. Prophets assisted in the plan of salvation, for God has consistently used a combination of the human and the divine as His most effective means for reaching lost humankind.

8. The prophets’ outstanding product is their contribution to the Written Word.

The Prophet’s Work

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The prophet’s work was twofold: to receive the divine message and to deliver that message faithfully. These aspects are reflected in the three Hebrew words for “prophet.” To emphasize their role in listening to God’s will as it was revealed to them, the Hebrew writer used chozeh or ro’eh, translated as “seer.” The Hebrew word nabi, (the most frequently used Hebrew word for prophet) describes prophets as they convey their message through speech or in writing.

In 1 Samuel 9:9, both roles are noted: “Formerly in Israel, when a man went to inquire of God, he spoke thus: ‘Come, let us go to the seer’ [ro’eh]; for he who is now called a prophet [nabi] was formerly called a seer [ro’eh].”

Chozeh, derived from the same Hebrew root word from which we get the English word vision, emphasizes that the prophet receives messages through divinely initiated visions.

Each of the three Hebrew terms for “prophet” underscores the prophetic office as the human side of the divine communication plan.

In the New Testament, the Greek word prophetes, corresponding to the Old Testament nabi, is transliterated in English as “prophet.” Its basic meaning is “to speak forth.” The genuine “prophet” speaks for God.

Long Line of Splendor

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The first (so far as we know) of this amazing line of brave, faithful, and luminous prophets through whom God spoke His mind was “Enoch, the seventh from Adam” (Jude 14). Later there were Abraham (Gen. 20:7), and Moses (Deut. 18:15). Miriam was the first woman designated as a prophet (Ex. 15:20).

As time passed, the nation of Israel lost its spiritual focus and became like its neighbors in the worship of other gods. During the long and dreary period of the Judges, Israel was oppressed and humiliated by its neighbors. When Samuel was called to his prophetic role, the Philistines harshly controlled Israel. Eli, the high priest, was aged and ineffective. His two sons, Hophni and Phineas, though entrusted with the leadership both of government and the priesthood, “were corrupt; they did not know the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:12). Not surprisingly, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no widespread revelation” (1 Sam. 3:1).8

The “word of the Lord was rare” in Israel because rare were the men or women who could be entrusted with Heaven’s messages. God was willing to guide His people, but He lacked men and women through whom He could safely impart His word. When visions were rare, Israel’s spiritual and political circumstances were at low ebb. Israel’s well-being was restored only when the prophetic office was restored.

For example, Israel’s restoration as a free and blessed nation coincided with Samuel’s prophetic ministry. Samuel’s long life is an amazing record of how one man can change the course of a whole nation. His early years, after his mother had given him to the Lord, are well known: “And the child Samuel grew in stature, and in favor both with the Lord and men” (1 Sam. 2:26). As he matured, his spiritual leadership became evident: “So Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the Lord” (1 Sam. 3:19, 20). Eventually, “the Lord revealed Himself to Samuel in Shiloh. . . . And the word of Samuel came to all Israel” (1 Sam. 3:21-4:1).

Samuel’s faithfulness as God’s messenger made it possible for God to reverse Israel’s misery. The prophet’s spiritual example, exhortation, and national leadership were so effective that the record states: “So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the territory of Israel. And the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel” (1 Sam. 7:13).

The life of Samuel is a clear and profound illustration of how effective the Spirit of prophecy can be in the establishment of God’s program on earth. Who can imagine what can be accomplished in these last days by heeding the Spirit of prophecy!

When Samuel was old, something almost inexplicable occurred. Israelite leaders came to him and asked him to appoint “a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:4). They forgot that their restored sovereignty and pleasant circumstances were due to Samuel’s prophetic leadership.

God warned the leaders that a king would bring trials and troubles to their land—but they persisted, “that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (vs. 20).

But, though Israel rejected God’s plan for leading His people (theocracy), God did not reject Israel. He did not withdraw the prophetic gift. From the time of Saul, Israel’s first king, to the bleak days when both Israel and Judah were taken captive by Assyria and Babylon, thirty prophets are mentioned by name in the Bible. In addition, there were unnamed prophets, along with “sons of the prophets.”

Low Success Rate

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How successful were the prophets? Only minimally, much to the detriment of those national leaders who rejected them. Note Jehoiakim (Jer. 36) to whom the prophet Jeremiah was bidden by God to write out words of condemnation and hope. Baruch, Jeremiah’s editorial assistant, read the message “in the hearing of all the people” (vs. 10). The scroll was soon in the hands of court advisers who also were greatly impressed. They urged King Jehoiakim also to read Jeremiah’s message. The king asked Jehudi to read it aloud.

But, by the time the king’s trusted minister had read only “three or four columns. . . the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire. . . . Yet they were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments” (Jer. 36:23, 24).

Unfortunately, Jehoiakim was typical of many spiritual leaders, even Christian leaders in our time, who would utterly destroy God’s message and His messengers if they could. Many have tried through the years, whether with a “scribe’s knife” or by “benign neglect,” to nullify a prophet’s effectiveness, but God’s message survives for those who seek to know His will.

