The Bible’s Schools of Prophets

I truly believe that with the Spirit’s gifting and guidance, we can learn and grow in the prophetic (see 1 Corinthians 14). Therefore, I have no problem seeing this kind of learning to be a practice in the “schools of the prophets” at Bethel (2 Ki 2:3), Jericho (2 Ki 2:5), and Gilgal (2 Ki 4:38). While we may use the expression “school of prophets” to simply refer to a group of people (in the same way that we refer to a “school of fish”), it still seems to me that there is plenty of theological space for this group to be educating one another on this gifting. I think the only real reason we could disagree is because we haven’t studied the supernatural ways of prophecy enough or experienced it for ourselves.

The people of other nations in the Ancient Near East seemed to believe that you could train to be a prophet as well. As John Walton notes, 

In the ancient world people could train to be prophets, could play an active role in cultivating prophetic messages, and could serve under the sponsorship of the king as professional advisors who were paid for their services. (Walton, John H., Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Bible. Grand Rapids, Baker Academic, 2013. Ebook, Ch 11 ¶ 5.)

We, of course, don’t expect Yahweh or Israel to mirror the false gods and prophets of other nations, but culture is a powerful force in any society. So with this in mind, it seems reasonable for Israel’s school of prophets to possibly be a Yahwistic take on the surrounding culture.

Since Paul assumes in 1 Corinthians 14 that we can move from not having a gift to having a gift (if God grants it to us), then we must also assume that prophets must learn about that gift along the way. After all, if you’re going to earnestly desire anything in this life, it means you must become interested in it and how it works. I cannot truly desire to play a piano if I have no interest in learning it. Likewise, it is also completely insensible for me to expect to sit down at a piano and suddenly be able to play it perfectly. An eager desire is going to push me to sit down at the keys and start pressing them, even if I have absolutely no idea how a piano works or what I’m doing. I do not come across as eager at all if I simply say, “Man, I wish I could play that thing. Oh well, maybe some day I’ll sit down and it’ll all just make sense.” 

No; Paul wants us to strive for the gift with the possibility that we one day might be given it. Just as Elisha hoped for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and was given it, so must we hope for more (2 Ki 2:9).

Want to continue the conversation? Take the long journey with my book/audiobook, The Rush and the Restor take a shorter path with my condensed version, Fantasy IRL.

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