Did Inspiration Cease for 400 years?

Did Inspiration Cease for 400 years?

An examination of one of Norman Geisler's
attacks on the Deuterocanonical's inspiration

By Matt1618

In this paper, I will examine arguments taken from a book by Norm Geisler that Protestants will often use to say that the Deutercanonical books are not Scripture: That prophecy had stopped for more than 400 years, and therefore the Deuterocanonical books must not be inspired. He also gives a subset of arguments based on that premise to further delegitimize the Deuterocanonical books. These arguments are taken from Norman Geisler and Ralph E. MacKenzie, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences, 1995, p. 167. In this paper, I will examine and critique 2 paragraphs in the Geisler book. He gives one paragraph with a general statement, and then, another paragraph where he gives seven 'proofs' that the Deuterocanonicals thus are not Scripture. I will examine each of his 'proofs'. His writing is in black font, and my responses will follow:
In fact the entire Protestant Old Testament was considered prophetic. Moses, who wrote the first five books, was a prophet (Deut. 18:15.) The rest of the Old Testament books were known as the “the Prophets” (Matt. 5:17) since these two sections are called “all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27). The “apostles and [New Testament] prophets” (Eph. 3:5) composed the entire New Testament. Hence, the whole Bible is a prophetic book, including the final book (cf. Rev. 20:7, 9-10). As we will see, this cannot be said for the apocryphal books.
Not all was considered prophetic. Where is Nehemiah, Ruth, 1 and 2 Chronicles, or Esther termed ‘prophetic’? All who are aware of the different writings will know that there is another category called ‘writings’, of which there was little or no prophecy. 1 & 2 Chronicles is not written by a prophet. Ezra is a priest who gives no pretension of being a prophet. Neither was Nehemiah. Esther, who does not even use the term ‘God’, certainly was not a prophet. Ecclesiastes makes absolutely no prophecies nor claims to be written by a prophet and is totally ignored in the New Testament, as are 11 other Old Testament Protocanonical books. 1 & 2 Chronicles, Joshua, and 1 & 2 Kings make no inference of being written by a prophet. Matthew 5:17 does not say that all the rest of the books of the Old Testament are termed “the Prophets”. Jesus said in Mt. 5:17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The Law is the Pentateuch, or Moses’ books. The prophets are the 12 minor prophets and 3 major prophets. Of course some of the other books have prophecies, but Jesus gives us no hint that 'all of the books' are written by prophets. Of course Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies, but not all inspired books necessarily have prophecies about Jesus. If those books do not have prophecies about Jesus, that does not render them uninspired. Nowhere does Jesus give us a ‘test’ that a book only is inspired if is written by a prophet. This criteria, that it must be written by a prophet (or apostles) would also exclude Luke and Mark, from the New Testament canon, as they were not written by Apostles or Prophets. In the Old Testament there are the prophets I just referred to, but most of the other books are not, nor claim to be written by prophets. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies, but he did not say, ‘well, only those books written by prophets are Scripture’, otherwise, the Protestant’s Old Testament would be much smaller than currently exists. Not all historical writings, such as found in 1 & 2 Chronicles, must be written by prophets. The same goes for the Maccabees.

When Jesus said that he went to the ‘Prophets’ and all the Scriptures that he fulfilled, it did not say, as Geisler indicates that Jesus thus termed all the inspired books as ‘the Prophets.’ Of course he referred to writings that were fulfilled in him. Going to ‘all the Scriptures the things concerning himself’ does not mean that he pulled out a prophecy found in the book of Esther. There was no prophecy found in Esther specifically about Christ, nor does any New Testament author cite Esther at all. The same would apply to other Protocanonical books. Nor did Jesus give us Esther as a book that is prophecy. In fact the book of Esther, among many other Protocanonical books, is never mentioned at all in the New Testament.

