Prophecy, generally, describes the disclosing of information that is not known to the prophet by any ordinary means. [ [ Prophecy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)] ] In religion, this is thought to be a divinely inspired revelation or interpretation. Although the concept is found throughout the religions of the world, the term has found popular acceptance through the work and influence of the Hebrew prophets. [ [ "Prophets and Prophecy"] at ""] For claims of prophecy or contents of prophecies see belief systems and religion topics at the end of the article.

Definitions of Prophecy

Rabbinic scholar Maimonides, suggested that "prophecy is, in truth and reality, an emanation sent forth by the Divine Being through the medium of the Active Intellect, in the first instance to man's rational faculty, and then to his imaginative faculty." [(Rambam, The Guide p.225) [] ] This closely relates to the definition by Al-Fârâbî who developed the theory of prophecy in Islam. [ The influence of Islamic Philosophyon Maimonides's Thought, Diana Steigerwald Religious Studies, California State University (Long Beach)] The Catholic Encyclopedia defines prophecy as "understood in its strict sense, it means the foreknowledge of future events, though it may sometimes apply to past events of which there is no memory, and to present hidden things which cannot be known by the natural light of reason." [ [ "Prophecy"] in the Catholic Encyclopedia] From a sceptical point of view, there is a Latin maxim: prophecy written after the fact (vaticinium ex eventu) [ as at 29-08-08] .


The English word "prophecy" (noun) in the sense of "function of a prophet" appeared in Europe from about 1225, from Old French "profecie" (12th century), and from Late Latin "prophetia", Greek "prophetia" "gift of interpreting the will of the gods", from Greek "prophetes" (see prophet). The related meaning "thing spoken or written by a prophet" is from circa 1300, while the verb "to prophesy" is recorded by 1377. [ [ "Prophecy"] in the Online Etymology Dictionary]

One of the earliest recorded uses of the term "prophecy" is "nevuah", and comes from Hebrew "divrei nevuah" "words of prophecy", and forms the name of a major subdivision of the Tanakh, the Nevi'im [נביאים] , and means "a prediction", from the root "Nuv" meaning to bear fruit, or make flourish. [p.1596, The Complete Hebrew - English dictionary, Reuben Alcalay] This may relate to the nature of prophecy from the Jewish perspective where, in Rabbinic traditions, Ezra is metaphorically referred to as the "flowers that appear on the earth" signifying the springtime in the national history of Judaism.Fact|date=April 2008

Nature of prophecy

In the earliest Jewish source, the Torah, prophecy often consisted of a warning by God of the consequences should the society, specific communities or their leaders not adhere to Torah's instructions in the time contemporary with the prophet's life. Prophecies sometimes included promises of blessing for obeying God, and returning to behaviours and laws as written in the Torah. Warning prophecies feature in all Jewish works of the Tanakh.

The rabbinic teachings, notably RaMBaM, suggest there were many levels of prophecy, from the highest such as that experienced by Moses, to the lowest where the individuals were able to apprehend the Divine Will, but not respond or even describe this experience to others, such as Noah.

Maimonides' theory of prophecy contains two elements 1) an explanation of what prophecy is, and 2) a ranking of the various types of prophecy and prophecy-like phenomena. I think we can use the ranking of prophecy implicate in Maimonides to substantiate our thesis that the rationalism of Maimonides is essentially a moral rationalism. The Suprarational Grounds of Rationalism: Maimonides and The Criteria of Prophecy, Mark R. Sunwall]

Maimonides in his work, The Guide for the Perplexed, outlines twelve modes of prophecy [] from lesser to greater degree of clarity:

# Inspired actions
# Inspired words
# Allegorical dream revelations
# Auditory dream revelations
# Audiovisual dream revelations/human speaker
# Audiovisual dream revelations/angelic speaker
# Audiovisual dream revelations/Divine speaker
# Allegorical waking vision
# Auditory waking revelation
# Audiovisual waking revelation/human speaker
# Audiovisual waking revelation/angelic speaker
# Audiovisual waking revelation/Divine speaker (that refers implicitly to Moses)

Of the twelfth mode Maimonides, focuses his attention on its "implicit superiority to the penultimate stage in the above series", and therefore above all other prophetic and semi-prophetic modes.

Experience of prophecy in the Torah and the rest of Tanakh do not restrict it to Jews, or even to human beings if one episode is to be interpreted literally. Nor is the prophetic experience restricted to the Hebrew language, since much of the prophecies of Daniel are in Aramaic.

Many of the Tanakh prophecies are accompanied by radical changes in the life of the prophets, and their experience is often accompanied by physiological change, including physical stress, experience of extrasensory perception (visions), physical collapse, and changes in their psychological state as a result of the encounter with the Divine.Fact|date=April 2008

The prophetic experience is always bestowed on the individual, usually unprepared for the experience, by the Divine, and this often causes the prophet to undergo travel, and often privations and persecution due to the unwelcome contents of the message he or she bring to those for whom it is intended.Fact|date=April 2008

In the Christian New Testament prophecy is often referred as one of the fivefold ministries or spiritual gifts that accompany the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. From this many Christians believe that prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive and convey a message from God or the divine. The purpose of the message may be to "edify, exhort and comfort" the members of the church or an individual believer. In this context, not all prophecies contain predictions about the future. The Apostle Paul also teaches in Corinthians that prophecy is for the benefit of the whole Church and not just the individual exercising the gift.niv|1 Corinthians|14:22|1 Corinthians 14:22]

Instances of prophecy


The Tanakh contains prophecies from various Hebrew prophets (55 in total) who communicated messages from God to the nation of Israel, and later the population of Judea and elsewhere.

Malachi, whose full name was Ezra Ha'Sofer (the scribe), is acknowledged to have been the last prophet of Israel if one accepts the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE). [Citation | title = Babylonian Talmud | first = Vilna Gaon | volume = San.11a, Yom.9a/Yuch.1.14/Kuz.3.39,65,67/Yuch.1/Mag.Av.O.C.580.6]


The Book of Enoch, while not a part of the Canon of Scripture for most of the Christian Churches, was quotedRequest quotation|date=April 2008 as a prophetic text in the New Testament [Letter of Jude with also a probable reference in I Peter 3:19,20 to Enoch 6-36, especially 21, 6; 2 Enoch 7:1-5] .

Prophecy in the Gospels

There are instances in the Gospel writings where individuals are described as being prophets or prophesying. Some examples include Simeon, Anna, and John the Baptist [Matthew 21:26] .

The Gospel literature shows several instances where Jesus prophesied. An example of this is the gospel of John which shows that whilst passing through Samaria, Jesus encountered a woman who had been married five times. In the story, Jesus relates to her details of her personal life. The woman states that "I can see you are a prophet." [John 4:19] Jesus prophecies about his pending death [Matthew 16:27-28] , and about the end times [Matthew 10:5-7] [Matthew 10:23] [Matthew 28:64]

Prophecy in other Christian literature

Throughout the book of Acts, there are numerous references to individuals prophesying in different ways and contexts. Examples include where the church in Antioch is described as having both prophets and teachers. [Acts 13:1]

Prophecy in the Pauline Epistles

In the Pauline Epistles, the prophet, is often referred as one of the fivefold ministries or spiritual gifts that accompany the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The five ministries being; Apostles; Prophets; Evangelists; Teachers and Pastors [Eph. 4:11] . From this many Christians believe that prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive and convey a message from God or the divine.

Amerindian prophecy

Several cases of claimed prophecy exist among the Amerindian populations, notably the three Dogrib prophets who claimed to have been divinely inspired to bring the message of Christianity's God to their people. [p.27, Helm] This [ prophecy among the Dogrib] involves some shamanic elements such as dances and trance-like states.


