Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/463

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which has continued to influence certain circles down to the present day, and has led to the most varied attempts to find in prophecy a history written before the event of all the chief vicissitudes of the Christian Church down to the end of the world. On the other hand Lowth's Lectures on Hebrew Poetry, and the same author's Commentary on Isaiah (1778), show the beginnings of a tendency to look mainly at the aesthetic aspects of the prophetical books, and to view the prophets as enlightened religious poets. This tendency culminates in Eichhorn, Die hebräischen Propheten (1816). Neither of these methods could do much for the historical understanding of the phenomena of prophecy as a whole, and the more liberal students of the Old Testament were long blinded by the moralizing unhistorical rationalism which succeeded the old orthodoxy. The first requisite of real progress, after dogmatic prejudices had been broken through, was to get a living conception of the history in which the prophets moved; and this again called for a revision of all traditional notions as to the age of the various parts of Hebrew literature—criticism of the sources of the history, among which the prophetical books themselves take the first place. In recent times therefore advance in the understanding of the prophets has moved on pari passu with the higher criticism, especially the criticism of the Pentateuch, and with the general study of Hebrew history; and most works on the subject prior to Ewald must be regarded as quite antiquated except for the light they cast on detailed points of exegesis. On the prophets and their works the reader would still do well to consult Ewald's Propheten des alten Bundes (1st ed., 1840-1841, 2nd ed., 1867-1868, Eng. trans., 1876-1877). The subject is treated in all works on Old Testament introduction (among which Kuenen's Onderzoek, vol. ii., claims the first place), and on Old-Testament theology (see especially Vatke, Religion des A.T., 1835). On the theology of the prophets there is a separate work by Duhm (Bonn, 1875), and Knobel's Prophetismus der Hebräer (1837), is a separate introduction to the prophetical books. Kuenen's Prophets and Prophecy in Israel (1875, Eng. trans. 1877) is in form mainly a criticism of the traditional view of prophecy, and should therefore be compared with his Onderzoek and Godsdienst van Israel. Most English books on the subject are more theological than historical, but a sketch of Hebrew prophecy in connexion with the history down to the close of the 8th century is given by W. R. Smith, The Prophets of Israel (Edinburgh, 1882). The literature of the theological questions connected with prophecy is much too copious to be cited here; lists will be found in several of the books already referred to. Among more recent works and articles should be mentioned Briggs, Messianic Prophecy; Giesebrecht, Die Berufsbegabung der alttestamentlichen Propheten; Volz, Die vorexilische Jahwe-Prophetie u. der Messias; Hühn, Die messianischen Weissagungen; R. Kittel, Prophetie u. Weissagung; Professor Kennett, Pre-exilic Prophets; W. H. Bennett, Post-exilic Prophets (T. and T. Clark); A. B. Davidson, “Prophecy and Prophets,” in Hastings's Dict. Bible; also “Prophetic Literature,” by Cheyne and others in Ency. Bibl. (W. R. S.; O. C. W.)

II. Prophets in the Primitive Church.—The appearance of prophets in the first Christian communities is one proof of the strength of faith and hope by which these bodies were animated. An old prophecy (Joel iii. 1) has foretold that in the Messianic age the Spirit of God would be poured out on every member of the religious community, and in point of fact it was the universal conviction of those who believed in Christ that they all possessed the Spirit of God. This Spirit, manifesting His presence in a variety of ways and through a variety of gifts, was to be the only ruling authority in the Church. He raised up for Himself particular individuals, into whose mouths He put the word of God, and these were at first regarded as the true leaders of the congregations. We find accordingly that there were prophets in the oldest church, that of Jerusalem (Acts. xi. 27, xv. 32), and again that there were “prophets and teachers” in the church at Antioch (Acts xiii. 1). These were not office-bearers chosen by the congregation, but preachers raised up by the Spirit and conferred as gifts on the Church. When Paul says (1 Cor. xii. 28; cf. Eph. iv. 11), “God hath set some in the Church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers,” he points to a state of things which in his time prevailed in all the churches both of Jewish and heathen origin. We here learn from Paul that the prophets occupied the second position in point of dignity; and we see from another passage (1 Cor. xiv.) that they were distinguished from the teachers by their speaking under the influence of inspiration—not, however, like the “speakers in tongues,” in unintelligible ejaculations and disconnected words, but in articulate, rational edifying speech. Until recently it was impossible to form any distinct idea of the Christian prophets in the post-apostolic age, not so much from want of materials as because what evidence existed was not sufficiently clear and connected. It was understood, indeed, that they had maintained their place in the churches till the end of the 2nd century, and that the great conflict with what is known as Montanism had first proved fatal to them; but a clear conception of their position and influence in the churches was not to be had. But the discovery, by Bryennios in 1873, of the ancient Christian Work called Διδαχὴ τῶν δώδεκα ἀποστόλων (published in 1883), has immensely extended the range of our knowledge, and has at the same time thrown a clear light on many notices in other sources which for want of proper interpretation had been previously neglected or incorrectly understood.

