Grace Theological Journal 1 (1980) 77-96.

[Copyright © 1980 Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission;

digitally prepared for use at Gordon and Grace Colleges and elsewhere]










A large corpus of material on false prophets is contained in the

book of Jeremiah. This material furnishes opportunity for under-

standing the theological perspective from which these pseudoprophets

spoke and acted. The question is: What theological conceptions did

they hold? A survey of recent prophetic and pseudoprophetic research

indicates that analysis of historical contexts and audience response

helps to answer the question. The present proposal is that a tentative

reconstruction of pseudoprophet theology can be developed if atten-

tion is given to: (1) audience response, (2) origin of pseudo prophets'

revelations, (3) characterization of pseudo prophets, and (4) pseudo-

prophet quotations. Accordingly this analysis indicates that pseudo-

if prophets held to a “Para-Covenantal" theology built on hopes attached

to the temple and the dynasty. Jerusalem’s existence was without

condition and Mosaic Covenant infractions were of no consequence.

They spoke only in part of Yahweh's covenant with his people. Thus,

due warning is given those who speak or hear only a part of God’s

revelation to man, an error too prevalent in contemporary speaking

and hearing of God’s Word.


*     *     *


WHILE the term pseudoprophet has its origin in the LXX, so

numerous are the mentions of these prophets who oppose

Yahweh's work and will that the term yeudoprofh<thj serves as a

meaningful title for such persons.1 From a survey of the OT record

there is clear indication that false prophets persisted throughout

Israel's history. This fact, along with the diametrical opposition to

false prophets by canonical prophets, the complex problem of dis-

tinguishing between true and false prophets, and the belief that


l Concerning the LXX translators' usage of  yeudoprofh<thj on ten occasions, J. L.

Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict (BZAW 124; Berlin: de Gruyter, 1971) 1, says: "In ten

places the attack by one prophet upon another was so severe that the Septuagint

translators used the word pseudoprophetes to translate nabi."


78                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


understanding the theological conceptions of false prophets enhances

understanding of canonical prophets, raises the question: What theo-

logical conceptions did pseudoprophets hold?

Though the length of this paper prohibits a complete treatment

of all OT references to false prophets, the book of Jeremiah furnishes

the necessary data to begin answering the above question. Several

reasons may be cited for this selection. This book contains a volume

of material on false prophets, enough data to make a judicious, if

cautious, analysis. Further, an especially sharp contrast between true

and false prophets is presented, cursorily indicated by the fact that of

the ten times the LXX translators used yeudoprofh<thj, nine are in

Jeremiah.2 Still another reason for selecting this book is that the

rapidly changing international political climate of Jeremiah's time

seemed to demand religious explanations for Judah's precarious

situation; one would expect to find such explanations, and one is not

disappointed. Both true and false prophets offered explanations, and

these provide further material for answering the questions regarding

the theological conceptions of false prophets.

If the book of Jeremiah is to be utilized as suggested above, the

text of the book must be taken seriously. Gerstenberger's pessimistic

judgment that the "facts and figures" are not necessarily identifiable

with "historical events" must be abandoned.3 Admittedly, a number

of textual questions arise in this book, but they certainly do not

warrant the judgment of Gerstenberger.4

As already indicated, the international climate of Jeremiah's day

was stormy. While a detailed history of Jeremiah's day would serve

no particular function here, Klein's summary seems to be consistent

with the international political picture:

Jeremiah lived at a time when the principal roles in the monotonous

drama of Middle Eastern politics were changing hands in quite unex-

pected ways. Old powers were too exhausted to bear the weight of


2 The ten references (MT) where the LXX uses yeudoprofh<thj are Jer 6: 13; 26:7,

8, 11, 16; 27:9; 28:1; 29:1, 8 and Zech 13:2.

3 So E. Gerstenberger, "Jeremiah's Complaints: Observations on Jer. 15:10-21,"

JBL 82 (1963) 393, gloomily observes: "Jeremiah is looked upon as a religious genius,

the champion of personal, inner, and spiritual religion. The basic fallacy of this

viewpoint is the presupposition that the 'facts and figures' in Jer. are identical with

'historical events,' or, that they, at least, permit easy access to that which 'really

happened' during Jeremiah's lifetime."

4 For a discussion of textual matters relating to Jeremiah see the following: C. von

Orelli, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, trans. J. S. Banks (Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark,

1889); J. Bright, Jeremiah (AB 21; Garden City: Doubleday, 1965); E. C. Rust,

Covenant and Hope (Waco: Word, 1972); J. G. Janzen, Studies in the Text of

Jeremiah (HSM 6; Cambridge: Harvard University, 1973). As an example of a recent

treatment of this subject see E. Tov, "Exegetical Notes on the Hebrew Vorlage of the

LXX of Jeremiah 27 (34)," ZAW 91 (1979) 73-93.



events, and new powers were eagerly responding to the invitation of

chance. The effect of these conditions was sharply felt in Syria and



For Judah all this meant essentially was that while Assyrian suprem-

acy was gone (612 B.C.), it had been replaced by the menacing threat

of Babylonian-Egyptian tensions.

A better perspective of pseudoprophet theology will be gained

through an understanding of recent false prophet interpretation. This

brief survey will be the concern of the first section. Thereupon will

follow an appraisal of the pertinent data from Jeremiah. In the final

section, the conclusions of this study will be presented.




General Obersvations

Several observations help to illumine recent commentary on

pseudoprophets. Prophetic research in general has moved about three

centers of concern: the man, the message, and audience response

reflecting popular religion.6 While all three of these areas are related,

the chronology of their popularity as centers of research is in the

order given above.

Holscher emphasized that all prophecy was ecstatic, and Lind-

blom posited the notion that ecstacy was the central factor in

understanding prophecy.7 Emphasis of this sort necessitated that

the prophet as man be the focus of research in order to articulate

prophetic phenomena. Mowinckel concluded that, whereas earlier

prophets had emphasized their prophetic movement as being prompted

by the Spirit of Yahweh, later prophets stressed the importance of

receiving the Word of Yahweh. By this assessment Mowinckel

suggested that in the later prophets the true could be distinguished


5 W. C. Klein, "Commentary on Jeremiah," ATR 45 (1963) 122.

6 Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict, 5ff. Note also the discussion of Rust, Covenant

and Hope, 104.

