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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


I. The Messiah a prophet.—1. Our Lord’s redemptive work is usually divided into the threefold—prophetic, priestly, and kingly functions; and for this there is ancient precedent . Eusebius ( Historia Ecclesiastica i. 3) speaks of Him as ‘the only High Priest of all men, the only King of all creation, and the Father’s only supreme Prophet of prophets’ (see also Ambrose on Ps 118:79, and Cassiodorus on  Psalms 132:2). The Church has rightly felt that the unction bestowed on Jesus as the Messiah separated and endowed Him to these offices. She recognized that the old dispensation was established and preserved by those who were anointed to be prophets, priests, and kings, and she believed that each of these offices found its perfection in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. When, therefore, we dwell separately on any one of these three vocations of the Messiah (as we do in this article), we must remember that we are necessarily taking a partial view of His Person; for to hold that He is only a prophet, is to fall into a heresy that has ever faced the Church.

Early in the Church’s history the Gnostic Ebionites rejected the Catholic doctrine of Christ’s Person, but felt no difficulty in believing Him to be an inspired prophet of the highest order. They regarded Him as one of the προφῆται ἀληθείας, and as superior to προφῆται συνέσεως οὐκ ἀληθείας; and, as such, placed Him in line with Adam, Enoch, Noah, etc. etc., upon all of whom had rested the pre-existent Christ; and in their Gospel we find the following words ascribed to Him: ‘I am he concerning whom Moses prophesied, saying, A prophet shall the Lord God raise unto you, like unto me’ ( Clem. Hom. iii. 53; cf. Dorner, Hist. of Person of Christ , i. i. 208 ff.); but they refused to accept the Church’s teaching as to His Deity. Similarly, the Mohammedan Koran says: ‘The Messiah, the son of Mary, is only a prophet’ (v. 79, also iv. 160 and xix. 30); and the Racovian Catechism (a.d. 1605) of the Socinians (§ 5) accepts and accentuates the prophetic aspect of His work.

2. But while the Church thus early classified the redemptive activities of our Lord under this threefold division, it must not be assumed that the Jews of His own time had reached this full conception. It is clear from our Gospels that His contemporaries did not regard the ‘coming prophet’ as one with the coming Messiah; for when the multitude were astonished at Jesus’ discourse at the Feast of Tabernacles, and were divided in opinion regarding Him, some saying, ‘This is of a truth the Prophet,’ and others, ‘This is the Christ’ ( John 7:40), none declared Him to be the Christ, and therefore the Prophet.

A similar distinction is found in their view of the Baptist ( John 1:21). The only exception in the Gospels is the words of the woman of Samaria: ‘Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.… When Christ is come, he will declare unto us all things’ ( John 4:19;  John 4:25). But probably the Samaritans generally had small reason to expect the coming of a kingly Messiah (see Westcott, Study of the Gospels , note 2, ch. 2; Stanton, Jewish and Christian Messiah , pp. 126, 293).

3. Nor does this separation of the offices of ‘the Prophet’ and ‘the Messiah’ seem to be due to any special obtuseness on the part of our Lord’s contemporaries; the OT prophets themselves appear also to have been unable to rise above it. Isaiah, prophesying during the monarchy, pictures the Messiah as a Davidic king, and foretells the outpouring of a fuller revelation during His reign, predicting that then the God of Jacob would teach Israel His way ( Isaiah 2:3), and then Israel’s teacher(s) would not be hidden any more, but the people would see their teacher(s), and hear a word behind them saying, ‘This is the way’ ( Isaiah 30:20); but he does not unite these kingly and prophetic endowments in the one person of the Christ. Fuller light of truth is to be a mark of the Messianic reign, but Isaiah does not recognize the Messiah as the organ of the revelation.

The fullest references to a coming prophet are found in Deutero-Isaiah; and here He is clearly identified with ‘the Servant of the Lord.’ There enters largely into the prophet’s conception of this great Personality the idea of His being an anointed revealer of truth. Jehovah makes ‘his mouth like a sharp sword’ ( Isaiah 49:2), and ‘puts his spirit upon him, so that he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles’ ( Isaiah 42:1, also  Isaiah 59:21,  Isaiah 61:1). But, clear as is our identification of ‘the Servant’ with Jesus, we yet know that this union of ‘the Suffering One’ with the Messianic King has ever been the great stumbling-block to Israel. The truth appears to be: the prophets of Israel, influenced by the national circumstances and needs of their own day, predicted under the Spirit’s influence, now a coming king, now a prophet, now a priestly sufferer with prophetic functions; and these parallel lines of yearning thought found together their satisfaction in the Person of Jesus.

The Book of Malachi closes with a prediction of the return of Elijah ( Malachi 4:5), and Israel’s prophetic expectations centred thenceforth chiefly in him.

4. With the silence of prophecy, there came to Israel a deep yearning for the living voice of Jehovah. This was a characteristic of the Maccabaean age, when the anticipation of a coming prophet overshadows that of the Messiah ( 1 Maccabees 4:46;  1 Maccabees 14:41;  1 Maccabees 9:27, also  Sirach 48:10).

The same longing is found in  Psalms 74:9 ‘We see not our signs, there is no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.’ This Psalm is therefore thought to belong to the Maccabaean period; on the other hand, similar complaints are found in the writings of the Exile ( Lamentations 2:9,  Ezekiel 7:26).

The Apocalyptic literature is mostly silent on the point. But in the Book of Enoch ( Simil. 45:3–6) the Son of Man is portrayed as revealing ‘all the treasures of that which is hidden, and there are seen an inexhaustible fountain of righteousness, and round about many fountains of wisdom.’ These promises of fuller revelation presumably imply a personal agent for its dissemination. The prophetic gift is advanced in the Test. of the XII. Patriarchs (Levi 8:15) as an implicit claim of John Hyrcanus to the Messiahship; and he alone was said by the Jews to have held the threefold office (Josephus BJ i. ii. 8).

5. If the abeyance of prophecy added to the gloom of Israel during the interval between the time that the last OT prophet delivered his message and the beginning of the Christian era, the coming of Christ was heralded by an outburst of the prophetic gift . It is recorded as first appearing in the priestly house of Zacharias ( Luke 1:41;  Luke 1:67); it was granted to the Virgin, to Simeon, and to Anna ( Luke 2:25;  Luke 2:36), and reached its most notable height in the person of John the Baptist. The nation, galled by a foreign yoke, and meditating on the predictions found in their sacred books, and, above all, picturing the return of Elijah as a herald of emancipation, ‘mused in their heart’ whether the Baptist were himself the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet, or one of the old prophets returned ( Luke 3:15,  John 1:20 ff.). But John, realizing himself to be only a forerunner, and wishing to turn the thoughts of the people from himself to Jesus, refused to be anything save an impersonal voice crying in the wilderness. Fittingly thus was the world’s supreme Prophet ushered upon His prophetic career by a volume of reawakened prophecy.

6. Whatever difficulty His contemporaries felt in acknowledging His Messiahship, they had none in recognizing Him as a prophet . Both at the commencement and at the close of His career, this was the popular view of His ministry. As soon as He became known, the general judgment was pronounced that ‘a great prophet had arisen, and that God had visited his people’ ( Luke 7:16); and when at the close of His ministry He allowed the populace openly to express their feelings regarding Him, they, in answer to the question ‘Who is this?’ replied, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth’ ( Matthew 21:11; also  Mark 6:15,  Matthew 21:46,  Luke 24:19,  John 4:19;  John 6:14;  John 7:40;  John 9:17). Indeed, only those who were biassed by ecclesiastical bigotry could have concluded otherwise, for His miracles of mercy were external credentials recalling the powers of Moses and Elijah; and the authoritative tone of His teaching showed that He claimed for Himself at least the position of a God-sent teacher.

7. But not only was the title generally given to Him; He also claimed it for Himself . Thus He opened His ministry in His native village by reading in the synagogue the words of Isaiah (61:1), ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor,’ and commenced His discourse upon them by saying, ‘To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears’ ( Luke 4:18;  Luke 4:21). Later in His ministry, when His death was imminent, He openly placed Himself in line with the ancient prophets of Israel, foretelling that, similarly to them, He could not perish out of Jerusalem ( Matthew 23:29 ff.,  Luke 13:33); and when He used, in the parable of the Vineyard, the familiar OT figure of the Kingdom of God, He deliberately made Himself the last of the long line of God’s martyr messengers to His people; and told the Jews that, notwithstanding the fact that they had ‘shamefully handled’ His predecessors the prophets; yet He had been sent to them by God with a final call to repentance.

II. Jesus had the essential marks of a prophet. —When we turn to the records of the life of Jesus, we find predicated of Him every characteristic that marked the Hebrew prophets. 1. If Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were all introduced to their prophetic career by a vision granted and a voice heard ( Isaiah 6:1-8,  Jeremiah 1:4-10,  Ezekiel 3:10-14), so Jesus commenced His ministry by receiving at His baptism a vision from heaven and by hearing His Father’s voice.

The Gospel according to the Hebrews gives the words then spoken to Him in a form different from that given by the Evangelists, and interesting in the present connexion. We read: ‘It came to pass when our Lord had ascended out of the water, the whole fountain of the Holy Spirit came down and rested upon him and said unto him, “My Son, in all the prophets I was looking for thee, that thou mightest come and that I might rest in thee. For thou art my rest, thou art my firstborn Son who reignest to eternity.” ’ This form shows how strong was the belief in the earliest days of the Church that Jesus at His baptism was anointed specially to the office of Prophet.

2. The OT prophets were men of God . This title, doubtless, was frequently used, as conveying little more than a customary appellation of those holding the office; yet the fact of its having been chosen as a title shows the underlying conviction, on the part of the nation, that sanctity of character was a necessary condition of receiving communications from Jehovah; and it thus suggests not only the Divine purport of their message, but also the personal religiousness of the prophets. Isaiah felt that, in order to hold intercourse with God, personal holiness was requisite ( Isaiah 6:5); and indeed so fully was this felt that the prophetic state was looked upon as closely related to communion with God in prayer  ; and the expression which was generally used in the OT for the answering of prayer was frequently applied to prophetic revelation (עָנָה  Micah 3:7,  Habakkuk 2:1 ff.,  Jeremiah 23:35. See Oehler, OT Theol . ii. 336).

That Jesus bore this characteristic of the prophetic office needs no showing. He, the one sinless Man, whose whole life was lived in conscious communication, full and continuous, with His Father, must necessarily, as regards the fitness of holiness, be the very Prophet of prophets. His perfect sinlessness rendered possible uninterrupted fellowship with God, and guaranteed the perfection of the message He delivered. The pre-eminence of that message rests on the fact that whereas ‘God of old times spake unto the fathers in the prophets, he hath in these last times spoken unto us in his Son’ ( Hebrews 1:1).

3. Further, as men of God, the message of the prophets was one of moral import . They, as Micah ( Micah 3:8), could say, ‘I am full of power to declare unto Jacob his transgressions and to Israel his sins.’ The greater prophets had developed far beyond the earlier prophets and still earlier seers, who used their gifts to reveal matters of mere personal interest: their message to the individual or to the nation was filled, as occasion required, with moral teachings; rebuking sin, calling to repentance, and threatening Divine judgment.

It is evident that Jesus fulfilled this characteristic continuously and perfectly. For not only did He, like the prophets before Him, utter words pregnant with moral enlightenment but also by His every word and act He constantly manifested the perfection of moral being. Being Himself the revelation of God, His whole incarnate life was a continuous teaching of infinite moral import.

4. The prophets were conscious of being recipients of direct communications from Jehovah . In Amos ( Amos 3:7) it is said, ‘The Lord God docth nothing without revealing his counsel to his servants the prophets’; and in Jeremiah ( Jeremiah 23:22) we are told that the prophet stands in ‘the counsel of Jehovah.’ God spoke to them, and they received His words into their hearts and heard them with their ears ( Ezekiel 3:10). It might seem that here is a characteristic of the prophetic office that is not applicable to Christ. It might be thought that as He is very and eternal God, He required no revelation, having in Himself all the fulness of Divine knowledge, and that therefore when He taught, He taught not what He had received , but what was intrinsically His own. A careful study, however, of the Gospel of St. John, where naturally we seek for light on the mystery of His Person, as it is the Gospel of His self-manifestation, leads us to conclude otherwise. In a remarkable number of passages Jesus speaks of receiving from the Father the truths He disclosed. He says, ‘I speak to the world those things which I have heard’; ‘as my Father hath taught me, I speak.’ ‘I have given unto them the words which Thou gavest me’; ‘I spake not from myself, but the Father which sent me, He hath given me a commandment what I should say’ ( John 8:26;  John 8:28;  John 8:38;  John 8:40;  John 12:49;  John 15:15;  John 17:8;  John 17:14).

