To prove that prophecy can be synonymous with biblical interpretation, he would have to demonstrate that Paul, Barnabas, Peter, James, and others exposited the Scripture often marks a simple reference to Scripture.8 Thus, it seems unwarranted to call charismatic exegesis (in-and-of itself) prophecy.David Hill has argued that NT prophecy should fundamentally be understood as pastoral preaching.9 Hill begins by explaining that a functional approach to the question is most likely to bear fruit.10 He therefore focuses on the activities of those he identifies as NT prophets in order to determine their essential function.11 First, he looks at the book of Revelation and concludes that is basic to John’s understanding of prophetic activity.12 Second, Hill argues that, in the book of Acts, prophetic ministry always involves pastoral encouragement.13 Third, Hill reads 1 Corinthians 14:3 to equate prophecy and exhortation.14 On this basis, Hill explores the use of (“encouragement”) in Paul’s letters and posits that these have a special connection with prophecy.15 Lastly, Hill cites the book of Hebrews itself as an example of prophecy because it is called “the word of exhortation” ( preachers the New Testament prophets teach and give instruction on what the Christian way requires of individual believers and of the community as a whole.”17 As others have noted, Hill’s definition of prophecy is not without problems.
Second, I analyze relevant texts from the New Testament to answer the question: what kind of an activity was New Testament prophecy?
Third, I evaluate the arguments made for both limited prophetic authority and full prophetic authority.
A third approach to the problem is espoused by Thomas W.
Gillespie.23 He believes that prophecy (at least in Paul) must be understood as the inspired exposition of the ethical and theological implications of the kerygma.24 Gillespie argues that Paul sets the gospel itself as the criterion for judging prophecy, which then implies that prophecy must itself be gospel proclamation.25 He reads 1 Corinthians 12:1–3 as teaching that the gospel-confession “Jesus is Lord” is what marks all true prophecy.26 Additionally, Gillespie believes that in both Romans 1:2 and , Paul closely associates OT prophecy with gospel proclamation.27 Lastly, Gillespie relies on 1 Corinthians 14:3 to further his case, as he states that edification () name “the action of the Spirit that is grounded materially in the gospel and mediated through its proclamation.”28 Though Gillespie’s case is appealing, it too faces difficulties.
First of all, much of his case is built upon what Moo calls “argument by association.”18 That is to say, Hill assumes that the mention of phenomena associated with the prophets or with prophetic activity (like the Holy Spirit for example) also implies the presence of prophecy; the conclusion however does not necessarily follow.19 Second, his definition does not account for all the data.20 In fact, several prophetic activities in the NT call his definition into question.
To provide just two examples, it is hard to see how Agabus’s famine prediction (Acts ) or his foretelling of what would befall Paul (Acts ) could be thought of as pastoral preaching.21 Lastly, Hill’s argumentation seems circular at a few points.He argues that 1 Corinthians 13:9 implies that the prophet had to interpret the revelations he received, and that he in fact did so with great difficulty.33 Thus, with respect to Acts –11, Grudem says “Agabus had a ‘revelation’ from the Holy Spirit concerning what would happen to Paul in Jerusalem, and gave a prophecy which included his own interpretation of this revelation (and therefore some mistakes in the exact details).”34 Reports by charismatics of their own experiences of prophecy reveal similar ideas regarding prophetic activity.35 The view that prophecy refers to interpreted divine revelation is intriguing but speculative.While Callan and Grudem are right to tie prophecy and revelation together, the NT itself does not disclose the “psychological” relationship between the two.Terrence Callan describes prophetic activity by saying, “Prophecy was the result of inspiration in the form of an inner, divine ‘voice,’ comparable to one’s ordinary thoughts and differing from them mainly in being sent by God rather than arising in the usual way.The prophet then interprets these inner promptings, chiefly by expressing them in speech.”32 Wayne Grudem explains NT prophecy similarly.However, it would be a mistake to conclude on the basis of this criterion that prophetic ministry is to be equated with unpaid ministry.Unfortunately, Gillespie’s construal of prophecy is the result of this kind of misstep.31 These points lead me to reject Gillespie’s definition of prophecy despite its initial appeal.Abstract: Despite a number of recent proposals, scholars have yet to reach a consensus regarding what the New Testament prophets were actually doing when they prophesied.In this essay, I attempt to make a contribution to New Testament studies by working towards a definition of New Testament prophecy. First, I survey five different views on the nature of New Testament prophecy.Furthermore, the few glimpses we have into the inner-workings of prophecy (like Acts and Rev 2–3) run counter to their suggestion that prophecy involves the fallible human interpretation of divine revelation.In addition, Grudem’s proposal regarding 1 Corinthians 13:9–12 is problematic because, if it is correct, then Paul indicts his own prophetic ministry: in these verses, Paul uses first-person plural verbs (, but men spoke from God as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.”36 For these reasons, I have little confidence that prophecy should be defined as the human interpretation of divinely inspired thoughts.37 Perhaps the most provocative proposal comes from Clint Tibbs, who defines prophecy as “the gift of becoming a medium through whom spirits can speak the mother tongue of the spectators.”38 Tibbs regrets that 1 Corinthians has been read through 4th century Trinitarian lenses;39 as a result, interpreters blind themselves to the “spiritism” which characterizes Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12–14.40 According to Tibbs, anarthrous occurrences of must mean “a spirit” rather than “the Spirit.”41 Even when “spirit” is accompanied by the article in fact, no reference to “the Holy Spirit” is intended;42 instead, Paul must be speaking of “the spirit world” because “in the NT, the world of good spirits was frequently denoted as a corporate plurality.”43 Tibbs also points to 1 Corinthians and 32 for corroboration, arguing that cannot be understood as anything but “spirits.”44 Further evidence comes from first-century figures like Plutrach, Josephus, Philo, and Pseudo-Philo, who all testify to spirits speaking through human mediums.45 Tibbs concludes therefore that prophecy is the work of various holy spirits who possess mediums in order to proclaim Christ.