David is another example of an Israelite leader who received a message of reproof from a prophet. But the result was the opposite of Jehoiakim’s experience. After King David had Uriah killed so that he could marry Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, God told the prophet Nathan to confront the king. Without trying to hedge his words with “sympathy” or favor, Nathan pointed his finger at David and delivered God’s word of condemnation: “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). David accepted the word of the Lord—and capitulated: “I have sinned” (2 Sam. 12:13; see also Ps. 51). David is one of the finest examples of those who have heeded the condemning words of the Lord, thus changing their future for good. His example has been replicated many times in the history of the church.

Names Applied to the Prophetic Messages

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Various terms are used in the Bible to describe the messages given by the prophets: counsel (Isa. 44:26); Lord’s message (Hag. 1:13); prophecy, or prophecies (2 Chron. 9:29; 15:8; 1 Cor. 13:80); testimonies (1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 11:12; 17:15; 23:3; also many verses in Ps. 119); and Word of God (1 Sam. 9:27; 1 Kings 12:22).

Each term, though easily interchangeable, emphasizes a particular aspect of God’s communication system. “Testimonies,” for example, suggests “messages.” The thought included in “the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 12:17 and 19:10) is that the messages or will of Jesus are revealed when a prophet speaks or writes.

How God and Prophets Interact

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Prophets clearly recognize the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their role as God’s messengers. Peter well understood this relationship: “Prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

Note Saul’s experience: “When they came there to the hill, there was a group of prophets to meet him; then the Spirit of God came upon him [Saul], and he prophesied among them” (1 Sam. 10:10).

Ezekiel often referred to the Holy Spirit’s presence: “Then the Spirit entered me when He spoke to me, and set me on my feet; and I heard Him who spoke to me” (Eze. 2:2; see also 3:12, 14, 24; 8:3; 11:5; 37:1).

How did the prophet recognize the presence and power of the Spirit? By out-of-the-ordinary visions and dreams—and by the accompanying physical phenomena. Many have been the fulfillments of God’s promise that “If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision, and I speak to him in a dream” (Num. 12:6). (The Biblical record does not make a clear distinction between a prophetic vision and a prophetic dream, the terms often being used interchangeably.)

In Daniel 10, the prophet described some of the physical phenomena accompanying “this great vision” (vs. 8). Although he “was in a deep sleep on my face. . . to the ground,” he was able to hear “the sound of his words” (vs. 9). Others were with Daniel when he was in vision but he “alone saw the vision” (vs. 7).

Daniel was physically changed while in vision: “No strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength” (vs. 8).

Whatever may have been the particular phenomena accompanying a vision or dream, prophets knew that God was speaking to them.

What we know about the prophets’ messages and how they delivered them is recorded in the Bible. Originally, not all the messages as we have them today were in written form. Some were public sermons, some were letters to friends or to church groups, some were official announcements by kings to their people. Some of the inspired prophetic writings were not even original with the prophets.

Out of the plentiful prophetic messages presented over several thousand years, God has supervised a compilation that we call the Bible. This sampling has been preserved for one purpose: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

How Prophets Delivered Their Messages

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Throughout history the Spirit of prophecy has used three methods of delivering God’s messages: Oral, Written, Dramatized.

Oral. The regular, sermon-type of presentation is perhaps the best known form of a prophet’s work. We think immediately of Jesus giving His sermon on the Mount of Blessing (Matt. 5-7) or Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The entire book of Deuteronomy was an oral discourse in which Moses reviewed the previous forty years of Israelite history. Many of the Minor Prophets first delivered their messages orally.

In addition to these more formal presentations, the prophets recorded in writing their counsel given earlier to individual leaders or groups. Isaiah wrote down his interview with Hezekiah (Isa. 37). Most of the book of Jeremiah is a written summary of his public messages. Ezekiel transcribed his earlier conversations with the leaders of Israel. For example: “And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell upon me there” (Eze. 8:1; see 20:1).

Those private interviews such as Nathan with David (2 Sam. 12:1-7); Jeremiah with Zedekiah (Jer. 38:14-19); and Jesus with Nicodemus (John 3) were also considered worthy by the Spirit of prophecy for wider application.

In addition to their more official and public duties, prophets wrote personal letters to people who had special needs.

Written. Written messages have advantages over other forms of communication. They can be read and reread. Compared to an oral presentation, they are less subject to misunderstanding. The Lord told Jeremiah to write a book containing the words He would give him. Jeremiah asked Baruch to be his editorial assistant, and the book eventually was read to the people of Jerusalem and to the king. Years later, the prophet Daniel (9:2) tells of his reading Jeremiah’s messages and how Jeremiah had promised deliverance for God’s people after the seventy-years’ captivity. Daniel himself was told to write a book especially for those living at “the time of the end” (12:4).

The apostle Paul wrote fourteen books of the New Testament, all but one book being letters to various churches or their pastors. Some of his letters were not included in the Bible, such as the letter to the church at Laodicea (Col. 4:16).

Peter also wrote letters to various church groups: “Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder)” (2 Pet. 3:1). He also wrote private letters, such as to Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12).

John wrote at least three letters in addition to his Gospel and the Book of Revelation: “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4).

Letters Carry Authority

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Prophets’ letters carried the same weight of authority as their formal sermons. In some cases, letters would be more helpful than a sermon because they were written to specific people with specific problems. Letters written to one person or to a church became equally beneficial to others as these letters (and sermons) were copied and widely distributed. People everywhere down through time have identified with these inspired, practical applications of divine principles to the details of life.

