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Prophet

Prophet

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In religion, a prophet is a person who has directly encountered God, of whose intentions he can then speak as if he were God himself. Those who are not prophets must then commit themselves to the divinely inspired word as an act of faith. This can be problematic, especially as there are false prophets. When the prophet is held to be genuine, new religions may be adopted, based on the prophet's teachings, and on their interpretation. A prophet often operates through some means of divination or channeling. The process of receiving a message from God (or the gods) is known either as prophecy or as revelation. (In this sense, the terms are synonyms.)

In popular usage, especially among Christians, a prophet is believed to be someone foretelling the future. While the religious texts certainly do contain examples of this sort of prophecy, the majority of messages from prophets in religious texts, such as the Biblical prophets in the Hebrew Bible, were speakers for God and taught social or religious messages that contained no such predictions.

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[edit] Sociological taxonomy of prophets

The sociologist Max Weber distinguished two types of prophets, the emissary type and the exemplary. The emissary type believe that they have received an important message that must be communicated to others. The exemplary type base their religious authority on experience that serves as an example to others.

[edit] Greek and Roman oracles

The role of spokesperson for the gods is an archaic one in the Hellenic world. However, the word prophet itself derives from the Greeks, who used the word προφήτης to refer to an interpreter or spokesperson of a deity, who "utters forth." In Greek religion the interpreters of Zeus, Apollo, and other gods were the oracles, at numerous ancient sites, where the god or goddess spoke through women, sometimes identified as sibyls and the utterances, in classical times, were interpreted by men. In various Greek legends, oracles (particularly Apollo's at Delphi) spoke cryptically of the future, and their meaning was frequently misunderstood. In The Iliad the Trojan princess Cassandra warns of upcoming events, but has been cursed such that no one believes her prophecies.

[edit] Prophets in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible)

Main article: Tanakh

In Hebrew, the word traditionally translated as prophet is נְבִיא (nevi), which likely means "proclaimer". The meaning of nevi 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-bet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-bet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself “open”. Cf. Rashbam's comment to Genesis 20:7.

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, Sarah, Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Malachi, and Job. In Jewish tradition, Daniel is not counted in the list of prophets. The Tanakh states that prophecy is not limited to Jews, and is remarkable for the many accounts of prophets it contains. It specifically mentions the prophecy of Bilam, a gentile. The accounts include details of man, woman and even animals receiving prophecy in various ways.

A Jewish tradition holds that there were 600,000 male and 600,000 female prophets. Judaism recognizes the existence of 48 male prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind. Jewish prophets 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. There were, of course, other women who functioned as prophets, and the last prophet mentioned in the Bible, Noahdiah (Nehemiah 6:14) was a woman.

[edit] Prophets in Jewish thought

Classical Jewish texts teach that the most direct forms of prophecy ended shortly after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the codification of the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) by the Men of the Great Assembly (Anshei Knessset HaGedolah). However, various rabbinic Jewish works, including the midrash, state that other less direct forms of communication between man and God still exist, and have never ended.

Many Jewish works, including the Talmud and Maimonides's Guide for the Perplexed states that gentiles may receive prophecy. However, Judaism generally does not accept that any of the specific people well known in other religions are genuine prophets. Jews have not recognized any specific gentile leader as a prophet, as most people who claim to be prophets in other religions have done so in such a way as to delegitimize or supersede Judaism itself. Judaism (based on Deuteronomy Ch. 13 and 18:20) holds that no true prophet will create a new faith or religion as a successor to Judaism. Maimonide's work was thought upon by Spinoza, in particular in his Theologico-Political Treatise.

The Talmud states that minor forms of prophecy still occur. One example of this is the bat kol. (e.g. Tosefta Sota 13:3, Yerushalmi Sota 24b, and Bavli Sota 48b). The Talmud states that each time a Jew studies the Torah or its rabbinic commentaries, God is revealed anew; there is still a link between the God and the Jewish people. Reference: Abraham Joshua Heschel's Prophetic Inspiration After the Prophets: Maimonides and Others (Ktav)

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote one of the 20th century's classic commentaries on the prophets, entitled "The Prophets".

See also
  • False Prophet for detailed definition of prophet and false prophet in Judaism.
  • Shouters, a type of Jewish Prophet

[edit] Christian concepts of a prophet

Christians believe a prophet is a person who speaks for God, in the name of God, and who carries God's message to others. Some Christian denominations teach that a person who receives a personal message not intended for the body of believers (where such an event is credited at all) should not be termed a prophet. The reception of a message is termed revelation; the delivery of the message is termed prophecy. For Christians the authenticity of a prophet is judged by their fruits as Jesus said that one should judge a prophet by his fruits, (Gospel of Matthew 7) and by checking whether his predictions come true. Deuteronomy 18:21-22 contains several warnings about false prophets and is very specific about the test of whether a prophet is true or false. A false prophet is considered to be someone who is purposely trying to deceive, or is delusional, or is under the influence of Satan (for detail, see main article False prophet).

