The Divine and Human Element in Prophecy

“We are dealing here, of course, with a miracle and a mystery. The miracle is that though the prophet was saying exactly what the Lord wanted said, he was also speaking in his own human person, using the vocabulary, idioms, figures of speech, literary style that was naturally his. So, for example, Jeremiah can begin his book ‘The words of Jeremiah… to whom the word of the Lord came’ (1: 1, 2). Or Amos: ‘The words of Amos… Thus says the Lord’ (1: 1, 3). This claim equally to human individuality and divine inspiration can be seen worked out in each of the books of the prophets. The more we enter into what they wrote (even in English translation) the more we see how each prophet is using his own words and style, and imparting his individual ‘feel’ to his book, whether the ‘Miltonic’, ‘Beethovenesque’ Hebrew of Isaiah, or the more ‘chatty’ style of Malachi. Throughout, the mystery of inspiration remains un-explained. At the start of his book Jeremiah says three times (1: 2, 3, 4) that the word of the Lord ‘came’, but ‘came’ does not here translate a verb of motion; it represents the verb ‘to be’—‘ the word of the Lord was’, or, more in keeping with the force of the verb ‘to be’ in Hebrew, ‘the word of the Lord became a living reality to.’ We would like to know a great deal more about this key topic, but the Bible remains silent. It insists on the fact, but conceals the mechanism.” -Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament

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