A Christian View of Prophecy

This is the 9th Blog in this series which began with Reading Scripture: the Old Testament, the Torah and Prophecy.   The immediate preceding blog is Jesus Fulfills Torah.

Old Testament Forefathers of Christ

The first Christians came to see Jesus not simply as fulfilling specific promises prophecies about the Messiah, but also in fulfilling the entire Torah – the Law, the History, the Promises, the People, and the Covenant.  This caused the first believers to rethink their relationship to or understanding of Torah, the People of God, Covenant, the Messiah and the Nations.  I’ve mentioned some of this in the previous blogs.  The final two blogs of this series will look at the nature of prophecy and the Christian understanding of it and of Christ’s relationship to it.

As we profess in the Nicene creed, God  has through the Holy Spirit  spoken to us by the prophets.

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets…” (Hebrews 1:1)   

The New Testament mentions prophets and specific prophecies numerous times, but offers us only a few glimpses into what prophecy is or how it works.  

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”  (2 Peter 1:20-21)

“… and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.  For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.”   (1 Corinthians 14:32-33)

Prophet Jeremiah

What we can glean from these verses is that God Himself speaks to us through the intermediary of the prophets – God uses a human intermediary to convey His message to us, presumably as the means for us humans to receive His divine message.  The prophets are an interface point between God and humanity.  Whether inspiration works such that the prophet is able to interpret the divine message into human images and language or the prophet for some reason can understand the divine message though the rest of us cannot is not clear.  God uses the prophet to convey His message.   “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets”  (Amos 3:7).

The prophets don’t just offer what they think God might be doing or saying, they are not guessing or predicting what God is going to do.   Rather God actually moves or inspires the prophets to speak.  So the message of the prophets is a divine message.  The message comes to us in human words and images, through a human intermediary, but it is God speaking to us.  Much has been written about the nature of inspiration, which goes far beyond what I can say here.  We receive prophecy as a message from God not a message from the prophet.  The message from God has a purpose which is not limited by or to the human interpretation of that message.  We can misinterpret the message, we can try to make sense of the message, but we have to be faithful to the message, even if we don’t completely understand it.    This is where the Scriptures, as the written Word of God, are so important because they preserve the message.  The community of the people of God have the responsibility to make sure the message is preserved and faithfully conveyed – only then can its meaning be faithfully discerned or debated.  Finally, the prophets themselves are not mere puppets in the hands of God – they are inspired by God, filled with the Spirit – but the prophets have some control over themselves and speaking the prophecy.  Prophecy is very different from demon possession.   It must be noted that sometimes prophets do not completely comprehend the prophecy, and sometimes they may not even be aware that have uttered a prophecy.

“For the prophet is not always consciously aware of what he is saying.  As the Fourth Gospel states of Caiaphas: ‘Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation’ (Jn 2:51).  Caiaphas is an unwitting and involuntary prophet: he does not appreciate, with his conscious mind, the real meaning of the truth that he proclaims, but he says more than he intends or realizes.  If God, without depriving the prophet of his free will, may yet use him as the mouthpiece of a message greater than his own understanding, cannot the same be true also of the holy fool?  Even when actually unbalanced on the psychological level, his mental disabilities may yet be by the Holy Spirit as a way of healing and saving others.”  (Bishop Kallistos Ware,  THE INNER KINGDOM, p 178)

Bishop Kallistos is offering a comment about something beyond the scope of this blog series – that prophecy continues in the Church to this day.  The gift of prophecy still exists in the Church, and some people still exhibit this special gift even though they might not be aware they are doing so.  For our purposes in this blog, the point is that prophecy does not deprive the prophet of his or her free will, though the prophet might be proclaiming something beyond the limits of their ability to understand. 

The fulfillment of a prophecy is not understood until it happens; only then does it become clear to the people that a prophecy has been fulfilled. 

Next:  Prophecy in the Ancient Church

The Orthodox reading of the Scriptural Treasury.

This blog continues the series dealing with the Bible and scriptural issues.  It began with the 1st blog:  Reading the Bible Means Opening a Treasury.  The immediately preceding blog is Patristic Literalism: Read for the Full Meaning.

