2

We know there were Christian prophets in the decades after the Resurrection, but did Paul consider himself to be one of them? What do we know about his understanding of Christian prophecy? In 1 Cor. 11:23 Paul says: "I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you" and proceeds to explain the significance of the Lord's Supper. Was his reception and deliverance of this teaching and a type of didactic prophecy similar to teachings the OT prophets received from the Lord?

Among the Christian prophets mentioned in Acts are Agubus (11:28), the teachers and prophets of the Antiochan church (13:1), the four unmarried daughters of Philip (21:9) and others. Paul, of course, mentions prophecy as one of the "higher gifts" to be earnestly sought by church members.

God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. (1 Cor. 12:28-31)

Did Paul think of himself as having the gift of prophecy?

Earlier in 1 Corinthians, he explained how he received and passed on the tradition of the Lord's Supper:

I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” (1 Cor. 11:23-25)

Reading the passage literally, Paul speaks as if he was sharing a revelation from God, rather than a tradition taught to him by the other apostles. Was Paul speaking as a prophet here?

In 1 Corinthians 7:25, Paul admits he is not speaking with a teaching "from the Lord" but simply as a one who must be trusted:

Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

But in 2 Corinthians 12:1 Paul does not hold back from claiming that he is, if not a prophet per se, at least a visionary:

I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord.

In one passage, Paul even indicates that prophecy, in effect, flows through the congregation from member to member and is not limited to a single person:

you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (1 Cor. 14:31)

What do these passages and other relevant scriptures tell us about Christian prophecy generally and the question of whether Paul thought of himself as a prophet as well as an apostle?

4
  • 1
    What definition of "prophet" are you using? One definition says that anyone who writes canonized Scripture is necessarily a prophet inspired by God (2 Peter 1:19-21). By that definition, Paul was definitely a prophet. Please clarify the question. Paul says he had dreams and vision from God, that also makes him a prophet.
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 12:39
  • I think I'd like to leave the term "prophet" somewhat undefined. What I'm interested in mainly is whether Paul understood himself to be a prophet. I'll update the question accordingly. Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 13:30
  • You use 1 Cor 15:23 in your title but don't mention/refer to it in your question. Maybe a typo/oversight? Please clarify the usage of the scripture in your title.
    – agarza
    Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 15:19
  • Thanks very much! Yes it should be 11:23. I fixed that and added the phrase in question to the first paragraph for clarity. Commented Sep 10, 2022 at 16:09

3 Answers 3

0

1. Did Paul consider himself a Prophet?

Consider this, there are a number of biblical characters and writers that are accepted as prophets even though they do not call themselves prophets. Take Hosea for example. His book does not explicitly call him a prophet but it is rich with classic prophetic elements. Hos.1:1a "The word of [fn]Yahweh which came to Hosea...". This phrase about the word of the Lord coming to the prophet is prevalent with the major prophets Jeremiah and Ezekial. (In contrast: Isaiah 37:2 and many subsequent verses explicitly refer to him as a prophet). There are no Pauline texts that explicitly call Paul a prophet or show that Paul calls himself a prophet. This might not exclude him from being a prophet though.

A typical trait of biblical prophets is that they deliver oracles; they deliver God's words. The poster's pericope, I Cor. 11:23, indicates that Paul has received a message from God and is delivering it to the Corinthians. It's his epistle so we can at least deduce that Paul considered himself to be operating prophetically (in a manner that other well-known prophets did).

2. What was his general attitude toward Christian prophecy?

Since Paul did not explicitly call himself a prophet we can suspect that this was out of reverence/humility. During Paul's time (and even today) the "Nabim" of the TNK/Tanakh have earned their titles because their writings have stood the test of time up to Paul's time. Paul was astute (Acts 22:3-5; 23:6) and presented himself confidently (Acts 26:28; II Cor. 10:1) but not necessarily braggadocious about being a prophet. However, he did not shy away from sharing his prophetic experiences (the poster has already provided an example: II Cor. 12:1).

Paul states in Romans (1:1-5) that the gospel was a promise from God established in the writing of the Old Testament prophets, personified in Jesus. This is also an authoritative foundation for his apostleship. In the closing of Romans (16:26), he again tips his hat to the writings of the prophets as being an integral part of spreading the gospel to the Gentiles. The prophets substantiated his apostolic work in spreading the gospel. Prophets were essential in establishing the church, through the gospel, as we understand it as the body of Christ (cf. Rm. 12:5; I Cor. 12:12).

