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Prophetic inspiration: Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire, by Benjamin West

In religion, a prophet is a person who has claimed to have been encountered by the supernatural or the divine, often one who serves as an intermediary with humanity.[1][2]

Claims of prophets have existed in many cultures through history, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, the Sybilline and Delphic Oracles practices in Ancient Greece, Zoroaster, the Völuspá in Old Norse, and many others. Traditionally, prophets are regarded as having a role in society that promotes change due to their messages and actions. The label 'prophet' is subjective; a person considered an authentic prophet by some will be considered a false prophet by others: In modern times, some individuals suggest the visions or insights of prophets or would-be prophets, are simply the result of Schizophrenia. In the late 20th century the appellation of a 'prophet' has been used to refer to individuals particularly successful at analysis in the field of economics, such as in the derogatory 'prophet of greed'.

Alternatively, social commentators who suggest escalating crisis in environment and society due to a lack or failure of due care are often referred to as 'prophets of doom.'[1][2][3]


[edit] Judaism

In Judaism, a prophet is seen as a person who is selected by, and speaks as a formal representative of God, and the intention of the message is always to effect a social change to conform to God's desired standards initially specified in the Torah dictated to Moses.

In Hebrew, the word traditionally translates as prophet is נְבִיא (navi), which means "spokesperson".[3] This forms the second of the three letters of TaNaKh, derived from Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim. The meaning of navi is perhaps described in Deuteronomy 18:18, where God said, "I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him." Thus, the navi was thought to be the "mouth" of God. The root nun-vet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-vet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself “open”. Cf. Rashbam's comment to Genesis 20:7.

Fully a third of the TaNaKh is devoted to books about prophetic experience including a separate book of ‘minor’ prophets known as The Twelve Prophets (Trei-Assar) .

According to I Samuel 9:9, the old name for navi is ro'eh, ראה, which literally means "Seer". That could document an ancient shift, from viewing prophets as seers for hire to viewing them as moral teachers. Allen (1971) comments that in the First Temple Era, there were essentially seer-priests, who formed a guild, divined, performed rituals and sacrifices, and were scribes, and then there were canonical prophets, who did none of these (and were against divination) and had instead a message to deliver. The seer-priests were usually attached to a local shrine or temple, such as Shiloh, and initiated others as priests in that priesthood: it was a mystical craft-guild with apprentices and recruitment. Canonical prophets were not organised this way. The similar term "ben-navi" ("son of the prophet") means "member of a seer-priest guild".

Some examples of prophets in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) include Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Malachi, and Job. In Jewish tradition, Daniel is not counted in the list of prophets.

A Jewish tradition suggests that there were twice as many prophets as the number which left Israel, which was 600,000 prophets. The Talmud recognizes the existence of 48 male prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind.[4] According to the Talmud there were also seven women who are counted as prophets whose message bears relevance for all generations: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah (mother of the prophet Samuel), Abigail (a wife of King David), Huldah (from the time of Jeremiah), and Esther. Rashi points out that Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah were also prophets.[4]

Among adherents to the Jewish faith, non-Jewish prophets naturally have a far lower status than Jewish prophets. This is possibly demonstrated in the story of Balaam in Numbers 22, [5], but not demonstrated in the story of Balaam in Numbers 24, in which Balaam the non-Jewish prophet received a prophecy laudatory of Israel, which has been accepted, quoted and revered by Jewish believers ever since.[6]

Malachi's full name was Ezra Ha'Sofer (the scribe), and he was the last prophet of Israel if one accepts the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE). Babylonian Talmud, San.11a, Yom.9a/Yuch.1.14/Kuz.3.39,65,67/Yuch.1/Mag.Av.O.C.580.6 

See also

[edit] Divine Pathos

In his book The Prophets, Abraham Joshua Heschel describes the unique aspect of the Jewish prophets as compared to other similar figures. Whereas other nations have soothsayers and diviners who attempt to discover the will of their gods, according to Heschel the Hebrew prophets are characterized by their experience of what he calls theotropism — God turning towards humanity. Heschel argues for the view of Hebrew prophets as receivers of the "Divine Pathos," of the wrath and sorrow of God over his nation that has forsaken him.