There is strong evidence that the apocryphal books are not prophetic. But since propheticity is the test for canonicity, this would eliminate the Apocrypha from the canon.
Again, the test that Geisler gives would eliminate many of the books that he cites as Scripture. I would love for Geisler to give some indication that Ecclesiastes is ‘prophetic’. Again, Scripture does not say that ‘in order for this to be Scripture, it must be prophetic.’ This is a Geisler, man-made tradition, that in order for a book to be Scripture, it must pass some test of propheticity.
First, no apocryphal books claim to be written by a prophet. Indeed, as already noted, one apocryphal book even disclaims being prophetic (1 Macc. 9:27).
Again a false premise that would eliminate many of the Protocanonical books along with the Deuterocanonical books only backfires on the Protestant. 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ecclesisastes, Ezra, Nehemiah, Job, Esther, etc., nowhere claim to be written by a prophet. Again, Scripture nowhere says that ‘in order for this to be Scripture, I must be a prophet.’

Here is the passage in Maccabees that Geisler refers us to:

1 Maccabees 9:27: --speaking about the persecutions under Bacchides, who killed all of the Jewish leaders: "There has not been such great distress in Israel since the time prophets ceased to appear among the people."
Another similar passage:
1 Maccabees 14:41: "The Jewish people and their priests have therefore made the following decisions. Simon shall be their permanent leader and high priest until a true prophet arises."
On this issue, Mark Bonocore give some important insight:
First of all, I see no mention, that "the inspiration of God had ceased" at this time. It doesn't say that at all. In fact, it was during this time that God created the oil miracle in the Temple, still commemorated today by Jews as the feast of Hanukkah.

But, secondly, ... Notice that both these quotes refer to the **leadership.***of the Jewish people; and both associate leadership with a "prophet." But, do you know why? It is because neither the Maccabees, nor any descendants of David himself, couldn't declare themselves to be kings because a **prophet** was needed to anoint a legitimate King of Israel (just as Samuel anointed Saul and David). So, there could be no successor to David without a prophet to choose him. Well, ... Guess who that prophet is eventually going to be? It's John the Baptist: the last prophet of the Old Testament, whose Baptism anoints Jesus as the Messiah (e.g. John 1:31-33). Therefore, 1 Maccabees looks an awful lot like Sacred Scripture to me, since it lays the foundation for the coming of St. John.

What's more, as Luke 1:41, Luke 1:46, Luke 1:67, Luke 1:25-27, and Luke 1:36 reveal to us, the prophetic charism existed in Israel **before** the coming of John the Baptist. Thus, when 1 Maccabees speaks of no prophet to anoint a legitimate King (the role that John the Baptist would eventually come to fulfill), it is not discounting the existence of minor prophets or Divine inspiration among the Chosen People of God.

So, the need for a prophet in the time of 1 Maccabees was because of a crisis in **legitimate** leadership, not because of Divine inspiration needed to write the books.

Thus, only, the prophet of the Messiah, John the Baptist, would be the Prophet that would be of necessity proclaim the New King of Kings, Jesus Christ. Maccabees actually lays the foundation for that necessity.

The Book of Wisdom certainly prophecies about the Messiah:

18 for if the righteous man is God's son, he will help him, and will deliver him (See Mt. 27:43) from the hand of his adversaries. 19 Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is, and make trial of his forbearance. 20 Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected."
In the Protocanonicals, there is often not someone saying: “This is a prophecy about the Messiah”, but a clear prophecy, as in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. In the same way, Wisdom 2 does not say, “this is a prophecy about the Messiah”, but gives a powerful forecast of, and can only be explained by what happened to Jesus the Messiah who indeed was God's Son who was condemned to death, and mocked.

As Samuel anointed David, as the True King of Israel, it is John the Baptist, who who through his baptism anointed Jesus as the New King of the New Kingdom (Jn 1:29-35, 49).