Dramatization. Parables in words or actions are frequently-used teaching devices throughout the Bible. Jesus made generous use of parables to make clear the value of divine principles.

Jeremiah’s ministry often used the parable of action and example. God asked him not to take a wife (16:1, 2) so that he would be a living reminder to the Jews of the approaching ordeal during the destruction of Jerusalem. Think of the teaching aids in the “potter’s earthen flask” (Jer. 19) that was to be broken as a sign of Jerusalem’s fall; or the “bonds and yokes” (Jer. 27) portending the coming yoke of Babylon.

Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel often expressed his prophetic messages in the form of parables. Examples include the scroll that he was asked to eat (Eze. 3:1-3); the razor to cut the hair and beard (Eze. 5:1); the cooking pot (Eze. 24:3, 4); and the valley of dry bones (Eze. 37). Messages through parables got attention and were easily remembered.

In reviewing these various methods of getting attention, one is impressed that God selected any method that would best fit the occasion. God is adaptable and persistent. All methods are authentic, for they come from the same Source. Moses’ Deuteronomic sermon, Isaiah’s personal interviews, Jeremiah’s transcribed sermons, Paul’s letters, Ezekiel’s parabolic dramatizations, Daniel’s books, Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, Jesus’s interview with Nicodemus—all were inspired by the Spirit. “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21).

Literary Assistants

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We know very little about how most Biblical authors prepared their materials. We know only what they have told us. Jeremiah explained how he used Baruch as his literary assistant: “Then Jeremiah called Baruch the son of Neriah; and Baruch wrote on a scroll of a book, at the instruction of Jeremiah, all the words of the Lord which He had spoken to him” (36:4). When the king’s officials heard Baruch read these messages, they asked: “Tell us now, how did you write all these words—at his instruction?” Baruch answered them, “He proclaimed with his mouth all these words to me, and I wrote them with ink in the book” (36:17, 18).

Baruch, known as a scribe (36:26), apparently was well educated. Jeremiah employed the literary skills of this man to prepare in written form his messages given orally: “Then Jeremiah took another scroll and gave it to Baruch the scribe, the son of Neriah, who wrote on it at the instruction of Jeremiah all the words of the book which Jehoiakim king of Judah had burned in the fire. And besides, there were added to them many similar words” (36:32).

Paul’s Several Assistants

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In the New Testament, Paul employed several editorial assistants. Tertius helped prepare the Romans manuscript (16:22). Apparently Sosthenes assisted in writing the first letter to the Corinthians (1:1). Paul, in the Roman prison, dictated his second letter to Timothy, and Luke, his physician, prepared it in written form.9

Paul was a consummate Greek scholar, well-recognized by Jewish leaders. But there were plausible reasons why he would employ literary assistants. In prison, his writing capabilities would be severely reduced, but assistants could take his thoughts and write them down much more conveniently. Some feel that his “thorn in the flesh” was poor eyesight (2 Cor. 12:7-9; Gal. 4:15). Whatever method Paul used in writing his Epistles, those who read these letters (or heard them read) knew they were listening to inspired messages.

The significant difference in the Greek style (not necessarily in content) of each of his letters suggests strongly that Paul used different literary assistants with varying abilities to place his messages in written form.10

Peter referred to his literary assistant by name, Silvanus [Silas], “our faithful brother” (1 Pet. 5:12). Why would Peter need editorial help? For several reasons: In addition to not being academically trained, Peter had the same prison restrictions as Paul; and since his mother tongue was Aramaic, he probably was not skilled in Greek. Peter’s first epistle is high-grade polished Greek, the mark of an educated mind, reflecting Silvanus’s assistance. However, Peter’s second epistle is written in a crude literary style, though truth shines through brightly. Obviously, Silvanus was not available on short notice, and Peter either wrote it himself or employed another scribe without Silvanus’s literary skill.11

Obvious Difference Between 1 and 2 Peter

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The difference between First and Second Peter is so obvious that Peter’s authorship of one or even both has been questioned. Allan A. McRae observed: “Nor can we rule out the idea that on occasion a writer may have given an assistant a general idea of what he wanted, telling him to put it into written form.12 In such a case, he would have checked it over to be sure it represented what he wanted to say, and therefore he could truly be called its author. The Holy Spirit would have guided the entire process so that what was finally written expressed the ideas God desired His people to have.

“Probably Paul seldom followed this latter procedure, since he was highly educated and must have had confidence in his ability to express himself in Greek. But the situation may have been different in the case of Peter and John. The style of First and Second Peter differ so considerably that some critics have suggested one is a fraud. Yet Peter could well have written one book in Greek himself (2 Peter?) and, for the other, expressed his thought in Aramaic to an associate who was more experienced in writing Greek (1 Peter). This associate could then have written Peter’s ideas in his own style, afterward making alterations Peter might have suggested. The two letters would thus differ in style; yet, under the direction of the Holy Spirit both would express Peter’s thought as truly as if Peter had dictated every word. John Calvin held such a view, but had no doubt that both presented Peter’s thought accurately.”13

Comparing the Gospel of John with the book of Revelation we see again a strikingly different literary style. Evidence is compelling that the apostle John wrote both books even though the literary styles are very different. The book of Revelation is generally loose Greek construction while John’s Gospel conforms to acceptable literary standards—a clear indication of different scribes.14 Part of the difference, of course, could be attributed to the fact that John was an old man when he wrote Revelation.