Christians recognize that anyone they consider prophetic is still human and fallible, and may make wrong decisions, have incorrect personal beliefs or opinions, and sin from time to time; the human characteristics of a prophet are independent of the message God has given him and do not negate the validity of his prophecies.

Nevertheless, some Christians believe the minimum requirements of a true prophet can be summarized as follows: (1) Clear (not vague) prophecies (2) 100% accuracy in prophecying (i.e. one false prophecy is all it takes to disqualify them as a prophet), and (3) Must not contradict the Bible.

Many Christians believe these standards create a conundrum for other Christians who actively support high profile ministers who have large followings who claim to have received prophecies that have later turned out to be mistaken (see Unfulfilled historical predictions by Christians). Some sects of Christianity would also use these guidelines to disqualify other sects as prophets of God.

Some Christians, including many who believe in dispensationalism, believe prophecy ended with 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 Old Testament of the 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 of Christ include Revelation 11:10, Matthew 10:40-41 & 23:34, John 13:20 & 15:20, and Acts 11:25-30, 13:1 & 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. Christians almost universally agree that certain more mundane "spiritual gifts" are still in effect today, including the gifts of ministry, teaching, giving, leadership, and mercy (see, e.g. Romans 12:6-8).

[edit] Latter-day Saint concept of prophets

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("LDS Church", see also Mormon) believes that God continues to communicate with his children. While anyone may receive revelation for themselves or their own families (through prayer, faith, repentance, obedience, etc.), special people have been called as prophets throughout history to proclaim God's message to the world. These prophets were and are regarded as special witnesses of Jesus Christ, and many were foreordained as such as a part of God's Plan of salvation to lead and guide His spirit children on earth. The message of the gospel of Christ, since the time of Adam and Eve, has consistently been a call for people to repent and exercise faith in God and in Jesus' Atonement. The Book of Mormon relates the ministries of many of these prophets among the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, and it alludes to other prophets who would be chosen from nations other than those in the Americas and those of the Bible.

Latter-day Saints believe that God calls a prophet to lead the Lord's true Church any time it is organized on the earth starting with Adam, and continuing on with others recorded in the Old Testament such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, and Malachi. Jesus did this during his mortal ministry, and Peter acted in Christ's place after His ascension, but because of persecution the church eventually fell into apostasy. With the Restoration of the Gospel in 1830 through Joseph Smith, Jr., Latter-day Saints claim the true Christian church was, again, organized and established upon the earth. God directs the church through the current President of the Church. As the president of the church he is believed to be authorized to receive revelation for the whole world and is often referred to simply as "the Prophet."

Joseph Smith (1805–1844) is called the "Prophet of the Restoration" and was the first in the latter-days. As of November 2006, the current Prophet and leader of the church is Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-). Between these two, in chronological order, were Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Lorenzo Snow, Joseph F. Smith, Heber J. Grant, George Albert Smith, David O. McKay, Joseph Fielding Smith, Harold B. Lee, Spencer W. Kimball, Ezra Taft Benson and Howard W. Hunter.

Hugh B. Brown, a former member of the First Presidency, presented a worthwhile dialog entitled Profile of a Prophet[1].

Latter-day Saints also regard other good men and women who have had important roles among mankind and have been born on earth at particular times based on God's foreknowledge in all things, to guide their societies in true principles based on the light and knowledge they specifically sought after. For example, Mohammed, Confucius, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, the United States founding fathers, and Gandhi were inspired by the light of Christ in bringing much goodness and truth to their societies, though theirs was not a revelatory calling through priesthood authority and direct revelation, thus differing from the calling of a prophet.<ref>Smith, Joseph F., Gospel Doctrine, 1919, Chapter 22.;Top, Brent L., Life Before, 1988, Chapter 7</ref>

[edit] Jehovah's Witnesses concepts of a prophet

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. One issue of The Watchtower their magazine, said: "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." <ref>The Watchtower 1 Jan 1969 </ref> 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 predictions and as a result have acknowledged they "have made mistakes in their understanding of what would occur". <ref>Reasoning From the Scriptures p.136 </ref>

[edit] Seventh-day Adventist conception of a prophet

The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes Ellen White, a cofounder of the church, possessed the gift of prophecy.