7 Note ibid., 7; C. Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic Speech (Philadelphia:

Westminster, 1967) 21-23; J. Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1965). In connection with focusing attention on the ecstatic experience of

prophecy, E. J. Young, My Servants. the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952)

164-65, concludes: "That the prophets were ecstatics was not first suggested by

Holscher. Before him, men like Giesebrecht, Knobel, and Stade had advanced the same

idea. The view, however, is really much older. We shall probably find the first

presentation of it in the writings of Philo. In his discussion of Genesis 15 Philo

identifies sleep which fell upon Abraham as an ecstacy. This ecstacy, he says, may take

different forms. It may be a madness which produces mental delusion (paranoian). It

may be extreme amazement at sudden and unexpected events. On the other hand it

may be mere passivity of the mind, but in its best form it is a divine possession or

frenzy. . . such as came upon the prophetic class."

80                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


from the false because the former, recipients of Yahweh's Word, were

rational guides leading the nation to right actions (those consistent

with Yahweh's nature and demands). The false were possessed of the

frenzied (i.e., irrational) Spirit of Yahweh and therefore were inade-

quate for presenting Yahweh's demands rationally.8

A number of scholars concentrated their efforts on the message.

The awareness of prophetic speech forms became the chief product of

this investigation. The lineage of this development of speech form

research can be traced through W. W. Baudissin, C. Steuernagel,

G. Holscher, H. Gunkel, H. Gressmann, J. Lindblom, L. Koehler,

E. Balla, R. B. Y. Scott, H. Wildberger, J. Hempel, H. W. Wolff, and

E. Wurthwein.9 In recent years, this area of research has proven

fertile. Men such as D. R. Hiliers10 and K. Baitzeril have concentrated

their efforts on the treaty orientation of prophetic literature. So

prevalent has been this concerted attention to the covenantal nature

of the literature that R. E. Clements has sounded a warning against

overemphasis: because the traditions lack unity, the covenant theme

cannot be traced throughout the prophets.12 On the other hand,

N. Habel has concentrated on the form of the call narratives.13 In all,

considerable attention has been given to the prophetic message.

A relatively new concept in the arena of prophetic research has

been the idea that audience response was conditioned by the tenets of

popular religion. Crenshaw believes that research in this area will

yield a great deal of new information for better understanding of the

prophets,14 and indicates approval of A. S. van der Woude's call to

attention to the important nature of prophetic quotations and quota-

tions of false prophets.15 These quotations provide an avenue of


8 See S. Mowinckel, "'The Spirit' and the 'Word' in the Pre-Exilic Reforming

Prophets," JBL 53 (1934) 199-227.

9 At least this is the reasoned judgment of Westermann, Basic Forms of Prophetic

Speech, 13-89.

10 D. R. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets (BibOr 16; Rome:

Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1964) 1-89. See also F. C. Fensham, "Common Trends in

Curses of the Near Eastern Treaties and Kudurru-Inscriptions Compared With the

Maledictions of Amos and Isaiah," ZAW 75 (1963) 155-75.

11 K. Baltzer, The Covenant Formulary (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971) 1-180.

12 R. E. Clements, Prophecy and Tradition (Atlanta: John Knox, 1975).

13 N. Habel, "The Form and Significance of the Call Narratives," ZAW 77 (1965)


14 Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict, 13. Note, however, the opinion of A. Johnson,

The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel (Cardiff: University of Wales, 1962) 50-51.

ISSee A. S. van der Woude, "Micah In Dispute With the Pseudoprophets," VT 19

(1969) 245, where he reasons: "Is it at all possible to give a somewhat exact description

of the theologoumena through which pseudo-prophetism exercised its influence on the

religious life in Jerusalem and Judah at the close of the eighth century B.C.? Needless to

say, if we could trace these theologoumena, we would be in a position to fathom the



insight into the religious views held by the general populace. Cren-

shaw's research led him to conclude that


It is only as one becomes familiar with the voice of the people that he

can understand false prophecy. . . . The following will seek to show

that the vox populi is characterized by: (1) confidence in God's

faithfulness, (2) satisfaction with traditional religion, (3) defiance in the

face of prophets who hold a different view, (4) despair when hope

seems dead, (5) doubt as to the justice of God, and (6) historical



Specific tendencies

These three areas of concern (man, message, and audience

response) in prophetic research have produced corollary responses in

treatment of the pseudoprophets.17 These have come in the form of

three specific tendencies: (1) a denial of valid objective criteria for

distinguishing false from true prophets, (2) an attempt to understand

false prophets on the basis of the historical moment of the prophetic

word, and (3) a belief that distinguishing false from true prophets

requires an analysis of the nature of audience response conditioned

by the leading tenets of popular religion.

The first of these tendencies is seen in the work of J. Hempel

who "denied the validity of the criterion of fulfillment in distinguish-

ing true from false prophecy.”18 Non-fulfillment of prophetic utter-

ance was not necessarily an indication of false prophecy; it was only a

new occasion for the prophet to apply the traditional message in a

new way. The issue is not so much, then, the nature of prophetic

utterance as it is the prophet's ability to adapt.19 In this way Hempel

concentrated on the man, not so much the message. Von Rad agrees

in principle with Hempel's position, for in discussing Jeremiah's

encounters with pseudoprophets he concludes:


Deuteronomy too tries--not very successfully--to draw up objective

criteria by means of which the false prophet might be recognized

(Deut. XVIII.21). The contradiction between prophet and prophet,


spiritual climate against which the pre-Exilic canonical prophets made their stand. In

general it can be said that the pseudo prophets subscribed and conformed to the

established order not only politically but also in matters of religion."

16 Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict, 24.

17 Ibid., 13.

18 Ibid., 14.

19 Cf. ibid., 15, where Hempel's position is analyzed accordingly. "It was this

'aliveness' of the spoken word and readiness of the prophet to adapt a previous word to

a new situation that prompted him to deny that the lack of fulfillment of a prediction

was in itself proof of false prophecy."

82                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


each speaking in the name of Yahweh (cf. Jer. XXVII. 4, XXVIII. 2),

must have been particularly confusing in the final period of the

Monarchy. . . . The falsity [i.e., of the prophets] cannot be seen either

in the office itself, or in their words themselves, or in the fallibility of

the man who spoke them. It could only be seen by the person who had

true insight into Yahweh's intentions for the time, and who on the basis

of this, was obliged to deny that the other had illumination.20


Von Rad's judgment also characterizes a second tendency, an

attempt to understand false prophets on the basis of the historical

moment of the prophetic word. The prophetic word is either weal or

woe, depending upon any given cultic adaptation of traditional

oracular material for a specific historical context (moment of his-

tory).21 Thus Overholt contends "that to be true the message of a

prophet must proclaim Yahweh's will in terms appropriate to the

concrete historical situation in which the prophet finds himself. . . .”22

How were prophets to be evaluated (in light of truth or falsity) if not

"in the dual light of an affirmation about their religious heritage and

a knowledge of the historical situation in which they lived?”23 A

religious heritage must, therefore, always be interpreted in light of a

changing historical context.

