Abraham Kuyper.

Encyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... online

. (page 50 of 64)
Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 50 of 64)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


mology of the word is too uncertain for this. Who indeed
will prove whether we must go back to X^D3. !733, K3, which
would be identical with ^a-, in 4>j]iJ.i, or to X''33? Or also
whether the form SIS is a passive or intransitive katil-form,
and whether, if effimdere, to pour out, is the primary mean-
ing of this root, we must think of a poured-out person, or of
a person who causes his words to flow out like water across
the fields ? One can offer conjectures, but to infer anything
from the etymology as to the meaning of the word is at
present simply impossible. The synonyms also, Tl^l and Tip,
merely indicate that the prophet is some one who is given
to seeing visions. From the description of some of these
visions, as for instance the vision of the calls, from the phe-
nomena that accompanied them, and from the form in which
the prophet usually expressed himself, it can be very defi-
nitely shown, on the other hand, that, as subject, he felt him-
self taken hold of by a higher subject, and was compelled to
speak not his own thoughts, but the thoughts of this higher
subject. The frequent repetition of the "Thus saith" (HD
"I^St) proves this. In Jeremiah's spiritual struggle (Jer. xx.
7 sq.) this antithesis reaches its climax. In 2 Sam. vii. 3
Nathan first declares as his own feeling that David Avill
build the temple, while in verses 4, 5 he receives the pro-
phetical charge to announce to David the very opposite. In
Isa. xxxviii. 1-5 we read the twofold " Thus saith," first, that
Hezekiah will succumb to his sickness, and then that he will
again be restored. The fundamental type is given in Deut.
xviii. 18 as follows : " I, Jehovah, will put my words in his
mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall com-
mand him." We find this all-prevailing fundamental thought
still more sharply brought out by Ezekiel in Chap. ii. 8: "But



CiiAP. II] §84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION 529

thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee ; open thy mouth,
and eat that I give thee'' And in Chap. iii. 1, 2 : " Son of
man, eat that thou findest, eat this roll, and go and speak.
So I opened my mouth, and he caused me to eat that roliy
To eat is to take up and assimilate in my blood a material or
food which originated outside of me. This, therefore, is a
most definite indication that the subject from whose con-
sciousness the prophecy originated is not the subject of the
prophet, but the subject Jehovah. Whichever way this is
turned, the chief distinction in prophecy is always that the
subject of the prophet merely serves as instrument.

From this, however, it must not be inferred that the char-
acter or disposition of this instrumental subject was a matter
of indifference. The same musician who at one time plays
the flute, the other time a cornet, and at still another time a
trumpet, produces each time entirely different tones. This
depends altogether upon the instrument he plays and the
condition of the instrument. In the same way this per-
sonal character and present- disposition of the prophet will
o-ive tone to his prophecy to such an extent that with
Isaiah the result is entirely different from what it is with
Hosea, and with Jeremiah from what it is with Micah. Only
do not lose from sight that this noticeable difference in
prophecy, which is the result of the great difference between
prophet and prophet, was also determined by the higher
subject. As the player chooses his instrument according to
the composition he wants to be heard, Jehovah chose His
prophetical instrument. God the Lord, moreover, did what
the player cannot do : He prepared His instrument Himself,
and tuned it to the prophecy which by this instrument He
was to give to Israel, and by Israel to the Church of all ages.
If thus without reservation we must recognize the personal
stamp which a prophet puts upon his prophecy, it may never
be inferred that the fons prophetiae is to be sought in him,
and that the primoprimae issues of thought should not come
from the consciousness of God. We may even enter more
fully into this, and confess that it was the preparation, educa-
tion, and further development of a prophet and his lot in life



530 § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION [Div. Ill

generally that brought it about that in his consciousness all
those elements were available which God the Lord should need
for His prophecy. It may indeed be assumed that the ethno-
logical and political knowledge of the kingdoms with whom
Israel came in contact, and from which so many judgments
proceeded, was present in the synteresis of the prophets. The
capacity to gather thoughts and unite them into an opinion
may likewise have been active in the instrumental subject.
This much, however, remains fact, that so far as the ego of
the prophet was active in this, it did not go to work from its
own spontaneity, but was passively directed by another sub-
ject, in whose service it was emploj^ed.