How Luke Was Written

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Another way to look at editorial assistance in the preparation of Biblical material is provided by noting how and why the book of Luke was prepared. Luke was not an eyewitness of Christ’s ministry. Probably he never heard Jesus speak. Yet, Luke’s Gospel has been comparable to Matthew’s, Mark’s, and John’s in reporting faithfully the words and deeds of Jesus.

How did Luke do it? By collecting the most valid accounts from eyewitnesses and presenting them in a coherent manner.15

Luke put it this way: “Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which are most surely believed among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (1:1-4).

God communicated His messages not through mechanical dictation but through acts and words that men and women could understand. The prophets who heard God speak directly to them conveyed these messages through the thought processes of their day, and through the idioms and analogies that their hearers could understand.

Understanding the revelation/inspiration process correctly prevents distressful concern when people see in the Gospels clear differences between reports of the same event, even the same messages of Jesus. Nothing disturbs some sincere students more than to observe the different ways Bible writers describe the same event, “quote” the same conversation, or report the parables of Jesus. Even having two versions of the Lord’s Prayer, as recorded in Matthew 6 and Luke 11, upsets those who mistakenly believe that the Bible writers wrote, word for word, as the Holy Spirit dictated.

Verbal Inspiration or Thought Inspiration

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Verbal, inerrant inspiration implies that the prophet is a recording machine, transmitting mechanically and unerringly God’s message. Belief in mechanical inspiration forbids differences in reporting a message or event. Verbal inspiration requires prophets to transmit the exact words supplied by the heavenly Guide even as a court stenographer types what is being said by the witnesses. No room is given to prophets to use their own individuality (and limitations) in expressing the truths revealed to them.

One of the obvious problems for those who believe in verbal inspiration is what to do in translating the Bible, either from Old Testament Hebrew/Aramaic or New Testament Greek, into other languages.

Another problem is Matthew 27:9, 10 where Matthew refers to Jeremiah rather than Zechariah (11:12) as the Old Testament source for a messianic prophecy. This might be a copyist’s mistake. But if it is Matthew’s, it is a human mistake any teacher or minister might make, a mistake that will cause no problem for thought inspirationists. Why? Because thought inspirationists know what Matthew meant!

Or, what did Pilate actually write on the sign placed on Christ’s cross? Matthew 27:37; Mark 15:26, Luke 23:38, and John 19:19 report the sign differently. To thought inspirationists, the message is clear; to verbal inspirationists, a problem!

Prophets, Not Words, Are Inspired

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For thought inspirationists, God inspires the prophet, not his or her words.16 Thought inspirationists read the Bible and see God working through human beings with their individual characteristics. God provides the thoughts, and prophets, in relaying the divine message, use whatever literary capacity they possess. Trained scholars will report a message or describe an event much differently than will a sheepherder. But if both are inspired by God, the truth will be heard by the educated and unlearned alike. This is the way the Bible was written, all writers using their best words to express faithfully the message they had received from the Lord.

Revelation in the revelation/inspiration process emphasizes the divine act that discloses information. Seventh-day Adventists believe that this divinely revealed message, or content, is infallible and authoritative. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105).17

Inspiration refers to the process by which God fits a person to be His messenger. This kind of inspiration is different from the colloquial use of the word when we describe some insightful poet or gifted singer as being “inspired.”

Paul wrote to young Timothy that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Tim. 3:16). The Greek word that Paul used, translated as “inspiration,” is theopneustos, a contraction of two words, “God-breathed.” This is more descriptive than a mere poetic touch. When Daniel, for example, was in vision he did not breathe, literally (Dan. 10:17)!

Peter said that prophets were “moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). The Greek word for “moved” is pheromeni, the same word that Luke used (Acts 27:17, 27) to describe being “driven” across the Mediterranean Sea in a terrifying storm. Prophets did not mistake the “moving” of the Spirit for normal emotional prompting. They knew when the Lord was speaking to them—they were inspired!

Another word that is used often in describing God’s communication system is illumination. When prophets deliver their messages, how do men and women recognize the messages as authentic? The same Holy Spirit that spoke through the prophets speaks to those who hear or read the prophet’s message. The listener or reader is “illuminated” (but not inspired). Further, the Holy Spirit enables the sincere believer to understand the message and to apply it personally.18

How the revelation/inspiration process worked in the ministry of Ellen White will be discussed in Chapter 13. Fortunately, Mrs. White spoke forcefully and lucidly on how this process worked both in Bible times and in her own ministry.

Some Prophetic Messages Not Preserved

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The Bible does not contain all that prophets have said or written. For example, we do not have all that Jesus said or did.19

Does that mean that the messages that were not preserved were less important, less inspired, than those we have in the Bible? No! Everything God says is important and inspired. But some messages were of local interest. Some were covered by other messages that were preserved. Beyond question, the greater amount of prophetic messages, including the words of Jesus, were not preserved.

Biblical prophets can be classified into four groups:20

1. Prophets who wrote some of the Bible, such as Moses, Jeremiah, Paul, and John.

2. Prophets who wrote none of the Bible, but whose messages and ministries are amply preserved in the Bible, such as Enoch, Elijah, and Elisha.

