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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

The Transition to Scripture

As the life of the community around the rebuilt temple developed and changed, the importance of prophecy diminished. The institution of prophecy gradually lost its place as a primary means by which communication between God and people occurred. There were no longer any kings to hear the rebukes and decisions of the divine sovereign. The nation no longer lived an independent existence with policies to be decided and wars to fight. The priesthood rose to an independence and authority that preempted the functions of other offices in the society. The conduct of society and individuals in it were judged in the light of the scriptures that had emerged as the authoritative source of the knowledge of God's way and will. The era of Samuel and Amos was succeeded by the era of Ezra and Nehemiah. Scripture and the scribe moved into the center.

Prophecy itself became scripture. The traditions of the early prophets had been incorporated in the history told in the books of Samuel and Kings. From the time of Amos, the sayings of the canonical prophets were collected, arranged, and expanded in the process that produced the prophetic books. The sayings were preserved, treasured, and interpreted because it was through the oracles of this group of prophets that Israel could understand the tumultuous times through which it had passed—the collapse of their national life, the exile, and the restoration—as their God's way with them. The prophetic paradigm of judgment for sin with salvation as the fulfillment of the divine promises became a permanent witness to the Lord's sovereignty over their history.

The actual practice of prophecy during the second temple period declined until it eventually disappeared. In Judaism the prophets continued to exist as books of scripture. In rabbinical literature prophecy was regarded as a means of revelation of a past dispensation that had come to an end with the death of the last canonical prophet. Moses was held to be the first and greatest of the prophets. All the rest were only successors whose sayings expounded the torah that had been given through him.

Prophecy reappeared briefly in the early years of the Christian movement. John the Baptist is portrayed in the Gospels as a prophet, a second Elijah announcing judgment and calling for repentance (Matt. 3.1–12; 17.10–13 ). Jesus was recognized as a prophet (Matt. 13.57; 21.11; Lk. 4.24 ). In some congregations, spirit-inspired prophets appeared and spoke in assemblies for worship (1 Thess. 5.20; 1 Cor. 12.28–29; 14.26–32 ). Lists of offices in the early church include prophets along with apostles and teachers as leaders of the congregation (Acts 11.27; 13.1; 15.32; Eph. 2.20; 3.5; 4.11 ). But in Christianity as in Judaism it was through the books of scripture that prophecy had, and still has, an enduring place in the community's experience of God.

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