[edit] The Islamic concept of prophet

Part of a series on
Prophets, salaf & caliphs:

Prophets of Islam


Ahl al-Bayt
Muhammad's wives


Sahaba
Tabi‘in
Taba‘ at-Tabi‘in


Caliph

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Imams
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Main article: Prophet of 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 other Abrahamic prophets such as Moses and Jesus.

According to the Islamic creed, the essence of all the prophets’ messages is what Islam calls for: worshipping God alone and rejecting false deities. Islam is the religion of all prophets in human history ; all of them called for beliefs which Islam calls for, and so they declared belief in Islam. 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" (3:67), but their laws were different. There were at least 4 Sharia which were revealed by 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.

God is believed to have instructed each of these prophets to warn his community against evil and urge his people to obey God. 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.(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 holy texts of Judaism (The Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings; collectively known as the Old Testament to Christians) and Christianity. <ref>The Bible; containing both the Old and New Testaments (see Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an)</ref>

In the Islamic view the first prophet is Adam, while the last prophet is Muhammad, thus his title 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.<ref>See the Qur'an 3:45</ref> 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 rasūl. Muhammad is regarded in Islamic belief as having undertaken a prophetic mission addressed to all of humanity rather than a specific populace.

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. Besides the four Holy Books sent by God to the four messengers, Muslims believe that God also had granted 100 Scrolls Suhuf (contains basic Divine Laws to guide the people) to another four prophets among them Seth, Noah and Abraham and Moses.

[edit] The Bahá'í concept of prophet

Main article: Manifestation of God

The Bahá'í Faith refers to what are commonly called prophets as Manifestations of God, or simply Manifestations (mazhar) 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.<ref name="eor">Hutter, Manfred. (2005). "Bahā'īs". Encyclopedia of Religion (2nd ed.) 2: p737-740. Ed. Ed. Lindsay Jones. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 0-02-865733-0.</ref> 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.<ref name="manifestation">Template:Cite journal</ref>

The Manifestations of God are not seen as an incarnation of God, but they are also not seen as an ordinary mortals.<ref name="manifestation" /> Instead, the Bahá'í concept of the Mainfestation 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.<ref name="manifestation" /> This view resembles the Christian view of Christ, as well as the Shi'a understanding of the prophets and Imams.

Bahá'u'lláh referred to several historical figures as Manifestations. They include the figures in the Abrahamic Faiths such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, but also include the founders of great non-Western religions such as Zoroaster, Krishna, and Buddha. The Báb, as well as himself, were included in this definition, and Bahá'u'lláh wrote that God will send more Manifestations in the future, when necessary. Thus religious history is interpreted as a series of dispensations, where each Manifestation brings a somewhat broader and more advanced revelation, suited for the time and place in which it was expressed.

These Manifestations are taught to be "one and the same", and in their relationship to one another have both the station of unity and the station of distinction.<ref name="manifestation" /> Bahá'u'lláh wrote in the Kitáb-i-Íqán that in respect to their station of unity "if thou callest them all by one name. and dost ascribe to them the same attribute, thou hast not erred from the truth."<ref name="iqan">Bahá'u'lláh [1862] (2003). Kitáb-i-Íqán: The Book of Certitude. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust, pp. 152-177. ISBN 1-931847-08-8.</ref> In this sense, the Manifestations of God all fulfill the same purpose and perform the same function by mediating between God and creation.<ref name="manifestation" /> In this way each Manifestation of God manifested the Word of God and taught the same religion, with modifications for the particular audience's needs and culture.<ref name="manifestation" /> Bahá'u'lláh wrote that since each Manifestation of God has the same divine attributes they can be seen as the spiritual "return" of all the previous Manifestations of God.<ref name="manifestation" /> Bahá'u'lláh then states the diversity of the teachings of the Manifestations of God does not come about because of their differences, since they are one and the same, but because they each have a different mission.<ref name="manifestation" /><ref name="iqan" />

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. The minor prophets, on the other hand, are likened to the moon, which receive their 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] Tenrikyo concept of prophet

Tenrikyo's prophet, Nakayama Miki or Oyasama [2], 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 prophets

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

[edit] Prophets in science-fiction and fantasy

Prophets in fantasy include:

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

<references/>

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

ar:نبي

br:Profeded cs:Prorok da:Profet de:Prophet el:Προφήτης es:Profeta fa:پیامبر fr:Prophète ko:예언자 id:Nabi it:Profeta he:נביא ku:Pêxember nl:Profeet ja:預言者 no:Profet nn:Profet pl:Prorok pt:Profeta ro:Proroc ru:Пророк sq:Profeti simple:Prophet sk:Prorok fi:Profeetta sv:Profet th:ประกาศก tr:Peygamber yi:נביא zh:先知

Prophet

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