He writes:

Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profane riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet's words. (The Prophets Ch. 1)

[edit] Christianity

In Christianity a prophet (or seer — 1 Samuel 9:9 ) is one inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to deliver a message for a specific purpose. It is often associated with predicting future events, but in Biblical terms it is wider and can include those given the power to preach repentance to those who do not want to hear the message and to warn of God's wrath for disobedience. God's calling as a prophet is not considered to elevate an individual for their glory, but for the glory of God and to turn people to him. Some Christian denominations would limit that and exclude those who receive a personal message not intended for the body of believers, but in the Bible on a number of occasions prophets were called to deliver personal messages [7]. The reception of a message is termed revelation and the delivery of the message is termed prophecy.

Anyone who claims to speak God's words or teach in his name and is not a prophet the Bible terms a false prophet. One test given in the Old Testament in Deuteronomy [8] contains a warning of those who prophecy events which do not come to pass and said they should be put to death. Elsewhere a false prophet may be someone who is purposely trying to deceive, is delusional, under the influence of Satan (for detail, see main article False prophet) or is speaking from his own spirit[9].

Prophets are recognised to still be human and fallible, they may make wrong decisions, have incorrect personal beliefs or opinions, or sin from time to time. Their hearing of revelation does not remove all their humanity or perfect them, nor do they always want to deliver the messages they have heard (example Jonah). Nevertheless, some Christians believe the minimum requirements of a true prophet can be summarized as clear and not vague prophecies, 100% accuracy in predicting events and present day prophets must not contradict the Bible.

Many Christians believe these standards create difficulties for other Christians who have actively support high profile ministers and who have large followings and who claim to have received prophecies that have later turned out to be mistaken (see Unfulfilled historical predictions by Christians). Other Christians claim that these standards would disqualify several Biblical prophets, whose prophecies, though clearly stated, appear to be unfulfilled [10]. Some sects of Christianity would also use these guidelines to disqualify the heads of other sects as prophets of God. It can also seem to favour certain views of Biblical inspiration and limit the way that God can act. It also raises the issue of whose interpretation received prophecy is measured by.

Some Christians who believe in dispensationalism believe prophecy ended along with the rest of the sign gifts shortly after the coming of Jesus, who delivered the "fullness of the law." Within this group, many Protestants believe that prophecy ended with the last of the Hebrew prophets of the Torah of the Hebrew Bible, leaving a gap of about 400 years between then and the life of Jesus. The majority, including the Eastern Orthodox, allow an exception for John the Baptist as a prophet contemporary with Jesus.

New Testament passages that explicitly discuss prophets existing after the death and resurrection of Christ include Revelation 11:10, Matthew 10:40-41 and Matthew 23:34, John 13:20 and John 15:20, and Acts 11:25-30, Acts 13:1 and Acts 15:32. Christians believe that the Holy Spirit leads people to faith in Jesus and gives them the ability to lead a Christian life and to give gifts (i.e. abilities) to Christians. These may include the charismatic gifts such as prophecy, tongues, healing, and knowledge. Christians holding a view known as cessationism believe these gifts were given only in New Testament times and ceased after the last apostle died. Historical records, however, contradict this theory. Christians almost universally agree that "spiritual gifts" such as the gifts of ministry, teaching, giving, leadership, and mercy (see, e.g. Romans 12:6-8) are still in effect today.

Some Christians also believe that the title "prophet" encompasses others than those who receive visions from God. A more modern definition of prophet is someone who spreads God's truths. These can be revealed in a number of ways not only visions.

Many who believe God still uses prophets today point to Ephesians [11] where the Bible declares that 'God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for the perfecting of the saints.'

[edit] Islam

The Qur'an identifies a number of men as Prophets of Islam (Arabic: nabee نبي‎; pl. anbiyaa أنبياء ). Muslims believe such individuals were assigned a special mission by God (Arabic: Allah) to guide humanity. Besides Muhammad, this includes Tanakh prophets such as Moses and David, and Jesus from the Christian religion.

According to the Islamic creed, the essence of all the prophets’ messages is what Islam calls for: worshipping God alone and rejecting false deities. The message of Islam resembles the messages of all previous prophets of God. The Qur'an states: "Abraham was not a Jew nor a Christian, but he was (an) upright (man), a Muslim (submission to God's will), and he was not one of the polytheists" ([Qur'an 3:67]). There were at least 4 Sharia which were revealed to Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Each of the prophets is believed to have been assigned a special mission by God (Arabic: Allah) to guide the whole or a group of the mankind, depending on the mission assigned to each.[citation needed]

