Diversity of OT Prophetic Phenomena and NT Prophecy -- By: John W. Hilber

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: Diversity of OT Prophetic Phenomena and NT Prophecy
Author: John W. Hilber

Diversity of OT Prophetic Phenomena and NT Prophecy

John W. Hilber

The NT gift of prophecy has received considerable attention in recent years.1 Perhaps fueling the intensity of discussion has been the influence of the Vineyard movement and its association with the Kansas City prophets.2 How does God speak to his people? The issue is not purely academic but is a matter of serious pastoral concern. This essay addresses one of the central questions in the discussion, namely, What is the relationship between the NT gift of prophecy and OT prophetic phenomena? This essay will examine some of the peculiarities of OT prophetic phenomena and explore the implications for understanding the prophetic gift in the NT.

I. Diversity of OT Prophetic Phenomena

1. Prophets and Canon

Customarily, those prophets whose speeches came to be preserved in OT books are classified as “classical prophets.” They are distinguished from the “preclassical prophets,” such as Samuel, Elijah, or Elisha, who ministered in the earlier days of the monarchy and the divided kingdom and whose oracles were preserved only by virtue of incorporation into the historical records.3 However, this distinction can be misleading.

The term “classical” implies that those prophets somehow define the “norm” for biblical prophecy, and the contributions of nonclassical prophets are minimized. The evidence surveyed below will show that those prophets ministering in worship contributed significantly to the canon of Scripture. Biblical historiography preserves some of the oracles of preclassical prophets, and much of the historical material itself originated from prophetic sources (1 Chr 29:29; 2 Chr 9:29; 13:22). The content of classical prophetic oracles renders them pertinent for general hearing and therefore inscripturation, but the oracles of preclassical prophets were not intended so much for a general audience, being for the most part oracles to individuals.4 Therefore, they did not lend themselves as much to inscripturation. Nevertheless, when a preclassical prophet spoke, his words were as infallible and authoritative as the prophetic oracles of classical prophets that came to be inscripturated (1 Sam 3:19–21; 9:6; 1 Kgs 14:18;

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