In such words Jesus seems clearly to teach that His supernatural knowledge was a gift given to Him from the Father, ‘administered to Him in His human nature on some economic principle,’ so that He might be fitted perfectly to perform the functions of Teacher and Prophet to the Church. In emptying Himself of His glory in the Incarnation, He appears so to have self-limited His Divine Powers as to have been dependent upon His Father for supernatural illumination: while the reception by Him of that revelation must have been perfect through the complete sympathy that essentially existed between Him and His Father. Like the prophets of old, He received communications from God: but in virtue of His Divine Personality He perfectly heard and faithfully expressed every thought revealed to Him. (See, especially, a valuable charge by O’Brien, Bp. of Ossory, 1865 (Macmillan); and A. B. Davidson, Biblical Essays , p. 179).

5. A further characteristic of prophecy was its power of prediction. The apologetic use of prophecy in the past no doubt led to a too exclusive consideration of this aspect of the prophetic books; and the Church has gained much by regarding the prophets as men inspired by Jehovah with special moral messages to the age in which they lived. But it is not less one-sided so to over-emphasize this aspect of their work as to exclude their undoubted predictive powers. The writings of the Hebrew prophets are saturated with prediction. They foresee and announce as much of the secret purposes of Jehovah as was needful for His people to know. And the power of Jehovah to reveal to them the future raises Him, in the eyes of Israel, at once above the heathen gods, and proves to them that He is the true God ( Isaiah 41:21-28;  Isaiah 42:9;  Isaiah 43:9-13;  Isaiah 44:25 ff;  Isaiah 48:3-7). No doubt their predictions usually announced the general results rather than detailed accounts of Jehovah’s future dealings; nevertheless their predictions were clear unveilings of coming events. So that it may be said that a teacher without the power of foretelling would be no prophet ( Deuteronomy 18:21-22), for the prophet has ‘his face to the future,’ and can see more or less clearly, by the inspiration granted to him, the results that God’s love and righteousness are about to accomplish.

Now, full of prediction as are the writings of the prophets, the sayings of Jesus are even more so. With clear vision He was able to follow throughout future time the workings of the principles He taught, and was able to state as a matter of certain knowledge that their adoption would be universal. With an unparalleled insight He disclosed to the world the mysteries of eternity. He drew back the curtain not only from coming events of time, but with equal certainty from the hidden secrets of the invisible world. Hades, heaven, hell are all open to Him. And with a calm boldness, found only with absolute certainty, He tells us of Dives and Lazarus ( Luke 16:19), of the many stripes and the few ( Luke 12:47), and of the principles upon which the Final Judgment will be carried out ( Matthew 25:40).

If the Hebrew prophets received at times illumination which revealed to them glimpses of coming events, Jesus was at all times able to reveal hidden things of the future with as much certainty as He could speak of the things clearly seen in the present.

In addition to the predictions of general events, there is also found, but less frequently, among the Hebrew prophets, the power of foretelling particular events to individuals. Thus Micaiah foretells the death of Ahab (1 Kings 22), and Jeremiah the death of Hananiah ( Jeremiah 28:16). Here also Jesus surpasses them. With a certainty and clearness far beyond theirs, He was able to announce particular coming events to His disciples. Following the Gospel narrative, we find that the treachery of Judas was open to Him for long ( John 6:70 f.). The fall of Peter and his final martyrdom, and the prolonged life of John, were all equally clear ( Luke 22:31,  John 21:18;  John 21:22).

Allied to His knowledge of the future of individuals was His unerring insight into character. This gift was partially granted to the prophets, and may in a measure account for their predictions. It may have been insight into character that enabled Micaiah to predict the coming cowardice of Zedekiah ( 1 Kings 22:25), and it certainly seems to have been this that gave Elisha power to read the future of Hazael ( 2 Kings 8:12). Similarly, only in an infinitely greater degree, Jesus read the inner depths of those around Him. At once He saw the guilelessness of Nathanael ( John 1:47) and the strength of Peter ( John 1:42), and was able to read the thoughts of Simon the Pharisee while Simon was misreading His ( Luke 7:39-40). The records of His life show repeated instances that exemplify the statement of John, ‘He knew all men … he knew what was in man’ ( John 2:24-25).

6. As a final mark of His fulfilment of the prophetic office, His fate , must be mentioned. In His own Person He gathered together every insult and cruelty that had been shown in the past to the messengers of God. And if it seems strange that Israel, which more than all other nations had spiritual instincts, should have habitually rejected those sent to them with the very message they above all should have received, and if it be stranger still that they should have crucified the Messiah whom they so passionately desired, it must be remembered that mankind at all times has been unable to receive, with patience, rebukes that shattered its self-conceit and truth that attacked its vested interests. New light ever discloses ignorance, reveals the inadequacy of much that is thought perfect, and shows the sinfulness of much that is looked upon as innocent. And thus it follows that the fuller the new light, the greater the hatred and opposition its bearer will have to endure at the hands of those who fail to recognize its truth. If, then, the preaching of Isaiah raised the gibes of the drunkards of Ephraim, and if the unwelcome predictions of Jeremiah led to bitterest persecution, is it any wonder that the clear light of the revelation of Jesus infuriated ‘the blind Pharisee,’ and ended in His cruel mockings and death?

III. Jesus is above all other prophets. —But while Jesus fulfils every prophetic characteristic perfectly, and is thus the world’s Supreme Prophet, it is also evident, from this very perfection, that He is essentially distinct from all others who bore the title. For not only is there found in Him a man called of God to receive communications from heaven and to give them forth, when received, to his fellow-men, but in Him we have God revealing Himself directly to His creatures. As the personal, uttered ‘ Word of God ’ (λόγος προφορικός), He manifests Himself (that is, He manifests God) to mankind. And if the essence of the prophetic office consists in revealing the Almighty to His children, then, clearly, He alone is the one perfect Prophet, who from His very nature must have (1) constantly, (2) completely, (3) infallibly, and (4) finally revealed all that mankind may know of their Creator.

1. His revelation was constant . OT prophets, receiving their revelation only at such times as Jehovah desired to reveal His will, could exercise their functions only intermittently; whereas Jesus, living in uninterrupted communion with His Father, was in receipt of a constant revelation of the purposes and will of God. Indeed, even in His hours of silence, He must be thought of as fulfilling His prophetic office. His every act was a message, and His miracles, not less than His parables, were revelations to teach men of His Father. His spontaneous lovingkindness, as exhibited to the sinful and the suffering, revealed even more powerfully than His words the fact that ‘God is Love’; the beauty of His sinless life, not less than the depth of His matchless utterances, ever taught men this, the central truth of His message. Jesus, simply by being what He was , constantly delivered His prophetic message to the world.

2. His revelation was complete . The OT prophets could be recipients of only a partial revelation. As their writings are studied, it is seen how gradually God revealed His truth through them. Their knowledge of God is seen to develop, through progressive stages, from little to fuller light; prophet after prophet being sent to add his quota of truth, each being granted that amount of illumination necessary to enable him to advance the hopes and knowledge of Israel beyond the stage already reached. With Jesus it was far otherwise. He came to raise the spiritual wisdom and knowledge of men, once and for all, to the highest point attainable by them on earth. And if we find Him, at any time during His ministry, withholding truth which He might have revealed, we know that the cause of such reserve is to be found, not in His inability to declare, but in His hearers’ inability to receive ( John 16:12).

3. His revelation was infallible . Great as was the usefulness of the prophets to God’s chosen people, yet it is clear that in them they had no infallible guides. They had to distinguish between ‘the false prophets’ and those who truly represented Jehovah. For succeeding generations it may have been comparatively easy to separate them, for time would demonstrate, by events, the correctness or incorrectness of prophetic utterances; but not so for contemporaries. The false prophets were not as a class mere impostors trading on the religious feelings of the people, but rather they were men who, prophets by profession, lacked the spiritual discernment to interpret the mind of Jehovah. Their messages therefore rose no higher than current spiritual ideas. The people of Israel thus had constant need of spiritual discernment on their part to select the true and to reject the untrue in messages proffered to them, which claimed to come from Jehovah. But when experience had marked out to them a prophet as a true revealer of Jehovah’s will, they were not even then certain of receiving infallible guidance. The true prophet might at times confuse his own natural judgment with the voice of God. Thus Samuel at first mistook Eliab for the Lord’s anointed ( 1 Samuel 16:6); and Nathan too hastily sanctioned the project of David to build a temple ( 2 Samuel 7:1 ff.).

But the revelation of Jesus comes to us with infallible certainty. He does not, indeed, reveal everything  ; for on earth He was not omniscient. He distinctly told His disciples that there was at all events one thing He did not know ( Mark 13:32). Thus He willingly limited His knowledge while on earth; and it is well for us to remember that He Himself was aware of the limitation, for He knew that He did not know. But this self-limitation in no way weakened His claim to infallibility in all He taught. Ignorance is one thing, error quite another. And being the Son of God, and so the perfect recipient of all that the Father willed to teach Him during His state of humiliation, He knew perfectly all He knew . Similarly, if He did not foresee everything, yet what He did foresee, that He foresaw perfectly. Very remarkable is the calm certainty of conviction with which He claims infallibility. The tone of authority in His utterances, the repeated ‘I say unto you’ astounded the multitude ( Matthew 7:29); while the claim itself could not have been more strongly put forth than in His words, ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away’ ( Mark 13:31).

It is here especially that He stands pre-eminent. Throughout the whole course of His utterances there can be found no hesitation due to a possible conflict between His own judgment and His Father’s will, but rather a claim in unmistakable language to absolute infallibility as a Teacher. In truth, His consciousness told Him that He could not be wrong, for He knew where He had received that which He taught. The words which He spake were not His own, but the Father’s who sent Him. He spake that which He had seen with the Father,— that Father who was ever with Him ( John 14:24;  John 14:10;  John 8:38). He knew, as none else could know, the truth regarding ‘the heavenly things,’ for He was ‘the Son of Man, who had come down from heaven’ ( John 3:12-13). He is the one infallible Teacher of our race.

Jesus, in His interview with Nicodemus, draws a distinction between ‘earthly things’ (τὰ ἐπίγεια) and ‘heavenly things’ (τὰ ἐπουρανια). The former are spiritual truths within the range of human spiritual knowledge; the latter, spiritual truths which man can learn only by a revelation granted from God. Of these latter, Jesus is the one infallible revealer (see Adamson, Mind in Christ , p. 77 ff.).

4. His revelation is final . If the message of Jesus is thus complete and infallible, it is necessarily final. No doubt, the prophetic office of Christ is still an activity in the love of God for us; and the Church has ever the presence of the Holy Spirit leading her into fuller truth; nevertheless, the message that Jesus brought was complete in itself, and therefore final. For the office of the Holy Spirit is not to teach men something new, something outside that message, but rather to disclose truths which, though hitherto unrecognized, were implicit in His teaching. The Apostolic Church was furnished with prophets, and in a true sense prophets have appeared at intervals throughout the Christian era, and doubtless will yet appear; but, no matter how new their message may seem to the men of their own day, they are, unless they are false prophets, in reality only ‘taking of the things of Christ, and declaring them’ to His people ( John 14:26;  John 16:14-15).

IV. Christ’s prophetic utterances. —When considering the prophetic utterances of Jesus, we must not confine ourselves to His predictions alone. If, as we have seen, foretelling is an essential element of prophecy, it is evident that forthtelling is no less so. The OT prophets not only foretold coming events, but also were the religious teachers of their own age; each in turn adding to the moral and religious knowledge of the nation. So Jesus, speaking as the world’s Prophet, not only revealed the future, but once and for ever delivered potentially all truth to the world. The prophetic utterances of Jesus, therefore, include not only His predictions but all His teachings, and, as such, come within the scope of this article. As, however, His teaching is dealt with in a separate article, it is sufficient to refer the reader to the latter, and only to add some general remarks on the subject.