Overholt's understanding, while certainly agreeing in many

respects with von Rad's, also brings to the foreground a third

tendency in recent treatment of false prophets--a belief that distin-

guishing false from true necessitates an analysis of the nature of

audience response conditioned by the leading tenets of popular

religion. "We find," contends Overholt, "that when two apparently

equally compelling prophets of Yahweh were in conflict, the key to

the resolution of the problem lay in an interpretation of the people's

religious heritage.”24 Crenshaw has attempted this type of interpre-

tation and suggests that there were six leading tenets which character-

ized popular religion.25 Surely if no valid objective criteria exist for

differentiating false and true prophets, and if a true prophet is such

because his message matches Yahweh's will to a contemporary con-

text, then of necessity the historical context in which the message was

spoken must be understood. The voice of the people as reflected in


20 G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology (2 vols.; New York: Harper and Row,

1965), 2. 210, n. 27 (words in brackets are added). Others who agree in principle with

Hempel and von Rad are Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict; 110-11, and T. W. Overholt,

"Jeremiah 27-29: The Question of False Prophecy," JAAR 35 (1967) 241-49.

21 This is the judgment of Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict, 15, based on von Rad's

article, "Die Falschen Propheten," ZAW 53 (1933) 109-20.

22 Overholt, "Jeremiah 27-29," 248.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., 241.

25 See, above, 81.



prophetic literature should then help explain the given historical

context and should supply the principle by which a pseudoprophet

could be detected.


Summary observations

The foregoing survey indicates that scholarship has made a

number of contributions to understanding pseudoprophets, namely,

recognizing the importance of analyzing the various historical con-

texts in which both false and true prophets spoke and underscoring

the notion that audience response will help greatly in understanding

the false prophet.

However, this survey also brings to light several deficiencies.

Much of recent scholarship has labored under a less than adequate

view of the biblical text.26 While many aspects of contemporary

understanding of pseudoprophets have been covered, one issue that

has received little attention is an analysis of the actual components of

pseudoprophet theology.27 This is true especially in the case of the

book of Jeremiah, a book very interested in pseudoprophets.

In order to discover the theological tenets of these prophets, an

adequate method is necessary. The statement and finds of this

method are the concerns of the following.




A suggested methodology

A tentative reconstruction of pseudoprophet theology28 can be

developed if the following methodology is employed: analysis of (1)

the audience response, (2) the origin of the pseudoprophets' supposed

revelations, (3) the characterization of pseudoprophets in the text,

and (4) pseudoprophet quotations.

Before moving directly to the audience response, a word must be

said about the fact that Jeremiah's book ranges over many years, with

a number of historical and political changes. Perhaps a variety of

changes in the theological systems employed by false prophets are to


26 Cf. the observation on the importance of taking the text of the Bible seriously (p.

78) with the views of the Bible held by those such as von Rad, Old Testament

Theology, vol. 2; Crenshaw, Prophetic Conflict; and Overholt, "Jeremiah 27-29"; to

name a few.

27 Two who have made notable attempts, though from different perspectives, are

van der Woude, "Micah In Dispute With the Pseudo-prophets," and J. T. E. Renner,

"False and True Prophecy," Reformed Theological Review 25 (1966) 96-104. To be

sure, numerous others have made at least a partial attempt to deal with actual

theological tenets of pseudoprophetism.

28 Theology is here understood as that corpus of religious ideas which together

express a distinctive religious perspective.

84                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


be found. However, as one moves through the history recorded in

the book, he discovers a remarkable similarity among the pseudo-

prophets' theological views.29 Therefore, it is possible to talk in terms

of this book yielding a picture of the components of a unified

theology of pseudoprophets. Furthermore, a definition of a true

prophet is needed. True prophets may be regarded collectively as those


. . . persons whose entire life-style (words and actions) was submitted

to God's purposes and empowered by the Spirit and who served

variously as (1) God's channel of revelatory information to the subjects

of the mediatorial kingdom, (2) exhorters of obedience to mediatorial

kingdom regulations, and (3) pointers to the coming Messiah whose

work would merge the rulership of the mediatorial kingdom and the

office of God's spokesman in that kingdom into one person.30


Audience response

The nation of Judah responded in a number of ways to prophetic

utterance (of whatever type) and to the changing historical situation.

For present purposes the concern with audience response is at points

where it may help in illuminating the religious state of the nation and

thereby cast light on the theological formulations of false prophets.31

Audience response may be categorized in two ways: by actions and by



29 Certainly, however, there were several types of false prophets throughout Israel's

history; see Young, My Servants the Prophets, 125ff., and J. B. Payne, The Theology

of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962) 56, who says: "In actuality,

Israel had, by Ahab's time, become plagued with false prophets. These, in turn, fell into

three major categories. There were Jezebel's outrightly pagan prophets, who served

Baal and Asherah (I Kings 18:19); there were the hypocritical charlatans of Ahab's

court (22:6, 7), prophets for pay, a disgrace to the name of the Lord (Micah 3:11; cf.

Amos 7: 12); and there were sincere prophets, who were well-meaning but still revela-

tionless, and hence mistaken (I Kings 13:11-18). "

30 R. Manahan, "Prophetic Office in Historical Perspective" (unpublished Th.M.

thesis, Grace Theological Seminary, 1977) 135-36.

31 For a recent discussion of audience response to Jeremiah's utterances see W. J.

Horwitz, "Audience Reaction to Jeremiah," CBQ 32 (1970) 555-64, where he describes

his methodology: "In this paper we have tried to discover what can be learned about

Jeremiah by examining the source most contemporary with him, the responses of his

audience." An article by D. R. Hillers, "A Convention in Hebrew Literature: The

Reaction to Bad News," ZAW 77 (1965) 86-90, also helps detail audience response by

drawing attention to Ugaritic parallels to bad-news reactions in the OT prophets, Jer

6:22-23, 24; 49:23, and 50:43 especially being noteworthy. But T. Overholt, "Jeremiah 2

and the Problem of 'Audience Reaction,'" CBQ 41 (1979) 262-73 cautions that "the

consistency between the quotations and the prophet's message might well be explained

by his own conscious construction of his speeches: on the basis of his experience

Jeremiah may have selected from, altered, even created 'audience reactions' to serve as

foils for his indictment of the people."