There is little doubt that Christians shared with Jewish rabbis a strong belief that all Scriptures were inspired by God and that the reader of the biblical text needs to mine from the text all of the wisdom, power and knowledge which God has put into the text.  In the 3rd Century, the famous Christian biblical commentator, Origen, was a prolific exegete, commenting on a vast array of scriptural texts.  He certainly was part of that well established tradition which sought to discover all the wisdom and knowledge which God may have put in the Scriptures.  Origen was a brilliant expositor of the meaning hidden in the words of the scriptural texts.  Unfortunately he also held some beliefs which were not accepted by the Church as a whole, and those unconventional teachings were eventually condemned by the Church and the faithful were discouraged from reading his works.  Nevertheless, Origen’s methods and his prolific work to comment on the Christian Scriptures were imitated by others for generations in Christian history.  His influence in getting bishops and teachers to look beyond the mere literal reading of the text is seen in the number of modern biblical scholars who write about him.  For example, Peter Bouteneff in his BEGINNINGS: ANCIENT CHRISTIAN READINGS OF THE BIBLICAL CREATION NARRATIVES (pp 98-118) writes:

“For Origen, Scripture’s usefulness and importance are not primarily historical but moral, pastoral, and, finally, soteriological. … He states that the belief that Scripture ought to be interpreted according to the bare letter is tantamount to saying that it was composed by human beings alone, without inspiration. … The purpose of allegory, then, is to uncover Scripture’s latent sense, the embedded rule of faith.  As we will see again farther on, this rule, Scripture’s inner sense, is ultimately distilled in the person of Christ himself.  …  describing the pitfalls of a bare, literal reading of Scripture, for example, in the prophecies found in both Moses and the Prophets. (He calls such a reading Jewish because it fails to find Christ.)  The further hazard of an overly literal reading (or one unguided by good teachers) is that it will be insensitive to the awesome mystery behind the words and thus produce an anthropomorphic portraiture of God.”

In other words, for Origen, the importance of the Scriptures lies not in the factual recounting of past historical events, but how the Bible can and does speak to current believers about salvation, about how to live in this world morally, about how to guide us in our every day thinking and behavior, and in shaping our understanding of God.  Origen is concerned literally about what St. Paul tells Timothy scripture is for:  “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).   The literal truth of Scriptures is not so much their “factualness” regarding history but rather the truth they convey to us about God, His plan of Salvation, and how we should live in His world.   Bouteneff continues with an example:

Creating the heavens

“The aim of the Holy Spirit is ‘to envelop [clothe] and hide secret mysteries in ordinary words under the pretext of narrative… [i.e.] an account of visible things.’  Origen’s example …is the biblical account of the creation of the world and the first human being…Origen believes that the Holy Spirit even inserts what he calls…stumbling blocks…things that could not possibly have occurred in history—in order to shake people out of an overly simplistic or literal reading. …  (Origen argues) The Genesis account “enshrines certain deeper truths than the mere historical narrative,…and contains a spiritual meaning almost throughout, using ‘the letter’ as a kind of veil to hide profound and mystical doctrines” …    (Origen writes:) “To what person of intelligence, I ask, will the account seem logically consistent that says there was a ‘first day’ and a ‘second’ and a ‘third,’ in which also ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ are named, without a sun, without a moon, and without stars, and even in the case of the first day without a heaven?  And who will be found simple enough to believe that like some farmer ‘God planted trees in the garden of Eden, in the east’ and that he planted ‘the tree of life’ in it, that is a visible tree that could be touched, so that someone could eat of this tree with corporeal teeth and gain life, and further, could eat of another tree and receive the knowledge of ‘good and evil?’  Moreover, we find that God is said to stroll in the garden in the afternoon and Adam to hide under a tree.  Surely, I think no one doubts that these statements are made by Scripture in the form of a figure… by which they point toward certain mysteries.”   …   [Origen] concluded that Scripture had indeed been dictated to Moses by the Holy Spirit, to the very last letter…Yet the Holy Spirit dictated not history but stories that contained complexities and difficulties, with the intention of inviting readers into the deepest and most serious engagement.” (pp 98-118)

Next:  Origen: Discerning the Mystery in Scripture’s Treasury

God Questions His Creation: Genesis 10:1-14 (b)

See:  God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 10:1-14 (a)

Genesis 10:1 These are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth; sons were born to them after the flood. 2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. 3 The sons of Gomer: Ash’kenaz, Riphath, and Togar’mah. 4 The sons of Javan: Eli’shah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Do’danim. 5 From these the coastland peoples spread. These are the sons of Japheth in their lands, each with his own language, by their families, in their nations. 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Hav’ilah, Sabtah, Ra’amah, and Sab’teca. The sons of Ra’amah: Sheba and Dedan. 8 Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Ba’bel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. 11 From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nin’eveh, Reho’both-Ir, Calah, and 12 Resen between Nin’eveh and Calah; that is the great city. 13 Egypt became the father of Ludim, An’amim, Leha’bim, Naph-tu’him, 14 Pathru’sim, Caslu’him (whence came the Philistines), and Caph’torim.

