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True and False Prophets

The Didache

But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. …If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. …And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. …But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

But receive everyone who comes in the name of the Lord, and prove and know him afterward; for you shall have understanding right and left. …But if he has no trade, according to your understanding, see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a Christ-monger. Watch that you keep away from such. – ibid

Shepherd of Hermas

“These,” said he, “are faithful, but he that sits on the chair is a false prophet who destroys the mind of the servants of God – I mean, of the doubtful-minded, not of the faithful. These doubtful-minded ones then come to him as to a soothsayer and enquire of him what shall befall them. And he, the false prophet, having no power of a divine Spirit in himself, speaks with them according to their enquiries [and according to the lusts of their wickedness], and fills their souls as they themselves wish. For being empty himself he gives empty answers to empty enquirers; for whatever enquiry may be made of him, he answers according to the emptiness of the man. But he speaks also some true words; for the devil fills him with his own spirit, if so be he shall be able to break down some of the righteous…For he that consults a false prophet on any matter is an idolater and emptied of the truth, and senseless. For no Spirit given of God needs to be consulted; but, having the power of deity, speaks all things of itself, because it is from above, even from the power of the divine Spirit.”

“How then, Sir,” say I, “shall a man know who of them is a prophet, and who a false prophet?” “Hear,” said he, “concerning both the prophets; and, as I shall tell you, so shall you test the prophet and the false prophet. By his life test the man that has the divine Spirit.
In the first place, he that has the [divine] Spirit, which is from above, is gentle and tranquil and humble-minded, and abstains from all wickedness and vain desire of this present world, and holds himself inferior to all men, and gives no answer to any man when enquired of, nor speaks in solitude (for neither does the Holy Spirit speak when a man wishes Him to speak); but the man speaks then when God wishes him to speak.
When then the man who has the divine Spirit comes into an assembly of righteous men, who have faith in a divine Spirit, and intercession is made to God by the gathering of those men, then the angel of the prophetic spirit, who is attached to him, fills the man, and the man, being filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks to the multitude, according as the Lord wills.
In this way then the Spirit of the deity shall be manifest. This then is the greatness of the power as touching the Spirit of the deity of the Lord.”
“Hear now,” said he, “concerning the earthly and vain spirit, which has no power but is foolish. In the first place, that man who seems to have a spirit exalts himself, and desires to have a chief place, and straight-way he is impudent and shameless and talkative and conversant in many luxuries and in many other deceits and receives money for his prophesying, and if he receives not, he prophesies not. Now can a divine Spirit receive money and prophesy? It is not possible for a prophet of God to do this, but the spirit of such prophets is earthly.
In the next place, it never approaches an assembly of righteous men; but avoids them, and cleaves to the doubtful-minded and empty, and prophesies to them in corners, and deceives them, speaking all things in emptiness to gratify their desires; for they too are empty whom it answers. For the empty vessel placed together with the empty is not broken, but they agree one with the other.
But when he comes into an assembly full of righteous men who have a Spirit of deity, and intercession is made from them, that man is emptied, and the earthly spirit flees from him in fear, and that man is struck dumb and is altogether broken in pieces, being unable to utter a word. Thus also the empty prophets, whenever they come unto the spirits of righteous men, are found just such as they came. I have given you the life of both kinds of prophets. Therefore test, by his life and his works, the man who says that he is moved by the Spirit.” – ibid


(A spiritual man) shall also judge false prophets, who, without having received the gift of prophecy from God, and not possessed of the fear of God, but either for the sake of vainglory, or with a view to some personal advantage, or acting in some other way under the influence of a wicked spirit, pretend to utter prophecies, while all the time they lie against God.

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