Hebrew Prophets I
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Gerald Wilson
September 10, 2002
"Sociological Context of Prophecy"

I.   Prophecy is largely a ministry of the word
II.   The Nature of Intermediaries (middle man)
A.   Provide a contact between the human and divine
1.   Takes place by possession by the divine
2.   Takes place by leaving the human world to experience divine world
B.   Assumes separation between two worlds
C.   Assumes overlap between the two
Text Box: Human WorldText Box: Divine WorldThis can be at certain time, places, and people
III.   Prophecy in Society
A.   Prophecy can exist in any society that believes &
1.   Divine power exists
2.   They are capable of communicating with humans
B.   Forms of Intermediation experienced
1.   Divination (used to interpret phenomenon)
2.   Looking at forms or parts of animals (the liver of a sacrificed sheep could tell the future depending on its shape, etc &)
3.   Ritual ("magic 8-ball" type prophecy)
C.   Prophecy may not appear
1.   Requires societal as a whole acceptance, recognition, tolerance
2.   Requires some-sort of support group
3.   Prophets could be considered "sick" (mental defective)
IV.   Patterns of Prophecy
A.   Prophecy follows societal patterns (Prophets must speak in ways that his society recognizes as prophetic)
B.   Traditional speech forms and patterns
1.   Translates divine word into human terms
2.   This indicates persons functions as prophet
C.   Recognizable behavior
1.   Divine possession; poetic expression (the prophets spoke poetry)
2.   Society can accept as true messages from God
3.   Society can reject as "false" prophecy
D.   Failure to follow acceptable norms of Prophecy risks:
1.   Rejection of prophet and message
2.   Societal evaluation of prophet as "insane"
3.   Pressure to conform to expected modes of presentation
V.   Who can be a prophet?
A.   In some societies anyone can be a prophet
1.   Selection by possession from general populace
2.   Person may have other roles in society
3.   Prophetic role may be temporary (not all prophets are lifetime prophets)
4.   Example: Saul among the prophets; Amos a sycamore fig desert
B.   In other societies prophets are an official position within societal structure
1.   There is a prophetic "office" clearly defined
2.   Prophets are professional; rigorous training
3.   Such prophets exercise important influence
a.   Order Kings to go into battle or not into battle
b.   Made important social decisions amongs the society
4.   Primary Goal: Maintain societal order
C.   Means of Social and Religious change
1.   Normally named peripheral prophets
2.   Associated with groups lacking power (sometimes women, and people from the frontier)
3.   Prophet has authority to communicate message
4.   Examples: Hosea, Amos
5.   If society is willing to listen, then change may occur
6.   Prophets/supporters may form counter group
D.   Maintain Social and Religious Order
1.   Normally named central prophets
2.   Official part of social power structures
3.   Can criticize society (but not primary focus)
4.   Primarily concerned to support society
5.   Encourage orderly changes; leaves society intact
E.   Both types of prophets may exist simultaneously
VI.   Types of Intermediation
A.   Intermediary
1.   Neutral, general term - someone who has the ability to communicate between the spiritual world and the physical world
2.   Negative examples: demon possession, witchcraft, etc &
3.   Positive example: God allowing His Spirit to work through you, Prophetic ability
B.   Prophet
1.   Ambiguous term; various forms
2.   Forthtelling (proclamation) - word of encouragement, condemnation, etcÉ
3.   Foretelling (prediction) - this will happen in the future, etcÉ
4.   Some limit to Hebrew - nabi'
C.   Shaman
1.   Originally in Siberia & Manchuria (Russia and Northern China)
2.   Persons who have mastered spirits
D.   Witch/Sorcerer
1.   Use supernatural power/magic
2.   Pursue harmful ends - endanger society
3.   Use of Power
a.   Witch: innate (within them) power (not observable)
b.   Sorcerer: magical manipulation of object
i.   Wand
ii.   Brews
iii.   Potions
iv.   Bones
E.   Medium
1.   Broadly anyone acting as a channel of communication
2.   Can be consulted for information
3.   Speaks through understandable and common ways
F.   Diviner
1.   Seeks hidden information known to spirits
2.   Derives information through observation of events or natural phenomena (entrails; stars; animals, smoke, etc &)
3.   This results in pre-knowledge; but not control
G.   Priest
1.   Specialist in continuous operation of cult (worship) & rites
2.   Worship; prayer; sacrifice, etc &
3.   On a regular basis, he is fulfilling society's obligation to gods
4.   Maintain a positive relation with the divine
H.   Mystic
1.   Seeks or experiences temporary union with divine
2.   Usually intensely inward/personal experience
3.   Often unwilling or unable to communicate experience to others
4.   Revered because of closeness to divine
VII.   Mechanism of Intermediation
A.   Intermediaries exhibit distinctive behavior
1.   Allow society to recognize and validate activities
B.   Stereotypical behaviors
1.   Movements; dances
C.   Stereotypical languages
1.   Ecstatic speech; tongues; poetry; phrases
D.   Not all attempts at intermediation validated
1.   Society retains some control (who is and isn't a prophet)
2.   This isn't usually how we like looking at this issue because we like to think God chooses His prophets
3.   Society can distinguish legitimate displays of prophetic behavior or psychosis
E.   Spirit Possession
1.   Most common explanation of prophetic behavior (I was in the spirit)
2.   Body temporarily occupied by spirit
3.   Host's identity lost (it isn't about him, but rather the spirit)
4.   Spirit speaks and acts through host's body
5.   Host loses self-control
F.   Non-Possession
1.   Less frequent explanation of prophetic behavior
2.   Normally involves "soul travel" by shaman
3.   Body left behind during trip
4.   Shaman remains in control; is never possessed
VIII.   Selection of Intermediaries
A.   Divine Choice
1.   Intermediaries themselves aware of divine choice
2.   Experience possession/compulsion
3.   Most resist this, at least initially (Jonah), but are overcome by the deity
a.   Loss of self-control unpleasant
b.   Dangerous to resist spirit/god
c.   Societal pressure to accept (provide communication)
B.   Societal Validation
1.   Responds with support and belief
2.   Recognizes/validates experience of possession
C.   Peer validation by accepted intermediaries
1.   Offers confidence to society
2.   Training to enhance receptivity/effectiveness
IX.   Central & Peripheral
A.   Central Intermediaries
1.   Approved links with spirits
2.   Provide stability in society (guide kings/army)
3.   Consulted for needed information
4.   Controlled system of training and practice
B.   Peripheral Intermediaries
1.   Usually apart of a small, minority support group
2.   Concerned to accomplish societal change
3.   Initial appearance in uncontrolled possession
4.   Can achieve acceptance and move to be more central