3. Prophets who gave oral testimonies (perhaps even written messages) but whose words were not preserved. Throughout the Old Testament, many unnamed prophets are noted, including the seventy elders who received the Holy Spirit and prophesied (Num. 11:24, 25), the group that joined Saul after he became king (1 Sam. 10:5, 6, 10), and those who were hidden in caves by Obadiah (1 Kings 18:4, 13). In the New Testament, for example, the four daughters of Philip prophesied, but their messages were not recorded (Acts 21:9).

4. Prophets who wrote books that have not been preserved, including Nathan (1 Chron. 29:29), Gad (1 Chron. 29:29), Shemaiah (2 Chron. 12:15), Jasher (Josh. 10:13; 2 Sam. 1:18), Iddo (2 Chron. 12:15; 9:29), Oded (2 Chron. 15:8), Ahijah (2 Chron. 9:29), and Jehu (2 Chron. 20:34).

What has been preserved in the Bible is the distillation of the glorious line of splendor through which God has spoken to men and women, “at various times and in various ways” (Heb. 1:1). The purpose of Biblical writings was not to produce a complete history of all that happened to God’s people in both Old and New Testament times. The primary purpose of the Bible is to give later readers a clear understanding of the plan of salvation and the highlights exposing the great controversy between Christ and Satan. In addition, Paul wrote that the Bible provides “examples” of right and wrong, of truth and error, alerting readers to “take heed lest [they] fall” (1 Cor. 10:11).

God Is Gender Blind

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The Bible refers to a number of prophetesses. Moses considered his sister Miriam a prophetess (Ex. 15:20, 21). Standing by his side from his earliest years, she was a faithful spokesperson for God. Through the centuries, Israel highly regarded her and included her as one of the three “sent before you” in the founding of the Israelite nation after the Exodus (Micah 6:4). At one point her humanness led her to rebel against Moses (Num. 12), but this sad act did not jeopardize her standing as a true prophetess.

Deborah was a judge during a long, dismal period in Israel’s history. Note how bleak this era was: “When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers. . . . And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. . . . Then the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them. . . . And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge” (Judges 2:10-18).

Deborah More Than a Judge

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Deborah was not only a judge, she was the only judge who was also called a prophetess (Judges 4:4). She was so compelling a spiritual leader that when Barak, her general, was asked to lead an army against the oppressive Canaanites, he would not go without her. Israel had recognized her spiritual leadership, and Barak wanted the nation to know that what he had been asked to do was a call from their spiritual leader, not an ambitious, personal plot. After all, how could he get 10,000 men to go against a trained army with “nine hundred chariots of iron” (Judges 4:3) unless they too were convinced that God had directed the plan? Deborah’s record as a faithful judge was so convincing that her counsel regarding what appeared to be an impossible venture was accepted as the will of God. She spoke the word of the Lord with authority, and put her own life on the line as she led her countrymen by voice and example into the future.

Other women throughout history have carried the heavy weight of prophetic responsibility. Clearly, gender is not an issue when God selects a person to speak for Him.

Huldah was a prophetess during a great day of change as the young king Josiah committed himself and his nation to profound spiritual reformation. In the process of “cleaning up” the temple, the workers found a copy of what may have been Deuteronomy—a book that had been strangely neglected by the nation’s religious leaders.

Josiah, sensing that he needed to know more about this discovery, commanded his counselors: “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found” (2 Kings 22:13). So where did the priest and chief counselors go? To “Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum” (vs. 14). Jeremiah had been living in Jerusalem for five years (compare 2 Kings 22:3 and Jer. 1:2), but it was to Huldah they went for spiritual guidance!

Whatever the reason, Huldah had earned the respect and confidence of her contemporaries. When they wanted a word from the Lord, they turned to her. She helped them to understand more clearly the meaning of the writings of Moses. She illuminated the written Word and made specific predictions. Her Biblical insights and predictions were accepted as divinely inspired.

Isaiah referred to his wife as “the prophetess” (8:3) on the occasion of their son’s birth, but at no other time.

When Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the Temple for dedication, they met two interesting people besides the priest who performed the service (see Luke 2). Simeon, “just and devout,” had been waiting for Israel’s Deliverer, and he made several poignant predictions regarding the Saviour’s ministry. Also in the temple that day was Anna, a prophetess (vs. 36) who also recognized the baby Jesus as the Messiah. Because of her clear understanding of the Scriptures, she understood the importance of this child; thus, she “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (vs. 38).

More than thirty-three years later, the young Christian church was exploding in numbers and influence. The presence of godly men and women through whom God revealed His counsel was one of the reasons for this religious phenomenon.21

The Biblical picture of God’s communication system includes men and women. Though mentioned less often than men, women prophetesses were recognized by their contemporaries as genuine messengers of the Lord. They illuminated the Scriptures, counseled leaders, and made significant predictions.

Dreary Gap Between Malachi and John the Baptist

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The Old Testament record of the illustrious line of prophets and prophetesses ends with Malachi who lived in the last half of the fifth century B.C. Did God’s communication system shut down for more than four centuries?

It does seem that Israel no longer had the benefit of national prophets during this period. At the same time, the Scriptures (the prophetic record) were greatly valued. They became the focus of worship in the synagogues, newly constructed throughout Israel by the returning exiles from Babylon.

