Some Christians argue that Apostles are always brought into their office under the facilitation of another Apostle, like a chain of links succeeding each other. In the Old Testament, prophets seem just to appear under the direct authority of God, but it makes me wonder is there is any tradition that puts the 'succession' concept upon their view of the Prophets also?
- Anybody can ask a question
- Anybody can answer
- The best answers are voted up and rise to the top
The only 3 Traditions that teach apostolic succession are Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism. These Traditions do not argue for prophetic succession, simply because the biblical role of prophet is inherently different from the biblical role of apostle, making it impossible to conceptually assign succession to both.
First, let’s compare the words apostle and prophet to see how they match up.
According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:
The biblical usage of the word apostle denotes one who is commissioned by Jesus and is sent forth with divine authority.
Jesus commanded them to baptize and teach all nations. It is obvious that this couldn’t be accomplished by only those hearing Jesus speak. Logically, there had to be some kind of succession to perpetuate the teaching and baptizing that Jesus commanded. He also comforts those in which he is commissioning by telling them that he will be with them, “even to the end of the age.”
The New Testament writers commandeered the word apostle to specifically distinguish the new teaching office (magisterium) commissioned with Divine authority.
Thus the early Church historian J. N. D. Kelly, a Protestant, writes:
The biblical context in which the word apostle is used by the New Testament writers differs significantly from the word prophet, not only in scope, but in meaning as well. Again, we read in the Catholic Encyclopedia:
As noted above, the biblical use of prophet seems to be generalized as someone who is called up by God to speak as His “mouthpiece.” The prophets of the Old Testament were not called by God to perpetuate a successive office, but were called up from among God’s people for a specific time, place, and purpose.
A well-known example of someone who God called to deliver a specific message is the prophet Jeremiah’s. His sole purpose was to reveal the sins of the people and explain the reason for the impending disaster (destruction by the Babylonian army and captivity):
The intrinsic differences between the meanings of these 2 words seem to imply that successive offices are not relative to the Old Testament prophets. Both the Old Testament Prophets and the Apostles have the common function of delivering a message. However, the Apostles were given authoritatively teaching offices that were (and are) to be handed down to “all nations” and “even to the end of the age.”
Although succession of prophecy isn’t explicitly displayed in the Old Testament, succession of authority, is very evident in the Old Testament. The succession of official authority in the Old Testament foreshadows not only apostolic succession, but also apostolic authority as well.
There are 2 parallel phrases in both the Old and New Testament that explicitly display God’s design for apostolic authority and succession; “Keys to the Kingdom,” and “bind and loose.”
There is a passage in the Old Testament where Isaiah is prophesying that there will be a dramatic change in the Kingdom of David. Here we find an example of a prophet prophesying that a change will take place in the successive office of the king’s royal steward, or vizier.
Speaking for God, Isaiah proclaims, “And I will place on his (Eliakim’s) shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.” King Hezekiah ascended to the throne of David in 715 b.c. and ruled the land of Judah. The key of David was on the shoulder of Shebna, the royal steward. Isaiah prophesies that Shebna will be removed from his office and the key of David will be given to Eliakim, his successor. The key of David, the key of God’s kingdom, belongs to Jesus. He has come to restore the throne of David. God binds himself with his people with covenants. God made a covenant with David that his throne would be forever.
The kings of the Davidic covenant were the proud possessors of the “key of David,” signifying unquestioned royal authority. Jesus possesses these keys as the heir to David’s throne, and he established a new covenant, and eternal covenant. This covenant was for all men, and was not limited to the Jews of the Nation of Israel.
The keys of a kingdom have always been the sign of authority, and they belong exclusively to the king. Kings, however, would delegate the keys to the stewards or viziers of their kingdom. Jesus ascended to the throne of David and then, through his death and resurrection, extended the covenant to all men, not just to the Jews. God gave him all authority in heaven and earth; he was now king of the eternal kingdom of God. He was the proud possessor of the royal keys of God’s kingdom.
Roughly 750 years after Isaiah delivered God's message of this shift in authority, Jesus resurrects this message in order to signify that the time has come for the true King to ascend the throne of David. We read in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus recites the passage in Isaiah 22 practically verbatim.
We first see from this passage that Peter delivers a prophecy that could only come from God the Father. Jesus responds to Peter’s prophetic message, “..for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” Jesus continues by prophetically echoing the words that Isaiah had spoken 7 centuries earlier be saying, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Both passages are identical in 2 key ways. Both involve the key of the house of David, and both involve the juridical authority to bind and loose in the name of the King. Later, in Matthew 18, Jesus also authorizes this power to bind and loose for the rest of the Apostles.
Just as the Old Testament clearly testifies to an office of succession within the kingdom of God, the New Testament also indicates that Jesus established offices of succession.
There are other examples that imply succession in the Old Testament, but they do not directly pertain to any of the prophets.
In Exodus 18:25-26, Moses appoints various heads over the people of God. We see a hierarchy, a transfer of authority and succession.
Numbers 3:3 shows us that the sons of Aaron were formally "anointed" priests in "ordination" to minister in the priests' "office."
Numbers 16:40 displays God's intention of unbroken succession within His kingdom on earth. Unless a priest was ordained by Aaron and his descendants, he had no authority.
The passage in Numbers 27:18-20 shows God's intention that, through the "laying on of hands," one is commissioned and has authority.
We see that in Deuteronomy 34:9 that Moses laid hands upon Joshua, and because of this, Joshua was obeyed as successor, full of the spirit of wisdom.
The question, “..is there is any tradition that puts the 'succession' concept upon their view of the Prophets also?” is obviously directed toward Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism. These are the only 3 “traditions” that teach apostolic succession. As demonstrated above, the biblical role of prophet is inherently different from the biblical role of apostle, therefore making it impossible to conceptually assign succession to both. This is why none of these 3 "traditions" argue for Old Testament prophetical succession.