The meaning of 'prophesy' in scripture

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Link, Jul 23, 2006.

  1. Link

    Link
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    Words often mean more than the morphemes they come from. 'Abuse' means more than it's parts. I can use a CD-ROM wrongly by using it as a paperweight. But that is not abusing it. Abusing it would be throwing it across the room. If someone says "I'm in hot water" he means he is in trouble, not that he is literally in hot water. If someone is sinister, it does not mean that he is left-handed, and if someone is left-handed it does not mean that he is sinister, even though sinister menat left-handed in Latin. Clearly there is more to understanding what words mean than just looking at the meanings of their component parts.

    Daughter does not mean 'little milker' even if that is what the parts it came from in Proto-IndoEuropean literally met. 'Ekklesia' means more than 'called out ones.' In Greek, the term was used to refer to an assembly. Plenty of strange doctrines were made by taking literal meanings for parts of words and trying to make a doctrine out of them. Ever hear of the doctrine of 'Nicolaitians' being clergy because they 'conquer the people'? How about saying the Phineas was a snake's mouth, since that is what his name means. Sometimes, parts of words might have a prophetic significance, but it would be foolish to limit the meaning of a word like the Greek word for prophecy to just the meanings of the morphemes it was made out of.

    To understand a definition, we need to look at how a word is USED IN CONTEXT. That is what lexicographers do when they write definitions for words for dictionaries. That is what Greek and Hebrew scholars do when they define words. I'm on a mailing list for a Greek professor, and that is his methodology. Earlier in his life he was rather impressed with the Hebrew scholar Rashi's methodology for defining words. Rashi would painstakingly that a Hebrew word did mean this, or did not mean that by going through the various texts in which the words were used to prove or disprove assertions about a word's meaning.

    If you argue for the meaning of prophecy just based on its component parts, that is a rather superficial and potentially misleading way of understanding what the word meant.

    To understand what 'prophet', prophecy', and 'prophet' mean we need to consider what the Greek words meant in the context of Greek literature at the time, particularly the New Testament. But since the Greek words for prophet, prophesy, and prophet were used to translate the Hebrew words for these things in the Septuigint and in the New Testament, we also need to consider what the Hebrew equivilents mean. A lot of Greek words in the way they are used in the New Testament are Greek equivilents or translations of Hebrew concepts.

    The Hebrew word for 'prophet' is etymologically related to the idea of revelation. Since the New Testament describes translates the OT word for prophet with the Greek word for prophet, it is reasonable to assume that the Greek word for prophet is used to refer to the OT concept of prophet. The same reasoning applies for Greek and Hebrew uses of the words for prophesy and prophecy.

    Peter tells us a little about what prophesying was in the Old Testament. He tells us that holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. This is a good rule of thumb understanding of prophesying, speaking as moved by the Holy Ghost. Sometimes prophesying can be singing or even played on musical instruments, but it is usually speaking.

    A friend of mine posted a book I had written that makes this point, that prophesying is generally speaking, as moved by the Holy Ghost, on his website. He wrote another article in which he disagreed with me on one point. He argued that prophesying was always predicting the future. He said that prophesying was predicting the future in the Old Testament, and that both cases in which Agabus the prophet spoke in the New Testament, he was predicting the future.

    I sat down with a concordance and started looking up Old Testament occurences of 'prophecy,' and' prophesy' and related words. I could only find a very few cases where the terms clearly did not refer to predictive prophecies. This surprised me a bit. Two exceptions I recall are these, prophesying on musical instruments. The other was where Ezekiel was to prophesy to the dry bones and tell them two live. And even the latter half of this utterance was a predictive prophecy. So based on Old Testament usage, it is difficult to find an exception to the term 'prophesy' that do NOT refer to a predictive prophecy. So to argue that 'prophecy' does not even refer to predictive prophecies based on the meaning of the word is a bit strange.

    Again, let me point out that the Hebrew word for prophecy is translated with the Greek word for prophecy in the New Testament.