Genealogies are often skimmed through by modern readers of the Bible because they are somewhat boring and not particularly pertinent to life.  St. Jerome (d. 420AD) saw the writers of Scripture as “the inspired vehicles of the divine mysteries” and so felt it important for us to pay attention to all of the historical details and peculiarities of their written words as they offer us insight into the person who is God’s chosen vessel for the sacred mysteries.   It is an interesting concept for it emphasizes that the authors of Scripture are more the vehicle of the divine mysteries (as they are the ones inspired by God) than are the written words themselves.  Their written words are almost a feeble attempt to record the inspiration which is really contained in humans not mostly in a book.  The written words thus in their details offer us insight into the inspired saint who wrote the text (besides, saints, not scriptures are made in the image and likeness of God).   This is a common idea found in the Christians of the early centuries: the Scriptures are mere signs which point to the spiritual reality, the real substance, God’s revelation.  Thus they don’t equate God’s revelation to the words themselves but to the reality to which the words direct our attention.  This very subtle and nuanced approach to the Bible helps prevent them from reading the text in a wooden or overly literal way.   It is not the words which are so important – they point to the truth which we are seeking.   In a certain sense it prevents what happens sometimes to modern fundamentalist and biblical literalists – Bibliolatry.   The text contains the revelation but is not to be equated with it, for the revelation is always beyond the limits of the written word.   As Jesus told the Jews:  “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf.  Yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).

Forefathers of Christ

Genealogies help establish an orderly succession of fathers to son in civil society, and become the basis for tradition – that common knowledge and wisdom which humans pass down from generation to generation.   But in early Christianity they also were the source of controversy and argument.   In Titus 3:9, we are warned, “But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile.”   A very similar warning is found in 1 Timothy 1:3-4: “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training that is in faith.”   Genealogies which for the modern reader often appear boring and uninteresting were obviously at one time the seedbed for speculation which led to quarrels and dissension in the Church.  Interests in  and emphases on different passages of Scripture do change over time and in different cultures.  This does give witness for the importance of understanding how Christians in previous times read and used the Bible – it helps us avoid being limited by or trapped in our contemporary culture and thinking.   Aspects of the Scripture which were important, even critically, in ancient times are often glossed over by our modern sensibilities and lack of historical depth. 

No matter how diverse the people are in terms of nations, geography, languages, what is stunning in the genealogies and the first 11 chapters of Genesis is the absolute monotheism of this ancient text.  There is only one God.  Satan is not mentioned, neither are demons.  The gods of the nations are not mentioned.  Angels are not mentioned.  Idols are not mentioned.  There is no other spiritual being but the Lord God.  There is no celestial hierarchy in the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  The text establishes absolute monotheism – there are no other beings even close to God and not cosmic battle between God and evil.  Chaos exists which God is able to shape, contain and control for His own purposes.  Chaos is impersonal, not an evil one.  The only indication in these early chapters of Genesis of something other than the One God is  found in Genesis 1:26 and 11:7 in which God speaks in the plural, “let us…”  Christians have understood this to be a clear reference to the Trinitarian nature of God within the Jewish scriptures.  All the peoples of the world no matter how diverse have only one God.  This is another way in which the genealogies tie all of humanity together.   Our oneness with Adam is not so much a genetic thing; it is an issue that we all were created by the one God who is Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.   There are no other gods or spiritual beings.  There is none of the heavenly mythologies that are so common in virtually every other ancient religion.  There is no mention of astrology or any form of the worship of the heavenly bodies.   The entire opening chapters of Genesis are focused on this one God and His particular interest in and relationship with a very select group of people – a lineage that is completely tied in with the God of the universe.

Genealogies especially confront one of the most tenaciously held entitlements of modern capitalistic man:  self interest.  Adam Smith felt the very thing that will drive capitalism for the benefit of each person is self interest.  And we now assume our personal self interest to be a main reason why we would participate in anything.  The self is both king and god with each person living in an egocentric universe.  The genealogies tell us God has chosen certain individuals other than ourselves to be His chosen people and to serve the unique requirements of the Kingdom.  We read the genealogies to realize how many people God has chosen and worked with, and that not everything is governed by self interest.  Even Christ told us the two main laws were to love God and to love neighbor.  It is not always about me. Salvation is learning about something greater than my self and my self interests.  It is learning that my story is but a sentence is a bigger chapter in a much larger book whose author is God.   Scriptural genealogies offer to all humans the meta-narrative which ties every single human together in one grand story with God being the narrator.  Postmodernism denies the existence of one meta-narrative, but the Bible – and the science of DNA and genetics supports the Bible on this issue – offers that there is in fact a narrative which unites all of humanity and human nature itself.  For the believer the Bible is the meta-narrative in which our own story is unfolding while in science it is DNA which provides the thread connecting all humans and all living things.

