The Prophet & the Sage by Patrick Henry Reardon

The Prophet & the Sage

By separating its Wisdom literature from its prophetic books, the Bible also hints at a distinction between the vocations of the prophet and the sage. Without exaggerating this distinction—because in principle both callings may be found in a single person—it is worth inquiring, I think, in what way the prophet and the sage are different.

Let me suggest that at least part of the difference between them is the way they handle time and the events that take place within time.

Generally speaking, the prophet must deal with time on the move—as it approaches, so to speak. His hands touch time in the present and at those points where the future promises to become present. His words are burdened with the moral imperative of the instant, the kairos, where a decision is required. Events are taking place, or at least about to take place, which require the prophet to proclaim God’s understanding of them. Normally, the mind of the prophet is seized and preoccupied by the dynamisms of the active moment.

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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