In passing from Greek life to Christianity, I will ask you, in the first instance, to note the broad distinction which exists between what in the primitive churches was known as "prophesying," and that which in subsequent times came to be known as "preaching." I lay the more stress upon the distinction for the accidental reason that, in the first reaction against the idea that "prophecy" necessarily meant "prediction," it was maintained- and with a certain reservation the contention was true- that a "prophet" meant a "preacher." The reservation is, that the prophet was not merely a preacher but a spontaneous preacher. He preached because he could not help it, because there was a divine breath breathing within him which must needs find an utterance. It is in this sense that the prophets of the early churches were preachers. They were not church officers appointed to discharge certain functions. They were the possessors of a charisma, a divine gift which was not official but personal. "No prophecy ever came by the will of man; but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." They did not practise beforehand how or what they should say; for "the Holy Ghost taught them in that very hour what they should say." Their language was often, from the point of rhetorical schools, a barbarous patois. They were ignorant of the rules both of style and of dialectic. They paid no heed to refinements of expression. The greatest preacher of them all claimed to have come among his converts, in a city in which Rhetoric flourished, not with the persuasiveness of human logic, but with the demonstration which was afforded by spiritual power.

Of that "prophesying" of the primitive churches it is not certain that we possess any monument. The Second Epistle of Peter and the Epistle of Jude are perhaps representatives of it among the canonical books of the New Testament. The work known as the Second Epistle of Clement is perhaps a representative of the form which it took in the middle of the second century; but though it is inspired by a genuine enthusiasm, it is rather more artistic in its form than a purely prophetic utterance is likely to have been.

In the course of the second century, this original spontaneity of utterance died almost entirely away. It may almost be said to have died a violent death. The dominant parties in the Church set their faces against it. The survivals of it in Asia Minor were formally condemned. The Montanists, as they were called, who tried to fan the lingering sparks of it into a flame, are ranked among heretics. And Tertullian is not even now admitted into the calendar of the Saints, because he believed the Montanists to be in the right.

It was inevitable that it should be so. The growth of a confederation of Christian communities necessitated the definition of a bases of confederation. Such a definition, and the further necessity of guarding it, were inconsistent with that free utterance of the Spirit which had existed before the confederation began. Prophesying died when the Catholic Church was formed.

In place of prophesying came preaching.

 

 

from pages 105- 107, The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity