Saturday, November 05, 2005

Grudem on Prophecy Part II

In an earlier post I argued against a position that Wayne Grudem has taken to support his overall view of continuing prophecy in the church today. I did not claim that his entire case for the continuation of prophecy failed with the grammatical weakness of his argumentation, but simply that he cannot use his grammatical argumentation for such support. In summary: Grudem argued that 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 or absolutely authoritative. In this way, Grudem suggested 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; while they were fallible insomuch as that they were expressed congregationally. The presumed 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…
Therefore the contribution that Ephesians 2:20 makes to Grudem’s position, is the critical phrase in the Eph 2:20: evpi. tw/ qemeli,w tw/n avposto,lwn kai. profhtw/n( translated “upon the foundation of the apostles who are also prophets.” By translating kai as also and not and, Grudem is linking the two terms apostles and prophets in an identical manner. So according to Grudem, we are left with the translation, “the apostles who are also prophets.” For Grudem, “the apostles who were also prophets” represents one category of people, and one category of gifting whose presence has ended in the church. Thus, he endeavors to defend this view from a grammatical and contextual basis.


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 pp. 340-346.
In this post, I am finishing up my argument against Grudem's exegesis of Ephesians 2:20. Since we have earlier considered the grammatical weakness of Grudem’s position, it will now be helpful to examine his argument contextually. The burden of this post is to suggest that not only is Grudem's grammatical argumentation insufficient in supporting his overall view of the continuation of prophecy, so is his contextual argumentation.
Contextual Analysis
The context of the book of Ephesians, other writings within the Pauline corpus and the New Testament at large demonstrate a clear distinction between apostles and prophets. Even if Grudem’s argument stood grammatically (which is not the case), such an interpretation does not comport with the context of Ephesians nor other passages wherein these two gifts are clearly distinguished.
The Ephesian Context
The context of Ephesians reinforces the grammatical argument that apostles and prophets should be seen as fundamentally distinct and not equated. These words are found together in three separate places in the book of Ephesians. In each instance they are clearly distinguished. Unlike the Ephesians 2 passage, there is nothing in the grammar of Ephesians 3:5 and 4:11 to suggest an appositional idea. In Ephesians 3:5, Paul is making the point that the mysteries of Christ which were hidden in previous generations have now been revealed (nu/n avpekalu,fqh) to the apostles and prophets. Through the use of adverb now it is clear that Paul is referring to New Testament prophets. Further, since apostles and prophets are not in apposition and are joined by a coordinating conjunction, these New Testament prophets are to be seen as distinct from the apostles. Thus, F.F Bruce concludes, “The church is built on the foundation upon the twofold (italics mine) foundation of apostles and prophets.”
When Ephesians 4:11 is examined the distinction becomes clearer. In this passage Paul’s very ordering of the gifts shows that he intends to make just such a distinction. To elucidate this point, he uses a me.n de construction to distinguish between the gifts Christ has given to the church. David Alan Black says, “the particles me.nde may be coordinated with the article to function like a pronoun: “some were…but others”. We have already noted the fragile aspects of Grudem’s argument concerning the syntax of 2:20. Thus, it seems reasonable to suggest that the (me.n de) construction of 4:11 only makes clear what the (article-noun- kai.- noun) construction of 2:20 allows viz., the prophets are distinct from apostles.
Larger Pauline Context
When the larger context of Pauline literature is considered the distinction remains in tact. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:28-29,
28 And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?
If we allow this passage to speak on its own terms, it becomes further textual evidence that the New Testament at large suggest a distinction between apostles and prophets. One must not overlook Paul’s purposeful use of the words “first” and “second” in establishing the uniqueness of these gifts. Therefore, when 1 Cor. 12:28 is seen together with Eph. 4:11, it establishes an overwhelming burden of proof for those who would see anything other than a distinction between the titles in Ephesians 2:20.
Larger Canonical Context
Paul was not the only inspired writer who recognized the dissimilarity of these gifts to the church. What is found in Paul’s usage of these terms in Ephesians and in the larger Pauline context, can also be found in the writings of John and the larger canonical context. One example can be found in Revelation 18:20 as John (or rather, the Lord Jesus Himself) draws a distinction between saints, apostles, and prophets. In addition, 1 John 4:1 teaches that the only false prophets in the New Testament were those who did not have authority, viz., they were not sent from God. The reverse is true. Being sent from God implies authority-- meaning that all true New Testament prophets who spoke for God were foundational.
The apostles and prophets are indistinct with regard to being foundational but are distinct with regard to function. It may be said that while all apostles were prophetic, not all prophets were apostles. The scope of apostolic ministry was universal while the scope of prophetic ministry was more geographic and ecclesiastical role.
Despite the difference in function, both shared an infallible authority and each contributed in their own unique way to the foundation of the church. True prophets of God are by definition authoritative because they speak on behalf of God. The category of a true and yet fallible prophet is totally foreign to the pages of Scripture. By arguing this way, Grudem abandons the unity of New Testament prophecy by establishing in effect two gifts: noncontinuing “foundational” infallible prophecy, and continuing fallible prophecy.
Though it can be said that Dr. Grudem’s apologetic for continuationism rests on a broader platform than just the distinction between Old and New Testament prophets, it nevertheless is a key component to that foundation. This blog has focused arguably on the key component of that foundation, and has attempted to show that it is utterly insufficient for building a theology for continued prophecy. Admittedly, the preceding lines of argument have been brief and introductory. If time and space allowed they could be expanded and developed. Nevertheless, they have at least identified some serious obstacles for the advocates of distinction. Neither the grammar nor the context supports such discontinuity. If one should choose to argue for the gift of prophecy remaining with the church, let it be asserted that none of the weight of that argument should rest upon making a distinction between Old and New Testament prophets.
I say “fundamentally” because there is some sense in which apostles and prophets though entirely distinct are nonetheless united in some ways. See Dan Wallace, The Semantic Range, who says, “By way of illustration, the clause, “The Democrats and Republicans approved the bill unanimously,” the two political parties, though distinct, are united on a particular issue.