Even this does not end our study of the anthropological basis
of prophecy. Ecstasy, which is so strongly apparent on the
heights of prophecy, is no uncommon phenomenon. We
know as yet so very little of the nature and working of
psychical powers. Biology, magnetic sleep, clairvoyance,
hypnotism, trance, insanity, telepathy, as Stead called his
invention, are altogether phenomena which have appeared
from of old in all sorts of forms, and which science has too
grossly neglected. Evidently these workings are less com-
mon in quiet, peaceful times, and show themselves with
more intensity when public restlessness destroys the equi-
librium. This accounts for the fact that at present they
are prominently coming again to the front. This at least is
evident, that our psyche, over against its consciousness, as
well as with reference to its body, can become so strongly
excited that common relations give place to those that are
entirely uncommon. Whole series of stations lie between
common enthusiasm and wild insanity, by which in its course
this action assumes a more or less concrete, but ever modi-
fied, form. And so far as insanity has no directly physical
causes, it carries wholly the impression of being a tension
between the psyche and its consciousness, which is not
merely acute, but becomes chronic, or even permanent. Ec-
stasy is commonly represented as being the outcome of the
mastery of an idea, a thought, or a phantom over the psyche,
and by means of the sensibilities over the body, to such an ex-



CiiAP. II] § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION 631

tent that for the moment the common working of the senses
and of the other spiritual powers is suspended, and psyche
and soma are used entirely as instruments of this mania,
idea, or visionary image. If we combine these ecstatic phe-
nomena with the biological, i.e. with the power which the
psyche of one can obtain over the psyche of another, and
grant that the power which other men can exert upon us can
be exerted upon us much more strongly by God, we must
conclude that in prophecy also God the Lord made use of
factors which He Himself had prepared in our human nature.
With this difference, however, that in this instance He makes
use Himself of what at other times He places at the disposal of
biologians. A complete analogy to prophecy would be given
in this, especially if Stead's ideas about his so-called tliouglit^
which rests upon the system of telepathy, were found to be
true. He asserts to have reached this result telepathically,
— that at a distance of ten or twenty miles, without any
means of communication whatsoever, one man wrote down
literally what the other man thought. This may lack ex-
citement and passion, but by no means excludes ecstasy;
it is well known that besides a passionate, there is also an en-
tirely restful, ecstasy, which, for the time being, petrifies a
man, or causes him to lie motionless as in deep sleep.

If we inquire what the prophets themselves relate concern-
ing their experience in such prophetic periods, a real differ-
ence may be observed. At one time the seizure is violent, at
another time one scarcely receives the impression that a seiz-
ure has taken place. When that seizure comes they receive
the impression of a 1^37, i.e. as though they are put into a
strait-jacket by the Spirit. This admits of no other explanation,
except that they lost the normal working of their senses and
the common use of their limbs. There is an lad laliivali
which takes hold of them ; Avhich indicates that the pressure
came not gradually, but suddenly, upon them. Sometimes a
" fall " is the result of this ; they fell forward, not because they
wanted to kneel down, but because their muscles were para-
lyzed, and, filled with terror, they fell to the ground. Mean-
while they perceived a glow from within which put them as



532 § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION [Div. Ill

on fire, as Jeremiah declares that it became a fire in his bones
which he could not resist. Ezekiel testifies (iii. 14), " I went
in bitterness, in the heat of my spirit, and the hand of the
Lord was strong upon me." At the close of the ecstasy the
prophet felt himself worn-out and faint, and pathologically
affected to such a degree that he said he was ill. In that
condition he saw visions, heard speaking and saw whole
dramas played ; and when presently he is again so far re-
stored to himself that he can speak, the continuity of his
consciousness is by no means broken. He knows what hap-
pened with him, and tells what he saw and heard. By itself
there is nothing strange in all this. That which is distinc-
tively prophetic does not consist of these psychical phenomena.
These were common with pseudo-prophets. But these phe-
nomena, which were commonly produced by pathological
psychical conditions, or by superior powers of other persons,
by the influence of mighty events, or by demoniacal influ-
ences, in prophecy tvere worked hy God that He might use
them for His revelation.

This dualistic character of prophecy, coupled with the
repression of the human subject, prompts us to explain
prophecy as being epical^ even if at times this epical utterance
receives a lyrical tint. In the epos the ego of the singer
recedes to the background, and the powerful development of
events, by which he is overwhelmed, is put wholly to the
front. An epos teaches almost nothing about the poet him-
self. To such an extent is his personality repressed in the
epos. The second characteristic of the epos is, that the singer
not merely communicates what he has seen and heard, but
also pushes aside the veil, and makes you see what mysterious
powers from the unseen world were active back of all this,
and that the things seen are in reality but the effect worked
by these mysterious factors. To this extent the epos corre-
sponds entirely to the content of prophecy, and only in the
third point does the epos differ from prophecy. In the epos
the poet deals merely with tradition^ subjects it to his own
mind, lifts himself above it, and exhibits his sovereign power by
pouring over into the word, i.e. in the epos^ what has happened,



Chai>. II] § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION 533

but at the same time, and this is the triumph of the epos, ex-
plains it and makes it understood. And the epical poet differs
from the prophet in this very thing; the epicus rules as artist,
while passively the prophet undergoes inspiration from a
hio-her subject. We may grant that the epical poet also in-
vokes a higher inspiration, as is shown in the "Jerusalem De-
livered ; " and the " breathe into my bosom " (tu spira al petto
mio) is certainly a strong expression, but with Tasso it is fol-
lowed immediately by the statement : " and forgive if I mingle
fiction with truth — if I adorn my pages in part with other
thoughts than your own," which were inconceivable with the
passivity of the prophet.

If it is asked, where lies the mighty fact, which appears
epically in the epos or Word of prophecy, we answer, that
prophecy takes this drama from the counsel of God. While
Chokmatic inspiration discovers the ordinances of God that
lie hidden in creation, and lyric interprets to us the world of
our human heart, in prophecy there is epically proclaimed the
ordinance of God with reference to history, the problem of the
world's development. This history, this development, must
follow the course marked out by God in His counsel, and
to some extent it amounts to the same thing, whether this
course is seen in the facts or is read from God's counsel. The
program lies in the counsel of God, in history the perform-
ance of the exalted drama. Meanwhile there is this note-
worthy difference between the two, that in the days of the
prophets especially, the drama had been worked out only
in a very small part, while in God's counsel the complete
program lay in readiness. And secondly, even so far as it
realized God's counsel, history could never be understood in
its mystical meaning without the knowledge of God's counsel.
It is noteworthy that the compilers of the books of the Canon
classed Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings with the prophets
as the former prophets, and that the later prophets join them-
selves to these, as the later. If dioramatically we transfer the
Oracles of what we call the prophets to beyond the last judg-
ment in the realm of glory, and add Joshua to Kings inclusive,
these together give us both parts of the drama, viz. (1) what



534 § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION [Div. Ill

was already performed, and (2) what was to follow ; while
the comparison, for instance, of Kings with Chronicles makes
the epical excellence of the former to appear clearly above the
latter. The drama then begins from the moment God's
people are settled in the Holy Land. What lies behind this
is not history, but preparation. The Thorah gives the
Toledoth. With Israel in Canaan the starting-point is given
for the all-governing drama. What lies back of that is a
description of the situation by way of prologue. With Joshua
the drama begins, and ends only when the new humanity
shall enter upon the possession of the new earth, under the
new heaven. In this drama the prophet stands midway.
As a Semite he knew but two tenses, the factum and jiens^ a
perfect and an imperfect. The prophetical narrative presents
that part of the programme which is performed. It does
this epically, i.e. with the disclosure of the Divine agencies
employed ; while that which is to come is not seen by the
prophet in reality, but in vision. Always in such a way,
however, that to him a review of the whole is possible. He
therefore is not outside of it, but stands himself in its midst.
In his own heart he has passed through the struggle between
this Divine drama of redemption and the roar of the nations,
whose history must end in self-dissolution. He is conscious
of the fact that that spirit of the world combats the Spirit of
God, not only outside of, but also within, the boundaries of
Israel. Thus by virtue of his own impulse he pronounces
the Holy Spirit's criticism upon the unholy spirit of the
world, and is filled with holy enthusiasm in seeing in vision,
that that Spirit of God and His counsel shall sometime
gloriously triumph. Thus there is an organic connection be-
tween what was, and is and is to come ; a connection between
one prophet and another; a connection also with the same
prophet between the series of visions that fall to his share ;
and this states the need of the vision of the call, in which
God revealed to him, that he himself was called to cooperate
in the realizing of the Divine counsel and in the further un-
veiling of the drama. It is as foolish therefore to deny the
element of prediction in prophecy, as it is irrational to make



Chap. II] § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION 535

real prophecy consist of single aphoristical predictions. Un-
doubtedly in the main prophecy offers the unveiling of that
ivhich is to come provided it is viewed from the point where
the prophet stood and lived, so that very often he himself is
active in the process which reflects itself in his Oracle.

The apocalyptic vision only forms an exception to tliis,
which exception, however, accentuates the more sharply the
indicated character of common prophecy. The Apocalypse
does not move from the prophet to the horizon, but leaves
between him and the horizon nothing but a vacuum, in order
suddenly to cause a vision to appear on that horizon, which is
to him surprising and strange. A veil is pushed aside, which
mostly consists of this, that " the heavens were opened," and
when the veil is lifted, a scene reveals itself to the eyes of
the seer which moves from the heavens toward him. Hence,
the Apocalypse unveils the end, and is by its very nature
eschatological, even when its meaning is merely symbolic. It
rests upon the assumption that the end is not born from the
means, but that, on the contrary, the end is first determined,
and that this end postulates the means by which to realize
it. Hence, it is far more severely theological than common
prophecy, since it takes no pains to join itself to human his-
tory, but abruptly shows itself on the horizon. God's coun-
sel is what is really essential. From that counsel God shows
immediately this or the other part, and for this reason the
forms and images of apocalyptic vision are described with so
great difficulty. The purpose in hand is to show the seer a
different reality from that in which he actually lives, a real-
ity which surely is analogous to his own life, but as under
the antithesis of the butterfly and the caterpillar. How could
the form of the butterfly be made more or less clear in out-
lines borrowed from the caterpillar, to one who knows a cater-
pillar but not a butterfly ? This is the problem which every
apocalyptical vision faces. The forms and images, therefore,
are composed of what the prophet knows, but are arranged
in such different combinations and connections as to produce
a drama that is entirely abnormal. The appearance of Christ
in His glory on Patmos is truly the brilliancy of the butter-



53G § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION [Div. Ill

fly, but sketched in forms borrowed from the eaterpiUar.
From this, liowever, the apocalyptic vision derives its artistic
composition. This does not imply that the aesthetic element
is wanting in common prophecy ; but in this no tableaux
are exhibited which, in order to be exhibited, must first be
arranged. With the apocalyptic vision, however, this is
indispensable. On the prophetic horizon, which at first is
vacant, it must show its form or drama in such a way that,
however strange it may be to him, the prophet, nevertheless,
is able to receive and communicate it. It is Divine art, there-
fore, which makes the composition correspond to its purpose,
and this accounts for the fact that the artistic Unity, in the
symmetry and proportion of parts, in symbolism, and in num-
bers, is seen so vividly in the Apocalypse. This is not arti-
ficial, but spontaneous art. By counting it over, the fact has
been revealed that the allegro in Mozart's Jupiter Symphony is
divided into two parts of 120 and 193 bars ; that the adagio of
Beethoven's B-major symphony separates itself into two parts
of 40 and 64 bars. Naumann has found similar results in the
master-productions by Bach. The proportion of the golden
division always prevails in highest productions of art. No
one, however, will assert that Bach, Mozart, or Beethoven
computed this division of bars. This artistic proportion
sprang spontaneously from their artistic genius. In the
same way the unity of plan (Gliederung) in the Apocalypse
must be understood, just because in vision the action of the
seer is least and the action on the part of God is greatest.