Although Muslims maintain that Muhammad experienced a prophetic phenomena equated with interpretation of dreams, visions and remote viewing, and thus identify him as a prophet, there is no evidence available to substantiate this claim. Fact|date=September 2008

Bahá'í Faith

In 1863, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to be the promised messianic figure of all previous religions, and a Manifestation of God,cite encyclopedia |last= Smith |first= Peter |encyclopedia= A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith |title= Bahá'u'lláh – Theological Status |year= 2000 |publisher=Oneworld Publications |location= Oxford |id= ISBN 1-85168-184-1 |pages= p. 78-79] a type of prophet in the Bahá'í writings that serves as intermediary between the divine and humanity and who speak with the voice of God. [cite book |author = Hatcher, W.S. |coauthors = & Martin, J.D. |year = 1998 |title = The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion |publisher = Harper & Row |location = San Francisco |id = ISBN 0877432643 | pages = p. 116-123] Bahá'u'lláh claimed that while being imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal in Iran he underwent a series of mystical experiences including having a vision of the "Maid of Heaven" who told him of his divine mission, and the promise of divine assistance;cite encyclopedia |last= Smith |first= Peter |encyclopedia= A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith |title= Bahá'u'lláh – Life |year= 2000 |publisher=Oneworld Publications |location= Oxford |id= ISBN 1-85168-184-1 |pages= p. 73] in Bahá'í belief the "Maid of Heaven" is a representation of the divine.cite encyclopedia |last= Smith |first= Peter |encyclopedia= A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith |title= Maid of Heaven |year= 2000 |publisher=Oneworld Publications |location= Oxford |id= ISBN 1-85168-184-1 |pages= p. 230]

=Other belief systems=

Prophecy has been claimed for, but not by, Michel de Nostredame popularly referred to as Nostradamus who was a converted Christian. However, it is known that he had travelled widely, had suffered several tragedies in his life, and had been persecuted to some degree for his suggestions about the future, reportedly derived through a use of a crystal ball. These are consistent with experiences of earlier individuals who claimed prophecy.

cepticism about prophecy

According to Who|date=July 2008, sceptics believe many apparently fulfilled prophecies can be explained as coincidences (possibly aided by the prophecy's own vagueness), or that some prophecies were actually invented after the fact to match the circumstances of a past event ("postdiction"). Whitcomb in "The Magician's Companion" observes,

One point to remember is that the probability of an event changes as soon as a prophecy (or divination) exists. . . . The accuracy or outcome of any prophecy is altered by the desires and attachments of the seer and those who hear the prophecy. [ [] The James Randi Educational Foundation]
Verify credibility|date=July 2008

ee also

*False prophets


* Online Etymological Dictionary []


*Alcalay, Reuben., "The Complete Hebrew - English dictionary", Hemed Books, New York, 1996 ISBN 978-9654481793
*Tucker, T.G., "Etymological dictionary of Latin", Ares Publishers, Inc., Chicago, 1985 ISBN 978-0890051726
*Helm, June., "Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians", University of Nebraska Press, 1994 []

Further reading

* Jim Thompson. 2008. "Prophecy Today - A further word from God? Does God-given prophecy continue in today's church, or doesn't it?." (Evangelical Press), ISBN 9780852346730
* Marcus Tullius Cicero. 1997. "De divinatione." (Trans. Arthur Stanley Pease), Darmstadt: Wissenschaflliche Buchgesellschaft.
* David Edward Aune. 1963. "Prophecy in early Christianity and the ancient Mediterranean world." Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3584-8.
* Christopher Forbes. 1997. "Prophecy and inspired speech: In early Christianity and its Hellenistic environment." Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, ISBN 1565632699.
* Clifford S. Hill. 1991. "Prophecy, past and present: An exploration of the prophetic ministry in the Bible and the church today." Ann Arbor, MI: Vine, ISBN 080280635X.
* Jürgen Beyer. 2002. 'Prophezeiungen', "Enzyklopädie des Märchens. Handwörterbuch zur historischen und vergleichenden Erzählforschung" (English - Encyclopedia of the fairy tale. Handy dictionary for historical and comparative tale research), vol. 10. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter, col. 1419-1432
* Fabio R. Araujo. 2007. "Selected Prophecies and Prophets." Charleston, SC: BookSurge, ISBN-10: 1419668455

External links

* A Guide to Understanding End Times Bible Prophecy
* WOVOCA: The Native Prophecy Encyclopedia
* Prophecykeepers Foundation Radio
* The James Randi Educational Foundation
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