Was the God Silent between the OT and NT?

Did the Spirit leave Israel after the last Old Testament prophets; Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi? Did prophecy cease in Israel until the coming of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ? Was God silent for hundreds of years?


For most of the 1900’s, scholars (and hence pastors’ popular teaching) have followed Hermann Gunkel’s conclusion (from 1888) regarding the above questions. However, many people aren’t aware that biblical scholarship has moved away from that view.

In 1983 David Aune concluded, “The opinion is widespread that prophecy ceased in Judaism during the fifth century BC, only to break forth once again with the rise of Christianity. The evidence . . . however, flatly contradicts that view. Israelite prophecy did not disappear” (Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World, p. 103). The shift to this view was strong enough in 1983 that Aune could also write, “It has become increasingly recognized that prophecy did not disappear in Judaism during the Hellenistic and Roman periods, but that it was alive and well, though in a form considerably different from that of classical OT prophecy” (p. 104).

John (Jack) Levison’s more recent research in Filled with the Spirit (2009) affirms that it is a “defective perspective” or “faulty assumption” to think that “the Jews during the Greco-Roman era believed in the loss of the spirit, a loss that allegedly occurred when the last of Israel’s prophets died” (p. 114). (Pages 114-116 contain a good discussion of how this view has shifted in biblical scholarship.)

It seems that in the second temple period (530BC-70AD) there were indeed some rabbinic texts which claimed that prophecy had ceased (which might support Gunkel’s conclusion), but there were also many other famous rabbis (and even communities) who claimed that the Spirit was upon them and that they prophesied. (Some scholars have suggested that some of the rabbis who denied the existence of prophecy were actually attempting to undermine the prophetic claims of early Christians.)

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