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Note: this question is inspired by this answer.

Some cite Hebrews 1:1-3 to argue that Jesus Christ was the ultimate special revelation from God, and that the office of prophet was thus rendered unnecessary as no further revelations would be required:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)

However, Acts 21:8-11 refers to the gift of prophecy and prophets as if they were normative and still in operation in the early church, in circumstances where Jesus Christ had already been revealed and already ascended to heaven.

8 On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. 10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” (Acts 21:8-11 ESV)

Is there a contradiction between Hebrews 1:1-3 and Acts 21:8-11? How could Agabus and Philip's daughters still be prophesying if Jesus was the ultimate special revelation, rendering all further special revelations unnecessary (that is, if we give the benefit of the doubt to arguments such as this one)?


Related: What is the difference between having the spiritual gift of prophecy and being a prophet?

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jesse
    May 31, 2022 at 13:31

2 Answers 2

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It appears to me that the OP's question is predicated on the assumption that divine revelation was complete with Jesus and there was nothing more to know about Him. This idea is explicitly refuted by Jesus Himself:

John 16:12 - I still have much to tell you, but you cannot yet bear to hear it.

Indeed, in the next few verses, Jesus explains further:

13 However, when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and He will declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you. 15 Everything that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is Mine and disclose it to you.

Further, if the revelation of God were complete with Jesus, why were we given the writings of Paul, John's Revelation, Jude, James, etc. The NT is full of other prophets that did not write anything that ended up in the NT but were still recognized as prophets such as:

  • John the Revelator, Rev 22:9 - and others
  • many unnamed prophets in various churches, Eph 4:11, 1 Cor 14:2, 3
  • Agabus, Acts 11:27, 28, 21:10-12
  • Barnabas, Acts 13:1
  • Paul, (because of his writings in the NT)
  • Judas and Silas, Acts 15:32
  • Daughters of Philip, Acts 21:9
  • Acts 13:1 - numerous prophets
  • Peter (who wrote the two epistles named after him)

Some of these gave prophecies for the guidance of the church such as in Acts 21:10-12.

Thus, there is no contradiction between Heb 1:1-3 and Acts 21:8-11. There is still much more to learn about Jesus Christ and His great ministry and Atonement.

Indeed, we would be much spiritually poorer and much less knowledgeable about Jesus without the NT writing that occurred after Jesus' ascension!!

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The argument from Hebrews 1 is self-refuting.

Let's consider both the most common presentation of this argument and its primary alternative.

Option 1--Jesus' ministry concluded with the ascension

On this view, after having atoned, risen, and ministered for 40 days, Jesus ascended to heaven, having completed the revelation He was sent to give--and all generally applicable inspired revelation that would ever be given.

If that is true, then the texts that tell us about these events are themselves not generally applicable inspired revelation.

  • The ascension occurred in the early 30s AD (AD 33 by my calculations)
  • Paul's call on the road to Damascus occurred after the ascension
  • Peter's vision calling for the preaching of the Gospel to the Gentiles occurred in the late 30s AD (or possibly early 40s)
  • The Book of Acts--the record reporting these events--was published no earlier than AD 62
  • John's vision on Patmos occurred sometime between AD 69 and AD 96
  • The entire New Testament, including Hebrews, was written after the ascension

If Hebrews undercuts the authority of any possible claim of generally applicable inspired revelation after the revelation of the Son of God, it undercuts its own authority and thereby renders the argument self-refuting.

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Option 2--Post-ascension revelation is still in scope if it came through Jesus Christ

This view attempts to reconcile the option above with the existence & authority of the New Testament. Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and to John on Patmos. Jesus inspired the vision to Peter, and so on.

However, on this view, a deductive case against generally applicable inspired revelation is invalid, unless we require that Jesus can never again inspire a chosen representative or never again appear to anyone. The Biblical text makes no such claim, and the assertion that Jesus cannot do something He did in the past is difficult to reconcile with Matthew 28:18

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

Jesus did not say "all power is given to the Bible" (which didn't exist yet); He asserted that He had all power.

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Conclusion

We can either have a God who is no longer capable of giving generally applicable inspired revelation, or we can have the New Testament, but we cannot have both.


Notes

  • This argument holds whether the prophets in Acts were giving predictions, divine direction, or both
  • If Jesus personally revealed the essentials, and anything that has come later is non-essential, that would make anything in the New Testament that is not a verbatim quote from Jesus "non-essential"...including 99.9% of the writings of Paul =(
  • I do not see that Hebrews 1 delimits a canon, one way or the other
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    @Rajesh that is a very thoughtful perspective, thanks for sharing your views on this. As you undoubtedly noticed, that last bullet point in my post was a response to discussion in the comments, so thank you for clarifying where you're coming from May 29, 2022 at 21:25
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    @Rajesh good question, I'll email you my thoughts on that May 29, 2022 at 22:26
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    giving generally applicable inspired revelation are you talking about canon, AKA "adding to Scripture"? If not, please add a few short words to clarify. Albeit, this is great stuff. I believe God speaks today, but the canon is closed. Too many argue that all prophecy = adding to Bible, which is a straw man of course.
    – Jesse
    May 30, 2022 at 6:25
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    @JesseSteeleיִשַׁי I don't see anything in the Bible that delimits a canon - so my take is that God retains the power to inspire anything He wants, whether that means inspiring someone to prophesy, giving individual guidance, giving general guidance, or giving new scripture - He retains the power to do all of those things, and the initiative to decide whether He will do them or not, and when. May 30, 2022 at 19:18
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    @HoldToTheRod Canon is “Scripture” as Paul referred to in 2 Tim 3:16 and Peter in 2 Per 3:16. Even the NT apostles saw a difference. Usually it is not making the distinction that causes problems.
    – Jesse
    May 30, 2022 at 23:34

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