I'm a non-denominational Christian who visits whatever Church happens to be close when I'm travelling. I was visiting an Anglican church today, and the reverend gave a sermon from Old testament.

She mentioned that:

  1. God has been slowly revealing his plans, and there are several things we know that folks in OT times didn't.
  2. They didn't have any concept of after death life, making their sacrifices for faith of even greater value than ours who know they'll go to heaven. There are OT verses that suggest no life after death.

I was taken by surprise at this as I always thought that the the prophets of Old Testament always had full revelation and understanding perhaps even greater than ours, since they had direct contact with God and had information from extra books that we no longer have (the Book of Jasher, etc.).

My questions:

  1. Is this the official theology of the Anglican Church, or just that reverend's own view?
  2. If it is official Anglican theology, what is their Scriptural basis for it?
  • 1
    Job 19:26 comes to mind. Aug 28, 2016 at 21:36
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    Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for your question. I have edited it to narrow its scope a bit so that it won't be closed as "too broad." See: What topics can I ask about here? and: Types of questions that are within community guidelines. I hope the edits still keep the essence of your question. Aug 29, 2016 at 0:11
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    First Peter 1:10-12 tells us that neither the prophets nor angels had full knowledge of the OT prophetical words being spoken; this could possibly be one of the Anglican church's proof texts for God gradually revealing His plans over time.
    – Steve
    Aug 29, 2016 at 3:11
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    In any case, N.T. Wright, an Anglican Bishop and historian, talks extensively about this in The Resurrection of the Son of God, and the answer is basically "it's complicated." But I have no reason to think that even though he's an Anglican, that his views represent any sort of official Anglican view--or that there even is, or ought to be, an official Anglican view on this topic.
    – Flimzy
    Aug 29, 2016 at 7:00
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    @Nathaniel - Article 7 of the 39 articles does , I think, address the main question.
    – davidlol
    Aug 29, 2016 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


The thirty-nine articles are an Anglican doctrinal standard.

The Old Testament is dealt with in Article Seven. It specifically denounces the view that .the old Fathers (i.e. the Old Testament folks) looked only for transitory promises. It asserts that in both the Old and New Testaments everlasting life is offered to mankind.

The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore they are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises.

Anglican doctrine then appears to run counter to your understanding of yesterday's sermon.

However it is very widely understood in Christianity that God revealed His plans through the prophets and, since they lived at different times, this happened gradually. Those in earlier times had a lesser picture than those of later times.

So, while it is true that in some ways the people in Old Testament times knew more than we do: their knowledge of the Book of Jasher being an example; it is also true that in some ways we know more than they did. Our knowledge of Jesus Christ is an example.

As the start of the Epistle to the Hebrews begins:

God, who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son

Thus, having less knowledge, they arguably needed more faith.


This question is too broad, as there are a number of groups which call themselves "Anglican", and they do not all share the same Theology. To answer the question originally posed, one would almost have to know exactly which Parish the original poster attended.

That written, the closest thing that there is in most of The Anglican Communion to an official written theological position agreed to by most Anglicans is the Articles of Religion, sometimes called the Thirty - Nine Articles, which does not directly address question.

I expect that most Anglican Theologians would agree with the preacher's first statement, that the prophets in pre-Christian times did not know everything we know today. They did not know about the electrical nature of lightning as we do today, for example, because they had no concept of atoms, much less protons and electrons.

On the other hand, the statement that they had no concept of life after death is more controversial. Even if their writings do not speak to this issue, the fact that their surviving writings do not record anything to refute the preacher's statement does not mean that the preacher's supposition about what they believed is true as to the statement that the Old Testament prophets had more insight because they had direct contact with God, what is the basis for believing they had better direct contact with God than you or I do? In the words of the spiritual, "...He [God] walks with me and he talks to me...". As to the books they may have had, since we don't have them now, we have no way to evaluate them to know how good they may have been.

  • It's fine if you think the question is not answerable in its current form. But you seem to have misunderstood some of it: 1. concept of atoms Neither me nor reverend, I assume, meant scientific knowledge, but theological matters. 2. what is the basis for believing they had better direct contact with God than you or I do. The Prophets when sent by God would say This is what the Lord says followed by a very specific description of events to come.
    – John Doe
    Aug 29, 2016 at 12:55
  • I don't distinguish between scientific knowledge, and theological matters. Just as scientific knowledge has been revealed to us over the past couple of millenia hat the prophets named in the Old Testament did not know, so too, has new theological knowledge been revealed over the same time period to which the prophets of the Old Testament time did not have the capability of understanding, either.
    – brasshat
    Aug 29, 2016 at 18:35
  • I would note that in most instances, what the Prophets said was not "This is what the Lord says...", but something with just a bit different form, like "The Lord said to me, say to my people:..."
    – brasshat
    Aug 29, 2016 at 18:40

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