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In Judaism, Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í faith, a prophet is a person believed to have received a revelation from God. A prophet is thus a recipient of revelation. Some people use the word "prophecy" as a synonym for "revelation"; thus one could say that a prophet is a recipient of prophecy.

A prophetic message may be intended solely for the recipient of the message, but is usually a truth to be stated to the community at large.

Readers of this article are encouraged to read the parallel article on revelation, as the term revelation itself has a number of meanings and interpretations, even within the same religion. Various forms of revelation have been proposed, including: Verbal revelation; Aristotelian rationalism; Non-Verbal propositional revelation; and God's will as revealed through a people's historical development of their faith. In the 20th century existentialism has inspired new ways of understanding revelation.

The definition of the word prophet varies from group to group. Some Christian denominations teach that a person who receives a personal message that is not intended for the body of believers, where such an event is credited at all, should not be termed a prophet. For them, a prophet is a person who speaks for God, in the name of God, and who carries God's message to others. The reception of a message is termed revelation; the delivery of the message is termed prophecy.

Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote one of the 20th century's classic commentaries on the prophets, entitled "The Prophets" which has received acclaim in the Jewish community, and in part of the Catholic and liberal Protestant community.

Some examples of prophets in the Tanach (Old Testament) include:

Table of contents

Prophecy in the Hebrew Bible

The Tanach (Hebrew Bible, which Christians refer to as the Old Testament) affirms that prophecy is not limited to Jews, and is remarkable for the many accounts of prophets it contains. The Tanach specifically mentions the prophecy of Bilam[?], a gentile. The accounts include details of men, women and even animals receiving prophecy in various ways. (This section needs to be greatly expanded)

Jewish views of prophecy

Classical Jewish texts teach that the most direct forms of prophecy ended with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE. 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 of the Perplexed" affirms that gentiles may receive prophecy. However, Judaism generally does not affirm 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 holds that no true prophet will create a new faith or religion as a successor to Judaism. Thus, the Christian Testament[?]'s claim that the Jewish leaders were the offspring of the devil, and that Christians are the new Israel, is rejected. Similarly, Jews reject the Quran's claims that Jews have deliberately falsified the Bible and that only Muslims know the true word of God.

The Talmud affirms 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 notes 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)

A Jewish tradition holds that there were 600,000 male and 600,000 female prophets. Judaism recognizes the existence of 49 prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind. [Jewish prophets (http://www.shamash.org/lists/scj-faq/HTML/faq/12-11)]

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.

Christian views

Mainstream Christians, i.e. those who believe in the Trinity, believe prophecy ended with the coming of Jesus Christ, who delivered the "fullness of the law". Within this group, many Protestants believe that prophecy ended with the last of the prophets in the Hebrew portion of the Bible that Christians call the "Old Testament" included in their canon, leaving a gap of about 400 years between then and the coming of Jesus Christ. The Eastern Orthodox generally believe that John the Baptist (also known as John the Forerunner) was the last of the prophets, thus tightly linking the period of prophecy in the Old Testament with Jesus. Roman Catholics and Muslims also regard John the Baptist as a prophet.

Most (but not all) Christian faiths that reject the concept of the Trinity and a few other traditional Christian beliefs teach that prophecy continues today, and that the founder of their faith was a prophet. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the largest Mormon church, believes that its founder was a prophet. The leader of the church is known as the "Prophet, Seer and Revelator" in the belief that he continues to receive direct revelation from God for the guidance of the church. This began with first of the presidents, Joseph Smith, Jr. The Unification Church likewise regards its founder, Sun Myung Moon as a living prophet. (Info on Jehovah's witnesses would be good to add here. -- that's why I added the "but not all".)

Given that most Christians believe Jesus to be God, those in the Greek Bible called the "New Testament" that received a message from him might be considered by some Christians to be prophets.

Islamic views

The Qur'an is held by Muslims to have been written by God and transmitted via the angel Garbriel to the prophet Mohammed. Islam teaches that Jesus Christ himself was a human prophet, and not the Son of God. It holds that that Mohammed was the last of the great prophets.

The Ahmadi[?] muslims also consider Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian[?] to be a prophet. However as he comes after the prophet Mohammed, this view makes them unpopular with some muslims.

Bahai views

Bahá'í teaches that there have been other great prophets besides the seven cited by Islam. The founder of the Bahá'í faith, Bahá'u'lláh, who came after Mohammed, is one such prophet. In addition, there were other prophets who spoke to the followers of other faiths in other parts of the world. Thus the founders of great non-Western religions, such as Buddha, are also considered prophets of God. The faith teaches that religion is an unfolding process in world history, and the various prophets participated in this process in different times and cultures. This explains the differences in the world's great religions, which are ultimately one and come from God.

Foretelling the future

According to certain groups, the following figures were not prophets in the Biblical sense of the word, but they are supposed to have foretold the future.



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