prophet


prophet
prophethood, n.prophetless, adj.prophetlike, adj.
/prof"it/, n.
1. a person who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration.
2. (in the Old Testament)
a. a person chosen to speak for God and to guide the people of Israel: Moses was the greatest of Old Testament prophets.
b. (often cap.) one of the Major or Minor Prophets.
c. one of a band of ecstatic visionaries claiming divine inspiration and, according to popular belief, possessing magical powers.
d. a person who practices divination.
3. one of a class of persons in the early church, next in order after the apostles, recognized as inspired to utter special revelations and predictions. 1 Cor. 12:28.
4. the Prophet, Muhammad, the founder of Islam.
5. a person regarded as, or claiming to be, an inspired teacher or leader.
6. a person who foretells or predicts what is to come: a weather prophet; prophets of doom.
7. a spokesperson of some doctrine, cause, or movement.
[1150-1200; ME prophete < LL propheta < Gk prophétes, equiv. to pro- PRO-2 + -phetes speaker, deriv. of phánai to speak]

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I
Person who speaks by divine inspiration, revealing or interpreting the will of a god.

Prophets have appeared in many religions throughout history. The most familiar in the West are such Old Testament leaders as Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel, along with the Prophet Muhammad. In contrast to the diviner or interpreter of omens (see divination), who may answer private questions, prophets often address the destiny and moral life of a whole people. Some prophets seek to create a new society that will realize their message and thus found new religions. Others may look only to reform or purify an existing society and religion. The tone of prophecy ranges widely, from ecstasy, inspired utterance, and ethical fervor to passionate social criticism, prediction of the future, and expectation of apocalypse.
II
(as used in expressions)
Prophet's Mosque
Prophet The

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 a divinely inspired revealer, interpreter, or spokesman. In Western culture, the classic period of Israelite prophecy has tended to predominate in analyses of the phenomenon, but the figure of the prophet is to be found in numerous manifestations throughout history and worldwide.

      A brief treatment of prophets and prophecy follows. For full treatment, see prophecy.

      The prophet differs from other religious functionaries and representatives of religious authority in that he claims no personal part in his utterance. He speaks not his own mind but a revelation “from without.” He may be “inspired” with his message (as in the case of Jeremiah), or he may be “possessed” by a spiritual power—a god, a spirit, the Holy Ghost—which uses him as an instrument and speaks through him (as in Aeschylus' description of Cassandra in the Agamemnon and of the prophet of Apollo in the Eumenides). Plato defined the prophet as one who speaks in ecstasy, and in the Hellenistic period Philo of Alexandria similarly stated that the prophet “speaks nothing of his own” but resembles the lyre on which someone else plays.

      The prophetic or charismatic (from Greek charisma, “divine gift”) state may occur spontaneously, or it may be induced by a variety of techniques: by meditation, by mystico-magical formulas and gestures (the mantras and mudras of esoteric Buddhism, for example), by music (II Kings 3:15, “And when the minstrel played, the power of the Lord came upon him”), by drumming, dancing, or the ingestion of intoxicants or narcotics. Prophets very often resist the call ( Amos and Jeremiah among the Hebrew prophets; many prospective shamans) until overcome by the superior power that wants to use them as its instrument.

      In contrast to the diviner, who uses or manipulates objective techniques and signs to address what are primarily private needs and anxieties, the prophet, impelled by the spirit, may articulate a message of more general and fundamental import, enunciating principles and norms that are critical of the present, in either a destructive or a reforming sense. He may address his group (tribe, nation) as a whole or may found a new society that will realize his message. The prophetic personality thus frequently becomes a religious founder, reformer, or sectarian leader ( Zoroaster, Muḥammad (Muhammad), and others). The “ideal-typical” prophet (in Max Weber's sense) is, however, less concerned with founding a new religion or introducing revolutionary reforms than with criticizing his society from the inside, as it were, and in the light of what he believes to be the divinely established norms underlying its existence. If he is a revolutionary, he very frequently does not know it.

      The semantic spectrum of the term prophetic has consequently become rather wide. According to whether the emphasis is on possession and ecstasy, inspired utterance, prediction of the future, visionary experience, ethical fervour, passionate social criticism, sense of absolute commitment, millenarian and apocalyptic expectation, etc., the most diverse phenomena and personalities have been called prophetic: Montanists, Pentecostals, Zoroaster, Muḥammad, Joachim of Fiore, Savonarola, Thomas Müntzer, Jakob Böhme, George Fox, Joseph Smith, and many others. The moral seriousness of the ancient Chinese sages and their profound regard for the law of heaven has suggested comparisons with Hebrew prophecy, and the Egyptian text known as the “Peasant's Complaint” has been claimed as a witness for a prophetic movement in ancient Egypt. Even Marxism has at times been qualified as prophetic, both because of its passionate protest against social injustice and because of the eschatological structure of its doctrine.

      Disregarding this wide and at times merely figurative use of “prophetic,” there may be recognized a distinct prophetic type of religion. Its main characteristics are a dynamic conception of a deity, an emphasis on the will (both of God and of man) as a constitutive factor of the religious reality, a basic dualism, a profound awareness of the seriousness of sin (as distinct from breaking a taboo), a radical ethical outlook based on unequivocal choice between good and evil, a positive attitude toward society and toward this world in general, and a relationship to the time process that could crystallize in eschatological and messianic hopes.

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Universalium. 2010.

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