But did God withdraw the “gift of prophecy” during this period? Ellen White makes an interesting comment on this long interval between Biblical prophets: “Outside of the Jewish nation there were men who foretold the appearance of a divine instructor. . . and to them the Spirit of Inspiration was imparted.”22

During this intertestamental period (between the time of Malachi and Matthew) “heathen” scholars studied the Hebrew Scriptures (perhaps translated into their own languages). To them God spoke as they sought truth.23

The “wise men from the East” (Matt. 2:1) no doubt were examples of those in Gentile lands who “foretold the appearance of a divine instructor” to whom “the Spirit of Inspiration was imparted.” They knew the time of Messiah’s birth and where He would be born. God spoke directly to these earnest men, urging them to return to their eastern home without further contact with the evil Herod.

We should ponder well this incident and the general truth: “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34). Every generation has had men and women somewhere, Jew or Gentile, who were God’s inspired witnesses. Their names may not be writ large in Holy Scripture but their witness exists and the flame of truth survived.

Malachi, the last prophet of the Old Testament, closed his messages with the prediction: “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5).

The First Century, A.D.24

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Speaking of John the Baptist, Jesus said, “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You’” (Matt. 11:9, 10).

Even before his birth, John the Baptist was destined to be God’s spokesman. The angel spoke to his father Zacharias: “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. . . . He will be great in the sight of the Lord. . . . And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah. . . to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:13-17).

John turned men and women Godward; he did not make himself a spiritual guru around whom his followers would gather. More than all other prophets, before or since, John had the honor of personally pointing to the living Christ. His highest moment was when he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Not everyone thinks of Jesus as a prophet. But such He was: “So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee’” (Matt. 21:11; Luke 7:16).

The Prophet Jesus

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The twelve disciples saw Him as a prophet. One wrote: “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. . . .” (Luke 24:19).25

Jesus referred to Himself as a prophet: “So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.’ And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matt. 13:57, 58).

Jesus felt it all—He experienced the hot knife of ingratitude and rejection that most all prophets and prophetesses have endured. No one had better personal credentials, or a more impeccable and consistent life, but prophets are not generally welcome because they speak for God and not to gratify the desires of the human heart.26

For the first time in the history of the world, a prophet came who would not point to another. The Prophet Jesus said of Himself: “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. . . . Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . I am the bread of life” (John 6:29-35).

As all genuine prophets and prophetesses, Christ’s chief focus was to tell the truth about God and how men and women can rejoin the celestial family: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:3, 4).

Before Jesus returned to heaven, He made provision for the prophetic office to continue until His return. The same good news about God would be needed until His return. The same good news about how rebels could be transformed into happy, obedient believers would be needed. This prophetic provision would be one of the primary responsibilities of the Holy Spirit who would give “gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8).

The beginning of the Christian church coincides with the renewal of these spiritual gifts: “He Himself [Jesus] gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (vss. 11, 12).

These gifts were not only to launch the Christian church, they were to remain in the church until the end: “Till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. . .” (vss. 13, 14). How long? As long as the church exists; as long as imperfect and immature men and women need time to “grow up” to the “measure of. . . Christ,” apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers will be needed.

Paul reminded his Corinthian friends that they were “enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you” (1 Cor. 1:5, 6). That is, they have grown spiritually and will continue to mature to the extent they continue to listen closely to the messages of the prophets which are signified as “the testimony of Christ.” As we noted on page 3, “the testimony of Jesus [or Christ]” (Rev. 12:17) is the “spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10).

Further, Paul declared that the church would “come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:7). It may be significant that Paul singled out the “gift of prophecy” when he emphasized that the church would not be lacking any of the gifts until Jesus returned. Probably no gift would be more needed in the end-time than the gift of prophecy.

Later, in the same letter, Paul elaborated on how the gifts would function in the work of the church (1 Cor. 12). Although each gift would have its own special work, all the gifts would serve the common purpose of helping men and women “grow up.”

Clearly, the gifts of the Spirit are “given” by the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7). They are not abilities earned by training or conferred by human beings. The “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22) is to be sought by everyone, but the “gifts of the Spirit” are distributed “to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). Whether one possesses a particular gift is not to be made a test of Christian fellowship, because no one has all the gifts.

The permanence of these spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy, is assumed in the apostolic instruction. Remembering Christ’s counsel that “false prophets” would arise in the end-time (Matt. 24:24), Paul cautioned: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:19-21). The well-being of church members awaiting the Advent will depend on how they accept the counsel of true prophets—especially in being able to discern the false from the true.

Since Apostolic Times

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In the last chapter we noted that New Testament writers expected the prophetic gift to continue to the Second Advent. We also saw that the prophetic gift will be especially prominent in the end-time (Rev. 12:17; 19:10). But why the apparent silence, the absence of the prophetic voice, soon after the death of John?