A. Didactic utterances .— 1. The moral teaching of Christ concerned itself with general principles rather than with precepts . The Sermon on the Mount, which contains the chief elements of His ethical teaching, is not a code of injunctions, but a declaration of the fundamental principles that underlie His Kingdom; and the particular instances of right conduct mentioned in that discourse are not commandments, but illustrations of these principles. When He teaches His disciples regarding righteousness and sin, He avoids laying down laws regarding special acts, but goes at once to the very heart of moral distinctions, revealing the general principles which rule all special cases. Thus He solved all questions of meat by a single sentence, which ‘made all meats clean’ ( Mark 7:19 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885); and He answered all questions of casuistry regarding Sabbath observance by pointing out the beneficent principle which led to its institution. In a word, He reduced all right action, whether towards God or towards man, to a fulfilling, and all wrong action to an outraging, of the one all-embracing commandment of Love. And thus His teaching finds its application in every act in every age.

There is but one exception recorded in our Gospels,—that in reference to divorce ( Mark 10:11-12, cf.  Matthew 5:32;  Matthew 19:9). In this case He gives a concise and direct precept; but a precept, obedience to which purifies the human race at its source.

2. But Jesus not only revealed the true principles underlying all sin and righteousness, He also taught that in Himself , and particularly in Himself dying , was to be found the true atonement for sin. As soon as He was able to teach His disciples, even if it were in dark words, regarding His coming death, He connected that ‘death with the world’s salvation. Comparatively early in His ministry He announced that He would give His body ‘for the life of the world’ ( John 6:51); later, He told them that, as the Good Shepherd, He would ‘lay down his life for the sheep’ ( John 10:15); and as the fatal result of His ministry drew nearer, He declared, with still greater clearness, that He would give ‘his life a ransom for many’ ( Mark 10:45). It is clear, then, that Jesus explicitly taught that His death was in the highest sense sacrificial; that there was a necessary connexion between that death and man’s salvation.

It is true that Jesus does not explain how His death wrought the Atonement, and that we must turn to the Epistles for this knowledge; but we may with confidence assume that the early Church derived its light on the matter from Jesus Himself; for St. Luke ( Luke 24:47) tells us that among the truths taught the disciples by Jesus during the forty days were those regarding His ‘death’ and ‘repentance and remission of sins.’ Therefore the developed doctrine of the Atonement, as found in the writings of the early Church, are not mere subjective theorizings, but are based on the teaching of the risen Lord.

3. Jesus in His teaching taught the absolute value of the individual . The prophets of Israel felt the majesty of their nation as the chosen people of God, and dwelt upon Jehovah’s Fatherly care of the Jewish race; but not until the preaching of Jeremiah was the Fatherhood of God over the individual brought into prominence. It was Jesus who first fully revealed the infinite value of the single soul. He insisted frequently on the madness of risking its loss, even if thereby the gain should be ‘the whole world’; and He warned men that it were better that they should miserably perish than that they should cause to stumble even one of God’s ‘little ones’ ( Mark 8:36;  Mark 9:42).

4. But His teaching was also social . The individual who was so precious in his Father’s sight was not to be left unsupported in isolation. Wide and manifold as are the meanings of ‘Kingdom of God’ as established by Jesus, it is certain that underlying all else is the thought of its members united in love by a common life. This is essential to the very idea of a kingdom . And in it is ideally presented the thought of a spiritual nation composed of spiritual individuals.

The Kingdom of heaven from its spiritual nature, and as a Kingdom of ideas and principles, rather than of codified laws, is necessarily invisible, save as to its results. But man ever wants the outward or concrete; and Jesus therefore not only founded the Kingdom of God , but established a Church ( Matthew 16:18;  Matthew 18:17); the latter being an embodiment of the idea of the former, visibly presenting to the world its truths. The Kingdom is thus, in the teaching of Jesus, much wider and more fundamental than the Church .

5. When we pass from the ethical to the spiritual side of the didactic prophecies of Jesus, we enter upon an unparalleled field of revelation. As we have seen, He alone among men—and that because He was more than man—could disclose ‘the heavenly things’ ( John 3:12) to the world. When, therefore, He speaks of the nature and acts of God, our attitude is that of reverent humble reception; and our activities are to be exercised rather in the devout investigation of the meaning of His words than in the questioning of their truth.

When we turn to the teaching itself, we find little regarding the essential nature of God. It was His method rather to describe how God acts than to define what God is . Indeed, the only statement approaching to an abstract definition of His Being is found in His words to the woman of Samaria, ‘God is Spirit’ ( John 4:24).

The titles chiefly used by Jesus to describe the character of God are ‘King’ ( Matthew 5:35;  Matthew 18:23;  Matthew 22:2) and ‘Father.’ God is Father  : in a unique sense in relation to Himself ( Matthew 10:32;  Matthew 11:27,  John 5:17;  John 10:30 etc.); in a special sense of His disciples ( Matthew 5:16,  Luke 12:32 etc.); and in a general sense of mankind ( Matthew 5:45,  Luke 15:11 ff.).

Further, His teaching concerning God reveals the doctrine of the Trinity. His own Deity, and the Deity and Personality of the Holy Spirit are plainly taught by Him; and the three Persons of the Godhead are with equal emphasis combined in the formula for baptism ( Matthew 28:19).

There seems no reason sufficiently weighty to cause us to regard this latter verse as an amplification of the actual words of Jesus, after the Church had grasped fully the theological doctrine of the Trinity. Rather it appears necessary to assume that some such statement must have been made by Him in order that this belief, which is found so distinctly stated in the earliest Epistles of St. Paul, may be accounted for (see Sanday in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 624).

6. Christ as Prophet chiefly revealed God by revealing Himself . It is customary to emphasize as His prime revelation of God, His teaching regarding the Fatherhood of the Almighty; but rather would we emphasize His revelation of Himself as His chief prophetic work. He stood before men, and said not, ‘I will teach you about God,’ but, ‘I will teach you about Myself, and then you will know God.’ Throughout the Gospel of St. John this self-manifestation of Jesus is the one central subject. His ministry, in that Gospel, commences with His convincing self-revelation to Peter and John, Andrew and Philip, and Nathanael (ch. 1); His first miracle ‘manifested forth his glory’ ( John 2:11); He closes His interview with Nicodemus by declaring His mission as a bearer from heaven of spiritual truths ( John 3:12-13); the highest point in ch. 4 is the declaration to the woman of Samaria, ‘I that speak unto thee am he’ ( John 4:26); in ch. 5 He declares His oneness in power with the Father by saying, ‘What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise’ ( John 5:19); the teaching of ch. 6 centres round the self-revelation of ‘I am the bread of life’ ( John 6:48); at the Feast of Tabernacles He cried concerning Himself, ‘If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink’ ( John 7:37); in ch. 8 He asserts His own pre-existence, saying, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ ( John 8:58); while the lengthy account of the cure of the blind man reaches its climax in the declaration, ‘Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee’ ( John 9:37). Every section of the Gospel up to this point culminates and finds its reason in a self-revelation of Jesus made to an individual or to a few chosen ones ( John 2:2) who were capable, by reason of their sincerity, of receiving it; while the succeeding chapters record a similar revelation granted to groups of listeners and disciples. He is ‘the Good Shepherd ‘; ‘the Door’; ‘one with the Father’; ‘the Resurrection’ … ( John 10:7;  John 10:11;  John 10:30,  John 11:25 …). Clearer and clearer grows the revelation of Himself, until at last the real fulness and power, humility and truth of His self-disclosure are seen in the words, ‘He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father’ ( John 14:9,  John 12:45); that is to say, ‘I have revealed God while I revealed Myself.’ It is this that makes Him in Himself, as also in His deeds and words, the Supreme Prophet, as forthteller of the truth of God.

B. Christ’s predictions .—The predictive element enters very largely into the utterances of Christ. Not only do the Gospels contain prophecies spoken with the express intention of revealing the future to the disciples, such as those relating to His own death and the destruction of Jerusalem, but also numerous prophecies which occur incidentally. An example of the latter is found in His rebuke to those that ‘troubled’ Mary because of her costly offering; a rebuke that foretells the universality of His Kingdom and the perpetual memorial of her deed ( Mark 14:9).

If the Gospels be studied with a view to noting those sayings of Jesus which are predictive, surprise will be felt at their number. It will be seen that the parables grouped in Matthew 13 are predictions of the history of the Kingdom; that His promises not only exhibit His love and power, but also are fore-tellings of His future action ( e.g.  Matthew 18:20;  Matthew 28:20). It will be found that His miracles are often prefaced by announcements beforehand of the cure to be wrought ( e.g.  Luke 8:50,  John 11:11); that His discourse in John 6 is based on a prediction of His own sacrificial death, and that in John 14-16 on His foreknowledge of the Holy Spirit’s descent. And, further, even in His High-Priestly prayer He shows knowledge of the future by pleading for those whom He foresees as His disciples in the coming age ( John 17:20); and, if His first recorded word during His ministry is a prophecy of the immediate advent of the Kingdom ( Mark 1:15), His last is a prophecy of its spread to the uttermost part of the world ( Acts 1:8). His words are saturated with prediction.

The predictions of Jesus may be classified as follows: Those referring (1) to individuals, (2) to His Kingdom, (3) to the material world, (4) to His own career, (5) to the destruction of Jerusalem, (6) to the Parousia and the consummation of the age.

1. As His predictions regarding individuals present no special difficulties, it will be sufficient simply to mention them. In giving Simon the name of Peter ( John 1:42), Jesus not only revealed his character, but foretold his pre-eminence; a prediction justified at Caesarea Philippi ( Matthew 16:18). On this latter occasion He foretold that the Apostle would become the porter of the Church, and the Acts of the Apostles records the fulfilment. Jesus also predicted his fall and restoration ( Luke 22:31,  Mark 14:30), and finally announced in hidden language the death by which he should ultimately glorify God ( John 21:18). At this time He also used words which obscurely foretold to the Apostle John a prolonged life ( John 21:22). From an early period in His ministry Jesus read the heart of Judas ( John 6:64;  John 13:18), shortly after the Transfiguration He announced His coming betrayal ( Mark 9:31), in the Upper Room He declared that the betrayer was one of the Twelve ( Mark 14:18), and finally by the sign of the given sop He marked Judas as the traitor ( John 13:26). To Nathanael He foretold that he would see ‘heaven opened’ ( John 1:51); to Caiaphas, that he would see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven ( Mark 14:62); to James and John, that they would be baptized with His baptism ( Mark 10:39); and to all the Apostles, that they would be persecuted like Himself, excommunicated, and in peril of death ( John 15:20;  John 16:2), that they would forsake Him in the hour of His greatest need ( Mark 14:27), but that after His death they would do even greater works than He Himself had done ( John 14:12), and ultimately would sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel ( Matthew 19:28,  Luke 22:30).

2. Predictions regarding the Kingdom .—The position of Jesus in reference to the idea of the Kingdom of God is partly that of a fulfiller and partly that of a foreteller. He established during His ministry the Kingdom in its simplest stage, and so far fulfilled what the OT prophets had foretold; but having established it, He made it the subject of His own predictions, projected it into the future, with the OT limitations removed, revealed its struggles throughout time, and announced its ultimate victory.

That Jesus did establish the Kingdom of God during His lifetime can hardly be doubted. To make it entirely future, as some do, seems impossible in the face of such passages as ‘The kingdom of God is among you’ (or ‘ within you,’ ἐγτὸς ὑμῶν,  Luke 17:21; see art. Ideas (Leading), vol. i. p. 770b); ‘The—kingdom of God is come upon you’ (ἐθʼ ὑμᾶς,  Matthew 12:28); ‘From the days of John the Baptist the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence’ ( Matthew 11:12, see Wendt’s Teaching of Jesus , vol. i. p. 364 ff.).

In the parable of the Sower (Matthew 13, see also  Luke 14:18 ff.) He foretold the different classes of people that would become its subjects, and the varied reception they would give to its claims; and in the parables of the Tares and the Draw-net (Matthew 13), the presence within it of unworthy members. He marked out for it a long career of struggle with evil, within,—false prophets deceiving ( Matthew 7:15;  Matthew 7:22), without,—malignant foes opposing ( Matthew 10:16;  Matthew 10:33,  Luke 21:12,  John 15:20;  John 16:2); but He promised the support of His abiding presence ( Matthew 28:20), and guaranteed its invincibility ( Matthew 16:18).

