[b-hebrew] Accreditation of prophets

Bryant J. Williams III bjwvmw at com-pair.net
Sat Sep 2 02:41:26 EDT 2006

Dear Peter,

It seems to me that several institutions were forgotten in this debate over
who was a prophet.

1.    The Levites were to teach the people the Law of Moses. It seems that
during the period of the Judges they failed miserably.

2.    During the United Monarchy, several prophets were on the scene
including the last of the judges, Samuel, who was also a prophet, Nathan,

3.    During the Divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, several prophets were
active, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah, etc. In fact, it was during the times of
Elijah/Elisha that a "school of prophets' began.

4.    Probably the biggest change to the entire structure of "prophets" was
the Babylonian Exile. This total upheaval of the entire culture, the
religious, economic, politic and social structures, changed everything.  It
would not be to hard to see that any existing authority for approval of
anything in Judah or Babylon had to be the Babylonians.

5.     There was no Sanhedrin, or whatever name one wishes to call it,
during the Babylonian Exile. Nebuchadnezzer put to death the leaders of the
last revolt against him in 586 BCE. Even Jeremiah went with the exiles to
Egypt after the assassination of Gedoliah, cf. Jeremiah 43:4-44:30.

6.    I take Daniel to be among the Writings for the sole reason that he is
a governmental administrator during the Babylonian Captivity and during the
reign of Cyrus (Darius?); although he interpret dreams, visions and writings
on a wall and revealed the future of Israel in chapters 7-12 as a prophet
would do.

7.    Was not David a prophet also even though he is not listed among the

8.    It is true that the Sanhedrin was active during the Intertestmental
Period, at least we know that Josephus mentions that Herod defied the
Sanhedrin ca 49 BCE.

9.    Because of the nature of some of Daniel's prophecies, reaction by the
rabbis would be understandable to deny Daniel the status of prophet.

These are just some observations that would help us get this debate on a
more historical footing; although I realize that some of these observations
are also theological in nature (but that does not necessarily deny that they
are not historical)

En Xristwi,

Rev. Bryant J. Williams III

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Peter Kirk" <peter at qaya.org>
To: "Shoshanna Walker" <rosewalk at concentric.net>
Cc: <b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org>
Sent: Friday, September 01, 2006 4:16 PM
Subject: [b-hebrew] Accreditation of prophets

> On 01/09/2006 23:37, Shoshanna Walker wrote:
> > OK now I'm going to answer this email and then take a rest til after
> > Shabbat, because I can feel myself getting real angry.
> >
> >
> Shoshanna, don't get angry. I don't think there is as much difference
> between you on one side and Harold and myself on the other as you or
> Harold may think.
> We agree that there was some kind of court system in Israel, dating back
> at least to the time of Moses. This was later called the Sanhedrin, but
> probably not originally as this is a Greek word. The details of this
> court are lost in time except in so far as they are remembered in the
> Oral Torah. Nothing controversial here, I hope.
> We also agree that there was some kind of recourse to this court, and
> perhaps also to subsidiary local courts, in the case of false prophets,
> those who claimed to speak from God but whose prophecies did not come
> true. Presumably someone who was accused before this court of being a
> false prophet and in fact was able to prove his or her genuineness would
> then be recognised by the court as a true prophet. I think we can agree
> here too.
> On your understanding, someone who was recognised by the court as a
> prophet first had to make three specific predictions and then see them
> come true before being recognised as a prophet. This implies that this
> person had been speaking out predictive prophecies from God without
> already being a recognised prophet. Thus we must agree that it is not
> only those who are recognised prophets who are able to make predictive
> prophecies.
> The difference between us comes over the status of a person who is able
> to make predictive prophecies from God but has not been formally
> recognised as a prophet by a court of law. Is it proper to call such a
> person a prophet? That is an argument over semantics rather than
> substance. Would such a person have been permitted to "practise" as a
> prophet, whatever that might mean? For example, would they be permitted
> to make public predictive prophecies? My feeling is that we don't know.
> You suggest on the basis of oral tradition that they would not have been
> allowed to "practise" without first getting some kind of accreditation
> from the court. I suspect that the best answer is that it depended on
> the time and the place. There may well have been times in the history of
> Israel when the Sanhedrin operated properly according to the model
> described in the Oral Torah. But then there were times of apostasy when
> the court may well have been ineffective, or it may have been
> compromised, for example to recognise the false prophets of 1 Kings 22.
> On the other hand, if it is a matter of faith for you that there were no
> such times, that however apostate Israel may have become the Sanhedrin
> were always faithful, it would be pointless for me to try to argue you
> out of this position.
> The situation sounds rather similar to accreditation of various trades
> and professions today. I don't know the detailed situation in the USA,
> but I know that here in the UK there is a creeping requirement for
> accreditation to do almost anything. A century ago, perhaps, doctors and
> lawyers had to be accredited in advance to practise, but most
> tradespersons could practise without any kind of qualification or
> accreditation - although they were still answerable to the courts if
> they did a bad job. Now, to protect the public from all kinds of
> dangers, many trades require accreditation and it is actually illegal to
> sell many services without it. The question is, were prophets in Israel
> more like the doctors and lawyers of a century ago, who needed
> accreditation in advance from a court before practising, or were they
> more like the tradespersons of those days, who could practise without
> accreditation, but were answerable to the court if they got things
> wrong? My answer is that we don't know, and the situation may have
> changed over the centuries in Israel, as it has here with tradespersons.
> Your take on this may be different, but in that case we need to agree to
> disagree.
> -- 
> Peter Kirk
> E-mail:  peter at qaya.org
> Blog:    http://speakertruth.blogspot.com/
> Website: http://www.qaya.org/
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