Glory to God for All Things

Fulfilled – The Christian Reading of the Old Testament

“That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet…”

This is a familiar line in the gospels – particularly in St. Matthew. It signals a moment that the gospel writer (and thus the tradition) sees an action or saying of Jesus as somehow being a “fulfillment” of something within the Old Testament. For the confession of the primitive Church is that what Jesus did is “in accordance with the Scriptures” (Old Testament).  Looking at these instances can be a good way to see precisely what the tradition thought “in accordance” actually meant.

Several things are obvious when we look at the New Testament’s use of the concept of “fulfillment.” Prophecy is not at all a prediction. Indeed, there is rarely anything in the story of Christ or within the cited Old Testament passages that inherently link the two. Modern scholars (of the liberal sort) would (and have) argued that the gospel writers use the Old Testament out of context and with no seeming method of control.

Fulfillment is its own unique concept. Fulfillment clearly has a meaning similar to “completion.” It assumes that something incomplete and unfinished has been posited by statements within the Old Testament. These seem to hang over the world as unanswered questions – that somehow must be answered.

The use of Old Testament quotes in “fulfillment” passages seem to have a relationship independent of history and even literal meaning in some cases. This independence can be sometimes be so radical that the only thing required is simply that something be stated in the Old Testament.

I will offer a few examples (there are twenty-or-so instances in the gospels) and then draw some conclusions.

The first instance of fulfilled in the New Testament is the verse (famous during Christmas season), Matthew 1:22-23

So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

It is a reference to Isaiah 7:10-14

Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your god; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!” Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. Curds and honey he shall eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings…

Another New Testament example, referring to the Holy Family settling in Nazareth (Matthew 2:23):

And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Scholars are actually at a loss to account, with confidence, what Old Testament prophecy is here said to be fulfilled.

Another – Matthew 13:34-35, comes after a chapter’s worth of parables:

All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”

This is a reference to Psalm 78:1-3:

Give ear, O my people, to my law; incline your ears to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us, etc.

There is nothing in this passage that makes it seem remotely prophetic. It is written by the author to his readers, introducing the content of the Psalm itself.

A primary aspect of these examples is that they are making no reference to a passage that seems remotely “messianic” in its context. There are other examples that certainly make use of Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant” passages and seem more clearly contextual – but these examples show that this is no way required by the gospel writers.

The example of Christ as a “Nazarene,” seems to be an extreme stretch (in all of the scholarly speculations concerning its reference). Thus one conclusion – the only requirement by a gospel writer for the fulfillment of an Old Testament saying, is for the saying to have occurred in some manner in the Old Testament and to seem applicable to something in Christ’s life and ministry.

In such a usage, the OT seems to be a random collection of possible quotes. Obviously, the historical narrative of the OT is important to Christian thought. The sermon of St. Stephen in Acts 7 is a summary of the history of Israel (with the point that Israel has repeatedly rejected those sent by God). But it is appropriate to ask the question, if Psalm 78:1-3 is seen as referring to Christ’s use of parables some 900 or more years later, how does the gospel writer (and thus the tradition of the primitive Church) see the Old Testament?

It is obvious beyond measure that the author of the gospel (and the Christian community) is not asking, “What did the Psalm writer have in mind when he wrote this?” A New Testament example of this attitude can be found in reference to the statement by the high priest, Caiaphas, in John 11:

And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.

The gospel writer does not think prophecy requires the understanding or intention of the one who utters it. Caiaphas means one thing, God means another.

If the Christian meaning of the Old Testament is not necessarily related to a writer’s intention or understanding nor written, how is it written? It is, at times, written with intention and understanding (Caiaphas certainly knew what he was saying on one level), but it also functions and signifies (in the mind of the primitive Christian community) in a manner divorced from its context and authorial intention. It exists as a saying.

How then does the primitive community know how to read the Old Testament? The Gospels themselves explain this. On the road to Emmaus, following his resurrection, Christ speaks to two disciples:

And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

And later, in Jerusalem, the risen Christ appears to his disciples and says:

“These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures.

The method of interpretation is something called “opening their understanding.” This method is why tradition is essential in true Christianity. The method is itself tradition. The gospels are an example of that tradition at work. Tradition, “handing down,” is not the passing on of information – it is the opened mind opening a mind.

What we most often want is a means of understanding that does not require opening (please note – none of this has anything to do with the modern practice of being “open-minded”). The examples of fulfilled Scripture do not permit a rationalized explanation (not one that could then be repeated as a technique). The opened understanding, however, is quite able not only to see what has already been given, but to perceive what is being given as well.