God is believed to have instructed each of these prophets to warn his community against evil and urge his people to obey God.[citation needed] Although only 25 prophets are mentioned by name in the Qur'an, a Hadith (no. 21257 in Musnad Ibn Hanbal) mentions that there were 124,000 of them in total throughout history, and the Qur'an says that God has sent a prophet to every group of people throughout time, and that Muhammad is the last of the Prophets.([Qur'an 16:36]) In general, Muslims regard the stories of the Qur'an as historical. The message of all the prophets is believed to be the same. Many of these prophets are also found in the texts of Judaism (The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; collectively known as the Old Testament to Christians) and Christianity.[12]

While Islam shares the Jewish tradition that the first prophet is Adam, it differs in that the last prophet is Muhammad, who in Islam is called Seal of the Prophets. Jesus is the result of a virgin birth in Islam as in Christianity, and is regarded as a prophet like the others.[13] Traditionally, five prophets are regarded as especially important in Islam with distinctive title were given to each of them for example: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Also, only a tiny minority of prophets are believed to have been sent holy books (such as the Tawrat, Zabur, Injil and the Qur'an), and those prophets are considered "messengers" or rasul. However, other main Prophets are considered a Messenger or a Nabi even if they didn't receive a Book from God. An example can be the Messenger-Prophet Aaron "Haroon", the Messenger-Prophet Ishamel "Isma'eel" or the Messenger-Prophet Joseph "Yousuf". Muhammad is regarded in Islamic belief as having undertaken a prophetic mission addressed to all of humanity rather than a specific populace. Prophets were required to call all people to God; The-Lord of the Worlds. However, the laws they brought may have been limited to a certain community at some Era.

Malaysia's Multimedia University claimed that Islam is one set of divine teachings sent down to humans from the Supreme Creator and that there have been many other divine teachings sent down before the coming of Islam for the guidance of mankind. Thus, thousands of messengers have been appointed before Muhammad whose duty were to deliver the divine message from the Supreme Creator. In fact the Quran recognizes these messengers and it is imperative upon all Muslims that they also believe in these messengers too. [5]

Although it offers many incidents from the lives of many prophets, the Qur'an focuses with special narrative and rhetorical emphasis on the careers of the first four of these five major prophets. Of all the figures before Muhammad, Moses is referred to most frequently in the Qur'an. As for the fifth, the Qur'an is frequently addressed directly to Muhammad, and it often discusses situations encountered by him. Direct use of his name in the text, however, is rare. Rarer still is the mention of Muhammad's contemporaries. Besides the four Holy Books sent by God to the four messengers, Muslims believe that God also had granted Scrolls Suhuf (contains basic Divine Laws to guide the people) to Abraham and Moses.

Muslims believe that evidence for the prophethood of Muhammad is as good as the evidence for previous prophets. A common argument is to ask why the Jew or Christian believe in Moses or Jesus, and to use the same answer to prove Muhammad's prophethood. They also maintain that all accusations levied on their prophet can be used against persons such as Abraham, Israel, Moses and Jesus. Thus they hold that the Jews or Christians are not consistent. If they believe in Moses or Jesus for their miracles, the same should apply to Muhammad. If Muhammad is accused of fighting, is it not the same said about Abraham, Moses and David? They also argue that prophecies about Muhammad are still in the Old and New Testaments.

[edit] Bahá'í

The Bahá'í Faith refers to what are commonly called prophets as Manifestations of God who are directly linked with the concept of Progressive revelation. Bahá'ís believe that God expresses this will at all times and in many ways, including through a series of divine messengers referred to as Manifestations of God or sometimes divine educators.[14] In expressing God's intent, these Manifestations are seen to establish religion in the world. Thus they are seen as an intermediary between God and humanity.[15]

The Manifestations of God are not seen as an incarnation of God, but they are also not seen as an ordinary mortals. Instead, the Bahá'í concept of the Manifestation of God emphasizes simultaneously the humanity of that intermediary and the divinity in the way they show forth the will, knowledge and attributes of God; thus they have both human and divine stations.[15]

In addition to the Manifestations of God, in the Bahá'í view, there are also minor prophets. While the Manifestations of Gods, or major Prophets, are compared to the sun, which produces its own heat and light, minor prophets are compared to the moon which receives its light from the sun. Moses, for example, is taught as having been a Manifestation of God and his brother Aaron a minor prophet. Moses spoke on behalf of God, and Aaron spoke on behalf of Moses (Exodus 4:14-17). Other Jewish prophets are considered minor prophets, in the Bahá'í view, as they are considered to have come in the shadow of the dispensation of Moses to develop and consolidate the process he set in motion.