Paul considered Christian prophecy as one of several spiritual gifts allotted to members of the Church via grace (Rom. 12:1-6) It's a great gift that he encouraged (I Cor. 12:31; 14:1). But it is not more important than the virtue of love, and one day will be no more (I Cor. 13:8-10). Until then, it's useful for edifying, extortion, and encouragement (I Cor. 14:6).

In summary, Paul did not explicitly call himself a prophet but considered that the work of prophets was foundational to his apostleship. It substantiates his apostolic authority, and he is not too shy about being an apostle. He compared his calling to the prophet Jeremiah's calling (Gal. 1:15; Jer. 1:5). Considering this combined with his revelatory experiences, I would suggest that he at least considered himself to be prophetic. Perhaps, he does not specifically call himself a prophet out of humility and/or reverence for prophets of old.

Members of the church could also operate prophetically. It's a gift not given to all but those who had it were encouraged to use it. And he encouraged members to seek it. Prophecy had a way of exhorting members or lifting them up. It brings about revelation through knowledge. I would conclude that Paul had a very enthusiastic attitude toward prophecy in the Christian Church.

0

Quiet a lot is covered in the Q and a number of factors need to be taken into account for clarification, to be able to answer the Q. I have limited the answer, albeit, it may not seem so, as so much more can be said.

  1. Prophet / Apostles / teachers etc…
  2. Were any prophets to come after Jesus?
  3. What did Paul think of himself?
  4. Was Paul a Prophet / Apostle?
  5. Conclusion

1) Prophet / Apostles / teachers / healers etc…

Prophets

Prophets are those chosen and sent by God speaking by divine inspiration what God has commanded him. Hence, much superior then apostles, teachers etc… who are more missionary, leader, teachers who are appointment by men and do work of men.

The Jews were expecting a prophet (nothing more nothing less). Jesus was a Jew sent to the “lost sheep of Israel” Jesus taught only what he was commanded as did Moses, Abraham etc…– prophet.

So, Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me"(John 7:16).

So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and I do nothing on my own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught me (John 8:28).

For I did not speak on my own initiative, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me (John 12:49-50).

He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Fathers who sent me (John 14:24).

John 6:144 After the people saw the sign Jesus performed, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

John 9:1717 Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.”

Obviously, it very easy to say I had been ‘inspired’ or had a ‘vision’ or ‘God spoke to me’ etc… (as this can never be disapproved and many use this to propagate their own agenda) – this is not a test of a true Prophet.

Apostle

  1. Apostle is used as a very loose term (teachers / preachers / missionaries etc…).
  2. The 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus - Luke 6:12-16 - 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:

In relation to Jesus / Christianity – there were only 12 True Apostles. Anyone else referred to as an apostle, would be in the loose term category 1 above.

Judas was replaced by Matthias – which was inspired – so should not be challenged regardless of why he may not be mentioned much in the bible.

Acts 1:21-26: 21 So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection. 23 And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. 24 And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen 25 to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” 26 And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.

Acts 1:1-2 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. [instructions to only the 12 chosen – does not mention anyone else]

Rev 21:14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

So there can be no other than 12 real apostles - only by name loosely termed apostles

Others have been called apostles

When the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting (Acts 14:14)

1 Thessalonians 1:1 1 Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

2:6 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.

Roman 16:7 Greet Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

However - Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers (Acts 15:22

The above is a clear indication ***that Paul & Barnabas were not seen as leading men or the 12 Apostles’ - otherwise they would have been no need to send others with them to lead them.

2) Were any prophets to come after Jesus?

Rev 1:10-11 - 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.”

Revelation 2:20 - 20 Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Rev 2:1-3 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.

[Many warnings in the bible - false prophets & apostles will come].

*** 3) Did Paul think of himself as a Prophet***

This is difficult, based on some of his statements he may well have thought of himself as a prophet and arguably spoke like a prophet.
He definitely believed he was at least an apostle and he had authority from Jesus.

His message was new and unique in every aspect— different from that delivered by the original apostles.

2 Corinthians 12:11Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Acts 16:10 - And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. [us]

Lord, I praise you for inviting me into your eternal purpose. I thank you that you are working out everything in conformity with the purpose of your will (Ephesians 1:11)

Acts 14:3 - So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who affirmed the message of His grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders. [both of them]

1 Corinthians 15: 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles,

Ephesians 1:1 – Salutation - 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are also faithful in Christ Jesus.

***“But now we are released from the Law.***we serve not under the old written code but under the new life of the Spirit” (Romans7:6).