A survey of the book of Jeremiah indicates several features of

the actions of the nation. On at least two occasions the book

illustrates the religiously deviate ways of the nation by picturing them

as "well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing after his neighbor's wife"

(Jer 5:8) and ''as a well keeps its waters fresh, so she keeps fresh her

wickedness" (6:7). The actual situation which gave rise to these

illustrations is that the people refused correction from Yahweh (5:3),

refused to repent (8:6), closed their ears against Yahweh's word (both

king--36:23; 37:2-3--and subjects--7:13, 25-27) filled the temple

complex with contemptible things (7:30-31), did not speak truth

(6:28-30; 7:28; 8:6; 9:2-6), and sacrificed to other deities and served

them (7:18; 12:6; 13:10; 18:15; 19:4; 32:29; 44:16-18). However, these

characteristics do not necessarily distinguish the people of Jeremiah's

day from those of a prior era. The nation's spiritual history had been

marred by numerous spiritual degradations.

But there are several features of the people's actions that seem to

characterize Jeremiah's day in particular. While the people had served

other deities, as noted above, they were nonetheless engaged in

offering sacrifices to Yahweh (6:20).32 One of the judgments the

people seem to have made is that physical sacrifice (to whomever it

may be made) has a direct relationship to welfare and misfortune, in

Jer 44:16-18 is recorded an audience response (both by action and

word) to Jeremiah's statement to the Jews living in Egypt. Yahweh's

word through Jeremiah was that sacrifice to other gods had brought

the outpouring of God's wrath (44:2-14). But the claim of the people

is that sacrifice to other gods brought prosperity and lack of sacrifice

to these same deities brought misfortune (44:16-18). Therefore, they

concluded, a continuation of pagan sacrifice was required. On an

earlier occasion (11:15) Yahweh had indicated that sacrifices to him

were not enough to avoid a coming judgment. Sacrifice alone would

not keep Jerusalem safe. To the very end, though, the people (there

were some deserters to Babylonian forces--38:19; 39:9) from the

king down had held that Jerusalem would not fall (37:1ff.). All of this

was maintained in spite of obvious breaking of Yahweh's covenant

with this people (11:10; 17:19-23; 43:4, 7). Yahweh's contention with

his people was that covenant breakage was the reason for judgment


From the above description two patterns emerge. The popular

conclusion was that good (weal) and misfortune (woe) were condi-


32 Both T. Laetsch, Bible Commentary: Jeremiah (St. Louis: Concordia, 1952) 87,

and C. F. Keil, The Prophecies of Jeremiah (Biblical Commentary on the Old

Testament; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), I. 145, comment on this point. Keil says:

"The people had no shortcoming in the matter of sacrifice in the temple; but in this

service, as being mere outward service of works, the Lord has no pleasure, if the heart

is estranged from Him, rebels against His commandments."

86                                GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


tioned upon externals (i.e., sacrifices). The popular misunderstanding

was that weal and woe were not necessarily the outworking of

Yahweh's covenantal promises.

To be added to the above material on audience response are the

numerous quotations of the people. An analysis of these passages

yields the following assertions. To be expected is the obstinate refusal

of the people to follow in Yahweh's will (6:16,17; 7:10; 18:12; 22:21).

In addition, there is indication of an attachment to externals--the

temple (7:4), the religious functionaries (18:18), and the law (8:8). In

these cases there is a confidence in the very presence of these objects.

In some way these objects attest to a higher religious truth. What

is especially striking in the audience quotations is the material

on Jerusalem's continuance and Yahweh's faithfulness. Clearly the

people desired peace (8:15; 43:1-2); and this peace was thought of as

consistent with the nation's continuance. Numerous times the people

expressed confidence that Jerusalem would not fall (17:15; 20:10;

21:13; 36:29; 37:9). Jeremiah was, in fact, considered a traitor and a

liar when he suggested otherwise (37:13; 38:4; 43:1-2). While on

occasion there may have been some loss of confidence (33:24),33 the

people generally did not conceive of Jerusalem's fall. There was also

confidence in Yahweh's faithful execution of his promises (5:12; 8:19-

22). They evidently understood that his faithful execution of promises

incorporated the preservation of Jerusalem and the nation. They

lament in captivity, "Harvest is past, summer is ended, and we are not

saved" (8:20). That Jerusalem fell caused them to doubt the promises,

not to evaluate their personal lives.

By fitting together the pieces of the audience response puzzle, the

following picture emerges. They believed:

(1) That weal and woe were conditioned on the physical act of

      sacrifice, not on the entire covenant Yahweh made with his


(2) That Yahweh was faithful to his promises and that these

      promises included preservation of the nation from Babylo-

      nian conquest.

(3) That Yahweh's faithful fulfillment of his promises and the

      nation's fall were contradictory and thus cause for despair.34

(4) That the continuing presence of externals such as the temple,

      law, and religious functionaries was evidence that Yahweh


33 Note von Orelli, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, 253.

34 Traces of these elements of contradiction and despair seem to be reflected in the

Lachish Letters. Note J. B. Pritchard (ed.), ANET (3rd ed.; Princeton: Princeton

University 1969) 322. Laetsch in Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 275, gives a succinct

evaluation of the relevance of the Lachish material for Jeremiah studies. Note the more

extended discussion by U. Cassuto, Biblical and Oriental Studies, Vol. II: Bible and

Ancient Oriental Texts (Jerusalem: Magnes 1975) 229ff.



     would give weal, not woe, to his people.

(5) That moral degradation of the nation held no necessary

     implications about Yahweh's faithful preservation of the

     nation from Babylonian hands.35


Origin of pseudoprophet "revelation"

Once the issue of the national background from which both

Jeremiah and the false prophets spoke has been established, the

discussion can turn directly to issues relating to the pseudoprophets

themselves. For analyzing their theology it is best to begin with its

origin, "revelation." The amount of material on this subject is small

(fewer than 15 references) but nonetheless relevant. The references

divide into two groupings, those of the pseudoprophets' own opinion

and those containing reference to evaluation by others.