Historians are divided regarding the prophetic presence during the past 2,000 years. Generally speaking, most writers believe that prophetic illumination ended soon after the second century A.D. Paul K. Jewett wrote: “With the death of the apostles, who had no successors, gradually those with the gift of prophecy also disappeared, so that from the third century onward, of the original triad of apostles, prophets, and teachers, there remained only the teachers. . . . With the rise of Montanism in the second century claiming new prophetic insights which did not correspond with the tradition received from the apostles, the church began to distinguish such prophecies from the true prophecies contained in Scripture. From this time on, the prophetic gift appears here and there, but increasingly it gives place to teaching. By the time of Hippolytus (235) and Origen (250), the word ‘prophecy’ is limited to the prophetic portions of Scripture. In the place of the prophet one finds the teacher, specifically the catechist and apologist, who oppose all false doctrine and seek to support their exposition of true doctrine by appealing to the authoritative word of Scripture.”27

Justin Martyr, a well-educated second-century pagan philosopher, united with the Christians after studying the life of Jesus. One of his defenses and appeals to his non-Christian friends is known today as “Dialogue With Trypho, a Jew.” Included in this lengthy interchange is this reference to spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy:

“Daily some (of you) are becoming disciples in the name of Christ, and quitting the path of error; who are also receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illumined through the name of this Christ. For one receives the spirit of understanding, another of counsel, another of strength, another of healing, another of foreknowledge, another of teaching, and another of the fear of God.

“To this Trypho said to me, ‘I wish you knew that you are beside yourself, talking these sentiments.’

“And I said to him, ‘Listen, O friend, for I am not mad or beside myself; but it was prophesied that, after the ascent of Christ to heaven, He would deliver us from error and give us gifts. The words are these: ‘He ascended up on high; He led captivity captive; He gave gifts to men.’ Accordingly, we who have received gifts from Christ, who has ascended on high, prove from the words of prophecy that you, ‘the wise in yourselves, and the men of understanding in your own eyes,’ are foolish, and honor God and His Christ by lip only. But we, who are instructed in the whole truth, honor them both in acts, and in knowledge, and in heart, even unto death.”28

Later in the dialogue, Justin Martyr continued: “For the prophetic gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that (the gifts) formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven.”29

After reviewing with Trypho that after Christ “no prophet has arisen among you” (that is, the Jewish nation), Justin Martyr explains why. Spiritual gifts would again be given “by the grace of His Spirit’s power. . . to those who believe in Him, according as He deems each man worthy thereof. . . . Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God.”30

All the apostles were dead. Christ was in heaven. The Holy Spirit was doing His promised work of giving “gifts” to men and women whenever He deemed it wise for the proclamation of the gospel. Eusebius, bishop of the church in Caesarea (Palestine), is recognized as an outstanding source of Christian history in the second and third centuries. In his Ecclesiastical History he records the names of a number of Christian leaders who, he says, were endowed with spiritual gifts, including the gift of prophecy. He concluded: “We hear many of the brethren in the church who have prophetic gifts, and who speak in all tongues through the Spirit, and who also bring to light the secret things of men for their benefit, and who expound the mysteries of God.”31

Were there any factors developing in the Christian church that may help explain why the “gift of prophecy” was no longer a prominent factor? We noted earlier that teaching took the place of prophecy, but why?

Teaching Replaced Prophecy

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At least two reasonable responses may be offered:

(1) The excesses of the Montanists in the last half of the second century A.D. who started out well in upbraiding the churches for their laxity and lack of zeal but who became “wild” in their prophetic interpretations: “Soon Christian prophets ceased to exist as a distinct class in the Church’s organization.”32

(2) The rise of sacerdotalism (the rise of the priesthood as the prime mediators between God and the human race) and the institutionalizing of canonized “saints” supplanted the voice of the prophet as a visible element in the life of the church.33

But, though the institutional church slipped into the dark ages, spiritual gifts were present wherever the gospel was faithfully proclaimed. They did not cease altogether. One of the reasons why we know so little about this relatively silent period for the gift of prophecy may simply be that the writers in the institutionalized church rejected spiritual gifts and persecuted their recipients. But the record of that long period does exist: “The history of God’s people during the ages of darkness that followed upon Rome’s supremacy, is written in heaven, but they have little place in human records.”34


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1.For a more extended review of prophets and prophetesses from patriarchal times through the New Testament, read A. G. Daniells, The Abiding Gift of Prophecy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1936), pp. 36-172.

2.See also Isa. 30:21; Matt. 10:19, 20.

3.See also Gen. 19:15; Judges 6:11-14; Ps. 34:7; Matt. 1:18-25.

4.See also Acts 14:17 and Ps. 19:1, 2.

5.See Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; 1 Sam. 22:10; 28:6.

6.Note the difference between the duties of the priest and prophet: “The priest was concerned largely with the ceremony and ritual of the sanctuary, which centered in public worship, in the mediation of forgiveness of sins, and in the ritual maintenance of right relations between God and His people. The prophet was chiefly a teacher of righteousness, spirituality, and ethical conduct, a moral reformer bearing messages of instruction, counsel, admonition, warning, whose work often included the prediction of future events.”—Siegfried Horn, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary (SDABD Revised edition), (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1979) , p. 903.

7.T. Housel Jemison, A Prophet Among You (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1955), pp. 24-28.

8.“Widespread revelation” is translated from two Hebrew words paras (“to burst forth”) and chazon (“vision”). As far as the Israelite nation was concerned, no “word of the Lord” was “bursting forth.” This is the first use of chazon in the Old Testament. The more frequently used word for “vision” is mar’ah, messages from God either in dreams or by personal encounters. The root meaning of chazon is “to perceive with inner vision,” whereas mar’ah is derived from a root meaning “to see visually.”