Though its beginning is unobserved ( Luke 17:20), yet He predicted, in the parable of the Seed Growing Secretly ( Mark 4:26), its reaching through steady growth its consummation; in the parable of the Mustard Seed ( Matthew 13:31), its universal extension as a visible society; and in that of the Leaven, its gradually acquired power over the hearts of men ( Matthew 13:33). No longer will its bounds be confined to the Chosen Race, for adherents from every quarter of the globe will enter it ( Matthew 8:11), humanity becoming one flock under one Shepherd ( John 10:16); and towards this great end it will itself work, for it will evangelize the world before His return ( Matthew 28:19;  Matthew 24:14). And when He comes in the clouds, its struggles will cease, and He will gather its members to that heavenly feast which will celebrate His marriage with His bride, and then, purged from evil, it will enter upon its career of eternal glory ( Matthew 24:31,  Matthew 22:1 ff.,  Matthew 25:1 ff.,  Matthew 13:41,  Matthew 25:34).

3. Predictions regarding the material world .—A renewal of the face of nature enters largely into the prophecies of the OT ( Isaiah 11:6-9;  Isaiah 30:23 ff., Isaiah 35; Isa_65:17,  Hosea 2:21 f.,  Ezekiel 34:25;  Ezekiel 34:28), and reappears in wider form in the Epistle to the Romans ( Romans 8:21), where St. Paul predicts the delivery of creation from the bondage of corruption; and in the Apocalypse ( Revelation 21:1), where a new heaven and a new earth are foretold (see also  2 Peter 3:13). Nor can the Church look forward to any less comprehensive issue, believing as she does in the Incarnation which for ever glorifies matter by its union with the Godhead. The comparative silence of Jesus upon this subject is remarkable. He cannot be said to have alluded to it except in two passages, neither of which is of certain interpretation. The one is in the Sermon on the Mount, where we read, ‘The meek shall inherit the earth’ ( Matthew 5:5). These words may mean no more than that meekness here on earth wins more than self-assertion; but, seeing that the meek do not, as yet at all events, receive their due, the words more probably may be eschatological in reference, and predict their ultimate recognition on a renewed earth. In the other passage Jesus promises His Apostles that ‘in the regeneration’ they shall sit upon twelve thrones ( Matthew 19:28). But here again there is uncertainty of interpretation; for, while He calls the culmination of the Kingdom of Grace in the Kingdom of Glory ‘the regeneration,’ He leaves it uncertain whether that regeneration concerns merely the whole body of the redeemed (cf. Briggs, Mess. of Gospel , pp. 228, 315), or whether it includes, as seems more probable, the physical transformation of nature (cf. Schwartzkopff, Proph. of Christ , pp. 219, 232).* [Note: Jesus tells us that not only the brute creation ( Matthew 10:29;  Matthew 6:26), but even the vegetable kingdom is under the Father’s care ( Matthew 6:30).]

4. Predictions regarding Himself .—We find in the Gospels frequent predictions by Jesus of His death, and almost invariably in connexion with them allusions to His resurrection. There may be difficulty in deciding as to when He Himself first became conscious of the fatal end to His ministry, but there can be no doubt that as soon as He realized His death as imminent, He must have realized His resurrection as certain. To suppose Him to have recognized Himself as the true Messiah and then to have regarded His death as the end of all, is to suppose the impossible. Living as He lived in uninterrupted communion with the Father, He must have been conscious of the indestructibility of the Divine life that was His, and of the eternal value of His Person and work (cf. Schwartzkopff, Proph. of Christ , pp. 64, 147). And if a dead Messiah was a contradiction in terms to any one holding Messianic hopes, how much more was it so to the Messiah Himself?

It was not until after the confession of Peter at Caesarea Philippi (see  Matthew 16:21 ‘From that time forth …’) that Jesus plainly foretold His death; but having done so, He repeated the warning three times at short intervals, each time adding more definiteness to the prediction. (1) He outlined the Passion, foretelling the Sanhedrin’s rejection of Him, His death, and resurrection ( Mark 8:31); (2) after the Transfiguration, where the highest point of His ministry was reached, He repeated the prediction, adding the fact of the betrayal ( Mark 9:31); (3) on the journey to Jerusalem He foretold in very full detail the sufferings that awaited Him ( Mark 10:33), enumerating in their actual order the stages of contumely through which He was to pass. The betrayal, the judicial condemnation, the delivery to the Roman power, the mocking and spitting, the killing ( Matthew 20:19 ‘crucifying’), and, finally, the resurrection, all in turn are mentioned (cf. Swete’s St. Mark, l.c. ). See, further, art. Announcements of Death.

It is assumed by some that Jesus commenced His ministry with

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Nabiy' , from Naaba' "to bubble forth as a fountain," as  Psalms 45:1, "my heart is bubbling up a good matter," namely, inspired by the Holy Spirit;  2 Peter 1:19-21;  Job 32:8;  Job 32:18-19;  Job 32:20. Roeh , "seer," from Raah "to see," was the term in Samuel's days ( 1 Samuel 9:9) which the sacred writer of 1 Samuel calls "beforetime"; but Nabi was the term as far back as the Pentateuch, and Roeh does not appear until Samuel's time, and of the ten times of its use in seven it is applied to Samuel. Chozeh , "seer," from the poetical Chazeh "see," is first found in  2 Samuel 24:11, and is frequent in Chronicles; it came into use when Roeh was becoming less used, Nabi being resumed. Νabi existed long before, and after, and alongside of Roeh and Chozeh . Chazon is used in the Pentateuch, Samuel, Chronicles, Job, and the prophets for a prophetic revelation. Lee (Inspir. 543) suggests that Chozeh designates the king's "seer" ( 1 Chronicles 21:9;  2 Chronicles 29:25), not only David's seer Gad (As Smith'S Bible Dictionary Says) but Iddo in Solomon's reign ( 2 Chronicles 9:29;  2 Chronicles 12:15).

Jehu, Hanani's son, under Jehoshaphat ( 1 Chronicles 19:2). Asaph and Jeduthun are called so ( 1 Chronicles 29:30;  1 Chronicles 35:15); also  Amos 7:12; also  2 Chronicles 33:18. Chozeh "the gazer" upon the spiritual world ( 1 Chronicles 29:9), "Samuel the seer ( Roeh ), Nathan the prophet ( Nabi ), Gad the gazer" ( Chozeh ). As the seer beheld the visions of God, so the prophet proclaimed the divine truth revealed to him as one of an official order in a more direct way. God Himself states the different modes of His revealing Himself and His truth ( Numbers 12:6;  Numbers 12:8). Prophet (Greek) means the interpreter (From Pro , Feemi , "Speak Forth" Truths For Another, As Aaron Was Moses' Prophet, I.E. Spokesman:  Exodus 7:1 ) of God's will (The Mantis Was The Inspired Unconscious Utterer Of Oracles Which The Prophet Interpreted) ; so in Scripture the divinely inspired revealer of truths be fore unknown. Prediction was a leading function of the prophet ( Deuteronomy 18:22;  Jeremiah 28:9;  1 Samuel 2:27;  Acts 2:30;  Acts 3:18;  Acts 3:21;  1 Peter 1:10;  2 Peter 3:2).

But it is not always attached to the prophet. For instance, the 70 elders, ( Numbers 11:16-29); Asaph and Jeduthun, etc., "prophesied with a harp" ( 1 Chronicles 25:3); Miriam and Deborah were "prophetesses" ( Exodus 15:20;  Judges 4:4, also  Judges 6:8); John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets of the Old Testament order. The New Testament prophet ( 1 Corinthians 12:28) made new revelations and preached under the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit "the word of wisdom" ( 1 Corinthians 12:8), i.e. imparted with ready utterance new revelations of the divine wisdom in redemption. The "teacher" on the other hand, with the ordinary and calmer operation of the Spirit, had "the word of knowledge," i.e. supernaturally imparted ready utterance of truths already revealed ( 1 Corinthians 14:3-4). The Nabi was spokesman for God, mediating for God to man. Christ is the Antitype. As God's deputed representative, under the theocracy the prophet spoke in God's name.

Moses was the highest concentration of the type; bringing in with mighty signs the legal dispensation, as Christ did the gospel ( Deuteronomy 18:15;  Deuteronomy 34:10-11;  John 1:18;  John 1:45;  John 3:34;  John 15:24), and announcing the program of God's redemption scheme, which the rest of the Bible fills up. Prophecy is based on God's unchanging righteousness in governing His world. It is not, as in the Greek drama, a blind fate threatening irrevocable doom from which there is no escape. Prophecy has a moral purpose, and mercifully gives God's loving fatherly warning to the impenitent, that by turning from sin they may avert righteous punishment. So Jonah 3;  Daniel 4:9-27. The prophets were Jehovah's remembrancers, pleading for or against the people: so Elijah (1 Kings 17;  1 Kings 18:36-37;  Romans 11:2-3;  James 5:16;  James 5:18;  Revelation 11:6). God as King of the theocracy did not give up His sovereignty when kings were appointed; but as occasion required, through the prophets His legates, superseded, reproved, encouraged, set up, or put down kings (As Elisha In Jehu'S Case) ; and in times of apostasy strengthened in the faith the scattered remnant of believers.

The earlier prophets took a greater share in national politics. The later looked on to the new covenant which should comprehend all nations. Herein they rose above Jewish exclusiveness, drew forth the living spirit from beneath the letter of the law, and prepared for a perfect, final, and universal church. There are two periods: the Assyrian, wherein Isaiah is the prominent prophet; and the Chaldaean, wherein Jeremiah takes the lead. The prophets were a marked advance on the ceremonial of Leviticus and its priests: this was dumb show, prophecy was a spoken revelation of Christ more explicitly, therefore it fittingly stands in the canon between the law and the New Testament The same principles whereon God governed Israel in its relation to the world, in the nation's history narrated in the books of Samuel and Kings, are those whereon the prophecies rest. This accounts for those historical books being in the canon reckoned among "the prophets." The history of David and his seed is part of the preparation for the antitypical Son of David of whom the prophets speak.

Daniel on the other hand is excluded from them, though abounding in the predictive element, because he did not belong to the order of prophets officially, but ministered in the pagan court of the world power, Babylon. Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings were "the former prophets"; Isaiah to Malachi "the latter prophets." The priests were Israel's regular teachers; the prophets extraordinary, to rouse and excite. In northern Israel however, where there was no true priesthood, the prophets were God's regular and only ministers, more striking prophetic deeds are recorded than in Judah. Moses' song (Deuteronomy 32) is "the magna charta of prophecy" (Eichhorn). The law was its basis ( Isaiah 8:16;  Isaiah 8:20;  Deuteronomy 4:2;  Deuteronomy 13:1-3); they altered not a tittle of it, though looking forward to the Messianic age when its spirit would be written on the heart, and the letter be less needed ( Jeremiah 3:16;  Jeremiah 31:31). Their speaking in the name of the true God only and conforming to His word, and their predictions being fulfilled, was the test of their' divine mission (Deuteronomy 13;  Deuteronomy 18:10-11;  Deuteronomy 18:20;  Deuteronomy 18:22).

Also the prophet's not promising prosperity without repentance, and his own assurance of his divine mission (Sometimes Against His Inclination:  Jeremiah 20:8-9 ;  Jeremiah 26:12 ) producing inward assurance in others. Miracles without these criteria are not infallible proof (Deuteronomy 13). Predictions fulfilled established a prophet's authority ( 1 Samuel 3:19;  Jeremiah 22:11-12;  Ezekiel 12:12-13;  Ezekiel 12:24). As to symbolic actions, ninny are only parts of visions, not external facts, being impossible or indecent ( Jeremiah 13:1-10;  Jeremiah 25:12-38;  Hosea 1:2-11). The internal actions, when possible and proper, were expressed externally ( 1 Kings 22:11). The object was vivid impressiveness. Christ gave predictions, for this among other purposes, that when the event came to pass men should believe ( John 13:19). So Jehovah in the Old Testament ( Isaiah 41:21-23;  Isaiah 43:9;  Isaiah 43:11-12;  Isaiah 44:7-8.)