The personal testimony of the pseudoprophets is that by dreams

(23:25) they received divine information (yTim;laHA yTim;laHA). While this

word may refer to prophetic dreams, its usage in Deut 13:1-2 makes

clear that to dream a dream does not make one a true prophet.36 The

problem with using dreams as a claim to divine truth has been

captured by Naegelsbach: "The dream is farthest withdrawn from the

control of other men. Nothing is easier than to say: 'Last night I

dreamed this or that!' Who can refute it? These prophets made an

immoderate and questionable use of dreams.”37 Also, these false

prophets prefaced their utterances by, "The Lord has said" (23:17).

That this expression was frequent is indicated by the several times the

book of Jeremiah recalls that these false prophets claimed to speak in


35 Interesting is the fact that while the chosen people were perplexed over the fall of

the nation, foreigners at least knew well enough the connection between sin and

subsequent fall (22:8-9).

36 See BDB 321, where cognates are also given.

37 Note Laetsch, Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 200, and C. W. E. Naegelsbach,

The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah (Lange's Commentaries; New York: Scribner's

Sons, 1915) 214. S. Cramer, "The Practice of Divination in the Old Testament"

(unpublished Old Testament Seminar paper, Grace Theological Seminary, Fall, 1973)

20-21, further explains that "the use of dreams, or inspirational divination, has been

regarded as the most direct means of divination. . . Often a dream was induced by

means of incubation. This was accomplished by sleeping in some sacred place where

gods or spirits would reveal knowledge to the sleeper. Possibly this is what Isaiah was

referring to when he spoke of those 'who remain among the graves, and lodge in the

monuments' (Is. 55:4)." Further references for study of the issue of divination and the

origin of the false prophets' message are T. W. Davies, Magic, Divination, and

Demonology (New York: KTAV, 1969); S. H. Hooke, Babylonian and Assyrian

Religion (London: Hutchinson's University Library, 1953); Johnson, The Cultic

Prophet in Ancient Israel, 30ff.; B. O. Long, "The Effect of Divination Upon Israelite

Literature," JBL 92 (1973) 489-97; G. F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (New

York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1883) 464; and R. B. Zuck, "The Practice of Witchcraft in

the Scriptures," BSac 128 (1971) 352-60.

88                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


Yahweh's name (14:15; 23:25; 27:15; 29:8-9; 29:21). To speak thus

would not only give a ring of authenticity to their words but would

make their fraudulent claim most difficult to detect alongside the true

prophets who also spoke in Yahweh's name.

Yahweh's evaluation (and Jeremiah's, also) is that the pseudo-

prophets' messages, while claiming authentication for oracular mate-

rial, did not originate in Yahweh's council (23:18), and thus they were

not given by Yahweh (23:31; 29:31).38 "But if they had stood in My

council, then they would have announced My words to My people"

(23:22). A confrontation between Yahweh and false prophet was


Two other times Yahweh gives his evaluation of the origin of the

message of false prophets. "They speak a vision of their own imagi-

nations" (UrB;day; MBAli NvzoHE). In 23:26 the origin of their message is

further described: "Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who

prophecy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their

own heart.”39 The following verse indicates that the intention of such

doings is "to make My people forget My name by their dreams which

they relate to one another" (23:27). Initially it appears that the origin

of their message is in their own heart, a deceptive human heart

(tmir;Ta; cf. 17:9, bqofA "crafty").40 But the context that follows goes on

to develop a fuller picture of the origin of pseudoprophet "revelation."

The leading traits of their "revelations" are mixing of falsity and truth

(23:28) and stealing Yahweh's words from other sources (23:30).

Laetsch has well summarized this passage:

   Since I am the omnipresent God, let every prophet be honest and faith-

ful in preaching My Word--God, who knows the heart of man,

demands that man be honest. If a prophet has had a dream which he

would like to tell his neighbors, let him be honest enough to say: I am

telling you a dream of my own. And if a prophet has My Word, let him

speak My Word faithfully, literally, as truth, just as it has been given to

him, without alteration, without changing its sense in the least. How

dare man mingle the chaff of his own dreams into the pure wheat of

the Word of the omnipresent, omniscient Lord Jehovah in order to


38 While the discussion of E. Kingsbury, "The Prophets and the Council of

Yahweh," JBL 83 (1964) 279-86, is helpful in discussing especially Micaiah, Isaiah, and

Ezekiel, he overdraws the parallels between these prophets and Babylonian literature.

39 Jer 23:26 is particularly problematic textually. Discussions of the textual diffi-

culties can be found in Keil, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, 362-63, and Naegelsbach,

The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. 214-15. The major questions concern the double

interrogatives (ytamA and -hE) in the MT, whether the reading of the LXX, Syriac,

Targum, and Vg is preferable, and whether wye  should be read wxe (ibid., 215).

40 Note W. L. Holladay (ed.), A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old

Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971) 281 and 395, where he suggests reading

tmir;Ta as tymir;Ta).



find more ready and willing hearers! . . . Whatever truth they preached,

they did not obtain, as they claim, by divine revelation. They stole this

truth, 'a man from his neighbor,' from someone else, either directly

from a true prophet, or from some other false prophet who also had

stolen it, or from any other person.41


In summary, the book of Jeremiah declares that the origin of

pseudoprophet theology was through a mixture of purported dreams

and Yahweh's Word stolen from other sources, all of which sprang

out of the deceptive hearts of men whose intention was to make the

nation forget Yahweh's character.


A characterization of pseudoprophets

False prophet traits as depicted in the book of Jeremiah follow

the pattern established for the origin of their message. These traits

may be grouped for convenience into five divisions: (1) personal

immorality, (2) encouragement of evil, (3) confidence, (4) compati-

bility with the populace, and (5) ineffectiveness. The goal of this

analysis is to suggest the nature of a theology consistent with these

traits. Their theology evidently could legitimize such traits and was

compatible with them.

Personal immorality. Of course, not every false prophet is con-

demned for gross immorality. Hananiah in 28:1ff. is not so con-

demned, with the exception of the reference to his not speaking

Yahweh's word (28:15-16).

Two passages are worthy of discussion here: 6:13 and 29:23. In

the first of these, the description of pseudoprophets is that they deal

falsely and are greedy of gain. Base gain replaced a desire to lead the

nation into obedience to covenant stipulations. Their desire for base

gain seems to serve as the reason for Yahweh's promise (v 12) that he

will turn valuables (houses, fields, etc.) over to others. As they sought

gain, so things they valued would be given to their enemies. Base gain

as a principle of operation led the false prophets to bring only

superficial healing (6:14).42 They also made inaccurate analyses of the

degree of the nation's security (6:14).