Also, besides the fact that Wisdom clearly speaks of Jesus, the Geisler claim that there is not even a claim for prophecy in the Deuterocanonicals is falsified by the following passage from the Book of Sirach, 24:32-34:

32 I will again make instruction shine forth like the dawn, and I will make it shine afar; 33 I will again pour out teaching like prophecy, and leave it to all future generations. 34 Observe that I have not labored for myself alone, but for all who seek instruction.
He had previously written that the book of the Covenant of the Most High God was written by Moses (Sir. 24:23). Now he writes that what he writes is again pouring out prophecy . This book is written for all future generations for all who seek instruction. Thus, not only do the books actually have a predictive prophecy (Wis. 2:12-20) in reference to Jesus, but also claims to speak for God in the same manner as Moses did, and for all future generations (Sir. 24:32-34).

Finally, any attempt to latch on a misreading of Maccabees or to quote Josephus, who also said that prophecies stopped 400 years prior, only harms those who say that Jesus is the Messiah. If prophecy stopped for 400 years, then Jesus is not the Messiah, as John the Baptist is not a prophet, and the writings of the New Testament can not be used at all, as it would have no prophetic insight whatsoever. Any attempt to attack the Deuterocanonicals only comes back to attack the foundation of the New Testament. It is either all of nothing: If more than 400 years before, no prophets at all existed, then not only are the Deuterocanonicals not valid, but then so is the New Testament not valid. If the prophets did exist, then certainly not only are the Deuterocanonicals valid, so are the New Testament writings.

The whole premise behind the argument: “books had to be written by prophets in order for it to be Scripture” is false. But I do affirm with all the Church Fathers who supposedly were anti-Deuterocanonical, that some of these books were written by prophets.

Second, there is no divine confirmation of any of the writers of the apocryphal books, as there is for prophets who wrote canonical books (e.g., Exod. 4:1-2).
If one looks at both the New and Old Testament, most books do not have ‘divine confirmation’ of the writers of each of the books. In the New Testament 27 books, only the Book of Revelation confirms the writing of a book (Rev. 1:11). That would eliminate 26 out of 27 books, not too good of a record for Mr. Geisler. Sure, some of the prophets of the Old Testament such as Moses were given divine confirmation of their writings, but many if not most books, did not have explicit divine confirmation of those writings. But even with that strange and contradictory criteria that Geisler himself does not follow, the statement itself is wrong. In the book of Tobit, there is indeed divine confirmation not only of the author, but that of the writing that followed. Angels give divine confirmation to Tobit: Tobit 6:12-15:
6 Then the angel called the two of them privately and said to them: "Praise God and give thanks to him; exalt him and give thanks to him in the presence of all the living for what he has done for you. It is good to praise God and to exalt his name, worthily declaring the works of God. Do not be slow to give him thanks.7 It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God. Do good, and evil will not overtake you.8 Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold.9 For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fulness of life;10 but those who commit sin are the enemies of their own lives.

11 "I will not conceal anything from you. I have said, 'It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God.'12 And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you.13 When you did not hesitate to rise and leave your dinner in order to go and lay out the dead, your good deed was not hidden from me, but I was with you.14 So now God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah.15 I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One."