The theory of a long succession of impostors combining to serve the interests of truth, righteousness, and goodness from age to ago by false pretensions, is impossible, especially when they gained nothing by their course but obloquy and persecution. Nor can they be said to be self deceivers, for this could not have been the case with a succession of prophets, if it were possible in the case of one or two. However, various in other respects, they all agree to testify of Messiah ( Acts 10:43). Definiteness and curcumstantiality distinguish their prophecies from vague conjectures. Thus Isaiah announces the name of Cyrus ages before his appearance; so as to Josiah,  1 Kings 13:2. Prophets as an order. The priests at first were Israel's teachers in God's statutes by types, acts, and words (Lee, 10:11). But when under the judges the nation repeatedly apostatized, and no longer regarded the acted lessons of the ceremonial law, God sent a new order to witness for Him in plainer warnings, namely, the prophets. Samuel, of the Levite family of Kohath ( 1 Chronicles 6:28;  1 Chronicles 9:22), not only reformed the priests but gave the prophets a new standing.

Hence he is classed with Moses ( Jeremiah 15:1;  Psalms 99:6;  Acts 3:24). Prophets existed before: Abraham, and the patriarchs as recipients of God's revelations, are so designated ( Psalms 105:15;  Genesis 15:12;  Genesis 20:7); but Samuel constituted them into a permanent order. He instituted theological colleges of prophets; one at Ramah where he lived ( 1 Samuel 19:12;  1 Samuel 19:20), another was at Bethel ( 2 Kings 2:3), another at Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:5), another at Gilgal ( 2 Kings 4:38, also  2 Kings 6:1). Official prophets seem to have continued to the close of the Old Testament, though the direct mention of "the sons of the prophets" occurs only in Samuel's, Elijah's, and Elisha's time. A "father" or "master" presided ( 2 Kings 2:3;  1 Samuel 10:12), who was "anointed" to the office ( 1 Kings 19:16;  Isaiah 61:1;  Psalms 105:15).

They were "sons." The law was their chief study, it being what they were to teach, Not that they were in antagonism to the priests whose duty it had been to teach the law; they reprove bad priests, not to set aside but to reform and restore the priesthood as it ought to be ( Isaiah 24:2;  Isaiah 28:7;  Malachi 2:1;  Malachi 1:14); they supplemented the work of the priests. Music and poetry were cultivated as subordinate helps (compare  Exodus 15:20;  Judges 4:4;  Judges 5:1). Elijah stirred up the prophetic gift within him by a minstrel ( 2 Kings 3:15); so Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun ( 1 Chronicles 25:5-6). Sacred songs occur in the prophets ( Isaiah 12:1;  Isaiah 26:1;  Jonah 2:2;  Habakkuk 3:2). Possibly the students composed verses for liturgical use in the temple. The prophets held meetings for worship on new moons and Sabbaths ( 2 Kings 4:23). Elisha and the elders were sitting in his house, officially engaged, when the king of Israel sent to slay him ( 2 Kings 6:32).

So Ezekiel and the elders, and the people assembled ( Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 20:1;  Ezekiel 33:31). The dress, like that of the modern dervish, was a hairy garment with leather girdle ( Isaiah 20:2;  Zechariah 13:4;  Matthew 3:4). Their diet was the simplest ( 2 Kings 4:10;  2 Kings 4:38;  1 Kings 19:6); a virtual protest against abounding luxury. Prophecy. Some of the prophetic order had not the prophetic gift; others having the gift of inspiration did not belong to the order; e.g., Amos, though called to the office and receiving the gift to qualify him for it, yet did not belong to the order ( Amos 7:14). Of the hundreds trained in the colleges of prophets only sixteen have a place in the canon, for these alone had the special call to the office and God's inspiration qualifying them for it. The college training was but a preparation, then in the case of the few followed God's exclusive work:  Exodus 3:2, Moses;  1 Samuel 3:10, Samuel; Isaiah,  Isaiah 6:8; Jeremiah,  Jeremiah 1:5; Ezekiel.  Ezekiel 2:4.

Each fresh utterance was by "vision" ( Isaiah 6:1) or by "the word of Jehovah" ( Jeremiah 2:1). The prophets so commissioned were the national poets (So David The Psalmist Was Also A Prophet,  Acts 2:30 ) , annalists ( 2 Chronicles 32:32), theocratic patriots (Psalm 48;  2 Chronicles 20:14-17), promoters of spiritual religion (Isaiah 1), extraordinarily authorized expounders of the spirit of the law ( Isaiah 58:3-7; Ezekiel 18;  Micah 6:6-8;  Hosea 6:6;  Amos 5:21) which so many sacrificed to the letter, official pastors, and a religious counterpoise to kingly despotism and idolatry, as Elijah was to Ahab. Their utterances being continued at intervals throughout their lives (as Isaiah in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah) show that they did not earn their reputation as prophets by some one happy guess or oracle, but maintained their prophetical character continuously; which excludes the probability of imposture, time often detecting fraud. Above all, the prophets by God's inspiration foretold concerning Jesus the Messiah ( Matthew 1:22-23 with  Isaiah 7:4;  Isaiah 8:8).

The formula "that it might be fulfilled" implies that the divine word spoken through the prophets ages before produced the result, which followed in the appointed time as necessarily as creation followed from the creative word. Christ appeals to the prophets as fulfilled in Himself:  Matthew 13:14 ( Isaiah 6:9),  Matthew 15:7 ( Isaiah 29:13),  John 5:46;  Luke 24:44. Matthew ( Matthew 3:3) quotes  Isaiah 40:3 as fulfilled in John the Baptist; so  Matthew 4:13-15 with  Isaiah 9:1-2;  Matthew 8:17 with  Isaiah 53:4;  Matthew 12:17 with  Isaiah 42:1. So also Jeremiah,  Matthew 2:18;  Hebrews 8:8; Daniel,  Matthew 24:15; Hosea,  Matthew 2:15;  Romans 9:25; Joel,  Acts 2:17; Amos,  Acts 7:42;  Acts 15:16; Jonah,  Matthew 12:40; Micah,  Matthew 12:7; Habakkuk,  Acts 13:41; Haggai,  Hebrews 12:26; Zechariah,  Matthew 21:5;  Mark 14:27;  John 19:37; Malachi,  Matthew 11:10;  Mark 1:2;  Luke 7:27.

The Psalms are 70 times quoted, and often as predictive. The prophecies concerning Ishmael, Nineveh, Tyre, Egypt, the four empires Babylon, Medo-Persia, Graeco-Macedonia, and Rome, were notoriously promulgated before the event; the fulfillment is dear; it could not have been foreseen by mere human sagacity. The details as to Messiah scattered through so many prophets, yet all converging in Him, the race, nation, tribe, family, birthplace, miracles, humiliation, death, crucifixion with the wicked yet association with the rich at death, resurrection, extension of His seed the church, are so numerous that their minute conformity with the subsequent fact can only be explained by believing that the prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit to foretell the event. What is overwhelmingly convincing is, the Jews are our sacred librarians, who attest the prophets as written ages before, and who certainly would not have corrupted them to confirm Jesus' Messianic claims which they reject. Moreover, the details are so complicated, and seemingly inconsistent, that before the event it would seem impossible to make them coincide in one person.

A "son," yet "the everlasting Father"; a "child," yet "the mighty God"; "Prince of peace," sitting "upon the throne of David," yet coming as Shiloh (The Peace-Giver) when "the sceptre shall depart from Judah"; Son of David, yet Lord of David; a Prophet and Priest, yet also a King; "God's Servant," upon whom He "lays the iniquity of us all," Messiah cut off, yet given by the Ancient of days "an everlasting dominion." The only key that opens this immensely complicated lock is the gospel narrative of Jesus, written ages after the prophets. The absence of greater clearness in the prophets is due to God's purpose to give light enough to guide the willing, to leave darkness enough to confound the willfully blind. Hence the prophecy is not dependent for its interpretation on the prophet; nay, he was often ignorant of the full meaning of his own word ( 2 Peter 1:20-21). Moreover, if the form of the prophecies had been direct declaration the fulfillment would have been liable to frustration. If also the time had been more distinctly marked believers would have been less in a state of continued expectancy.

The prophecies were designedly made up of many parts ( Polumeros ;  Hebrews 12:1); fragmentary and figurative, the temporary and local fulfillment often foreshadowing the Messianic fulfillment. The obscurity, in some parts, of prophecies of which other parts have been plainly fulfilled is designed to exercise our faith, the obscure parts yet awaiting their exhaustive fulfillment; e.g. prophecies combining the first coming and the second coming of Christ, the parts concerning the latter of course yet require patient and prayerful investigation. Moreover, many prophecies, besides their references to events of the times of the sacred writer, look forward to ulterior fulfillments in Messiah and His kingdom; for "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" ( Revelation 19:10). Thus the foretold deliverance from Babylon by Cyrus foreshadows the greater deliverance from the antitypical Babylon by Cyrus' Antitype, Messiah ( Isaiah 44:28;  Isaiah 45:1-5;  Isaiah 45:13;  Isaiah 45:22-25;  Jeremiah 51:6-10;  Jeremiah 51:25; compare  Revelation 18:4;  Revelation 17:4;  Revelation 14:8;  Revelation 8:8).

So the prophet Isaiah's son is the sign of the immediate deliverance of Judah from Rezin and Pekah; but language is used which could not have applied to him, and can only find its full and exhaustive accomplishment in the antitypical Immanuel ( Isaiah 7:14-16;  Isaiah 8:3-12;  Isaiah 8:18;  Isaiah 9:6-7;  Matthew 1:18-23). So too our Lord's prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem is couched in language receiving its exhaustive fulfillment only in the judgments to be inflicted at His second coming (Matthew 24); as in the sky the nearer and the further off heavenly bodies are, to the spectator, projected into the same vault. The primary sense does not exclude the secondary, not even though the sacred writer himself had nothing in his thought; beyond the primary, for the Holy Spirit is the true Author, who often made the writers unconsciously utter words reaching far beyond the primary and literal sense; so  Hosea 11:1, compare  Matthew 2:15; so Caiaphas,  John 11:50-52. They diligently inquired as to the deep significancy of their own words, and were told that the full meaning would only be known in subsequent gospel times ( Daniel 12:8-9;  Zechariah 4:5;  1 Peter 1:10-12).

The prophet, like his Antitype, spoke not of himself ( John 7:17-18;  Numbers 11:17;  Numbers 11:25;  Numbers 11:29;  1 Samuel 10:6;  1 Samuel 19:20;  Numbers 12:6-8). The dream and vision were lower forms of inspiration than Moses enjoyed, namely, "mouth to mouth, not in dark speeches"; directly, without the intervention of dream, vision, or person (compare  Exodus 33:11 with  Joel 2:28;  Daniel 1:17). The prophets did net generally speak in ecstatic unconsciousness, but with self possession, for "the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets" ( 1 Corinthians 14:32); but sometimes they did (Genesis 15; Daniel 7; Daniel 8; Daniel 10; Daniel 11; Daniel 12, "the visions of Daniel"); "the vision of Isaiah" (Isaiah 6); "the vision of Ezekiel" (Ezekiel 1); "the visions of Zechariah" (Zechariah 1; Zechariah 4; Zechariah 5; Zechariah 6); the vision of Peter (Acts 10); of Paul ( Acts 22:17;  Acts 22:2 Corinthians 12); Job ( Job 4:13-16;  Job 33:15-16); John ( Revelation 1:10) "in the Spirit," i.e. in a state of ecstasy, the outer world shut out, the inner spirit being taken possession of by God's Spirit, so that an immediate connection was established with the invisible world.

Whereas the prophet speaks in the Spirit the apocalyptic seer is wholly in the Spirit, he intuitively and directly sees and hears ( Isaiah 6:1;  Zechariah 2:1;  Micah 1:1;  Habakkuk 1:1;  Acts 10:11;  Acts 22:18;  Revelation 1:12); the subjects of the vision are in juxtaposition (As In A Painting) , independent of relations of time. But however various might be the modes of inspiration, the world spoken or written by the inspired prophets equally is God's inspired infallible testimony. Their words, in their public function, were not their own so much as God's ( Haggai 1:13); as private individuals they searched diligently into their far-reaching meaning. Their words prove in the fulfillment to be not of their own origination, therefore not of their own individual (compare  1 Peter 1:10-12) interpretation ( Idias Epiluseos Ou Ginetai ), but of the Holy Spirit's by whom they were "moved"; therefore we must look for the Holy Spirit's illumination while we "take heed to the word of prophecy (Now Become) more sure" (Through The Fulfillment Of Part Of It Already, Namely, That Concerning Christ'S Sufferings; And Through The Pledge Given In His Transfiguration Witnessed By Peter, That The Rest Will Come To Pass, Namely, His Foretold Glory:  2 Peter 1:19-21 Greek, Compare  2 Samuel 23:2 ;  Hosea 9:7 ) .