41 Laetsch, Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 201.

42 The issue of prophets seeking gain is also suggested by Mic 3:11. In the Jer 6:12-

14 passage, the false prophets are cited for only superficially (note Holladay, A Concise

Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 319, where he translates the

Niphal feminine participle hlAqan;, from llq, by "superficially") healing the wound of

the people. The nature of the wound is suggested by the same usage of this term, rb,w,

in Jer 4:6 and 6:1 where the word refers to the coming destruction from the north (note

T. W. Overholt, The Threat of Falsehood [3 vols.; Naperville: Allenson, 1970], 3. 75.

Thus, the pseudoprophets gave only superficial treatment ("Peace, Peace") to the

impending national threat. Hillers, Treaty-Curses and the Old Testament Prophets, 64-

66, points out that this imagery of the wound not being given adequate treatment is set

90                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


The second of these passages, 29:23 (note 23:14 also43), charges

two pseudoprophets with personal immorality. Jeremiah 29 records

"the words of the letter which Jeremiah the prophet sent from

Jerusalem to the rest of the elders of the exile, the priests, the

prophets, and all the people whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into

exile from Jerusalem to Babylon" (29:1). The exiles had contented

themselves that they were quite well equipped with prophetic sources

in Babylon (29:1544), two of these prophets being Ahab and Zedekiah

(29:21). These false prophets, though in exile, evidently had been

declaring the perpetuity of the nation as indicated by the continued

existence of the temple and the Davidic throne.

Ahab and Zedekiah, says the letter, will face death by the hand

of the Babylonian king (29:21). This slaying will take the form of

roasting in the fire and will form the basis of a curse-form among the

exiles (29:22).45 The reason cited46 for their judgment is that "they

have acted foolishly in Israel and have committed adultery with their

neighbors' wives, and have spoken words in My name falsely" (29:23).

Clearly, personal immorality is the charge against these two false

prophets. Such looseness indicates that at least these prophets' level

of morality was not consistent with OT norms and may be suggestive

of a theological perspective from which such practices could arise

(perhaps confidence in Jerusalem's existence apart from adherence to

the moral obligations of Yahweh's treaty with the nation).

Encouragement of evil. Not unexpectedly, the pseudoprophets

are charged with the promotion of evil among the members of the


in treaty terminology (curse form). The wounds' incurable nature can be treated only

by the healing produced by conformity to treaty obligations in this case.

43 To be sure, 23:14 charges pseudoprophets with "the committing of adultery."

Laetsch, Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 198, concludes that the adultery here is of a

personal moral nature. However, Overholt, The Threat of Falsehood, 54-55, suggests

that the reference here may be to adultery as national apostasy, thus seeing the

reference to Sodom and Gomorrah as one of judgment. Overholt's point may be borne

out by the limited usage of hrAUrfEwa, "a horrible thing" (Holladay, A Concise Hebrew

and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 380, suggests two roots, rUrfEwa and

yriUrfEwa, together occurring a total of four times) in the OT. Each of these passages

could be interpreted in terms of national apostasy.

44 The verses that follow, 29:16-20, are not included in the LXX. In this light note

the discussion of Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 249.

45 Much earlier, The Code of Hammurabi stipulated the punishment of burning for

one who was involved in immorality. According to Pritchard (ed.), ANET, 172, law

157 reads: "If a seignor has lain in the bosom of his mother after (the death of) his

father, they shall burn both of them," the word for burning being iqalu’usunuti from

qalu. Conceivably, use of fire for punishment of adultery was practiced by the

Babylonians much later. Compare Deut 22:22 as the OT pattern.

46 Jer 29:33 uses the expression rw,xE Nfaya with a following verb (UWfA) in the

perfect to indicate cause or reason; note, GKC 318, n. 1.



covenanted people. Two chapters (23 and 29) in Jeremiah clearly

make this point, the primary section occurring in 23:11ff. In this

passage false prophets are accused of strengthening "the hands of

evildoers, so that no one has turned back from his wickedness"

(23:14). This was possible because of the position of leadership held

by these prophets. Out of the circle47 of the false prophets, ungodli-

ness48 had "gone forth into all the land" (23:15). This was accom-

plished partially at least by their promotion of the continuing presence

of the temple as a tenet in their theology, requiring in the process

promotion of idolatry (23:11 in comparison with 7:30-31 and 32:34).

In fact, they had taken the lead in such, indicated by the use of the

term UmyWiyA (from MyWi--"put, set, place") in 32:34. The word "they"

in v 34 refers to those enumerated in v 32. In light of this promotion

of evil it is not surprising that Shemaiah is judged, according to

29:32, for preaching "rebellion against the Lord."

From the personal corruption of the false prophets one would

expect corruption to be promoted among the people. Surprisingly the

very object which these prophets used as a leading point in their

theology (the temple) is the very channel through which further

corruption and idolatry is promoted.

Confidence. A third leading trait of false prophets in Jeremiah's

day was that of confidence. This trait is suggested by 23:31-32. Verse

31 suggests that these prophets took ("use", cf. MyHiq;l.oha) their tongues

and uttered oracles. They took the oracular initiative; they did not

have words put in their mouths by Yahweh. The fact that the word

"take" is a participle may indicate repeated orations, emphasizing

their readiness for opportunities to ejaculate their supposed divine

words. This eagerness to prophesy is further indicated in 23:32 by the

description of them as those who made "reckless boasting." The term

here is MtAUzHEpab;U, indicating "loose talk, boastful tales.”49 The picture

which emerges from these notes is that pseudoprophets were seeking

opportunities to speak and readily boasted of their ideas. This, added


47 This idea is suggested in 23:15 by the use of Nmi (txeme) which originally signified

"separation" which "naturally derived on the one hand the sense of (taken) from

among. . ." (note GKC, § 119vw).

48 The word "ungodliness" (NASB, "pollution") is hPAnuHE, the verbal form being

employed in Jer 23:11 to describe the priests and prophets. The root JnH may have

several cognates such as the Ugaritic hnp and hanapu occurring once in the Amarna

literature. Each connotes something of a haughty impiety. Note C. H. Gordon,

UT, 403.

49 While this term is problematic, Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic

Lexicon, 291, does suggest this meaning. Note also the reference to this term by J.

Barr, Comparative Philology and the Text of the Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon,

1968) 333, n. 261.

92                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


to their personal immorality and promotion of such, produces a

volatile combination.