The most important facts known at present about the manner of life, the influence, and the history of the early Christian prophets are the following: (1) Until late in the 2nd century the prophets (or prophetesses) were regarded as an essential element in a Church possessing the Holy Ghost. Their existence was believed in, and they did actually exist, not only in the catholic congregations—if the expression may be used—but also in the Marcionite Church and the Gnostic societies. Not a few Christian prophets are known to us by name: as Agabus, Judas, and Silas in Jerusalem; Barnabas, Simon Niger, &c., in Antioch; in Asia Minor, the daughters of Philip, Quadratus, Ammia, Polycarp, Melito, Montanus, Maximilla and Priscilla; in Rome, Hermas; among the followers of Basilides, Barkabbas and Barkoph; in the community of Apelles, Philumene, &c. Lucian tells us that the impostor Peregrinus Proteus, in the time of Antoninus Pius, figured as a prophet in the Christian churches of Syria. (2) Till the middle of the 2nd century the prophets were the regular preachers of the churches, without being attached to any particular congregation. While the “apostles” (i.e. itinerating missionaries) were obliged to preach from place to place, the prophets were at liberty either, like the teachers, to settle in a certain church or to travel from one to another. (3) In the time of Paul the form of prophecy was reasoned exhortation in a state of inspiration; but very frequently the inspiration took the form of ecstasy—the prophet lost control of himself, so that he did not remember afterwards what he had said. In the Gentile-Christian churches, under the influence of pagan associations, ecstasy was the rule. (4) With regard to the matter of prophecy, it might embrace anything that was necessary or for the edification of the Church. The prophets not only consoled and exhorted by the recital of what God had done and by predictions of the future, but they uttered extempore thanksgivings in the congregational assemblies, and delivered special directions, which might extend to the most minute details, as, for example, the disposal of the church funds. (5) It was the duty of the prophets to follow in all respects the example of the Lord (ἔχειν τοὺς τρόπους τοῦ Κυρίου), and to put in practice what they preached. But an ascetic life was expected of them only when, like the apostles, they went about as missionaries, in which case the rules in Matt. x. applied to them. Whenever, on the contrary, they settled in a place they had a claim to a liberal maintenance at the hands of the congregation. The author of the Διδαχὴ even compares them to the High Priests of the Old Testament, and considers them entitled to the first fruits of the Levitical law. In reality, they might justly be compared to the priests in so far as they were the mouthpieces of the congregation in public thanksgiving. (6) Since prophets were regarded as a gift of God and as moved by the Holy Spirit, the individual congregation had no right of control over them. When anyone was approved as a prophet and exhibited the “conversation of the Lord,” no one was permitted to put him to the test or to criticize him. The author of the Διδαχὴ goes so far as to assert that whoever does this is guilty of the sin against the Holy Ghost. (7) This unique position of the prophets could only be maintained so long as the original enthusiasm remained fresh and vigorous. From three quarters primitive Christian prophecy was exposed to danger—first, from the permanent officials of the congregation, who, in the interests of order, peace and security could not but look with suspicion on the activity of excited prophets; second, from the prophets themselves, in so