    In non-Christian contexts, pagan prophets who spoke for so-called gods were called prophets as well. Poets were sometimes called prophets since they were thought to prophecy under a kind of inspiration from gods or goddesses.

    Another feature of prophecy we see in scripture is that prophets spoke in the name of the Lord. Often we see prophets saying 'Thus saith the Lord' (or 'the Lord says' in more modern language.) The one quote we have from someone the New Testament describes the utterance of a prophet is from Agabus. He says 'Thus saith the Holy Ghost' followed by a predictive prophecy, that is a prophecy about the future. He also made another prophecy that was a prediction about a doubt, but the words of it were not quoted in scripture.

    Prophecy did not just mean to stand up and speak forth to a group of people. The Hebrew word does not mean that. And the Greek word had much more attached to it than just that. This is why Greek dictionaries will tell you that the word has to do with speaking under inspiration. Real Greek scholars-- real language scholars-- should know that many words mean more than the meaning of their component parts.

    The idea that any preaching on Sunday morning is prophesying is not accurate. Paul clearly makes a distinction between prophesying and teaching in Romans 12. He lists prophets and teachers as different types of ministers in I Corinthians 12. Also see Ephesians 4:11.

    You can look up the Greek words for prophecy and prophet on the Search God's Word site in their Greek lexicon if you want more details on this.

    My only authority comes from what the Holy Spirit tells us in Scripture. Which is why I was exhorting to be cautious.
     
  2. Jim1999

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    We cannot tie down the word translated "prophesy" to one meaning, except it is always the declaration of God in the Holy Spirit's power. Sometimes, in scripture, it means foretell, and it also means to forthtell.

    People like to refer to Rev 1:3 and suggest that it is foretelling what will be, when many scriptures are relating what has already happened and what is happening at the moment.

    I think we dig ourselves into grave danger when we make great claims to-day about our abilities to prohecy events and claim the power of the Holy Spirit.

    The word, the Bible, is our final authority, and certainly nothing will show up that is not contained there........whether we understand it or not.

    As for me, when I enter the pulpit, I shall stick to forthtelling; preach the word......the only commission I know.

    Cheers,

    Jim
     
  3. BobRyan

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    Less "me-thinks" talk - more Bible -

    Numbers 12
    6 He said, ""Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream.
     
  4. BobRyan

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    Notice the "difference" in rules applied to a prophet in 1Cor 14 vs one who speaks in a tongue?
     
  5. genesis12

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    A prophet foretells and forthtells. He predicts, or brings a message. Foretelling (predicting as dictated by the Holy Spirit), has ceased. All of the foretelling / predicting important to us in found in the Bible and nowhere else.

    One forthtells / brings a message (minus prophecy) each time one's mouth is opened in service of, from, and to Jesus Christ.

    When you hear someone like Kuhlman, Hinn, Copeland, Capps, et al prophesizing, change the channel, move the dial, close the book, whatever it takes to lose these deceived characters.
     
  6. Hope of Glory

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    I can't really add anything to what Jim and G12 have said, except to say take a look at Acts 16:16.
     
  7. BobRyan

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    #1. The word "prophesizing" was made up by the movie Matrix. No fair bring it in here.

    #2. The "rules" change in 1 Cor 14 between Tounges and Prophets in such a way that it "would not work" if all they are doing is "forthtelling". In fact if they EVER simply "forthtell" the rule in 1Cor 14 does not work.
     
  8. genesis12

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    I'm assuming that Tounges = Tongues. :tongue3:

    Those who were prophesying In 1 Corinthians 14 were sharing their understanding of what God was revealing to them, as the church spread and nurtured the unwritten Word, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. More than predicting the future, they were sharing the Good News.

    What was being said was eventually written down. Within the first 100 years of the church the written Word was in circulation. Now the church studied, spread, and nurtured the written word, not as foretellers, but as forthtellers. From these forthtellers, these apostles and disciples, arose pastor-teachers, evangelists, and missionaries.

    :thumbs:
     

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