The Many Storied Prophets by Patrick Henry Reardon

As It Is Written . . .

The Many Storied Prophets

by Patrick Henry Reardon

It is easy to detect, over the course of biblical history, significant changes in Israel's interest in the prophets. The most significant change, I suppose, comes with the emergence of literary prophecy in the eighth century. In the previous century, Israel's interest in the prophets was especially expressed in narrative form; major sections of the books of Kings are taken up with stories of Micaiah, Elijah, and Elisha. Although rather little of the teaching of these men is preserved in the Sacred Text, many pages are devoted to stories about them. With respect to Elisha, for example, we do find him in the posture of a teacher (cf. 2 Kings 4:38), but no one bothered to write down very much of what he taught. Instead, they recorded anecdotes of his extraordinary exploits: making iron float, purifying a spring of water, striking an entire army with blindness, healing a leper, and restoring life to a dead child.

In the big shift of interest during the eighth century, it is not as though Israel gave up its "biographical" approach to the prophets. On the contrary, details were included of the personal lives of Amos (cf. Amos 1:1; 7:10–15), Hosea (cf. Hosea 1:1–9), and Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 6:1–8; 7:1–3; 8:1–3; 36—39; etc.). On the whole, however, far more pages of Israel's eighth-century literature are devoted to the teaching of the prophets than to stories about them. Of the personal life of Micah, indeed, we are told next to nothing.

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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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