9.Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 353.

10. Comparing Paul’s various letters, we note a substantial difference in literary style. For example, the pastoral letters (First and Second Timothy and Titus) use a vocabulary considerably different from Paul’s other letters. There are 902 different words used in the pastoral letters; of these 206 do not occur in the other Pauline letters. Of the 112 untranslatable particles (enclitics) in the other Pauline letters, not one is found in the pastoral epistles. See William Barclay, The Letters to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1975, revised edition), pp. 8, 9.

11. “Either he [Silvanus] corrected and polished Peter’s necessarily inadequate Greek, or, since Silvanus was a man of such eminence, it may well have been that Peter told him what he wanted said, and left him to say it, and then approved the result, and added the last personal paragraphs to it. . . . When Peter says that Silvanus was his instrument or agent in the writing of this letter, it gives us the solution to excellence of the Greek. The thought is the thought of Peter; but the style is the style of Sylvanus.”—William Barclay, The Letters of James and Peter (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, revised edition, 1976), p. 144.

12. Ellen White never used such a process.

13. “The Ups and Downs of Higher Criticism,” Christianity Today, Oct. 10, 1980, p. 34. McRae’s scenerio does not describe how Ellen White did her writing. See pp. 108-121.

14. “It is not difficult to account for the linguistic and literary differences that exist between the Revelation, written probably when John was alone on Patmos, and the Gospel, written with the help of one or more fellow believers at Ephesus.”—SDABC, vol. 7, p. 720.

15. See George E. Rice, Luke, a Plagiarist? (Mountain View, California: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1983).

16. “The Bible is written by inspired men, but it is not God’s mode of thought and expression. It is that of humanity. God, as a writer, is not represented. Men will often say such an expression is not like God. But God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible. The writers of the Bible were God’s penmen, not His pen. Look at the different writers.

“It is not the words of the Bible that are inspired, but the men that were inspired. Inspiration acts not on the man’s words or his expressions but on the man himself, who, under the influence of the Holy Ghost, is imbued with thoughts. But the words receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is diffused. The divine mind and will is combined with the human mind and will; thus the utterances of the man are the word of God.”— Selected Messages, book 1, p. 21. In other words, God inspires prophets, not words. Compare Matthew’s digest of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and Luke’s further abridgment in Luke 6.

17. See Raoul Dederen, “The Revelation-inspiration Phenomenon According to the Bible Writers,” Frank Holbrook and Leo Van Dolson, Issues in Revelation and Inspiration (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventist Theological Society Publications, 1992), pp. 9-29.

18. John 14:26; John 16:13; 1 John 3:24; 4:6, 13; 5:6.

19. “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).

20. See Jemison, A Prophet Among You, p. 73. “Not all prophets were given the same mission, nor did they do the same kind of work, but all spoke for God; all communicated Heaven-inspired messages. Some prophets set forth divine standards for human conduct, some revealed God’s purposes for individuals and for nations, some protested against prevailing evils, some encouraged the people to faithfulness, some strengthened and guided national rulers, some directed building and other kinds of activities, some served as teachers. In the course of their work, some performed miracles, some wrote books. In every case, true prophets served a body of people as God’s spokespersons; they were not merely instructed of God at the personal or family level.” —Kenneth H. Wood, “Toward an Understanding of the Prophetic Office.”—Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, Spring, 1991, p. 24.

21. Luke notes the four daughters of Philip “who prophesied” (Acts 21:9).

22. The Desire of Ages, p. 33.

23. Ibid.

24. Although the time designation of B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. are now popular, B.C. and A.D. are used throughout this book because of their long-time use.

25. See also Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus Through the Centuries (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 14-17.

26. “The whole public ministry of our Lord was that of a prophet. He was much more than this. But it was as a prophet that He acted and spoke. It was this which gave Him His hold on the mind of the nation. He entered, as it were naturally, on an office vacant but already existing. His discourses were all, in the highest sense of the word, ‘prophecies.’”—Dean Arthur P. Stanley, History of the Jewish Church, volume III, (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1880) p. 379.

27. Article on “Prophecy” in The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, general editor, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974) pp. 806-807.

28. The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1981) Vol. I, chap. 39, p. 214.

29. Ibid., chap. 82, p. 240.

30. Ibid., chaps. 87 and 78, p. 243.

31. The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus, translated from the Greek by C. F. Cruse, A.M., (London: George Bell and Sons, 1879) Book III, chap. 38, pp. 111, 112; Book V, chap. 7, p. 175.

32. Article, “Prophet” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th edition, Vol. XVIII.

33. Article, “Prophet” in Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, Vol. XXII. Article, “Prophecy” in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, edited by Alan Richardson and John Bowden (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983), p. 474.

34. The Great Controversy, p. 61.

Study Questions

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1. What are some of the ways (Heb. 1:1) God uses in communicating with human beings?

2. Why did God choose prophets and prophetesses as His chief method of communicating His messages?

3. In what three general ways did prophets or prophetesses convey their messages?

4. What evidence do we have that Bible writers used editorial assistants?

5. What is the essential difference between verbal and thought inspiration?

6. Why do you think the gift of prophecy is God’s most effective method for communicating with the human family?

7. What are some of the risks God takes in speaking through prophets and prophetesses?

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