If the Apostles and the prophets were the foundation of the Church, we err if we try and place them on the second or third floor of the house which they support. So then, if you concede that the Apostolic office has ceased, then you must also accept that the office of prophet has ceased, because Paul places prophets alongside the Apostles as the foundation of the Church.
To respond to this argument it will be necessary to leave the immediate context in Ephesians 2, and consider the underlying grammar from another verse in chapter 4. Ephesians 4:11 reads, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers” (NAS). This passage is oft cited as providing a precedent for the ongoing 5-fold ministry of the Church — apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher. Not everyone agrees, however, that there are five distinct offices listed. They argue instead for four church offices — apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor—teacher (that is, pastors who are teachers). This view is held because of a Greek grammatical construction called Article-Substantive-Kai-Substantive (TSKS). This rule holds that when two nouns (or substantival participles or adjectives) are in concord with one another, being connected by a copulative καὶ (and), with the first noun being preceded by a definite article, and the second being anarthrous, then the two substantives are representative of the same group.
Hebrews 3:1, provides a simple example:
Jesus the apostle and high priest of our confession.
Jesus, the (T-article) apostle (S-substantive) and (K-καὶ [and]) high priest (S-substantive) of our confession.Looking back at Eph 4:11, one can see why most interpreters prefer 4 offices, over 5:
Here, the English translation corresponds closely with the Greek — τὸν (T) ἀπόστολον (S) καὶ (K) ἀρχιερέα (S) τῆς ὁμολογίας ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦν.
The TSKS construction shows that the singular group identified as “Jesus” is identified by two constituent substantives, “ apostle” and “high priest.” In this case, Jesus is both the apostle and high priest of our confession.
καὶ αὐτὸς ἔδωκεν τοὺς μὲν ἀποστόλους, τοὺς δὲ προφήτας, τοὺς δὲ εὐαγγελιστάς, τοὺς (T) δὲ ποιμένας (S) καὶ (K) διδασκάλους (S)With that in mind, one may return to Eph 2:20 to consider its TSKS construction:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers (or pastor-teachers).
In sum, the TSKS construction in Eph 4:11 groups pastor and teacher together into one office.1
ἐποικοδομηθέντες ἐπὶ τῷ θεμελίῳ τῶν (T) ἀποστόλων (S) καὶ (K) προφητῶν (S) ὄντος ἀκρογωνιαίου αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
...having been built on the foundation of the (T) apostles (S) and (K) prophets (S), Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.
Therefore, Ephesians 2:20 may rightly be rendered:If this interpretation is accurate and the TSKS construction is consistently applied, how might it affect one’s understanding of what Paul is teaching? It would mean that the Apostles were prophets, distinct in their role and office, but different from prophets like Agabus. And, while the foundation of the Church was laid upon the Apostles (who were prophets, like Isaiah and Jeremiah), it was not laid upon the prophets like Agabus, Philip’s daughters, and other congregational prophets. To suggest otherwise, is to elevate Philip’s daughters to a position of unquestionable authority within the Church, and to devalue the role and importance of the Twelve who occupied the Apostolic office.
"...having been built on the foundation of the Apostles-prophets (or, the Apostles who are also prophets), Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone."2
Therefore, in response to this argument, Eph 2:20 does not prove that the office of prophet or that the gift of prophecy ceased with the death of the last Apostle.
A note on the above counter-argumentation: The responses provided to Arguments 1—7 do not prove that prophecy is still being given by the Spirit today, but they do prove that 2 Timothy 3:16—17, Hebrews 11:1—2, Revelation 22:18—19, Proverbs 30:6, 2 Peter 1:19, 1 Corinthians 13:8—10, and Ephesians 2:20—23 cannot be used as proofs that it has ceased; nor that it violates the sufficient revelation of the completed canon.
Return to first article in this series: Confronting Common Arguments and Objections to the Continuation of the Charismatic Gifts
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2 Richard Gaffin commenting on this interpretation writes, “This is possible grammatically and the apostles do exercise prophetic functions (e.g. Rom. 11:25ff.; 1 Cor. 15:51ff.; 1 Thess. 4:15ff.; 1 Cor 14:6). Probably there is nothing that excludes this view. A combination of considerations, however, is decisively against it.” (Gaffin, Perspectives, 93-94). — Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament (Wheaton: Crossway, 2000), 380. // Grudem answers Gaffin’s objections, The Gift of Prophecy, 341—345. ↩