Thursday, October 13, 2005

Grudem on Prophecy Part I

Some may want to skip this post. Fine, please do. However if you enjoy theology, exegesis, and Greek you may want to read on. In this post, I am NOT asking the following question: Does the gift of prophecy continue for the church today? Rather, what I am asking is: How correct is Grudem's exegesis on Ephesians 2:20? The answer to that question certainly does have implications for the question concerning the continuation of prophecy in the church today. In his book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today Grudem asserts that there is a fundamental distinction between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament prophecy. For Grudem this is a critical issue in the debate concerning whether or not the gift of prophecy continues for the church today. Since Grudem’s work has become a bastion of defense among charismatic brothers and sisters, both reformed and non-reformed, and since he is a thoroughly biblical and scholarly exegete, his view needs to be seriously considered. In this post I am responding to one critical element of Grudem’s theology and exegesis, namely, the relationship between Old and New Testament prophets.
Grudem’s View Stated
In Chapter Two of The Gift of Prophecy, Grudem begins with this question, “If we search the New Testament, will we find any counterparts to Old Testament prophets?” He answers his own question in the affirmative and supports his assertion in subsequent pages. Grudem states his position, “When we read the New Testament we find several times when the apostles are connected with the Old Testament prophets, but New Testament prophets, by contrast are never connected with Old Testament prophets in the same way.” For Grudem the closest parallel to Old Testament prophets in the New Testament are not prophets, but apostles. In other words, when speaking of continuity or discontinuity, Grudem suggests a general continuity between Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, and by implication a discontinuity between Old Testament prophets and New Testament prophets.
Arguably, the chief reason for this classification is that New Testament apostles were infallible just like the prophets of the Old Testament. In fact Grudem says, “The most significant parallel between Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles, however, is the ability to write words of Scripture, words that have absolute divine authority.” Thus, it is his contention that New Testament prophets, who were not apostles, were fallible. This distinction between fallible and infallible has to do with apostolicity and is critical to Grudem’s overall understanding of prophecy. Simply put, prophets in the New Testament who were apostles were infallible, but prophets in the New Testament who were not apostles were fallible. At this point a couple of questions must be asked. First, is this distinction between two types of New Testament prophets justifiable? Second, is the conclusion that there is a distinction between one type of New Testament prophet (non-apostolic) and Old Testament prophets justifiable? If Grudem is wrong in asserting that there are two types of New Testament prophets (authoritative and non-authoritative), then it also appears to be wrong to conclude that there is a difference between Old and New Testament prophets.
Grudem’s View Explained
According to Grudem, the words of Old Testament prophets were similar to New Testament apostles in that they were inspired and authoritative. However, the words of New Testament prophets, who were not apostles, were not inspired and absolutely authoritative. In this way, Grudem is suggesting two expressions of New Testament prophecy: authoritative apostolic prophecy and non-authoritative ecclesiastical prophecy. Therefore, New Testament prophecies were infallible insomuch as they were expressed apostolically, and New Testament prophesies were fallible insomuch as that they were expressed congregationally.
The arsenal in Grudem’s defense comes from his exegesis of Ephesians 2:20.
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone…
To understand the contribution that Ephesians 2:20 makes to Grudem’s case, we must observe that for him the critical phrase in the text is: evpi. tw/| qemeli,w| tw/n avposto,lwn kai. profhtw/n( translated “upon the foundation of the apostles who are also prophets.” Because Grudem translates the conjunction kai as also and not and, he is thus linking the two terms apostles and prophets in an identical manner. Thus, we are left with the translation, “the apostles who are also prophets.” For Grudem, the apostles who were also prophets represent one category of people as well as the only category of gifting whose presence has ended in the church. In his book, Grudem defends this view from a grammatical and contextual basis.
Having argued from both grammar and context, Grudem infers that “it seems best to conclude that Ephesians 2:20 means that the church is ‘built upon the foundation of the apostles who are also prophets’.” The result: infallible prophets who were apostles have ceased, but fallible non-apostolic prophets continue. But what about Grudem's argumentation? Is it a locked case? The contention of this post is that, in fact, it cannot stand because it is neither grammatically nor contextually viable. At this point I am not arguing that Grudem's overall, or general view of the continuation of prophecy is wrong. To put it simply, I am only arguing that it seems that, at best, Grudem cannot use this argumentation in support of his overall position on prophecy.
Grudem’s View Critiqued
We must make a decision. Either Ephesians 2:20 indicates that the apostles and New Testament prophets were the foundation of the church, or it is teaching that “the apostles who are also prophets” were the sole foundation of the church. As was indicated, the latter perspective is the view of Grudem. Therefore, it is argued that New Testament prophets, who were not apostles, were not foundational to the church. In order for this argument to stand, Grudem will have to show that apostles and prophets in Ephesians 2:20 are referring to the same group of people. He attempts to do just this. This argument needs to be examined on grammatical and contextual grounds.
Grammatical analysis
Does the Greek grammar of tw/n avposto,lwn kai. profhtw/n support the translation “the apostles who are also prophets”? In a recent discussion on this point Daniel Wallace has indicated in his Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, that such a grammatical construction of the Greek is illegitimate. Wallace has demonstrated persuasively that Grudem’s interpretation of the syntax concerning the article-noun-kai-noun plural construction in Ephesians 2:20 has neither clear nor ambiguous parallels in the NT. In addition, Wallace has shown that even the one true grammatical parallel that Grudem cites has been largely misunderstood (Eph. 4:11, tou.j de. poime,naj kai. didaska,louj). He suggests that few exegetes have thoroughly investigated the semantic range of the article-noun-kai-noun plural construction. Despite this line of reasoning, Grudem says of Wallace in The Gift of Prophecy, “I do not think his argument is as persuasive as it might initially appear”. Grudem defends his exegesis by stating, “The absence of the second article in the tw/n avposto,lwn kai. profhtw/n means that the writer views the apostles and prophets as a single group”.
The controversy rests in the perceived ambiguity of this Greek construction. Despite the syntactical complexities of this type of construction, careful work has been done by grammarians to make sense of it. While Grudem’s exegesis is theoretically possible, it becomes evident in this case that it is exegetically not probable.
Getting Dirty with the Grammar
The article-noun-
kai-noun construction has been the recipient of much research by Greek grammarians. In fact, Grudem’s chief argument supporting the translation “apostles who are also prophets” comes from an application of a grammatical rule dealing with the above mentioned construction. This grammatical rule is known as the Grandville Sharp rule. The rule states: when two nouns of the same case are connected by a kai and preceded by only one definite article, then the latter noun always relates to the same person that is expressed by the first noun. At first, stating the rule in simple terms seems to add credence to Grudem’s exegesis. However, a more detailed examination of this rule actually raises serious questions about his exegetical conclusions.
There are four lesser known conditions that any given article-noun-kai-noun construction must meet to qualify for the Grandville sharp conclusion. They are as follows: 1.) Both nouns must be personal. 2.) Neither noun can be a proper name. 3.) Both nouns must be in the same case. 4.) Both nouns must be singular. When the Grandville Sharp rule is applied to Ephesians 2:20 we can make three observations. First, the rule by itself, without the stipulations, supports Grudem’s exegesis of Ephesians 2:20. Second, when the grammar of the verse is tested by the conditions of the rule, it meets all the conditions but one. Therefore, Grudem’s exegesis of Ephesians 2:20 falls by the very Grandville Sharp rule that had initially supported it.
The condition within the Grandville Sharp rule that the grammar of Ephesians 2:20 fails to meet is that both nouns have to be singular. It is plainly evident that this is not the case. In fact, both of the nouns are plural. In Ephesians 2:20 apostles and prophets are closely linked. They are both critical components of the one foundation. But the Greek rules of grammar lend no support for Grudem’s apostles who are also prophets’ interpretation. If Grudem continues to interpret the verse in this way, he will have to do so on contextual grounds, despite the rules of grammar opposing his reading.
Much more needs to be said. For example, time should also be spent discussing the context of the passage. For now, I will limit this simply to a discussion of the grammatical exegesis of Grudem. Certainly I welcome any other insights or perspectives on this issue. I am sure my work needs plenty of refining, nuancing, and correcting.
Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988) 27.
Ibid., 28.
Ibid., 29.
Grudem’s proposal to distinguish between two types of New Testament prophecy may be a form of special pleading. The “two types” terminology is a distinction that Grudem is uncomfortable with and tries to avoid, but at the end of the day it still exists. See, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988) 48.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the, New American Standard Bible; Copyright 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Though this is a copulative kai, Grudem argues for an adverbial usage of the copulative which would carry the nuance of also or even. See: W. Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, rev. ed. F.W. Gingrich and F.W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) p. 495.
For a summation of his argument see, Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988) 340-346.
Ibid., 46.
Grudem concedes by saying, “The central question is whether these verses refer to all the Christians who had the gift of prophecy in first-century churches. If so, then it would seem that they are portrayed in a unique “foundational” role in the New Testament church, and we have to agree with Gaffin- we would clearly expect this gift to cease once the New Testament was complete.” Ibid, 330.
Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 284-286.
Wayne A. Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1988) 333-334.
See his Remarks on the Uses of the Definite Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament (London: Vernor and Hood, 1978).
Note Matthew 12:38, tinej tw/n grammate,wn kai. Farisai,wn


