Prophet

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In Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the Bahai faith, a prophet is a person believed to have received direct communication from God. This message may be intended solely for the recipient of the message, but is usually a truth to be stated to the community at large. The Tanach (aka the Old Testament) contains many accounts of prophets. Given that most Christians believe Jesus to be God, those in the New Testament that received a message from him might be considered by some Christians to be propehts. The Qur'an is held by Muslims to have been authored by a prophet.

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.

  • Jews believe that the most direct forms of prohecy ended with the destruction of their Temple_in_Jerusalem. However, they also believe that other forms of communication between man and God still exist, and have never ended.
The Tanach (the Hebrew Bible, aka the Old Testament) affirms that prophecy is not limited to Jews. Later 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 (some listed in the entries below) are genuine prophets. Jews have traditionally had a great reluctance to recognize 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 deligitimize or supercede Judaism itself. Judaism holds as a religious belief that no prophet will attempt to create a new faith or religion as a successor to Judaism. Thus, the New Testament claim's that Jews are 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, Talmud Yerushalmi Sota 24b, and Talmud Bavli Sota 48b]. The Talmud notes that each time a Jew studies the Torah or its rabbinic commentaries, G-d is revealed anew; there is still a link between the G-d and the Jewish people. Reference: Abraham Joshua Heschel's "Prophetic Inspiration After the Prophets: Maimonides and Others" (Ktav)


  • 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 portion of 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 Catholic perspective goes here?)
Most (all?) Christian-related faiths which reject the concept of the Trinity and a few other classical 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.)
  • Islam teaches that Jesus Christ himself was a prophet, not the Son of God, and that Mohammed was the seventh and last of the great prophets.
  • Bahai teaches that there have been other great prophets besides the seven cited by Islam. The founder of the Bahai faith, Baha’u’lluh, 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.

Judaism recognizes the existence of more than 50 prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind. Seven of these prophets were women. [Jewish prophets]

Other faiths have different lists of who they consider to be prophets. Some examples of prophets in the Tanach (Old Testament) include: