Arbitrary hierarchies Essay

This essay has a total of 2222 words and 8 pages.


arbitrary hierarchies




The wisdom of God is said to be of ultimate totality, and a prophet, according to Hebrew
and Christian scriptures, is the means through which he relays this wisdom to the people.
But what constitutes God’s selections? Are prophets spiritually superior to the common
man? Are some prophets more powerful than others, or does God, in effect, distribute the
same amount of power to all of his prophets? Is there, in other words, a hierarchy and if
so are the reasons for it contingent upon the individual, or the situation that God
commands him/her to handle? The answer to these questions, and many like them, are subject
to debate, but from a literary standpoint few will argue that there is indeed a physical
hierarchy of prophets. What this inquiry is primarily concerned with, are the grounds for
such a hierarchy within the context of Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Gospels. What it
will propose, moreover, is that the unequal distribution of power is contingent upon the
situation, not the status of the individuals selected. Prophets, messianic or otherwise,
are merely mechanisms through which God handles the situation, not all-powerful emissaries
as they’re commonly perceived. The suggestion of a hierarchy stems from the addition of
the term Messiah to the term Prophet, in the following analysis both of these terms will
be described within the beliefs of their respective religions.

“I will put my words into the mouth of the prophet who shall speak to them everything that
I command” (Dt, 18:18). Prophecy is said to be the voice of God, and a prophet is simply
God’s ambassador, relaying the word of God to the people. However, it is not by any means
his/her choice, for once a prophet is called upon by God and commanded to speak his will,
he/she is required to do so (Amos, 3:8), and despite some initial reluctance (Ex,
3:11)(Jon, 1:1), they eventually obey. Furthermore, when they accepted their roles as
messengers of God they did so fearlessly. Prophesying God’s plan to kings and priests, the
rich and powerful, and the hostile masses. The prophecy itself was often about the
impending doom that would take place over the kingdom as a result of their sins.
Consequently, this distinct belief in God’s word, which was almost always in contrast to
the previous actions of the people, often led to hardships (Jer, 36) (Is, 53:3-4), and in
some instances death (Mt, 27:1-50). This position, nonetheless, was considered to be
noble, and prophets were also revered. But at what point does the reverence of prophets as
a whole, turn into the reverence of a particular prophet. The first evidence we have of
such popularity is in Deuteronomy 18:15-22, there it states that Moses is the greatest of
prophets, for he, and only he, has or will speak face to face with God. This, of course,
is contrary to the later Christian belief of the messiah, or prophetic savior, but
regardless of which is right, the underlying implication of these statements is that there
is a hierarchy.

The Christian concept of messianism is said to be comprised of Judaistic ideas, and
although this may not be true (Segal, 84), we have to look into its development from
Judaistic beliefs, in order for it to be understood. The word itself stems from the Hebrew
word masshiah, literally meaning the anointed one, which in Judaism is an inauguration
ritual performed on those who are about to hold a " divinely sanctioned position" (Segal,
64), such as priests, prophets, or kings, however, much more often in the case of the
latter. It did, nonetheless, come to embody a different meaning, not only for the
Christians, but for the Jews as well. In 2 Samuel 7:14 Yahweh promises Israel’s
inhabitants that the kingdom of David will reign forever, while in fact it eventually
falls to Roman imperialism. However, in Isaiah 9:1-10 it is prophesied that a messianic
davidic king will come and restore Israel to prominence, this prophecy is continued
through the rest of the prophetical books (1 Ki, 3) (Song, 7,8,17,18) (Ps, 72) (Dan, 9:26)
(Am, 9:11-21). It was through this period that the term “messiah” came to be associated
with the concept of a savior in Jewish religion, it is important to note, however, that
this early concept of a messiah does not make any reference to a prophet. Instead, it
refers to a king, which is more of a military figure than a religious one. Therefore, this
early concept is vastly different from the modern Christian belief of a messiah, which
entails an eschatological figure. However, it serves as a foundation for the concept of an
ultimate savior/prophet.

The prophecy that predicts the coming of the messiah at the end of the world, Christians
believe, is rooted in the Apocrypha. For example, in 2 Esdras 12:32-9 it states that “the
‘Messiah’ will arise from the offspring of David at the end of days and sit upon his seat
in judgement, reproving the wrong and freeing the right.” This passage clearly shows the
distinction between the power of an ordinary prophet and a messianic one. The implication
of the Christian concept of messianism is that there is a hierarchy. Likewise, the idea of
a hierarchy appears to be the consensus among both religions, each having their own
beliefs as to who the greatest prophet is. For example, Hebrew scripture depicts Moses as
the archetypal prophet (Deut, 34:10-11), while Christian gospels assert that Jesus is the
greatest of prophets, or as his Greek epithet "Christ" claims: the Messiah (Mk, 14:61-2).
Which claim is right, is again immaterial; what is relevant is the assertion that there is
an ultimate prophet, from this we can classify these prophets in tiers of authority. I
propose this suggestion by stating that there are three general classifications; those who
preach and preach only (Jonah, Amos, etc.), those who take action and are permitted
physical powers (Elijha, Elisha, Samuel), and those who Judge, or are God like (Moses,
Jesus). The justifications for these three tiers lay in the individuals relationship to
God and the environment they are selected to prophesy in.

The typical relationship between God and one of his prophets is that of a master and
slave. God calls a man to be his prophet, the prophet obeys and delivers the message, and
the prophet is continually at God’s disposal. Such as in the case of Abraham, the first
prophet, here God tests Abraham and asks him to take the life of his only heir, Abraham
obeys and offers to sacrifice his son, but God intervenes and saves the boy’s life (Gen,
22-23). Because of his obedience, Abraham lived a long and prosperous life, but what if he
hadn’t been obedient? Would he have been condemned by his master, or given the same
prosperity? The book of Jonah aptly represents this situation, and in it the prophet
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