Anonymous said...

Hey Jonathan!

Looks like you've done a lot of work here. One problem though is that he explicitly says (I heard it with my own ears in class last year) that his view of prophecy is not dependent on Eph 2:20. Does he put this verse up as his main evidence in the book?

Matt Reimer

Vinnie Beichler said...

I'm a little slow. If Grudem views Eph 2:20 this way, it helps him accomplish what? Allowing for prophecy of the second kind to continue (the prochecy of those who are not apostles)? Therefore, the gift opf prophecy is still for today, but doesn't have the authority of the written word? Is that the idea?

Jonathan said...

yeah thats the idea. The Purpose is to sustain a view of prophecy in the church today that is not on par with or compete with the authority of Scripture alone. In this way Grudem can hold to Sola Scriptura, and still hold the gift of prophecy continuing in the church today. All infallible New Testament prophecy is subject to and must be tested by the authority of Scripture.

Matt- good word. I agree with you. Certainly Grudem does not suggest that his view hangs or falls on this exegetical point. Again, my purpose is not to suggest that his view falls on this point, but merely to question whether or not this can effectively serve exegetically to support his view. My simple contention, is that this exegetical evidence does not indeed support his view, and is therefore not helpful to his overall case.
Thanks for the clarification.

Daniel said...

Yeah...I got through "Grudem on Prophecy Part I" and quit. I was hoping for a little U of M /Penn State recap. But I guess that's why you call it Sweetened Christological Syllabubs, and not Excited Wolveronical Syllabubs. :~) You do need a separate blog for those, though! :~)