This is the only means of “rightly dividing the word of truth.” It is, of course, a nightmare for those who want a reading of Scripture independent of the Church. But such readings seem to belong to a school of thought not represented by the New Testament itself.

The next article will look at the meaning of fulfilled.

 

 

 

40 Responses to “Fulfilled – The Christian Reading of the Old Testament”

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  1. Greg says:

    This is an article that needs to be shared very broadly. When I did a seminary course on the canon we used the book How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Stuart and Fee. I was dumbfounded by their insistence that the primary reading must reflect “original intent”. Discussions of the Psalms, therefore, did not center on Christ for example. It left me thoroughly convinced that with evangelicalism I was dealing with something alien to Christianity proper. That is not to say that self-identified evangelicals aren’t Christians but what they are following is largely a religion of their own (recent) construction.

  2. dinoship says:

    “Caiaphas means one thing, God means another.”

    “Tradition, “handing down,” is not the passing on of information – it is the opened mind opening a mind.”

    “…a nightmare for those who want a reading of Scripture independent of the Church”

    How very true Father! Thank you…

  3. sergieyes says:

    “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was

    spoken

    by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” We may never see a writing which corroborates what was spoken. So there is no problem. it just means that Matthew knew that some prophet had spoken,
    “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

    Spoken vs. Written Prophesy
    Anastasios Kioulachoglou and Richard Anthony

    One of the passages that we considered in the main article of this issue was Matthew 2:23. This passage tells us:

    Matthew 2:23, “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called a Nazarene.”

    For many, this verse is a cause of trouble since the SPOKEN prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene can nowhere be found written in the Old Testament. To solve this “difficulty”, a connection is sometimes assumed (see ftn.1) between the term “Nazarene” and the Hebrew word “netser” that means “branch”. Apart from the fact that this connection is no more than a mere supposition, the inconsistency of this view is also shown in that while Matthew 2:23 says that the prophecy was uttered by “the prophets” i.e. by a plural number of people, the word “netser” was used for Christ only by Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1, see ftn.2).

    However, we believe that whole “problem” is not but a problem CREATED by the fact that we don’t pay attention to what we read. Really, while the Scripture says that the prophecy was SPOKEN [Greek: "to rethen" meaning "that which was spoken"] by the prophets, what we understand is that the prophecy was WRITTEN [Greek: "o gegraptai" meaning "that which stands written"] by the prophets. However, when the text says SPOKEN, it means SPOKEN. Some prophecies were spoken and not written. Some others were not spoken but only written, while some others were both spoken and written. When we read a quotation that says “as it is written”, we will find it 100% in the Scripture, since it is guaranteed that it is WRITTEN. However, when what is quoted is said that it was simply SPOKEN, then we may find it written but we may also not find it written. The Word does not guarantee that it was written. What it guarantees is that it was SPOKEN.

    There are fifteen quotations in the Bible for which we are told that they were SPOKEN (see ftn.3). To see whether they were both spoken and written, or whether they were only spoken, we have to search the Scripture to see if we can find them. A search like this shows that all the prophecies that were spoken were also written, APART from two or three of them. These are:

    1) the prophecy that Jesus will be called a Nazarene. The fulfillment of this prophecy is given in Matthew 2:23. This prophecy was only SPOKEN by the prophets and it was latter written down by Matthew. This is also a form of the figure of speech “hysteresis” or “subsequent narration”. By this figure “the Holy Spirit, in later and subsequent Scriptures, adds supplementary details which were not given in the history itself; and sometimes even historical facts, of which no mention had before been made (see ftn.4)”. One of these facts of which no mention was made before is the prophecy that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene. This prophecy was SPOKEN by plural number of prophets. It was not written by them but by Matthew who made it known together with its fulfillment.

    2) Apart from Matthew 2:23, another passage that for similar reasons is a stumbling block for many, is Matthew 27:9-10:

    Matthew 27:9-10, “Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me”

    The problem that many have with this passage is that this quotation cannot be found anywhere in the book of Jeremiah (see ftn.5). To “solve” this difficulty, it has been suggested that Matthew 27:9-10 is actually a quotation from Zechariah 11:12-13 on the base that both passages speak for “thirty pieces of silver”. Apart from the great differences between these two passages, the inconsistencies of this view are made clear by the fact that God in Matthew 27:9-10 says that the prophecy was SPOKEN BY JEREMIAH. If these verses were a quotation from Zechariah, God instead of Jeremiah, would have told us Zechariah. In other words, instead of telling us “Then was fulfilled what was SPOKEN by JEREMIAH” He would have told us “Then was fulfilled what was WRITTEN by ZECHARIAH.” We believe that when God says Jeremiah He means Jeremiah and therefore no one has the right to say that He actually means Zechariah.

