I would like to start this post with an observation from Tim Bartee, who researched the schools of the prophets in the Old Testament.
“It seems like many have the idea that a preacher cannot be anointed and educated at the same time, but as we will see Samuel, Elijah and Elisha did not share this opinion. The people who made the greatest impact in the Old and New Testament (other than Jesus) were not only anointed but also had received the best in education, (secularly and spiritually). Those two people are Moses and Paul, both received stringent educations and both are spiritual giants in the pages of God’s Word. Moses not only received a tremendous education in Egypt, but God also taught him in the second period of his life in the wilderness. Paul sat at the feet of the greatest Jewish teachers of his day but he also received his spiritual degree by spending three years in the deserts of Arabia.”
Unfortunately, Dr. Bartee’s third installment, about the curriculum of schools of prophets, is not available online, so we have to make some educated guesses based on what prophets said and did.
1) Prophets routinely spoke to kings and the people about transgressions of the Covenant. Therefore it makes sense that they were trained in reading and understanding Torah. For instance, Samuel’s command to Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites is embedded in Deut. 25:17-19.
Limitations on royal power in Israel are found in Deut. 17:14-20. Among the instructions is a requirement to study the law daily. A prophet should probably be familiar with these when confronting royalty.
Deut. 18:15-22 lists responsibilities of prophets, finishing with a warning that only prophets that speak instructions consistent with the law itself are to be trusted. One presumes that a prophet must be thoroughly familiar with the law in order to prevent career-limiting moves.
New Testament prophets Stephen and Paul both defend their belief in Jesus Christ (Acts 7 and Acts 13) with a recap of Israel’s history and hopes that is largely drawn from the Law and the Prophets.
2) Prophets are often aware of one another’s writings. One presumes, therefore, that they study the writings of other prophets as part of their training. This makes sense if they routinely gather in schools. Prime examples of this are Isaiah and Micah, who were apparently contemporaries. Compare Is. 2:1-4 with Micah 4:1-3 and you will see what I mean.
Sometimes the references are not quite so direct, such as a play by Jeremiah on a statement by Isaiah (who wrote a century or so before Jeremiah). In Isaiah 4:2-6 the prophet speaks of a “Branch” of the Lord that will cause the land to bear beautiful and glorious fruit in safety. Jeremiah takes that same title in 23:5-6 and 33:14-18 and applies it to a descendant of David who will bring Israel and Judah out of captivity into their own land in peace and prosperity.
The most prominent example of a New Testament prophet who recycles previous prophetic utterances is the Apostle John, who uses references from Moses, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekiel and others throughout the book of Revelation. Compare, for example, Rev. 10:8-11 with Ezek. 3:1-15 show a similar commissioning of the two prophets by eating a book, then being instructed to speak to a particular group or audience. The seven-headed beast of Rev. 13 seems to be an amalgam of the four beasts in Daniel 7:1-8. There are seven heads and ten horns among the four beasts in Daniel, equaling those in Revelation 13:1-10.
It would seem, then, that the curriculum of the schools of the prophets includes the Law and the Prophets.
Next time we will examine whether the prophetic schools taught anything else we might be familiar with.