See, Ephesians 2:20; 3:5;
F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Ephesians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Mi., William B. Eerdmans 1984) 315.
Due to the clarity of distinction, Grudem takes pains to argue that the context and grammar of Eph. 4:11 make it plain that the prophets mentioned there are different from those mentioned in Eph. 2:20.
David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me, (Grand Rapids: Mi., Baker Books 1998) 79.
It should be said that Grudem acknowledges the distinction in 1 Cor 12:28, but asserts that just because they are used in distinction here does not mean that they are necessarily in distinction everywhere else as well (p. 343). However, in lieu of the evidence presented, the burden of proof remains with any who suggest anything other than a distinction.
It should be stated that this distinction in no way undermines the authority of those who were prophets but not apostles. In Are the Miraculus Gifts for Today, (Grand Rapids: Mi., Zondervan 1996) p. 48., Gaffin argues, “even the two explicit instances of nonapostolic prophecy in the New Testament do not support the view that it was fallible. These are the prophesies of Agabus in Acts 11:28, and 21:10-11.”
For validation of this point see the account of Agabus in Acts 11:27, 28; 21:10; also note the prophets found in Acts 13:1; 15:32.
True prophets in the Old Testament were by common consent inspired and infallible in their declarations. In the New Testament, particularly in Acts, indiscriminate references are made to both Old and New Testament prophecy with no distinction between the two. References to Old Testament prophecy include: Acts 2:16; 3:24, 25; 10:43; 13:27, 40; 15:15; 24:14; 26:22, 27 and 28:33. Interspersed among all these verses are references to New Testament prophecy. It is unwarranted to assert a distinction either in fallibility or authority between Old and New Testament prophets/prophecy without any explicit textual indication.
See: D.A. Carson, Showing the Spirit, (Grand Rapids: Baker , 1987) pp. 114-116.


Matthew Wireman said...

Jonathan ~
Inspired by our Edwards' class? I thought I would throw my hat in and push a little on your broad view of Paul's teaching. Although it seems you have done your homework, very good by the way, I think you should have dealt with the itching problem for cessasionists - namely, how does Paul's teaching in chapters 12,13, and 14 fit into the teaching on prophecy? It is true that one verse will not be a proof-text for whether the gift of prophecy will continue or not. However, as you have noted Grandville-Sharp's Rule does support the evidence.

Neither is your case shut from your first post. How do you explain Col 1.2? These are the same people with two different titles.

I will concede, Grudem's interpretation and explanation is not the strongest. But how shall we understand Paul's exhortation inn Rom 14.1 - "Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts - especially that you may prophesy"? This is not a command to the Apostles only, but that there be some kind of gifting for the people to build one another up.

This comes right off the heels of 1 Cor 13.8-13 which teaches that these things will end when the perfect comes. Grudem does do a fine job in his book of explaining that this should be understood as Christ's Return. Therefore, these gifts will continnue until Christ returns. What are your thoughts on this? These are my preliminary thoughts.

Jonathan said...

Matt, thanks for the comment. My broad view of Paul's argument has only to do with his discussion of prophets and apostles as they occur togather and are seen as distinct. I never made any comments about the continuation of prophecy in general, or Paul's argument in 1 Cor. 12-14 about prophecy. This is specifically because the burden of my post in only to show that it is illegitimate for Grudem to see Apostles and one type New Testament prophet as identical.

