Early Aramaic Jewish Christian prophesying

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There are the prophets of Israel - those that are known from the Tanakh, the Christian Old Testament. And there are the "prophets" that are known from the New Testament pages. these seem to be a breakout of prophesy after Old Testament prophesy ceased. And there is prophesy in the Early Church - which seem to be often an itinerant band or number of individuals who would travel from congregation to congregation and sometimes operate within the local congregation. Not much is known about them but they probably operated in a ministry of encouragement and speaking in the name of the Lord. But there is another outbreak of prophesy, which is akin in some ways to the prophesy of our own days common among charismatic Protestant Evangelical and Roman Catholic groups. This form of prophesy is found in the 1st-2nd century Aramaic Jewish Christian community of the region of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, from which a strong and vigorous missionary movement was launched toward the Far East - eventually focusing on southern India and China.

What was the prophetic message delivered to and through this community, and what was the form of the "Thus saith the Lord"?

The answer is found in the Odes of Solomon

"The Odes of Solomon are hymns of praise and devotion that we inherit from an early poet. The author, the Odist, was a Jew, conceivably an Essene because he intermittently evidences that he knew the Thanksgiving Hymns (the so-called hymnbook of the Qumran Community). The Odist eventually believed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah and imagined: 'The dove fluttered over the head of our Lord Messiah, /Because he was her head' (Ode 24:1).

"The collection is identified as the Odes of Solomon, not because they were written by King Solomon in the tenth century B.C., but because they were rightly considered to be in the tradition of Solomon, who was known in the Bible as 'the Beloved.' The Odist uses this term for himself and all like him; it is a concept that helps define the Odes. While Solomon lived in the tenth century B.C., the Odist lived sometime near A.D. 100. He composed the Odes in a form of early Aramaic and Syriac which is a language spoken in the early Christian centuries and was a form of the language spoken by Jesus" - James Charlesworth

Firstly, this community of Jewish believers was so early that writings show an even earlier stage than some of the New Testament writings. In the New Testament writings, there were still a lot of Jews in the "church" but most members were gentiles, who, surprisingly, believers in Jesus the Jewish Messiah. The New Testament tells these gentile believers, please, respect your Jewish brothers and sisters in your midst. They were there before you in the faith of the Lord. You Gentiles are only recent "grafts" into the seed of Abraham. But in the Aramaic literature, early even then some of the New Testament literature, the opposite situation was existing. The community of Jesus was almost totally Jewish and gentiles were starting to come in as believers, and so the Jewish believers had to be told, please, do not dishonor these gentiles who are now coming into your midst. Do not despise them. Who was it that told them that, that delivered the prophetic message? The answer to that is - Jesus Himself. This was experience in the communal recitation of 42 prayers or Hymns (Odes) many of which follow the form of an introductory narrative in praise of God in the 3rd person. A few of these then have a middle section which contain the prophetic utterance - sometimes resembling a sort of combination of Biblical prophetic style, but occasionally a word from the Lord Himself, or in true Biblical style, and utterance where it is unclear if it is from the Lord or the prophet or writer of the Ode. At least one time in these Aramaic Odes, Jesus Himself speaks to guide and correct the community of believers. The 3rd and final section of the psalms are sort of the bridge between a Biblical Psalm and the later doxologies of the early church and afterwards. The prophetic middle portion that is clearly identified with Jesus speaking to the assembled believers is that of the middle of Ode 10.

"The Gentiles who were dispersed are now gathered together.

But I am not defiled in my loving them,

because they praised Me in high places".

How this message of correction to the Early Jewish Church directing and encouraging them to embrace the Gentile believers coming into faith and the community of God, and gently rebuking them, might have been a message from the Lord that was spoken in various ways by believers in this early community, and clearly show what might have been a growing problem in the community of the new faith. But in the form in which we have it, it finds its place in community life through the liturgical and prayer life of the community. Thus the "Word of the Lord", at once so pastoral and time specified, has become the fount and media of community expression reaching generation to come.

See also