Thus, we see that Tobit is confirmed by an angel of God. He promises that God will be with him, and he is God’s instrument. Thus, here is the divine witness that Geisler had said didn’t exist. Not only does the angel Raphael confirm Tobit in his mission, but he also tells him to write:
16They were both alarmed; and they fell upon their faces, for they were afraid.17 But he said to them, "Do not be afraid; you will be safe. But praise God for ever.18 For I did not come as a favor on my part, but by the will of our God. Therefore praise him for ever.19 All these days I merely appeared to you and did not eat or drink, but you were seeing a vision.20 And now give thanks to God, for I am ascending to him who sent me. Write in a book everything that has happened." 21 Then they stood up; but they saw him no more.22 So they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and acknowledged that the angel of the Lord had appeared to them.
Just as Moses and the other prophets were at first fearful of being called, Tobit and his son Tobias were afraid, and then was confirmed by a divine messenger. Not only that, but he actually tells him to write in a book everything that has happened. What we have is not only Tobit himself given divine witness for his mission, but he actually is told to write a book that describes this. This book that he wrote is the book of Tobit, one of the seven Deuterocanonical books.
Third, there is no predictive prophecy in the Apocrypha, such as we have in the canonical books (e.g., Isa. 53; Dan. 9; Mic. 5:2) and which is a clear indication of their propheticity.
Where is predictive prophecy in Esther, Nehemiah, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, etc? Again, this criteria only boomerangs on those who selectively apply one criteria for the Deuterocanonicals and a totally different criteria for the Protocanonicals. That is clearly false as I’ve shown (in the answer to point one) through the book of Wisdom 2:12-20. It points to a Son of God who would be mocked and put to death. Part of the reason that these books were thrown out by the Jews was exactly because it had predictive prophecy about Jesus in Wisdom 2. Many of the Fathers pointed to Baruch as pointing to Christ, who would live among man as one who would come down and live among men (Bar. 3:36-38). In my study of the Fathers, the citations of the Deuterocanonicals often would be applied to doctrine about Christ.
Fourth, there is no new messianic truth in the Apocrypha. Thus, it adds nothing to the messianic truths of the Old Testament.
False again. The what is now old “I eliminate the Deuterocanonicals using this criteria, but I won’t mention the fact that this would eliminate many of the Protocanonical books” argument rears its head again. Show me where Ruth and Esther and Nehemiah and Ezra, etc. each add messianic truths, whereas the book of Wisdom does not. But in fact there are Messianic truths that are more apparent in the Deuterocanonical books that Christians affirm that are vague in the rest of the Old Testament. Talk of the resurrection to life is more apparent in 2nd Maccabees 7 than all the rest of the Protocanonical books combined. Here is a sampling of the citations that speak of the Resurrection of Life. The context is where there are seven brothers who refused to eat meat that was not allowed by the law. Of course, predating Christ, all were still under the Mosaic Law. Nonetheless, the language used in 2nd Maccabees affirms hope in the resurrection of life. Here are some samples found in 2 Maccabees 7:
12 "One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!"
13 When he too had died, they maltreated and tortured the fourth in the same way. 14 And when he was near death, he said, "One cannot but choose to die at the hands of men and to cherish the hope that God gives of being raised again by him. But for you there will be no resurrection to life!"
Even the mother saw this hope:
22 "I do not know how you came into being in my womb. It was not I who gave you life and breath, nor I who set in order the elements within each of you. 23 Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws."
35 You have not yet escaped the judgment of the almighty, all-seeing God. 36 For our brothers after enduring a brief suffering have drunk of everflowing life under God's covenant; but you, by the judgment of God, will receive just punishment for your arrogance. 37 I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God.

29 Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God's mercy I may get you back again with your brothers."

The background is that a King was demanding that they eat meats that were forbidden by the Mosaic Laws. Not only in this chapter is there a heroic display of courage, but in the passages I highlight here, we see that the brothers and the mother 5 times refer to the hope of a resurrection of life. That is more of a mention here than in all the rest of the Old Testament passages combined. In all the rest of the Bible, much of the discussion of that area is vague. We even have in Ecclesiastes 9:2 saying: Everything before them is vanity, since one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good man, so is the sinner... Ecclesiastes by the way would be eliminated by all the criteria used by Geisler. It would be labeled as 'contradictory' to the rest of the Bible. The Psalms when it speaks of Hades does not speak of any resurrection of life. Daniel 12 once mentions the resurrection of life. However, we see that the heroic brothers had a hope of a resurrection of life, which of course is ultimately found in Jesus Christ, for those who die in him. There is also a mention that the souls of the unjust will be punished eternally. This mention of hope is a messianic truth spoken of at great length in this chapter that is not found elsewhere in the Old Testament. This gives precedent for Paul’s writing on the resurrection of life found in 1 Corinthians 15. Thus, Geisler’s statement that there is no Messianic truth found in the Deuterocanonicals is false.

We have another statement that clearly teaches on the immortality of the Soul: Wisdom 3:1-4

1 But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. 2 In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, 3 and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. 4 For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.
This passage is the clearest passage that explicitly teaches the immortality of the soul. Only Jehovah Witnesses and Seventh Day Adventist types would see a problem with this passage.