    However, again the problem is not but a CREATED problem. And it is created because we don’t pay attention to what we read. The text does not say that the prophecy was WRITTEN but that it was SPOKEN. Some prophecies were only written and not spoken. Some others were both written and spoken while some others were only spoken and not written. The prophecy quoted in Matthew 27:9-10 was SPOKEN but it was NOT WRITTEN. Matthew by the figure of speech “hysteresis” or “subsequent narration” informs us about this prophecy long after it was SPOKEN.

    3) Many claim that Matthew 1:22-23 is quoted from Isaiah 7:14. However, there is evidence which suggests that the word “virgin,” in Isaiah 7:14, is an innacurate translation , and should be rendered either “unmarried woman” or “young woman.” And that the word “virgin” in Matthew 1:23 is an incorrect prophesy because it cannot be found written in scripture, because it is not written in the Old Testament books that a “virgin” would conceive (Isaiah 7:14). However, whether or not “virgin” is a correct or incorrect translation of Isaiah 7:14 has no bearing on the accuracy of Matthew 1:23, because Matthew 1:23 refers to what was SPOKEN by a prophet, and not to what was WRITTEN by a prophet.

    Conclusion

    Concluding all the above we can discriminate the passages / prophecies quoted from the Old Testament in two categories: in those that we are told that were WRITTEN and in those that we are told that were SPOKEN. The greatest majority of the quotations given in the New Testament belong to the first category i.e. to those that we are told that were WRITTEN. Since we are told explicitly that these passages / prophecies were WRITTEN, it is guaranteed that we will find them in the Old Testament. A check can prove that there is no passage that the Word says that it is WRITTEN that cannot be found in the Old Testament.

    On the other hand, for the passages for which we are told that were SPOKEN there is NO guarantee that we will also find them written in the Old Testament. These passages would be found in the Old Testament only if apart from spoken were also written. But no one can say from the outset, that all the prophecies that were spoken were also written. From the fifteen passages for which we are told that they were SPOKEN, the thirteen can be found in the Old Testament which means that they were both spoken and written. The two that cannot be found are Matthew 2:23 and Matthew 27:9-10. These prophecies were ONLY SPOKEN. Matthew, through the figure of speech hysteresis, informs us for their existence long after they were spoken.

    Therefore, is there any real difficulty with Matthew 2:23 and 27:9-10? No, except if we CREATE one.

    References

    The Companion Bible: Kregel Publications, Michigan 49501, This printing 1994.

    Footnotes

    1. See for example: S. Zodhiates: “The Complete Word Study Dictionary”, AMG Publishers, 1993, p. 1,003

    2. This word occurs four times altogether. Apart from Isaiah 11:1, the other three occurrences are: Isaiah 14:19, 60:21 and Daniel 11:7. A check of these occurrences can confirm that none of them refers to Christ.

    3. These are Matthew 2:15, 17, 23, 3:13, 4:14, 8:17, 12:17, 13:35, 21:4, 22:31, 24:15, 27:9, 27:35, Mark 13:14

    4. See E. W. Bullinger: “Figures of Speech used in the Bible”, Baker Book House, originally published 1898. This printing 1995, pp. 709-713

    5. The presence of this “difficulty” is also evident in the marginal notes of the various English versions. So the margin of the KJV direct us to search to Zechariah 11:13. The NKJV directs us to Jeremiah 32:6-9. The NIV directs to 3 places of twenty verses altogether: Zechariah 11:12, 13, Jeremiah 19:1-13 and 32:6-9. The reader is encouraged to go and check for himself these passages. If he will do that, he will see that he will nowhere find what is quoted in Matthew 27:9-10.

  4. fatherstephen says:

    Sergiyes,
    Yes. I’ve seen that proposed solution to the problem. That unprovable solution would solve anything.

  5. SteveL says:

    Also Psalm 110, the most quoted scripture in the NT. “The Lord said to my Lord”.

  6. SteveL says:

    Or maybe just the most-quoted Psalm.