Messianic prophecy. Prophecy and miracles are the direct evidences of the truth of revelation; the morals, propagation, and suitableness of Christianity to man's needs, combined together with the two former, are its irrefragable proofs. All subsequent prophecy of Messiah develops the primary one ( Genesis 3:15). This only defined the Saviour as about to be the woman's seed. Noah's prophecy that He should be of the Semitic branch of the human race, ( Genesis 9:26;  Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 22:18;  Genesis 28:14) of the family of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, ( Genesis 49:10) of the tribe of Judah, a Shiloh or tranquilizer, yet one who will smite with a sceptre and come as a star ( Numbers 24:17); a prophet, like Moses ( Deuteronomy 18:15); a king, of David's seed, reigning forever ( 2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 18; 61; 89); the Son of God, as well as Son of David ( Psalms 2:2;  Psalms 2:6-7;  Psalms 2:8;  Psalms 110:1-4, etc.).

Anointed by Jehovah as David's Lord, King of Zion, Inheritor of the whole earth, dashing in pieces His enemies like a potter's vessel with a rod of iron, "it Priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"; severely afflicted, "hands and feet pierced," betrayed by "His own familiar friend," "His garments parted and lots cast for His vesture," "His ears opened" to "come" and "do God's will" at all costs, when God would not have animal "sacrifice" (Psalm 22; Psalm 40; Psalm 55; Psalm 69; Psalm 102; Psalm 109). Raised from the grave without His flesh seeing corruption (Psalm 16; Psalm 17); triumphant King, espousing the church His bride (Psalm 45); reigning in peace and righteousness from the river to the ends of the earth (Psalm 72). There are four groups of the 16 prophets.

Of the northern Israel, Hosea, Amos, Joel, Jonah; of Judah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah; prophets of the captivity, Ezekiel and Daniel; prophets of the restoration, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Each adds some fresh trait to complete the delineation of Messiah.  Isaiah 52:13-15; Isaiah 53, is the most perfect portrait of His vicarious sufferings, the way of salvation to us and of consequent glory to Him, and eternal satisfaction in seeing His spiritual seed. (See Isaiah .) The arrangement in the canon is chronological mainly. But as the twelve lesser prophets are regarded as one work, Jeremiah and Ezekiel are placed at the close of the greater prophets, and before the lesser, whose three last prophets are subsequent to Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Hosea being longest of the lesser is placed first of them, though not so chronologically.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

PROPHET (in NT). 1. The spirit of prophecy, as it meets us under the Old Dispensation, runs on into the New, and there are prophets in the NT who are properly to be described as OT prophets . Such as Anna the prophetess (  Luke 2:36; cf. Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah in the OT); Zacharias, who is expressly said to have prophesied (  Luke 1:67 ff.); Simeon, whose Nunc Dimittis is an utterance of an unmistakably prophetic nature (  Luke 2:25 ff.) But above all there is John the Baptist, who was not only recognized by the nation as a great prophet (  Matthew 14:5;   Matthew 21:26 ,   Mark 11:32 ,   Luke 20:6 ), but was declared by Jesus to be the greatest prophet of the former dispensation, while yet less than the least in the Kingdom of heaven (  Matthew 11:9 ff. =   Luke 7:26 ff.)

2. Jesus Himself was a prophet. It was in this character that the Messiah had been promised (  Deuteronomy 18:16;   Deuteronomy 18:18; cf.   Acts 3:22;   Acts 7:37 ), and had been looked for by many (  John 6:14 ). During His public ministry it was as a prophet that He was known by the people (  Matthew 21:11; cf.   Luke 7:16 ), and described by His own disciples (  Luke 24:19 ), and even designated by Himself (  Matthew 13:57 ,   Luke 13:33 ). And according to the teaching of the NT, the exalted Christ still continues to exercise His prophetic function, guiding His disciples into all the truth by the Spirit whom He sends (  John 16:7;   John 16:13 ), and ‘building up the body’ by bestowing upon it Apostles, prophets, and teachers (  Ephesians 4:8 ff.).

3. From the prophetic office of her exalted Head there flowed the prophetic endowment of the Church . Joel had foretold a time when the gift of prophecy should be conferred upon all (  Joel 2:28 f.), and at Pentecost we see that word fulfilled (  Acts 2:16 ff.). Ideally, all the Lord’s people should be prophets. For ‘the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy’ (  Revelation 19:10 ), and in proportion as Christians are filled with the Pentecostal Spirit they will desire, like the members of the newborn Church, to bear testimony to their Master (cf.   Numbers 11:29 ,   1 Corinthians 14:5 ).

4. But even in the Spirit-filled Church diversities of gifts quickly emerged, and a special power of prophetic utterance was bestowed upon certain individuals. A prophetic ministry arose, a ministry of Divine inspiration, which has to be distinguished from the official ministry of human appointment (see art. Ministry). In a more general sense, all those who ‘spoke the word of God’ (  Hebrews 13:7 ) were prophets. The ministry of the word (  Acts 6:4 ) was a prophetic ministry, and so we find St. Paul himself described as a prophet long after he had become an Apostle (  Acts 13:1 ).

5. But in a more precise use of the term we find the specific NT prophet distinguished from others who ‘speak the word of God,’ and in particular from the Apostle and the teacher (  1 Corinthians 12:28 f., cf.   Ephesians 4:11 ). The distinction seems to be that while the Apostle was a missionary to the unbelieving (  Galatians 2:7-8 ), the prophet was a messenger to the Church (  1 Corinthians 14:4;   1 Corinthians 14:22 ); and while the teacher explained or enforced truth that was already possessed (  Hebrews 5:12 ), the prophet was recognized by the spiritual discernment of his hearers (  1 Corinthians 2:15;   1 Corinthians 14:29 ,   1 John 4:1 ) as the Divine medium of fresh revelations (  1 Corinthians 14:25;   1 Corinthians 14:30-31 ,   Ephesians 3:6; cf. Did . iv. 1).

Three main types of prophesying may be distinguished in the NT ( a ) First, there is what may be called the ordinary ministry of prophecy in the Church, described by St. Paul as ‘edification and comfort and consolation’ (  1 Corinthians 14:3 ). ( b ) Again, there is, on special occasions, the authoritative announcement of the Divine will in a particular case, as when the prophets of Antioch, in obedience to the Holy Ghost, separate Barnabas and Saul for the work of missionary evangelization (  Acts 13:1 ff.; cf.   Acts 22:21;   Acts 16:5 ff.). ( c ) Rarely there is the prediction of a future event, as in the case of Agabus (  Acts 11:28;   Acts 21:10; cf. v.   Acts 21:4 ).

Of Christian prophets in the specific sense several are mentioned in the NT: Judas and Silas ( Acts 15:32 ), the prophets at Antioch (  Acts 13:1 ), Agabus and the prophets from Jerusalem (  Acts 11:27 f.,   Acts 21:10 ), the four daughters of Philip the evangelist (  Acts 21:9 ). But these few names give us no conception of the numbers and influence of the prophets in the Apostolic Church. For light upon these points we have to turn especially to the Pauline Epistles ( e.g. 1Co 12:28 f.,   1 Corinthians 12:14 ,   Ephesians 2:20;   Ephesians 3:5;   Ephesians 4:11 ). Probably they were to be found in every Christian community, and there might even be several of them in a single congregation (  1 Corinthians 14:29 ). Certain of them, possessed no doubt of conspicuous gifts, moved about from church to church (  Acts 11:27 f.,   Acts 21:10; Cf.   Matthew 10:41 , Did . xiii. 1). Others, endowed with literary powers, would commit their ‘visions and revelations’ to writing, just as some prophets of the OT had done, though of this literary type of prophecy we have only one example in the NT the Book of Revelation (cf.   Revelation 1:3;   Revelation 22:7;   Revelation 22:9-10;   Revelation 22:19 ).

Quite a flood of light is shed upon the subject of the NT prophets by the evidence of the Didache . We see there that about the end of the first century or the beginning of the second the prophet is still held in the highest estimation (xi. 7, xiii.), and takes precedence, wherever he goes of the local ministry of bishops and deacons (x. 7). But we also see the presence in the Church of those influences which gradually led to the elimination of the prophetic ministry. One influence is the abundance of false prophets (xi. 8 ff.; cf.   Matthew 7:15;   Matthew 24:11;   Matthew 24:24 ,   1 John 4:1 ), tending to make the Church suspicious of all prophetic assumptions, and to bring prophecy as such into disrepute. Another is the growing importance of the official ministry, which begins to claim the functions previously accorded to the prophets alone (xv. 1). Into the hands of the official class all power in the Church gradually passed, and in spite of the outburst of the old prophetic claims, during the latter half of the 2nd cent., in connexion with the Montanist movement, the prophet in the distinctive NT sense disappears entirely from the Catholic Church, while the ministry of office takes the place of the ministry of inspiration.

J. C. Lambert.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [4]

Prophet. The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nabi , derived from a verb signifying, "To Bubble Forth", like a fountain; hence, the word means One Who Announces, or Pours Forth, the declarations of God. The English word comes from the Greek prophetes ( profetes ), which signifies, in classical Greek, One Who Speaks For Another, especially One Who Speaks For A God, and so interprets his will to man; hence, its essential meaning is "An Interpreter".

The use of the word in its modern sense as "One Who Predicts" is post-classical. The larger sense of Interpretation has not, however, been lost. In fact, the English word has been used in a closer sense. The different meanings, or shades of meanings, in which the abstract noun is employed in Scripture have been drawn out by Locke as follows: "Prophecy comprehends three things: prediction; singing by the dictate of the Spirit; and understanding and explaining the mysterious, hidden sense of Scripture by an immediate illumination and motion of the Spirit."

Order and office. - The sacerdotal order was originally the instrument, by which the members of the Jewish theocracy were taught, and governed in things spiritual. Teaching by act and teaching by word were alike their task. But during the time of the judges, the priesthood sank into a state of degeneracy, and the people were no longer affected by the acted lessons of the ceremonial service. They required less enigmatic warnings and exhortations, under these circumstances, a new moral power was evoked; the Prophetic Order.

Samuel, himself Levite of the family of Kohath,  1 Chronicles 6:28, and almost certainly a priest, was the instrument used, at once, for effecting a reform in the sacerdotal order,  1 Chronicles 9:22, and for giving to the prophets, a position of importance, which they had never before held. Nevertheless, it is not to be supposed that Samuel created the prophetic order as a new thing before unknown. The germs, both of the prophetic and of the regal order, are found in the law as given to the Israelites by Moses,  Deuteronomy 13:1;  Deuteronomy 17:18;  Deuteronomy 18:20, but they were not yet developed, because there was not yet the demand for them.

Samuel took measures to make his work of restoration permanent, as well as, effective for the moment. For this purpose, he instituted companies or colleges of prophets. One, we find in his lifetime at Ramah,  1 Samuel 19:19-20, others, afterward, at Bethel,  2 Kings 2:3, Jericho,  2 Kings 2:2;  2 Kings 2:5, Gilgal;  2 Kings 4:38, and elsewhere.  2 Kings 6:1. Their constitution and object similar to those of theological colleges. Into them were gathered promising students, and here, they were trained for the office which they were , afterward, destined to fulfill. So successful were these institutions that, from the time of Samuel to the closing of the canon of the Old Testament, there seems never to have been wanting, due supply of men to keep up the line of official prophets.

Their chief subject of study was, no doubt, the law and its interpretation; oral, as distinct from symbolical, teaching being, thenceforward, tacitly transferred from the priestly to the prophetic order. Subsidiary subjects of instruction were music and sacred poetry, both of which had been connected with prophecy from the time of Moses,  Exodus 15:20, and the judges.  Judges 4:4;  Judges 5:1.

But, to belong to the prophetic order, and to possess the prophetic gift, are not convertible terms. Generally, the inspired prophet came from the college of prophets, and belonged to prophetic order; but this was not always the case. Thus, Amos, though called to the prophetic office, did not belong to the prophetic order.  Amos 7:14 . The sixteen prophets, whose books are in the canon, have that place of honor because they were endowed with the prophetic gift as well as ordinarily, (so far as we know), belonging to the prophetic order.

