June 25, 2008

The inspiration of a prophet

Leslie Allen writes of divine inspiration and the prophets as he speaks about the prophet Joel:

"The formula of prophetic revelation lays the initiative and onus upon the divine side of a confrontation between man and God. Many of the pieces in the book take the form of utterances spoken by the prophet, while less than half the material is represented as coming from the divine 'I.' Nevertheless, in this respect form is no guide to theology, affirms the heading [Joel 1:1, which reads "The message of Yahweh received by Joel son of Pethuel."]. The messages transmitted by the prophet, whether formally in his own name or in his Master's, bear the stamp of the divine will. Quite obviously the heading reflects a conviction that Joel's words, which comprise the 'word' or message of Yahweh, have a continuing relevance for the people of God.
"The statement that the divine word 'came to' or was received by Joel indicates that the prophet was no mechanical medium in the process of God's communication with the religious community. He had a responsible role to play, a role no one else could discharge in exactly the same way. God was to use Joel's special gifts, insights, and background, and ally himself with this unique personality in the incarnation of truth."

--Leslie C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah, NICOT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), 45.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about inspiration and what it means for how we understand the Bible, and this little piece of insight from Allen's commentary on Joel beautifully illustrates the divine and the human in inspiration, acknowledging the necessarily divine imprint upon God's inspired Word, while also acknowledging Joel's essential and pivotal role in that same communication. It's also interesting that he makes reference to the "incarnation" of truth. Is Allen to be ousted just as Peter Enns from evangelicalism and its institutions?

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