Compatibility with the populace. Jer 32:31-35 (cf. 5:31) suggests

this. Admittedly, this reference is a generalization about the religious

decline of the nation over a period of time (32:31). The results of their

spiritual decline are briefly catalogued with little explanation (32:33-

35). However, what is informative about this passage is its recogni-

tion that both the populace and the leaders (including prophets) were

involved in this decline. This may be taken to imply that there existed

a level of compatibility between the theological perspective of the

populace and that of the false prophets. The same compatibility may

be indicated as well by the numerous correspondences between these

prophets and the people (such as their mutual moral decline). This

trait alone is sobering in light of the religious ideas of the populace as

previously described. When, however, this characteristic is added to

the above, the magnitude of opposition to the true prophets becomes


Furthermore, the compatibility of pseudoprophet and populace

may indicate that on occasion these prophets "stole" ideas from the

populace and incorporated them in their oracles and that the people

may have taken, of course, their religious ideas from the prophets.

This exchange of ideas would create solidarity of opposition that

would make Jeremiah's ministry most difficult.

Ineffectiveness. While the false prophets were confident and

boastful, no doubt encouraged by the acceptance of the populace,

they were nonetheless ineffective. This may, in fact, be their primary

trait. Several indications suggest this idea (note 4:9; 5:13; 6:14). The

leading indication is the repeated reference to these men as prophets

of deceit and falsehood (5:3150; 8:10; 14:14; 20:651; 23:14; 23:32; 27:10;

27:14; 27:16; 28:15). In each of these references the term byri is used

in connection with the pseudoprophets. This term is found through-


50 On the understanding of the parallelism in this verse, W. L. Holladay, "'The

Priests Scrape Out On Their Hands,' Jeremiah V 31," VT 15 (1965) 111-13 suggests

that the translation of the first part of the verse might best be read: "The prophets have

prophesied falsely, and the priests deconsecrate themselves," based on his interpreta-

tion of  dy xlm as technical terminology employed in the consecration of a priest.

51 There is disagreement over the status of Pashur as prophet. E. W. Nicholson,

The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah. Chapters 1-25 (Cambridge Bible Commentary on

The New English Bible; Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1963) 167, suggests that

Pashur is not a prophet while Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 187,

suggests that he is. The comment of Jer 20:6 would tend to support Naegelsbach. For

some help in understanding the renaming of Pashur see W. L. Holladay, "The

Covenant With the Patriarchs Overturned: Jeremiah's Intention In 'Terror On Every

Side' (Jer. 20:1-6)," JBL 91 (1972) 305-20 and D. L. Christensen, "'Terror on Every

Side' In Jeremiah," JBL 92 (1973) 498-502.



out the OT but is much more frequent in Jeremiah.52 This calls for

special attention to the term.53

The term means "deceit, falsehood.”54 However, very often the

term is set in a legal context. If such is the case, one would expect

Jeremiah to employ the term within its legal setting and perhaps build

upon and enlarge it.55 This is especially important in light of Jere-

miah's self-analysis that he is always indicting and accusing his people

(note byri, 15:10).56 Jeremiah employs this legal term as a description

of the ineffectiveness of the pseudoprophet analysis that Jerusalem

will not fall to foreign enemies.57 The false prophets claim, "all is

well," but the actual events are to the contrary. Their words do not

have power to effect events as they predict (cf. 14:14-15; 27:10; 27:14-

17). Certainly the words of pseudoprophets were prevarications but

they were also marked by ineffectiveness, lack of power to achieve the

predicted outcome.

The message of the pseudoprophets glossed over the real issue,

that of obedience to covenant stipulations (23:13-22 and 7:3ff.).

Because they did, these words, when trusted in, resulted in the actual

forfeiture of Jerusalem's security. These prophets "counselled a course

of action diametrically opposed to that which would have been

necessary to avoid the coming destruction of the city, temple and

land."58 While their perspective allowed them to pronounce security,

it was a security built on the wrong basis. Rather than building on

Yahweh’s covenant stipulations (cf. 23:19-22 with Deuteronomy 28

and especially Deut 29:19), they built their security only upon the

hopes attached to the Davidic throne (2 Sam 7:13ff. in comparison

with Ps 89:30-37) and thus to the continuance of the place of David's


52 According to this writer's count, the term in all forms occurs 113 times in the OT

and 34 times in Jeremiah alone. Note S. Mandelkern, Veteris Testamenti Concor-

dantiae (Graz: Akademische, 1955) 1232-33.

53 So Overholt, The Threat of Falsehood, I.

54 See Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon, 383, and BDB 1055.

The root rqw has several cognates (Arabic, Syriac, Aramaic, and Assyrian). Gordon,

UT, 494 does list, though does not define, a suggested root sqr (no. 2475) in Ugaritic.

55 Note the discussion of Overholt, The Threat of Falsehood, 76ff. He says: "We

might expect that in the process of employing the noun seqer as one of the important

concepts in his theological vocabulary, Jeremiah would not lose sight of the predomi-

nant legal sense in which the term was usually employed, but would rather build upon

and enlarge it" (ibid., 91).

56 For discussion of this point see J. Bright, "A Prophet's Lament and Its Answer,

Jeremiahs 15:10-21," Int 28 (1974) 59-74.

57 Overholt, The Threat of Falsehood, 92.

58 Ibid. An interesting study is also involved in Yahweh's usage of bOF and hfArA

in connection with the false prophets, 22:13-17 and 23:17, for example. Note also

the contrast between Isa 55:11 (Yahweh's word is not empty, void --qyr) and the

futility (lbh) to which the false prophets' words lead, see Renner, "False and True

Prophecy," 97.

94                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


throne, Jerusalem. Their view left no room for obedience to the

demands of the Mosaic treaty.

Pseudoprophet quotations. The sources for discussion here are

2:26-27; 6:14; 8:11; 14:13; 23:17; 26:8, 9, 11; 27:9, 14, 16; 28:2-4, 11;

29:24; and 37:19 (23:25 was previously discussed59). The first of these

references suggests the contradictory thought pattern of the people

and false prophets; they served other gods but imagined that in times

of distress this practice would not keep Yahweh from responding to

their cry.60 Based on the other references, the following formulation

seems to be legitimate.

The leading claim of the pseudoprophets was "Peace! Peace!"