Next:   God Questions His Creation:  Genesis 10:15-32 (a)

Scripture is Not the Text, but the Reading by God’s People

This is the 7th blog in this series which began with A Quest to Know What It Means to be Human, and the immediately preceding blog is Florovsky: The Church, the New Testament, & Christ.  In this blog and the next, I am looking at the writings of Fr. Georges Florovsky on the meaning of revelation, Scriptures, the Church and Tradition, as well as the relationship of these terms to each other.   The quotes from Fr. Florovsky come either from his book BIBLE, CHURCH, TRADITION: AN EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW (from now on referred to as BCT:AEOV) or from his article “The Work of the Holy Spirit in Revelation”, THE CHRISTIAN EAST, Vol  XIII, No. 2 (1932) (referred to as TWHSIR). 

The Christian and Jewish Scriptures are written within human history by humans and for humans. 

“Scripture is a God-inspired scheme or image (eikon) of truth, but not truth itself.” (BCT:AEOV,   p 48)

Sts. Peter & Paul

The Scriptures did not exist before God created humans; they were not written from all eternity before the world existed (that is what some claim of the Q’uran – there is an eternal copy somehow existing in the divine eternity with the earthly ones being merely copies of the eternal one).  The history of mankind was not pre-written by God before anything existed – a divine script in which humans are mere automatons, reading their lines of the script and acting according to the direction already determined by the Author and Director, God.   Christians clearly believe in human free will – the Scriptures record from a human point of view but inspired by God the interaction between God and His creatures.

“God speaks to man through His Spirit; and only in the measure in which man abides in the Spirit does he hear and understand this voice…”  (TWHSIR)

The story of creation in Genesis 1-3 was written after the fact, not before.  Only long after the creation came into existence was the narrative of the Creation story created and then written down.  The story itself was conceived for humans, as revelation, so that humans could understand their origins, so humans could understand their role in creation, and to know their Creator.  The creation accounts in Genesis were not written before the events happened, nor even as the events happened, but only much later when there were people to write them down and they were written for humanity, not for God.   The creation accounts of Genesis 1-2 obviously weren’t written from all eternity, for they describe the existence of the world only once time existed and had elapsed.  The only eternal Word is Jesus, Son of God, who became incarnate for the salvation of the world.

“At any rate the Scriptures demand that they should be expounded and explained. … When the Church expounds Scripture it bears witness to that of which the Scriptures testify. … man is called not only to receive Truth attentively, but also to witness to it. … God’s Word must become evident in the reality of human thought.”  (TWHSIR)

Humans are the apex of the creation story, its goal and crescendo.  Scriptures were written after humans existed to record for posterity and to bring to all generations the revelation God.  The Scriptures require not only humans inspired by God to record them, but also humans inspired by God’s Spirit to read and interpret them.

St. Hilary put it emphatically… Scripture is not in the reading, but in the understanding…” (BCT:AEOV,  p 17)

So what is necessary for all believers is not simply to possess the text of the Bible, but to hear the text with the community of believers and within the people of God in order to come to the proper understanding.  The Bible was not written with individualism in mind, and the interpretation of Scripture is not done by any one person alone. 

“First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God”   (2 Peter 1:20-21)

For St. Irenaeus,

“’Tradition’ was…a living tradition… entrusted to the Church as a new breath of life, just as breath was bestowed upon the first man.   …. Scripture without interpretation is not Scripture at all; the moment it is used and becomes alive it is always interpreted Scripture.”  (BCT:AEOV,  p80)

Scripture alone is not sufficient for salvation because by itself it remains a text, consider the words of St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:2-8 (NRSV):

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  … our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.   Now if the ministry of death, chiseled in letters on stone tablets, came in glory … how much more will the ministry of the Spirit come in glory?”

Note St. Paul’s downplaying of the written word/scriptures.  It is the people of the church at Corinth who are really his scriptures, written not with ink but with the Spirit, not on tablets of stone but on human hearts.  The real scriptures are a living personal witness.   God has chosen disciples to be ministers of a new covenant, but again not of written letters/scripture, but of the spirit – the scripture kills!   And finally the 10 Commandments written by God on stone are called the “ministry of death”!  The written word alone is not sufficient for salvation in the mind of St. Paul the Apostle to the nations.