2 Timothy 1:11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.

1 Corinthians 9:22 ‘….I have become all things to all men …..’

[many other verses of Paul being inspired, having visions, authority, law (no need for law) – taking precedence over what had come before]

[based on the above you would think that he would be at minimum an apostle and possibly a prophet]

*** 4) Was Paul a Prophet or an Apostle***

Based on Pauls boosting he believed he was and apostle / prophet and more.

Ultimately, there is no revelation / support that Paul was a Prophet or even an Apostle – only Paul calls himself an apostle, no one else – the elders even had to send others with Paul & Barnabas to guide them – hardly a leader.

Paul was rejected by all of Asia as accepted by him and preaching different to Jesus and the disciples, they even had to ask the elders for help.

Acts 21: 27-28 27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up all the crowd, and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, help! This is the man who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place; moreover, he also brought Greeks into the temple, and he has defiled this holy place.”

2 Timothy 1:15 - 15You know that everyone in the Province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

Acts 16:6 6 Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. [Paul goes against the HS]

Paul seemed to be preaching his own Gospel:

1 Corinthians 9:22 ‘….I have become all things to all men …..’

Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man's foundation: (Romans 15:20)

“In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” – Romans 2:16

“Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began…” – Romans 16:25

“Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:” – 2 Timothy 2:8

1 Corinthians 7:40 40 In my judgment, however, she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.

1 Corinthians 7:25 Now concerning the unmarried, I have no command of the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 11:5 Iindeed, I consider that I am not in the least inferior to these super-apostles.

2 Corinthians 12:16 But granting that I myself did not burden you, I was crafty, you say, and got the better of you by guile.

[Paul is preaching his own Gospel, not what Jesus preached or his disciples]

Jesus was clear

Matt 5:18 ‘not a single jot’ will change from before.

Jesus preached the same as what had come before and never stated he came to teach anything different or new – see more https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/78251/33268

5) Conclusion

  1. There is no independent evidence that Paul was a Prophet or an Apostle apart from his own words. No revelations or authority were granted to him. Only he says that he was.
  2. Paul mentions having visions and been given authority – however, this is purely his own words – he contradicts himself many times and he is not consistent. The contradictions start from the offset (very brief outline);

i) Damascus road conversion. Paul was blinded by the light and heard Jesus, but the men did not see the light and remained standing but heard Jesus. Then you have the men saw the light, but were not blinded & did not hear the voice (both of these he state that he will be told what to do when he reaches the city). Then we have No blindness, not commanded to go to the City, all see the light and fell down (including the others),
ii) He says he went and preached straight away in Damascus and then Arabia and returned to Damascus. Then says Damascus, then preached all over Jerusalem and Judea – all over albeit only saw Cephas & James although he was in and out of Jeru slam speaking baldly. However, Gal 1:15-23 – he was unknown in Judaea. On another occasion he states Acts 9:19-27 he went from Damascus to Jerusalem appears to be not long after and not after 3 years.

  1. If Jesus was the last who fulfilled everything no need for others to come after – only others preaching Jesus’ message – not something different or their own message.

  2. Paul goes against everyone even the holy spirit who stated not to preach in Asia.

  3. Although Paul refers to Jesus many times, he preached different to Jesus and the Law – Jesus never stated we do not live by the commandments / law that came before – he came to fulfil.

  4. Paul clearly confirms that he is preaching his own Gospel, His opinion, not from the Lord and he didn’t want to build on another man (Jesus) Rom 15:20

  5. Paul was not 1 of the twelve and did not replace Judas. He does not fit the criteria laid out and clearly was not seen as an authority by the disciples.

Clearly Paul does believe he is some super apostle – but there is no evidence only his words. Why so much of the NT is based on his writings is clearly something that was decided long time after Jesus. That in itself does not make his anything of significant. These were decision made by certain people at a certain time based on there position and destroyed everything that they did not agree with.

On the basis Paul preached different to Jesus and God’s covenant - Genesis 17:10-14 – he can only be a false prophet / apostle.

Matt 23:8 But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.

0

It is worth noting that Paul discussed extensively the concept of "Prophet" in his 1 Corinthians chapter 12 through 14. Within these passages, Paul elucidates the notion of prophecy as a spiritual gift. However, in contrast to the ancient prophets, who were directly summoned by the Lord to deliver His messages, the prophets within the church, endowed with their spiritual gift, possess the capacity to comprehend all mysteries and knowledge (1 Cor 13:2). Their primary aim is to uplift, encourage and comfort individuals, ultimately contributing to the edification of the church (1 Cor 14:3-4).

Did Paul consider himself a Prophet? Undoubtedly. Regardless of whether he explicitly acknowledged it, his actions aligned precisely with the duties he outlined for a prophet within the church.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.