Characteristics. - What then are the characteristics of the sixteen prophets thus called, and commissioned, and intrusted with the messages of God to his people?

They were the national poets of Judea.

They were annalists and historians. A great portion of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, of Daniel of Jonah, of Haggai, is direct or in direct history.

They were preachers of patriotism, - their patriotism being founded on the religious motive.

They were preachers of morals and of spiritual religion. The system of morals put forward by the prophets, if not higher or sterner or purer than that of the law, is more plainly declared, and with greater, because now more needed, vehemence of diction.

They were extraordinary, but yet authorized exponents of the law.

They held a pastoral or quasi-pastoral office.

They were a political power in the state.

But the prophets were something more than national poets and annalists, preachers of patriotism moral teachers, exponents of the law, pastors and politicians. Their most essential characteristic is that they were instruments of revealing God's will to man, as in other ways, so specially by predicting future events, and in particular, foretelling the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ , and the redemption effected by him. We have a series of prophecies which are so applicable to the person and earthly life of Jesus Christ as to be thereby shown to have been designed to apply to him. And, if they were designed to apply to him, prophetical prediction is proved. Objections have been urged. We notice only one, namely, vagueness. It has been said that the prophecies are too darkly and vaguely worded to be proved predictive, by the events which they are alleged to foretell. But to this might be answered.

That God never forces men to believe, but that there is such a union of definiteness and vagueness in the prophecies, as to enable those who are willing to discover the truth, while the willfully blind are not forcibly constrained to see it.

That, had the prophecies been couched in the form of direct declarations, their fulfillment would have, thereby, been rendered impossible or at least capable of frustration.

That the effect of prophecy would have been far less beneficial to believers, as being less adapted to keep them in a state of constant expectation.

That the Messiah of revelation could not be so clearly portrayed in his varied character as God and man, as prophet, priest and king, if he had been the mere "teacher."

That the state of the prophets, at the time of receiving the divine revelation, was, such as necessarily, to make their predictions fragmentary figurative, and abstracted from the relations of time.

That some portions of the prophecies were intended to be of double application, and some portions, to be understood only on their fulfillment. Compare  John 14:29;  Ezekiel 36:33.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [5]

1: Προφήτης (Strong'S #4396 — Noun Masculine — prophetes — prof-ay'-tace )

"one who speaks forth or openly" (see Prophecy , A), "a proclaimer of a divine message," denoted among the Greeks an interpreter of the oracles of the gods. In the Sept. it is the translation of the word roeh, "a seer;"  1—Samuel 9:9 , indicating that the "prophet" was one who had immediate intercourse with God. It also translates the word nabhi, meaning "either one in whom the message from God springs forth" or "one to whom anything is secretly communicated." Hence, in general, "the prophet" was one upon whom the Spirit of God rested,  Numbers 11:17-29 , one, to whom and through whom God speaks,  Numbers 12:2;  Amos 3:7,8 . In the case of the OT prophets their messages were very largely the proclamation of the Divine purposes of salvation and glory to be accomplished in the future; the "prophesying" of the NT "prophets" was both a preaching of the Divine counsels of grace already accomplished and the foretelling of the purposes of God in the future.

 Matthew 5:12 Mark 6:15 Luke 4:27 John 8:52 Romans 11:3 Matthew 10:41 21:46 Mark 6:4 Matthew 21:26 Luke 1:76 Acts 13:1 15:32 21:10 1—Corinthians 12:28,29 14:29,32,37 Ephesians 2:20 3:5 4:11 John 1:21 6:14 7:40 Acts 3:22 7:37 Mark 6:15 Luke 7:16 Luke 24:19  John 4:19 9:17 Revelation 11:10,18 Titus 1:12 Luke 24:27 Acts 8:28

2: Ψευδοπροφήτης (Strong'S #5578 — Noun Masculine — pseudoprophetes — psyoo-dop-rof-ay'-tace )

"a false prophet," is used of such (a) in OT times,  Luke 6:26;  2—Peter 2:1; (b) in the present period since Pentecost,  Matthew 7:15;  24:11,24;  Mark 13:22;  Acts 13:6;  1—John 4:1; (c) with reference to a false "prophet" destined to arise as the supporter of the "Beast" at the close of this age,  Revelation 16:13;  19:20;  20:10 (himself described as "another beast,"   Revelation 13:11 ).

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [6]

A person who foretells future events. It is particularly applied to such inspired persons among the Jews as were commissioned by God to declare his will and purposes to that people.

See PROPHECY. False Prophets.

See IMPOSTORS; and Josephus's Hist. of the Jews. Some of the Prophets, an appellation given to young men who were educated in the schools or colleges under a proper master, who was commonly, if not always, an inspired prophet in the knowledge of religion, and in sacred music, and thus were qualified to be public preachers,  1 Samuel 10:1-27 :   1 Samuel 11:1-15 :  2 Samuel 19:1-43 :   2 Kings 2:1-25 :

King James Dictionary [7]

PROPH'ET, n. L. propheta.

1. One that foretells future events a predicter a foreteller. 2. In Scripture, a person illuminated, inspired or instructed by God to announce future events as Moses, Elijah, David, Isaiah, &c. 3. An interpreter one that explains or communicates sentiments.  Exodus 7 4. One who pretends to foretell an imposter as a false prophet.  Acts 13 .

of the prophets, among the Israelites, a school or college in which young men were educated and qualified for public teachers. These students were called sons of the prophets.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

  • The prophets of the Restoration, viz., Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Prophet'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Webster's Dictionary [9]

    (1): ( n.) One who prophesies, or foretells events; a predicter; a foreteller.

    (2): ( n.) One inspired or instructed by God to speak in his name, or announce future events, as, Moses, Elijah, etc.

    (3): ( n.) An interpreter; a spokesman.

    (4): ( n.) A mantis.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [10]

    See Prophecy

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

    a person who acts as the organ of divine communication with men, especially with regard to the future. He differs from a priest in representing the divine side of this mediation, while the priest rather acts from the human side. The following article therefore discusses chiefly the personal relations of the prophet himself. (See Prophecy).

    I. The Title In Scripture. The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is נָבַיא ( Nabi ) , derived from the verb נָבָא , connected by Gesenius with נָבִע , "to bubble forth," like a fountain. If this etymology be correct, the substantive would signify either a person who, as it were, involuntarily bursts forth with spiritual utterances under the divine influence (comp.  Psalms 40:1, "My heart is Bubbling Up of a good matter"), or simply one who pours forth words. The analogy of the word נָט ִ ( Natdph ) , which has the force of "dropping" as honey, and is used by  Micah 2:6;  Micah 2:11,  Ezekiel 21:2, and  Amos 7:16 in the sense of prophesying, points to the last signification. The verb נָבָא is found only in the Niphal and hithpael, a peculiarity which it shares with many other words expressive of speech (comp. loquifari, vociferari, concionari, Φθἑγγομαι , as well as Μαντεύομαι and Vaticinari ) . Bunsen ( Gott In Geschichte, p. 141) and Davidson ( Intr. Old Test. 2, 430) suppose Nabi to signify the man To Whom Announcements Are Made by God, i.e. inspired.  Exodus 4:1-17 is the classical passage as to the meaning of this word. There God says to Moses, "Aaron shall be thy נָבַיא ( Nabi ) unto the people, and thou shalt be unto him instead of God." The sense is. "Aaron shall speak what thou shalt communicate to him." This appellation implies, then, the prophet's relation to God: he speaks not of his own accord, but what the Spirit puts into his mouth. Thus נָבַיא ( Nabi ) is an adjective of passive signification: he who has been divinely inspired, who has received from God the revelations which he proclaims. But it is more in accordance with the usage of the word to regard it as signifying (actively) one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God. The latter signification is preferred by Ewald, Havernick, Oehler, Hengstenberg, Bleek, Lee, Pusey, M'Caul, and the great majority of Biblical critics. We have the word in Barnabas ( בִּרנָבַיא ), which is rendered Υἱὸς Παρακλήσεως ( Acts 4:36), one whom God has qualified to impart consolation, light, and strength to others. Augustine says, "The prophet of God is nothing else nisi enunciator verborum Dei hominibus. So Heidegger, "Nabi is properly every utterer of the words of another, not from his own, but from another's influence and will."

    Two other Hebrew words are used to designate a prophet- רֹאֶה ( Nre/B ) and חֹזֶה ( Chozeh ) -Both signifying One Who Sees. They are rendered in the A.V. by "seer;" in the Sept. usually by Βλέπων or Ὁρῶν , sometimes by Προφήτης ( 1 Chronicles 26:28;  2 Chronicles 16:7;  2 Chronicles 16:10). The three words seem to be contrasted with each other in  1 Chronicles 29:29. "The acts of David the king, first and last, behold they are written in the book of Samuel the seer ( Roeh ) , and in the book of Nathan the prophet ( Nabi ) , and in the book of Gad the seer ( Chozeh ) ." Roeh is a title almost appropriated to Samuel. It is only used ten times, and in seven of these it is applied to Samuel ( 1 Samuel 9:9;  1 Samuel 9:11;  1 Samuel 9:18-19;  1 Chronicles 9:22;  1 Chronicles 26:28;  1 Chronicles 29:29). On two other occasions it is applied to Hanani ( 2 Chronicles 16:7;  2 Chronicles 16:10). Once it is used by  Isaiah 30:10 with no reference to any particular person. It was superseded in general use by the word Nabi, which Samuel (himself entitled Nabi as well as Roeh [ 1 Samuel 3:20;  2 Chronicles 35:18]) appears to have revived after a period of desuetude ( 1 Samuel 9:9), and to have applied to the prophets organized by him. The verb רָאָה , from which it is derived, is the common prose word signifying "to see:" חָזָה whence the substantive חֹזֶה (chozeh) is derived-is more poetical, q.d. "to gaze." Chozeh is rarely found except in the books of the Chronicles, but חָזוֹן is the word constantly used for the prophetical vision. It is found in the Pentateuch, in Samuel, in the Chronicles, in Job, and in most of the prophets. In  1 Samuel 9:9 we read, "He that is now called a prophet ( Nabi ) was beforetime called a seer ( Roeh ) ;" from whence Stanley ( Lect. On Jewish Church ) has concluded that roeh was "the oldest designation of the prophetic office," "superseded by nabi shortly after Samuel's time, when nabi first came into use" (ibid. 18, 19). This seems opposed to the fact that nabi is the word commonly used in the Pentateuch, whereas roeh does not appear until the days of Samuel. The passage in the book of Samuel is clearly a parenthetical insertion, perhaps made by the nabi Nathan (or whoever was the original author of the book), perhaps added at a later date, with the view of explaining how it was that Samuel bore the title of roeh, instead of the now usual appellation of nabi. To the writer the days of Samuel were "beforetime," and he explains that in those ancient days that is, the days of Samuel the word used for prophet was roeh, not nabi. But that does not imply that roeh was the primitive word, and that nabi first came into use subsequently to Samuel (see Hengstenberg, Beitrage zur Einleitung ins A. T. 3, 335). Stanley represents chozeh as "another antique title;" but on no sufficient grounds. Chozdh is first found in  2 Samuel 24:11; so that it does not seem to have come into use until roeh had almost disappeared. It is also found in the books of Kings ( 2 Kings 17:13) and Chronicles (frequently), in  Amos 7:12,  Isaiah 19:10,  Micah 3:7, and the derivatives of the verb Chazah are used by the prophets to designate their visions down to the Captivity (comp.  Isaiah 1:1;  Daniel 8:1;  Zechariah 13:4). The derivatives of Raah are rarer, and, as being prose words, are chiefly used by Daniel (comp.  Ezekiel 1:1;  Daniel 10:7). On examination we find that Nabi existed before and after and alongside of Roeh and Chozeh, but that Chozehl was somewhat more modern than Roeh.