. Next:  A Few Final Thoughts from Fr. Florovsky

Chrysostom on the Scriptures


Three quotes from St. John Chrysostom on  reading, listening to, or talking about the Scriptures:

“The mouths of the inspired authors are the mouth of God, after all; such a mouth would say nothing idly—so let us not be idle in our listening, either . . . Pay precise attention, however: the reading out of the Scriptures is the opening of the heavens.”

“Any time must be considered suitable for discourse on spiritual topics.  If we have a precise realization of this, we will be able while relaxing at home, both before eating and after eating, to take the Scriptures in our hands and gain benefit from them and provide spiritual nourishment for our soul . . . This is our salvation, this is spiritual treasure, this security.  If we thus strengthen ourselves each day—by reading, by listening, by spiritual discourse—we will be able to remain unconquered, and render the snares of the devil ineffectual.”

“Let us not simply imprint this on our minds, but also discuss it constantly with one another in our get-togethers; let us constantly revive the memory of this story both with our wives and with the children.  In fact, if you want to talk about a king, see, there is a king here; if about soldiers, about a household, about political affairs, you will find a great abundance of these things in the Scriptures.  These narratives bring the greatest benefit: it is impossible – impossible, I say—for a soul nourished on these stories ever to manage to fall victim to passion.”

Reading the Bible as a Dialogue with the Inspired Author

A hermeneutic – the interpretative method one uses to understand scripture.

I much appreciate the modern biblical scholars who emphasize that the interpretation of scripture involves a dialogue with the composer of the text more than a mere dissection of the text, where the scripture is treated as a frog in freshman biology which must be dissected to view all its parts.  The problem with viewing scriptural interpretation in this way is it takes the text and treats it as the body of work, or more to the point as a corpse – dead words to be parsed and flayed as if their meaning can be uncovered in the same fashion that crime scene investigators discover clues on a corpse.  And biblical interpretation becomes the work of a coroner examining a dead body.  In contrast to this, biblical scholar James Dunn wrote in his masterpiece, THE THEOLOGY OF PAUL THE APOSTLE:

“The hermeneutical model, in other words, needs to be more that of the dialogue with a living respondent than the clinical analysis of a dead corpse.” 

Dunn’s hermeneutic is much in line with St. Peter’s claim that “no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God (or men inspired by God spoke) as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit”  (2 Peter 1:21).   Though some want it to be the case that in the written word of the Bible we have a direct encounter with God not mediated by anyone, in fact God inspired different men and women to speak on His behalf – all scriptures are humanly mediated through the specific people God inspired to speak and write.  The only unmediated Word of God is Jesus Christ Himself.  Even the Gospels written about Him come through the hand of men.  Thus true biblical reading, study, interpretation, if it is live, is a dialogue and a relationship with those who were inspired by God.  We are not left merely reliant on the written word, we can encounter those through whom the Holy Spirit spoke.  God by His own will and plan speaks to us through His chosen servants.  And though sometimes God dictates to them what to say (“thus says the Lord”!), more often God inspires them to write and they write His revelation in human words, symbols and metaphors.

The hermeneutic – the biblical form of interpretation which has us dialoguing with the inspired author rather than focusing on a lifeless text is much in line with St. Paul’s thinking in  Romans 7:6 and 2 Corinthians 3:3 –

“But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6).

“And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:3).

When we read scripture with the idea of dialoguing with those inspired by God to write the scripture, we experience the text as living, engaging, active, spiritual, challenging, inspiring, life giving, piercing heart and soul – unlike the lifeless code written in ink, permanently affixed to a page  (or a hardened stone) which one can look at and even admire.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.   And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:12-13).

The last quote from Hebrews is most interesting of all for it has the word of God piercing and cutting through, for not only are we trying to interpret the Word, the Word is reading us and discerning our thoughts, intentions and our heart.  The Word sees us!  We are not hidden from HIS sight, for the Word of God truly in Jesus Christ and not the printed book we call the Bible.  Only when we pick up the Bible and read it, engage it, and dialogue with it, does that printed word become the life giving Word of God.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn expressed a similar idea in his GULAG ARCHIPELAGO:

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of hearts, there remains… an un-uprooted small corner of evil.”

That which separates good from evil is found in our hearts, not in a book.

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it” (Deuteronomy 30:11-14).