The Cessation of the Prophetic Gifts

The Cessation of the Prophetic Gifts is Timothy Dane’s doctrinal dissertation in partial fulfillment of the requirements for his Doctor of Philosophy degree at Baptist Bible Seminary.  It is a scholarly work with thousands of footnotes (which happily are not endnotes, making for easier reference) and an extensive 69 page bibliography.

Dane clearly defines the goal of the book:

This dissertation will strive to demonstrate a plausible statement of cessationism based on the mature-body view from three main lines of reasoning: (1) a plausible exegetical defense of cessationism from 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and Ephesians 4:7-16 that to teleion is a reference to a mature-body in Christ that Paul foresaw, (2) a plausible support from a theological level that a mature-body explanation has broader theological support in directly relevant issues, and (3) a plausible validation at a historical level that the church did experience a cessation of the revelatory gifts with the close of the apostolic age, and that modern-day claims of tongues and prophecy do not stand up as representing the genuine exercise of the biblical gifts (pp. 25-26).

Later this goal is simplified, “The goal of this dissertation has been to analyze whether    1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (and the meaning of to teleion in 13:10) can plausibly be understood as supporting a cessationist position” (p. 449).

Dane details four commonly held views of First Corinthians 13:8-10:

  1. The content-of-knowledge view (pp. 20, 32-34, 125-126) which maintains that partial knowledge will be replaced with full knowledge when believers come to the heavenly state, either at death or the return of Christ.
  2. The completed-cannon view (pp. 21, 35-48, 126) which understands to teleion as the completion of the New Testament canon.
  3. Various eschatological views (pp. 21, 49-101, 126-128) assert that to teleion refers to the “perfect” state of affairs (or perfect knowledge) that comes when Christ returns to earth.
  4. The mature-body explanation (pp. 22, 102-125, 128-129) which understands to teleion as the maturity of the early church as it outgrows the disunity between Jewish and Gentile believers. This maturity could potentially have come to the church in one of two ways:  Through the parousia or “through a gradually developing maturity produced through the unfolding New Testament” (p. 23).

It is the mature-body view that Dane defends throughout this volume.  Some of his strongest arguments dovetail with the first-century cessation of sign gifts (pp. 112-115).  Dane summarizes his thoughts in an excellent footnote on page 450:

As noted throughout this dissertation, this might include the following accusations: (1) The Bible teaches in passages like 1 Corinthians 13 (and Eph 2:20 and Rev 22:18-19) that God brought an end to miraculous gifts such as prophecy and tongues, etc.  (2) Church history has shown that these miraculous gifts ended with the apostolic age and that they have not been active since that time.  (3) Modern-day experience shows that Charismatic claims fail to match the description of the miraculous gifts found in the Bible.  (4) Modern-day glossolalia is not the biblical gift of tongues whereby people spoke in real languages they had never known. (5) Modern-day prophets fail to give infallible prophecy such as one finds in the Bible.  (6) Modern-day claims of miracles and healings fail to match the miracles and healings carried out in the New Testament.

The heart of The Cessation addresses two key texts of Scripture, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 and Ephesians 4:11-16.  Chapter two (pp. 31-144) examines the historical interpretation of 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, showing how each of the major views has been championed, and/or rejected, throughout church history (see also pp. 424-446).  Chapter three follows with an exegetical analysis of the same texts (pp. 145-288), which serves as the foundation of Dane’s argument for the “mature-body view.”  Chapter four (pp. 297-390) turns to an exegetical analysis of the supporting material in Ephesians four, especially verses 11-16.

The final chapter addresses the theological issues touching on cessationism such as the gift of prophecy and how eschatological positions influence one’s understanding of cessationism.  Along the way Dane interacts with prominent Continuationists such as Wayne Grudem, D. A. Carson and Craig Blomberg (see pp. 78-79, 85-86, 437-438).

Dane has written a well-researched and important book on the subject of cessationism, especially regarding revelatory gifts.  In the evangelical community cessationism is rapidly falling out of favor.  To have a scholarly, contemporary work demonstrating the biblical veracity of cessation is vital.  I highly recommend The Cessation of the Prophetic Gifts to all serious students of Scripture.

The Cessation of the Prophetic Gifts, A Biblical Defense for Cessation of the Revelatory Gifts by Timothy L. Dane (Timothy L. Dane, 2016) 545 pp., available at https:/ for $35 hard copy and $20 e-copy.

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/Teacher at Southern View Chapel

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