  7. Arnold Karr says:

    Quakers sometimes practice a form of scriptural interpretation – I forget its technical name – that seeks to hear what the Spirit is saying through the words now rather than the author’s intent or any universal import. I have found that approach helpful in my own walk.

  8. Arnold Karr says:

    Another all-purpose solution my fellow young seekers of truth and I made use of was the unrecorded fulfilment – the to us clearly messianic prophecy whose fulfilment is nowhere to be found in the NT canon – namely, “He gave his back to the smiters and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair….” Since one or more evangelist confirmed that Jesus, like the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 55, was beaten and spit upon, we asserted with certainty that Roman soldiers also pulled clumps of his beard out by the roots, the gospels’ failure to document it notwithstanding.

  9. Rhonda says:

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen :-)

    The biggest roadblock I encounter with the non-Orthodox is that of the closed mind.

  10. davidp says:

    Hello…what has help me more was to study Jewish Christian scholars who are more familiar with OT texts and their interpretations than most gentile Christians. I am not degrading the gentile Christian scholars but they seem not to get it with the deep Jewish-Christian thinking of OT or even NT texts. One school is this one that has existed for many decades.

    http://www.jerusalemperspective.com/

    Blessings to all in the New Year.

    david

  11. PJ says:

    Arnold Karr,

    If you’re describing the phenomenon of being “Spirit-moved,” then I think that’s dangerous territory. I went to a Quaker high school, and we would often sit in silence until someone was (supposedly) stirred by the Finger of God to an insight of spiritual import. Not exactly a solid basis for traditional exegesis.

  12. Arnold Karr says:

    Re: Life of Yeshua – I wish I could see an excerpt at least before paying to read the whole thing. Can you summarize the method by which these hypothetical documents were (re)constructed?

  13. Arnold Karr says:

    PJ “The wind/spirit blows where it wills and no one knows where it comes from or where it’s going.” John 3-something
    That doesn’t seem to leave much opportunity for a fixed tradition. Dangerous? Sure. Worth the risk? I think so.

  14. guy says:

    test comment

  15. guy says:

    Father Stephen,

    (i’m guessing my comment from yesterday on a different post never went through.)

    i know this is off topic–but i’m hoping you can suggest some helpful materials. i’ve started reading Schmemann’s For The Life of the World, and i’m having a difficult time understanding it. Is there any supplementary materials (study guide, blog series, podcasts, etc.) that might make some of his points more clear?

    Honestly, i’d appreciate the same for your book as well–everywhere present. i’ve yet to read it a 2nd time (i should), but i have listened to your podcasts on it. Nevertheless, i’m still not clear on the precise meaning of the one-story/two-story analogy. i’m guessing you mean to track with Schmemann’s “sacred vs profane” point, but i’m not following him there very clearly either. Mainly, i don’t understand what the positive counterparts are supposed to look like (the one story or the all-sacred).

    Any suggestions you could make would be appreciated.

    –guy

  16. Rhonda says:

    Arnold:

    Tradition is by no means “fixed”; it is the experience of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church, experience that still continues until our day & will continue long after we have passed away.

    As Fr. Stephen wrote above:

    Tradition, “handing down,” is not the passing on of information

    & it is this experience that is handed down. Tradition is not the transmission of rules & rituals.

    Ironically when you quote “John 3-something” (3:8), or any passage of Holy Scripture for that matter, you are actually referencing the very pinnacle of that Tradition handed down by the Church which you so easily disdain by your words (“fixed tradition”).

    The modern segregation of the Holy Scriptures from the Church & therefore Church Tradition & placing them in the hands of religious individualism has only led to 38,000 Protestant denominations world-wide in a mere 500 years. In many ways the past 500 years has been little more than a reversal back to the Greek/Roman culture with its ancient plethora of gods that existed at the time of Christ & the early Church.

    Dangerous?

    Deadly, even (spiritually speaking)!

    Worth the risk?

    When it comes to spiritual death–eternal separation from God–nothing is worth that risk!

  17. guy says:

    Father Stephen,

    Not sure why, but twice now my comments haven’t gone through on two different posts.

    –guy

  18. Arnold Karr says:

    I don’t fear separation from god because I think it is not possible.

  19. fatherstephen says:

    Guy,
    Sorry. I’ve been having problems with the “spam filter.” The Holidays brought enormous amounts of spam, sometimes 500 every 12 hours. It’s too much to sort through and find the golden needles in the digital haystack. So comments erroneously stuck there got emptied. It seems to be settling down.

  20. fatherstephen says:

    Great questions – worthy of a new article. I’ll get on it.