The exhibition and announcement of things to come, i.e.
the predictive character, belongs not merely to the Apoca-
lypse, but to common prophecy as well. " Before it came to
pass I shewed it thee : lest thou shouldest say. Mine idol
hath done them." " I have declared the former things from
of old ; yea, they went forth out of my mouth, and I
shewed them ; suddenly I did them, and they came to pass "'
(Isa. xlviii. 3-5, passim'). Entirely in the same sense in
which Jesus said to His disciples, " And now I have told you
before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may
lielieve " (John xiv. 29 ; comp. xiii. 19 and xvi. 4). However



CiiAP. II] §84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION 5:57

strongly it must be emphasized, therefore, that in the person
of the prophet, in his disposition, education, surroundings,
position in life, and in his preparation in the school of the
prophets, a number of data are present which claim our
notice in connection with his prophecies, all this, however, is
no more than the preparation of the soil, and the seed from
which presently the fruit ripens comes alwaj'S from above.
Even when seemingly he merely exhorts or reproves, this
preaching of repentance or reproof is always the coming into
our reality of what is ideal and higher, as the root from which
a holier future is to bloom.



(4) The Inspiration of Christ. — Since inspiration has been
interpreted too exclusively as Scripture-inspiration, too little
attention has ever been paid to the inspiration of the Christ.
The representation, however, that the Christ knew all things
without inspiration spontaneously (sponte sua), is virtu-
ally the denial of the incarnation of the Word. The con-
sciousness of God and the Mediatorial consciousness of the
Christ are not one, but two, and the transfer of Divine
thoughts from the consciousness of God into the conscious-
ness of the Christ is not merely inspiration, but inspiration
in its highest form. The old theologians indicated this by
saying, that even the Christ possessed no archetypal, but
ectypal theology, and he obtained this via imionis, i.e. in
virtue of the union of the Divine and human nature. In
this there is merely systematized what Christ Himself said :
(John xiv. 10) "The words that T say unto you, I speak
not of myself " ; (John vii. 16) " My teaching is not mine,
but his that sent me " ; (John xiv. 24) " The word which
ye hear is not mine, but the Father's who sent me"; (John
V. 30) " As I hear, I judge " ; (John viii. 26) " The things
which I have heard from him these speak I unto the world " ;
and (John xii. 49) " The Father which sent me, he hath given
me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should
speak." This in itself is the natural outcome of His real
adoption of human nature ; but the necessity for this, more-



538 § 84. THE FORMS OF INSPIRATION [Div. Ill

over, was the greater, on account of His assuming that nature
in all its weakness, with the single exception of sin (Heb. iv.
15), which at this stage indicates that in Jesus no falsehood
was arrayed against the truth, which, as with the common
prophets, had first to be repressed. But in Christ there
was an increase in ivisdom, a gradual becoming enriched
more and more with the world that lived in the conscious-
ness of God. This was effected by the reading of the Script-
ures, by the seeing of things visible in creation, by His life
in Israel, as well as by prophetical inspiration. In that sense,
the Holy Spirit to Him also was given. In connection with
His preaching we are told, "For he whom God hath sent
speaketh the words of God : for he giveth not the Spirit by
measure" (John iii. 34), an utterance which, as seen from
the connection, may not be interpreted ethically, which would
have no sense, but refers to inspiration. This "not by meas-
ure " is also evident in this, that all kinds of inspiration, the
lyric, chokmatic and epical-prophetical, unite themselves in
Jesus, while everything that is connected with the suppres-
sion of vital energy, the will, or mistaken thoughts in the
case of the prophets, in the case of Jesus falls away. Even in
inspiration. He could never be passive without becoming active
at the same time. That the form of vision never takes place
with Jesus, but all inspiration in Him comes in clear concept
(notione clara), has a different cause. Before His incarna-
tion, the Christ has seen the heavenly reality which to
prophecy had to be shown in visions : " I speak the things
which I have seen with my Father " (John viii. 38) ; " and
bear witness of that we have seen " (John iii. 11). One may
even say that the sight of this heavenly reality was also
granted Him after His incarnation : " And no man hath as-
cended into heaven, but he that descended out of heaven,
even the Son of Man, ivliicli is in heaven''' (John iii. 13).
This very absence, in the case of the Christ, of all instru-



Online LibraryAbraham KuyperEncyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles ... → online text (page 50 of 64)