Interpreting the Prophets

By James Luther Mays; Paul J. Achtemeier | Go to book overview

2
Prophecy from
the Eighth Through the
Fifth Century

HANS WALTER WOLFF⋆

In the eighth century, prophets began to appear whose words were
addressed to the nation as a whole, because the mission of these
prophets was to set the life of the people of God in the light of the
future Cod was preparing for them.

The event of classical prophecy will here be set forth in its principal features. How did it come about? How did it come to be a unique phenomenon within the history of Israel and within biblical proclamation? What did it bring to expression? First of all, we must define what we understand by “classical prophecy.”


I. WHAT IS THE MEANING OF
“CLASSICAL PROPHECY”?

1. Literary Criteria

The literary source to which we have to turn with our question seems easily delineated. It is that part of the biblical canon which is transmitted as “latter prophets.” It consists of the Books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve prophets. It follows that classical prophecy is delimited on two sides. It is preceded by a series of old, “preclassical” prophets; the canon tells about them in the “former Prophets,” that is, in the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. It is followed by a new type of meditation about the future which we call apocalyptic and which finds its classical Old Testament expression within the “Writings,” in the Book of Daniel. Classical prophecy is thus to be found only within the “latter prophets,” that is, in the books of Isaiah through Malachi.

To be sure, this does not mean that all texts in these books belong to

*Trans. by W. Sibley Towner with Joy E. Heebink.

-14-

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