(6:14; 8:11) and that the people would have "peace" (14:13; 23:17). In

the case of 6:14 and 8:11 the "peace" promised by the false prophets is

set in the context of treaty terminology.61 In the face of breach of the

Mosaic Covenant they proclaimed the general welfare of the people,

thus promoting the notion of security.62 They seemingly understood

that covenant breach had little to do with welfare or the lack of it. Jer

23:17 presents this very picture. Those who despised Yahweh and

walked in obstinate rebellion against him were told by the pseudo-

prophets, "You will have peace. . . Calamity will not come upon

you." On this issue of a non-calamitous future these prophets laid

particular stress: "You will not see the sword nor will you have

famine, but I will give you lasting peace in this place" (14:13). The

words "lasting peace" (literally, "peace of truth," tm,x< MOlw;) empha-

size that this promised peace was an assured, steadfast, predictable

outcome.63 All this evidently was uttered under the menacing threat

of drought (14:1).

From these observations the theological formulation of pseudo-

prophets was that the welfare of the people was assured, in spite of

obvious covenant infractions and menacing threats (for example

drought and removal of temple vessels). The other quotations of false

prophets all fit this mold. In spite of continuing disobedience and

increasing international threats against security, they claimed that no

calamity, sword, or famine will interrupt (23:17). The people will not

serve the king of Babylon and he will not come against them (27:9,


59 See p. 87.

60 Keil, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, 68-69, points out that this reference is a

generalization about all periods of the nation's history and that, therefore, the reference

to "Israel" is a reference to the entire nation, not just the ten northern tribes.

61See the discussion on p. 89, n. 42. On the issue of covenant confession on the

part of the people see Rust, Covenant and Hope, 99-105.

62 The employment of the term MlowA is to be understood in the wider Ancient Near

Eastern meaning of a "settled well-being." Note as an example the use of the Akkadian

cognate salamu.

63 Cf. Keil, The Prophecies of Jeremiah, 249; von Orelli, The Prophecies of

Jeremiah, 122; Naegelsbach, The Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, 149.



14; 37:19). Even the setback to security suffered in 597 B.C. will soon

be rectified, they claimed (27:16; 28:2-4, 11). On these bases they

rejected Jeremiah's oracles against Jerusalem's security and concern-

ing a short exile (26:8-11; 29:24).

Of special importance among the many quotations is that from

the mouth of Hananiah in chap. 28. He predicts the return of two

items that may symbolize the essence of his theology--the temple

vessels and the former king. The return of these seemed to mean for

him the breaking of the yoke of the king of Babylon and the

continuing security of the capital of the Southern Kingdom. That he

should cite these two items would imply that the proclamation of

security required the existence of the temple and the presence of

continuing kingship. Putting together these ideas with other quota-

tions, it appears that the factors which supported a Peace Theology

were the temple and the dynasty. These components became a "Para-

Covenantal" theology built on dynastic and temple hopes.

Jeremiah also spoke a "Covenant Theology" based on the bless-

ings and curses of the Mosaic treaty. Certainly Jeremiah also knew

that the nation possessed a secure future (cf. 33:6-9) but this did not

blind him to the stipulations of the covenant.

The fact that both proclaimed a theology built on covenants

made the judgmental nature of Jeremiah's word all the more unac-

ceptable. Pseudoprophets had proof texts too! This pictures all too

clearly the insidious nature of falsehood and clearly implies a number

of current-day applications.



The theology of the pseudoprophets in Jeremiah may be described

as a "Para-Covenantal" theology built on the hopes attached to the

temple64 and the dynasty. This is in basic conformity with the

religious ideas held by the populace. Pseudoprophets and the pop-

ulace encouraged each other and together rejected the theology of


This "Para-Covenantal" theology (originating in a mixture of

claimed dreams and Yahweh's words) was built on the assumption

that Jerusalem's existence was without condition. Therefore, the only

realistic proclamation of such theology was peace. Futhermore, Mosaic

Covenant infractions were really of no consequence in this theology.

This theology, distorted as it was, could exist alongside rebellion

against Yahweh's demands. Given the perspective of pseudoprophet

theology with its attendant proof texts, Jeremiah gained little hearing.


64 An interesting interpretation of the importance of the temple vessels in the

theological formulations of the people is given by P. R. Ackroyd, "The Temple Vessels

--A Continuity Theme," Studies in the Religion of Ancient Israel (SVT 23; Leiden:

Brill, 1972) 166ff.; note especially 175-77.

96                    GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL


Practically speaking, the appeal of this false theology was its

approximation to certain elements in Yahweh's covenantal dealings

with his people. Because it approximated correct theology, its results

were all the more devastating. The pseudoprophets spoke of Yahweh’s

work and will partially, not fully. Their theological distortion was

primarily in not speaking Yahweh's demands; they spoke only of

certain promises.

Present-day parallels may be seen among those who speak part

of the counsel of God and who, by not speaking all of it, have not

really spoken it at all. These same characteristics are found among

those whose "words" sound somehow orthodox but whose content

behind those words is ominously unorthodox.

This study of Jeremiah brings to the surface several points

worthy of note. One is that understanding carefully the nature of the

book requires understanding the plentiful material on pseudoprophets.

Material so common to a corpus of literature must be studied

seriously to aid in interpreting the book. The relative absence of

writing on pseudoprophets in Jeremiah undoubtedly impoverishes a

worthy understanding of the book.

Further, this canonical material on pseudoprophets furnishes at

least a two-fold warning and a godly example. The two-fold warning

is a warning to the one who speaks and the one who hears God’s

revelation. The one who speaks the revelation (in any age) must speak

all of it, not just a part. He is warned that the desire to be heard and

followed is not the end of speaking the revelation. The end is

speaking the particulars of God's Word fully, clearly in terms of the

whole (the very context in which God gave meaning to the particu-

lars).65 As well, there is due warning for those who hear the revela-

tion. The hearer must want to hear the whole of the matter, not just

those parts that justify his present theological ideas and their sub-

sequent activities. And he must know the revelation adequately

enough to know when the whole has not been spoken. Too commonly

the Church has been plagued by speakers whose perversion is to

speak the revelation only in part and hearers who prefer only a part

or who do not know that only a part has been spoken.

But just as surely this study highlights the sterling example of

Jeremiah who spoke faithfully and fully the whole of Yahweh’s

counsel, spoke it whatever the consequence. His example encourages

those who measure success by how fully and faithfully they have

spoken the Word of the living God, not simply by how pleasant are

the consequences that result from speaking.


65 So S. J. De Vries, Prophet Against Prophet (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978)

148, observes concerning OT false and true prophets: "The basic conflict is always

between covenant integrity and political opportunism.”


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