  21. Greg says:

    While I agree there are many, many wonderful and insightful works by Jewish Christians that draw on their interest and insight into Jewish antiquity (Alfred Eldersheim comes to mind as a personal favorite), I would be extremely wary of anything that smacks of “messianic judaism” – at best these groups seem to have the tendencies of ebionite/judaizing heresies and observe practices that are technically forbidden by Church canon law; at worst, they tend to look like bizarre cults.

  22. fatherstephen says:

    Arnold,
    Even temporary interruptions are not desirable. Life within the Tradition, in Orthodoxy, is not oppressive – the Tradition is not experienced like the “Magisterium” at least in my observation. But it frees me from some (not all) of my ego-driven world. I so do not want to be inappropriately in charge of my spiritual life. There is a role I must play – but being the originator of the Tradition is not one that is helpful. I found when I was an Anglican, that I necessarily had to “pick and choose,” and that among many other things, it was not healthy. I’m still far from healthy, but Orthodoxy has been a very welcome place of healing.

    (for other readers, Arnold and I are friends going back to when I was 18 years old – we share many things). Be kind to him, please.

  23. There is a lot of gold here. Christ, the Logos of God, is the One who can say, “In the scroll of the Book it is written of Me.”

    There are some excellent reflections– did the Prophets know that that which they spake by the Holy Spirit was directly about the Messiah? Did David the King, or Joseph the Patriarch, or Moses the Prophet, know that their very lives were prefiguring the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ? This is a great mystery.

    I really like some thoughts by Fr. John Romanides about the prophets– that true prophethood was deification. The prophets saw the Uncreated Light, and “the Word of God came unto [them] saying…” They were communicating their experience of deification, and communicating the deifying Words of the Almighty. But they spoke in mysteries ofttimes, unless they were plainly denouncing Israel’s idolatry. Even the Prophet Isaiah’s word about the virgin conceiving in chapter 7 of his book– this had a double meaning, since on the worldly side was fulfilled by the birth of the child Mahershalalhashbaz (if I remember correctly).

    I think Prophet Isaiah was seeing the Messiah as the Holy Spirit spoke to him, “To whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed” and throughout chapter 53. And then there is the prophet Balaam: ““I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel, And shall crush through the forehead of Moab, And tear down all the sons of Sheth.”

    Father, have you seen this book? Sanctified Vision. http://www.amazon.com/Sanctified-Vision-Introduction-Christian-Interpretation/dp/0801880882/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356805137&sr=8-1&keywords=sanctified+vision

  24. PJ says:

    Can’t say I’ve ever felt oppressed by the “magisterium,” which is just a fancy word for the pedagogical charism of the Roman bishop, and those bishops in communion with him. Those who do feel oppressed seem to be those who always chafe under the guidance of right and proper authority, be it ecclesiastical or secular.

  25. sergieyes says:

    PJ. I agree with you, I was brought to Orthodoxy by a very kind Byzantine Rite Roman Catholic Priest who introduced me to my Spiritual Father. The issue with the Magisterium is the possibility of changing Church Doctrine contingent upon a status thrust upon the Pope, as Chief Political Leader in the West. Politics may demand changed from the Church. That is a very complex status, how it developed, and what it means today, but in the broad perspective, a Pope of Rome must have a purview of the politics of the West. Politics is like fire, if you touch it, it fills you with its nature, heat.
    On the other hand,there are such persons as cannot stand to have a superior.
    My stand is simple, I follow Orthodoxy and venerate such Great Saints as Popes Leo and Gregory.
    Happy New Year!

  26. PJ says:

    The pope has no more political influence than many Orthodox bishops. Indeed, less than some (I’m thinking of the close relationship between the Russian patriarch and the Russian government). Not that this is in itself unfortunate. Indeed, it’s inevitable that the Church should influence the secular realm. Indeed, the very notion that the sacred and the profane are distinct and mutually exclusive is a modern liberal idea unknown prior to a couple centuries ago. This isn’t to say that we should go back to the old mentality of Throne and Altar, but that the Church has a place in the “public” realm. Is it even possible to constrain religion to the purely private realm? I don’t think so. Human life cannot be divvied up so neatly as some modern secularists would like to believe. That said, the danger over politicizing the Church is very real, and must be guarded against. Put simply, the matter is complicated.

  27. sergieyes says:

    Thank you PJ, you are too kind. The relations between State and Church are named Symphonia. This is the ideal, and all should attempt it.
    Kindest wishes.