[edit] Modern prophetic claims

In modern times the term "prophet" can be somewhat controversial. Many Christians with Pentecostal or charismatic beliefs believe in the continuation of the gift of prophecy and the continuation of the role of prophet as taught in Ephesians 4. In many churches throughout the world, certain members of the congregation will give prophecies during the church meeting. Prophecies like this are often directed toward the congregation. Prophecies can also be directed toward individuals, known as a personal prophecy. The content of prophecies can vary widely. Prophecies are often spoken as quotes from God. They may contain quotes from scripture, statements about the past or current situation, or predictions of the future. Prophecies can also 'make manifest the secrets' of the hearts of other people, telling about the details of their lives. Sometimes, more than one person in a congregation will receive the same message in prophecy, with one giving it before another.

Other movements claim to have prophets. Joseph Smith, Jr. of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, established in 1830, and Ellen G. White of the Seventh-day Adventist Church established in 1863, are considered prophets by members of those churches respectively, but are denounced in some other branches of Christianity. Additionally, the Latter-day Saints believe in a succession of living prophets (accepted by Latter-day Saints as "prophets, seers, and revelators") since the time of Joseph Smith. They also regard the members of their Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. The current living prophet is Thomas S. Monson.

In France, Michel Potay says he received a revelation, called The Revelation of Arès, dictated by Jesus in 1974, then by God in 1977. He is considered, by his followers, a prophet.

[edit] Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses do not consider any single person in their modern-day organization to be a prophet. Their literature has referred to their organization collectively as God's "prophet" on earth; this is understood, however, in the sense of declaring their interpretation of God's judgments from the Bible along with God's guidance of His Holy Spirit. The Jehovah's Witnesses publish an official reader, The Watchtower, which has asserted: "Ever since 'The Watchtower' began to be published in July of 1879 it has looked ahead into the future... No, 'The Watchtower' is no inspired prophet, but it follows and explains a Book of prophecy the predictions in which have proved to be unerring and unfailing till now. 'The Watchtower' is therefore under safe guidance. It may be read with confidence, for its statements may be checked against that prophetic Book."[16] They also claim that they are God's one and only true channel to mankind on earth, and used by God for this purpose.
They have made many eschatological forecasts, some of which have led people (including followers) to incorrect assumptions. One example is their original belief of the end of the world in 1914. Their Biblical studies showed that the enthronement of Jesus would be in the year 1914 (Daniel 4:10-16; Revelation [Apocalipsis] 12:6,14; Ezequiel 4:6), however they incorrectly assumed that the world would also be destroyed. As a result the editors of the Watchtower have acknowledged that Jehovah's Witnesses "have made mistakes in their understanding of what would occur at the end of certain time periods."[17]

[edit] Seventh-day Adventist

The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes Ellen G. White, a cofounder of the church, was given the spiritual gift of prophecy, and are generally skeptical toward other claims.

[edit] Tenrikyo

Tenrikyo's prophet, Nakayama Miki or Oyasama [6], is believed by Tenrikyoans to have been a kind of microphone of God, as God spoke through Oyasama, directly, to whomever was in the vicinity. She had three aspects: the Shrine of Tsukihi (the body of the woman was occupied by the mind of God), The Parent of the Divine Model (Oyasama taught the people by instructions and examples), and The Truth of the Everliving Oyasama (she continues to watch humanity develop, even after shedding her body).

[edit] Other religious

[edit] Other individuals

Other people throughout history have been described as prophets in the sense of foretelling the future (as opposed to forthtelling a religious message). Examples of such prophets include:

[edit] Science-fiction and fantasy

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ prophet - definition of prophet by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia
  2. ^ prophet - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
  3. ^ p.1571, Alcalay
  4. ^ Rashi on Genesis 29:34.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Matthew 14:1-7,2 Kings 3:11
  8. ^ Deuteronomy 18:21-22
  9. ^ Ezekiel 13:3 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing!
  10. ^ Jonah 3:4, 2 Samuel 7:5-17, Judges 13:5
  11. ^ Ephesians 4:11
  12. ^ The Bible; containing both the Old and New Testaments (see Biblical narratives and the Qur'an)
  13. ^ See the Qur'an [Qur'an 3:45]
  14. ^ Hutter, Manfred (2005). "Bahā'īs". in Ed. Lindsay Jones. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2 (2nd ed. ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. pp. p737-740. ISBN 0-02-865733-0. 
  15. ^ a b Cole, Juan (1982). "The Concept of Manifestation in the Bahá'í Writings". Bahá'í Studies monograph 9: pp. 1–38. 
  16. ^ The Watchtower 1 January 1969
  17. ^ Reasoning From the Scriptures p.136
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