The Catholic University of America

Doctoral Defense: L. Stephen Cook

Committee in Charge

Chair: John P. Beal, J.C.D.

Secretary: William P. Loewe, Ph.D.

Major Professor: Christopher Begg, S.T.D., Ph.D.

First Reader: Alexander A. Di Lella, O.F.M., Ph.D.

Second Reader: Joseph Jensen, O.S.B., S.T.D.

Summary of Coursework:

Biblical Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic

Old Testament Theology

Genesis 1-11

Deuteronomistic History


Isaiah 1-12

Parables of Jesus

Colossians and Ephesians

Virtue and Human Action


The Question of the "Cessation of Prophecy" in Ancient Judaism

L. Stephen Cook, Jr.

Director: Christopher Begg, S.T.D., Ph.D.

Many Jewish texts from the Second Temple and rabbinic periods seem to reflect the view that Israelite prophecy ceased around the beginning of the Second Temple era. As part of ongoing efforts to elucidate the religious and historical background from which Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism emerged, this dissertation examines these writings in order to identify attitudes about the status of prophets and prophecy throughout the Second Temple period. This work also interacts with recent discussions of the subject, in order to address the question of whether scholars today should view prophecy as having ceased at that time.

Part One presents the key passages from antiquity, including passages ranging from the Hebrew Bible to rabbinic literature. The discussion then summarizes the seminal discussions of these texts from the last 150 years, many of which deny that prophecy ceased, or was thought to have ceased. Part Two then analyzes each of the relevant ancient bodies of Jewish literature, and isolates key streams of thought within ancient Judaism which help address the question of how prophecy's status was viewed. Part Three, finally, addresses the question of whether it is appropriate today to hold that Israelite prophecy ceased in antiquity.

The dissertation argues that Second Temple texts present a relatively consistent picture of prophecy as a thing of the past, and perhaps the future. These passages also describe, however, an abundance of other, lower-ranking revelatory activities as taking place in the interim, thus marking this period as one of outstanding spiritual vitality. On the question of how today's scholars should characterize the status of ancient Jewish prophecy, the dissertation contends that two legitimate approaches exist. In studies which attempt to clarify ancient Jewish theological thought, it is advantageous to adopt the view that "prophecy" was distinguished from inspired activity of a lower order, thereby maintaining the view that prophecy ceased. But in sociological studies which seek to compare Jewish prophetic activity to that of other ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman contexts, it is more helpful to define "prophecy" broadly, to emphasize the commonalities among all Jewish revelatory phenomena, and thus to disregard any notion that prophecy ceased.