On the Difference Between True and False Prophets

wolves and lambsPope St. Gregory the Dialogist 540-604

It must also be known that sometimes the Holy Prophets, when they are consulted, through their familiarity with prophesying, pass judgment from their own spirit, believing that they speak thus with the spirit of prophecy, but because they are holy men are swiftly corrected by the Holy Spirit, from Whom they hear what is true and censure themselves for speaking falsely. For who does not know that the Prophet Nathan was a holy man who reproached David the King openly concerning his guilt, and proclaimed what would befall him because of this same guilt? However, at the moment when David had inquired of him because he wished to build a Temple to the Lord, he replied: ‘Go, do all that is in thy heart; because the Lord is with thee’ (2 Kgs. 7:3). Concerning him, it was immediately added: ‘But it came to pass that night, that the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying: Go, and say to my servant David: Thus saith the Lord [God], shalt thou build Me a house to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in a house from the day that I brought the children out of the land of Egypt even to this day’ (2 Kgs. 7:4-6). And a little further on: ‘And when those days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house to my name’ (2 Kgs. 7:12-14). Behold Nathan the Prophet, who before had said to the King, ‘Go, and do,’ presently apprised through the spirit of prophecy, proclaiming that this could not be, contradicted the King’s counsel and his own words because he discovered that what he said from his own spirit was false.

In this matter, the difference between true and false prophets is such that true Prophets, if they sometimes speak from their own spirit, having learnt from their hearers’ mind through the Holy Spirit, rapidly correctly this. For false prophets make false prophecies and those alien from the Holy Spirit continue in their falsity. (Homilies on the Book of Ezekiel, Homily 1.16-17)

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