Again, as seen earlier, we saw the Wisdom passage prove how Christ would die, and how people would mock him (Wisdom 2:12-20), and put to death one who calls himself the Son of God. If the premise was true (that in order for a book to be valid, it has to have new truths about the Messiah) it would eliminate many Protocanonical books. Nonetheless the premise is not true, as the books do have Messianic truths in them.

Fifth, even the Jewish community, whose books they were, acknowledged that the prophetic gifts had ceased in Israel before the Apocrypha was written (see quotes above).
Well, the same Jewish community that did not acknowledge the inspiration of the Deuterocanonical books also did not acknowledge the inspiration of the New Testament. Any attempt to corral the Jewish community into denying the inspiration and propheticity of the Deuterocanonical books also must realize that this same community denied the inspiration and propheticity of the New Testament. All of the authors of the New Testament were Jews as well, with only Luke having something besides Jewish blood.
Sixth, the apocryphal books were never listed in the Jewish Bible along with the “Prophets,” or any other section for that matter.
That is partly incorrect. Obviously the Septuagint was organized with both the Protocanonical books with the Deuterocanonical books also alongside them. Thus, the Jewish Bible that most of the Jews had, included all the books that are in the Catholic Bible. So the fact that the Septuagint existed, which included all these books that Geisler calls ‘apocryphal’, demonstrate that the idea that the apocryphal books were ‘never’ listed in the Jewish Bible is flat out false and Geisler should know that.

The Jews did not have a set canon for a long time. The Sadducees had a separate canon. The Pharisees had a separate canon. The Essene Jews had a separate canon. The Ethiopian Jews had (and still have) a separate canon. The Alexandrian Jews did have a canon that included these books, and as demonstrated even in the center of Jerusalem, the Septuagint in the first century was widely distributed. The question of the Jews and the canon was not settled for many years even after Jesus was crucified so even if the statement was correct, it would be irrelevant on whether Christians are supposed to accept their canon I have shown that at this url

Finally, the fact that the Jews did not have an organized canon until long after Christianity started, shows that they did not operate on a Sola Scriptura basis. If Scripture was the sole binding authority, obviously the extent of the canon would have been decided long before Christianity existed.

Seventh, never once is any apocryphal book cited authoritatively by a prophetic book written after it.
The following books, almost 1/3rd of the books of the Protestant Old Testament) are NOWHERE quoted or even alluded to in the New Testament: Ecclesiastes, Esther, Song of Songs, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, Nahum. Thus, the same argument excludes all these books. In fact, all of these mentioned books would have been excluded by many of these points attempted to be used by Geisler to exclude the Deuterocanonicals.

Even if there were no specific citations where there was “It is written” in the New Testament in reference to the Deuterocanonical books, there are clear references to the Deuterocanonicals. Here is Hebrews 11:35, for example:

Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.
This is as close to a citation as one could get, as it is obvious that Hebrews 11:35, the second part, is speaking of the brothers in the Maccabees who died in the hope to rise again to a better life. No Protocanonical book has those events. Also, there is a borrowing from Deuterocanonicals in the New Testament, even if there is not formal citations which are preceded by “It is written.” Paul in Romans 1:19-32, clearly alludes to Wisdom 13, for example. Also, James 1:19 clearly alludes to Sirach 5:11:
James 1:19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, life.

Sirach 5:11: Be quick to hear, and be deliberate in answering.

There are other references as well. Even if there are not quotations per se, the ideas are clearly intertwined and a borrowing from the Deuterocanonicals is clear. An url that goes into even more allusions and borrowing from the Deuterocanonicals is here (including prophecies): http://scripturecatholic.com/deuterocanon.html
Taken together this provides overwhelming evidence that the Apocrypha was not prophetic and, therefore, should not be part of the canon of Scripture. (Geisler, p. 167).
In sum, taken together, no points are made at all. The criteria that he used to deny the Deuterocanonical either don't apply to those books, or if they do apply they would also eliminate a large portion of both New and Old Testament books that Geisler himself accepts.
©2001, "Did Inspiration Cease for 400 years?", written by Matt1618. This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.

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