As far as Col 1:2 The gradville Sharp rule will not allow even Col 1:2 to be seen as identical. There is still a distinction between saints and faithful brethern. Not all saints are faithful brethern, we just use this kind of language all the time to describe things that are similar/united yet totally distinct. Again to use the expression: “The Democrats and Republicans approved the bill unanimously,” it is obvious that the two political parties, though distinct, are united on a particular issue. Nevertheless this does not make them identical.

The grandville sharp rule will not allow for this interpretation of Col 1:2 or anything other similar contruction that is in plural. You may want to take issue with the rule itself, but if you accept it you cannot hold to that interpretation. Here are the stipulations to the Grandville Sharp rule:

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 Col 1:2 it becomes clear that it does not meet the stipulations, thus cannot be seen as identical. Obviously, they are united Matt, but not identical.

As far as prophecy in general, another paper needs to be written to address some of your other concerns which I stand with you on largely. Again this post is not arguing for the cessation of prophecy, it is only arguing for the cessation this one argument of Grudem for the continuation of prophecy.

Mark Redfern said...


Are you posting all of this in hopes you will be published?

And, after this, no more "seminary papers-turned-into-blog-posts." That's cheating! :)

Matthew Wireman said...

Good. Thank you for the quick reply. I see what you are trying to show now. As for the Sharp Rule, I remember Dr. Grudem using Col 1.2 in his argument. Do you remember what he was trying to show? I just wrote it down in my notes...and you know what happens when you look at it two years later!

Anyway, I do want us to caution using English as a guide for how we will read Greek. I know you weren't doing this, but the tendency is to say, "The rules of English dictate this in grammar, therefore this is also true in Greek." Like I said, I know you weren't doing that with your example, I just thought it beneficial to make this point.

I agree with Mark, no more cutting and pasting!!!

Jonathan said...

Thanks MAtt. I have some blog material brewing and will be posting soon. I am thinking in the direction of baptism and church membership, and the relationship thereof.

bethy31 said...

What's it like in your brain?

Mark Redfern said...

Some blog material is "brewing?" Is that next to the keg? I knew you were a Puritan.

Jonathan said...

Bethy - Frankly I am not sure, and I dont think anyone else knows as well!
Well...I guess God knows :)

Matthew Wireman said...

It's me again. My interst was perked and so I contacted a friend of mine who is mentored by Dr. Grudem in Phoenix. He sent me an unpublished bit that helped defend Dr. Grudem's understanding of the passage. Published material to defend his view can be found in the 2000 edition of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, pages 345-346. I think you need to check this out and respond seeing that Dr. Grudem has responded to the difficulties you raise to his exegesis.

Jonathan said...

Matt - thanks. I have the updated version of that book and have already thoroughly examined this section. The problem is Grudem's treatment is very short (2 pages) and unpersuasive, especially in light of Wallace's 23 page defense the grandville sharp rule entitled:


I think we should refrain from entering into the larger issues of charismata and fallible prophecy from this text.My point is simply that the syntactical evidence is very much against the “identical” view, even though syntax has been the primary grounds used in behalf of it. As I tried to show, there are no clear examples of plural nouns in article-noun-kai-noun contrusction fitting the “identical” group in the NT, rendering such a possibility here less likely on grammatical grounds.

Matt consider this extra evidence from: Charles Powell (Dallas Theological Seminary)

*****The strongest possibilities are either that two distinct groups are in view or the apostles are seen as a subset of the prophets. If the OT prophets are in view, then obviously two distinct groups are meant. But if NT prophets are in view, this would favor the apostles as being a subset of the prophets.
In favor of this second view: (1) If OT prophets were in view, it seems
unnatural that they would be mentioned second. (2) Whenever apostles are in a article-noun-kai-noun plural construction they always come first and the semantic value of the
construction involves the first group as a subset of the second. (3) Since the picture of a building which apparently consists of the true Church is what is being described here, and since the apostles and prophets are viewed
as foundational to this building, it seems hardly conceivable that OT
prophets would be in the author’s mind here. (4) The same construction occurs in 3:5 in which it is declared that the mystery has now been revealed “to his holy apostles and prophets”; thus, the NT prophets are clearly in view there.
Since the context is still about the foundation and beginning of the Church, it would be consistent for the reference to be about the same group of prophets in both 2:20 and 3:5. An appropriate conclusion, then, is that Eph 2:20 speaks of “the apostles and [other] prophets.”****

Mark Redfern said...


How about a post on the implications of the paragogic noon for the fulfillment of God's worldwide purposes for His glory?

Jonathan said...

Hey Mark this is for you dog, just because your intertested and want to invest your life well...

Paragogic nun endings(ן + יִשָּׁקוּ) are attached to imperfects to connote rhetorical emphasis. It is used either (1) to mark out an action that is contrary to normal practice and deviates from normal expectations , or (2) to express strong emotion

Dont waste your life...

And in case anyone is interested: Yes there is a way to waste your life studying biblical Hebrew Syntax, contrary to popular belief - sadly.