    <>

  28. PJ says:

    The line between caesaropapism and “symphonia” is thin, I imagine. Still, the strict wall theory is equally poisonous. Anyway, don’t want to get too off track…

  29. mary benton says:

    Father Stephen,

    You wrote: “Prophecy is not at all a prediction.”

    I have no argument with that but I am wondering if you could expound a bit on what prophecy IS. (If you have already written on this, please direct me.) Thanks.

  30. fatherstephen says:

    Mary,
    I’m offering some thoughts on it in the follow-up posting on “fulfilled.”

  31. dinoship says:

    Mary,
    Even in the driest sense of the matter, a prophet can ‘prophesize’ on the past (Moses), the present (John the Baptist) or the future…
    There’s other aspects to it too:
    In Greek we tend to say, for instance, that anyone with a clear discernment charisma from God, (the purity to be able to say what is God’s will in the most complex of situations, or what comes from His Spirit, or Man’s spirit, or the enemy’s spirit), has a ‘prophetic charisma’. Even though the two are somewhat distinct from each other when labelled ‘foreknowledge’ and ‘clairvoyant knowledge’… There is far more to it though!

  32. TLO says:

    That unprovable solution would solve anything.

    I am completely flummoxed by this. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is “provable” about the Christian story. Why should Sergiyes be singled out as some kind of exception?

  33. fatherstephen says:

    Not Sergiyes, but those whom he was quoting – making the distinction (theoretical) that what is said to be “spoken” by the prophets and what is said to be “written” by the prophets refers on the one hand to oral tradition and on the other to written tradition. This conveniently solves the problem regarding the missing reference for Nazarene. It is a modern Evangelical solution, but not a solution found anywhere in the early Tradition of the Church. It was simply my response that these “created” solutions can be found for anything, and set up something of a problematic interpretation. I will grant immediately that nothing is “provable” in the meaning of “modern objectivity.” But there are “rules” within traditional Christian interpretation. This, for me, was creating a new rule, and one that was “facile.” It too easily gets around the “problem” (which is not in itself a problem but rather a good illustration of how the New Testament uses the Old). “Solve the problem,” and you’ll never get at the real question.

    I am, as it were, teaching here (on the blog), for what it’s worth, and not just hopping in to an unmitigated chorus of equal opinions.

  34. mary benton says:

    “I am, as it were, teaching here (on the blog), for what it’s worth, and not just hopping in to an unmitigated chorus of equal opinions.” (Fr. Stephen).

    Thank you for this reminder. It brought back for me a fond memory from college years when a young student disagreed with the priest teaching our theology class: “You aren’t smart enough to disagree with me!!!” he remarked. (One could hardly be offended by this as he was a brilliant man and made the comment with a broad smile.)

    “Disagreeing” is often a learning style for me but I very much appreciate the knowledge and wisdom of your teaching. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  35. dinoship says:

    “I am, as it were, teaching here (on the blog), for what it’s worth, and not just hopping in to an unmitigated chorus of equal opinions.” (Fr. Stephen).

    I know (and sure hope) you are Father! I cannot see any real purpose to the contrary…!
    Thank you again for your insightful and rekindling words, the entire back-catalogue is a treasury of “rightly dividing the word of truth.”!

  36. Joel Haas says:

    I hope I’m not too late for a response, but I am wondering about something – especially as it relates to my conversations with ‘theologically-educated’ non-Orthodox friends. You say that the ‘method of interpretation,’ Tradition, is an ‘opening of the mind’ that is *not* a rationalized explanation. Now, I understand that our Lord’s conversation with them was followed-up by the Holy Eucharist, and that He Himself had been and was with them, but was His ‘opening up’ not precisely done via a conversation with them while on the road – and thus precisely a ‘rational explanation’?

  37. fatherstephen says:

    Joel, the text would indicate something very different. It would have used a word like “explain” for what you’re describing. He had told them repeatedly about the resurrection and crucifixion and they did not get it.
    This post-resurrection involves something that changes inside of them – more than merely getting the idea. The NT is filled with the understanding that we change – fundamentally – and as we change we see and understand more. Not because it’s been better explained – but because we are different. The Apostles are clearly different because of this encounter/conversation. It transcends merely “natural” conversation.

  38. Eirenikos says:

    Well said Father. That difference though fundamental is quite impossible to explain (in any language). Mercifully it can however be demonstrated and in infinite ways — clearly The Holy One is in our midst!

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