    Whether there is any difference in the usage of these three words, and, if any, what that difference is, has been much debated (see Witsius, Miscell. Sacra, i, 1, § 19; Carpzovius, Introd. ad Libros Canon. V T. 3, 1, § 2; Winer, Real-Wortenbuch, art. "Propheten"). Havernick (Einleitung, Th. i; roeh. i. § 56) considers nabi to express the title of those who officially belonged to the prophetic order, while roeh and chozeh denote those who received a prophetical revelation. Dr. Lee (Inspiration of Holy Scripture, p. 543) agrees with Hivernick in his explanation of nabi, but he identifies roeh in meaning rather with nabi than with chozeh. He further throws out a suggestion that chozeh is the special designation of the prophet attached to the royal household. In  2 Samuel 24:11, Gad is described as "the prophet (nabi) Gad, David's seer (chozeh)," and elsewhere he is called "David's seer (chozeh)" ( 1 Chronicles 21:9), "the king's seer ( Chozeh ) " ( 2 Chronicles 29:25). "The case of Gad," Dr. Lee thinks, "affords the clew to the difficulty, as it clearly indicates that attached to the royal establishment there was usually an individual styled "the king's seer," who might at the same time be a Nabi." The suggestion is ingenious (see, in addition to places quoted above,  1 Chronicles 25:5;  1 Chronicles 29:29;  2 Chronicles 29:30;  2 Chronicles 35:15), but it was only David (possibly also Manasseh,  2 Chronicles 33:18) who, so far as we read, had this seer attached to his person; and in any case there is nothing in the word Chozeh to denote the relation of the prophet to the king, but only in the connection in which it stands with the word king. On the whole, it would seem that the same persons are designated by the three words nabi, roeh, and chozeh the last two titles being derived from the prophets' power of seeing the visions presented to them by God; the first from their function of revealing and proclaiming God's truth to men. When Gregory Naz. (Or. 28) calls Ezekiel Τῶν Μεγάλων Ἐπόπτης Καὶ Ἐξηγητὴς Μυστηρίων , he gives a sufficiently exact translation of the two titles Chozeh or Roeh, and Nabi.

    Sometimes the prophets are called צוֹפַאַים ( Tsophiim ) , i.e. those who espy. explore for the people, a "watchman" ( Jeremiah 6:17;  Ezekiel 3:17;  Ezekiel 33:7). Such also is the usage of שׁוֹמֵר (Shomer ) , i.e. "a watchman" ( Isaiah 21:11;  Isaiah 62:6); and Roiim, i.e. shepherds ( Zechariah 11:5;  Zechariah 8:16), in reference to the spiritual care and religious nurture of the people. Other names, as "man of God," "servant of Jehovah," and now and then "angel," or "messenger of Jehovah," etc., do not belong to the prophets as such, but only in so far as they are of the number of servants and instruments of God. The phrase "man of the Spirit" ( רוִּח ,  Hosea 9:7) explains the agency by which the communication came. In the appointment of the seventy elders the Lord says to Moses, "I will take of the Spirit which is upon thee, and will put it on them" ( Numbers 11:17). So with regard to Eldad and Medad, "the Spirit rested upon them,... and they prophesied in the camp." The resting of the Spirit upon them was equivalent to the gift of prophecy (see  2 Peter 1:21).

    The word nabi is uniformly translated in the Sept. by Προφήτης , and in the A.V. by "prophet." In classical Greek, Προφήτης signifies One Who Speaks For Another, specially One Who Speaks For A God, and so interprets his will to man (Liddell and Scott, s.v.). Hence its essential meaning is" an interpreter." Thus Apollo is a Προφήτης , as being the interpreter of Zeus (Eschylus, Eum. 19). Poets are the Prophets of the Muses, as being their interpreters (Plato, Phcedr. 262 d). The Προφῆται attached to heathen temples are so named from their interpreting the oracles delivered by the inspired and unconscious Μάντεις (Plato, Tim. 72 b; Herod. 7:111, note [ed. Bahr]). We have Plato's authority for deriving Μάντις from Μαίνομαι ( L.C. ). The use of the word Προφήτης in its modern sense is post-classical, and is derived from the Sept.

    From the mediaeval use of the word Προφητεία , Prophecy passed into the English language in the sense of Prediction, and this sense it has retained as its popular meaning (see Richardson, s.v.). The larger sense of Interpretation has not, however, been lost. Thus we find in Bacon, "An exercise commonly called prophesying, which was this: that the ministers within a precinct did meet upon a week-day in some principal town, where there was some ancient grave minister that was president, and an auditory admitted of gentlemen or other persons of leisure. Then every minister successively. beginning with the youngest, did handle one and the same part of Scripture, spending severally some quarter of an hour or better, and in the whole some two hours. And so the exercise being begun and concluded with prayer, and the president giving a text for the next meeting, the assembly was dissolved" (Pacification of the Church). This meaning of the word is made further familiar to us by the title of Jeremy Taylor's treatise On Liberty of Prophesying. Nor was there any risk of the title of a book published in our own days, On the Prophetical Office of the Church (Oxf. 1838), being misunderstood. In fact, the English word prophet, like the word inspiration, has always been used in a larger and in a closer sense. In the larger sense our Lord Jesus Christ is a "prophet," Moses is a "prophet," Mohammed is a "prophet." The expression means that they proclaimed and published a new religious dispensation. In a similar, though not identical sense, the Church is said to have a "prophetical," i.e. an expository and interpretative, office. But in its closer sense the word, according to usage, though not according to etymology, involves the idea of foresight. This is and always has been its more usual acceptation. The different meanings, or shades of meaning, in which the abstract noun is employed in Scripture have been drawn out by Locke as follows: "Prophecy comprehends three things: prediction; singing by the dictate of the Spirit; and understanding and explaining the mysterious, hidden sense of Scripture by an immediate illumination and motion of the Spirit" (Paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 12, note, p. 121 [Lond. 1742]). It is in virtue of this last signification of the word that the prophets of the New Test. are so called (1 Corinthians 12); by virtue of the second that the sons of Asaph, etc., are said to have "prophesied with a harp" (25:3), and Miriam and Deborah are termed "prophetesses." That the idea of potential if not actual prediction enters into the conception expressed by the word prophecy, when that word is used to designate the function of the Hebrew prophets, seems to be proved by the following passages of Scripture:  Deuteronomy 18:22;  Jeremiah 28:9;  Acts 2:30;  Acts 3:18-21;  1 Peter 1:10;  2 Peter 1:19-20;  2 Peter 3:2. Etymologically, however, it is certain that neither prescience nor prediction is implied by the term used in the Hebrew language. But it seems to be incorrect to say that the English word was "originally" used in the wider sense of "preaching," and that it became "limited" to the meaning of "predicting" in the 17th century, in consequence of "an etymological mistake" (Stanley, Lect. 19, 20). The word entered into the English language in its sense of predicting. It could not have been otherwise, for at the time of the formation of the English language the word Προφητεία had, by usage, assumed popularly the meaning of prediction. We find it ordinarily employed by early as well as by late writers in this sense (see Polydore Virgil, Hist. of England, 4:161 [Camden ed. 1846]; Coventry Mysteries, p. 65 [Shakespeare Soc. ed. 1841]). It is probable that the meaning was "limited" to "prediction" as much and as little before the 17th century as it has been since.

    II. The Prophetical Order.

    1. Its Historical Development. Generally speaking, every one was a prophet to whom God communicated his mind in this peculiar manner. Thus, e.g. Abraham is called a prophet ( Genesis 20:7), not, as is commonly thought, on account of general revelations granted him by God, but because such as he received were in the special form described; as, indeed, in chap. 15 it is expressly stated that divine communications were made to him in Visions and Dreams. The patriarchs as a class are in the same manner called prophets ( Psalms 105:15). Moses is more specifically a prophet, as being a proclaimer of a new dispensation, a revealer of God's will, and in virtue of his divinely inspired songs (Exodus 15; Deuteronomy 32, 33; Psalms 90); but his main work was not prophetical, and he is therefore formally distinguished from prophets ( Numbers 12:6) as well as classed with them ( Deuteronomy 18:15;  Deuteronomy 34:10). Aaron is the prophet of Moses ( Exodus 7:1); Miriam ( Exodus 15:20) is a prophetess; and we find the prophetic gift in the elders who "prophesied" when "the Spirit of the Lord rested upon them," and in Eldad and Medad, who "prophesied in the camp" ( Numbers 11:27). At the time of the sedition of Miriam, the possible existence of prophets is recognised ( Numbers 12:6).

    When the Mosaic economy had been established, a new element was introduced. The sacerdotal caste then became the instrument by which the members of the Jewish theocracy were taught and governed in things spiritual. Feast and fast, sacrifice and offering, rite and ceremony, constituted a varied and ever-recurring system of training and teaching by type and symbol. To the priests, too, was intrusted the work of "teaching the children of Israel all the statutes which the Lord hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses" ( Leviticus 10:11). Teaching by act and teaching by word were alike their task. This office they adequately fulfilled for some hundred or more years after the giving of the law at Mount Sinai. But during the time of the Judges the priesthood sank into a state of degeneracy, and the people were no longer affected by the acted lessons of the ceremonial service. They required less enigmatic warnings and exhortations. Under these circumstances a new moral power was evoked- the regular Prophetic Line. Special functionaries of this kind had from time to time already appeared. In the days of the Judges we find that Deborah ( Judges 4:4) was a prophetess; a prophet ( Judges 6:8) rebuked and exhorted the Israelites when oppressed by the Midianites; and in Samuel's childhood "a man of God" predicted to Eli the death of his two sons, and the curse that was to fall on his descendants ( 1 Samuel 2:27). But it was now time for a more formal institution of the prophetic order. Samuel, himself a Levite, of the family of Kohath ( 1 Chronicles 6:28), and certainly acting as a priest, was the instrument used at once for effecting a reform in the sacerdotal order ( 1 Chronicles 9:22), and for giving to the prophets a position of influence which they had never before held. So important was the work wrought by him that he is classed in Holy Scripture with Moses ( Jeremiah 15:1;  Psalms 99:6;  Acts 3:24), Samuel being the great religious reformer and organizer of the prophetical order, as Moses was the great legislator and founder of the priestly rule. Nevertheless, it is not to be supposed that Samuel created the prophetic order as a new thing before unknown. The germs both of the prophetic and of the regal order are found in the law as given to the Israelites by Moses ( Deuteronomy 13:1;  Deuteronomy 18:20;  Deuteronomy 17:18), but they were not yet developed, because there was not yet the demand for them. Samuel, who evolved the one, himself saw the evolution of the other. It is a vulgar error respecting Jewish history to suppose that there was an antagonism between the prophets and the priests. There is not a trace of such antagonism. Isaiah may denounce a wicked hierarchy ( Isaiah 1:10), but it is because it is wicked, not because it is a hierarchy. Malachi "sharply reproves" the priests ( Malachi 2:1), but it is in order to support the priesthood (comp. 1, 14). Mr. F. W. Newman even designates Ezekiel's writings as "hard sacerdotalism," "tedious and unedifying as Leviticus itself" ( Hebr. Monarch. p. 330). The prophetical order was, in truth, supplemental, not antagonistic, to the sacerdotal. (See Samuel).

    Samuel took measures to make his work of restoration permanent as well as effective for the moment. For this purpose he instituted companies, or colleges of prophets. One we find in his lifetime at Ramah ( 1 Samuel 19:19-20); others afterwards at Bethel ( 2 Kings 2:3), Jericho ( 2 Kings 2:5), Gilgal ( 2 Kings 4:38), and elsewhere ( 2 Kings 6:1). Their constitution and object were similar to those of theological colleges. Into them were gathered promising students, and here they were trained for the office which they were afterwards destined to fulfil. So successful were these institutions that from the time of Samuel to the closing of the Canon of the Old Test. there seems never to have been wanting a due supply of men to keep up the line of official prophets. There appears to be no sufficient ground for the common statement that after the schism the colleges existed only in the Israelitish kingdom, or for Knobel's supposition that they ceased with Elisha (Prophetismus, 2, 39), nor again for Bishop Lowth's statement that "they existed from the earliest times of the Hebrew republic" (Sacred Poetry, lect. 18), or for M. Nicolas's assertion that their previous establishment can be inferred from 1 Samuel 8, 9, 10 (Etudes Critiques sur la Bible, p. 365). We have, however, no actual proof of their existence except in the days of Samuel and of Elijah and Elisha. The apocryphal books of the Maccabees (1, 4:46; 9:27; 14:41) and of Ecclesiasticus (36:15) represent them as extinct.

    The colleges appear to have consisted of students differing in number. Sometimes they were very numerous ( 1 Kings 18:4;  1 Kings 22:6;  2 Kings 2:16). One elderly, or leading prophet, presided over them ( 1 Samuel 19:20), called their father ( 1 Samuel 10:12), or master ( 2 Kings 2:3), who was apparently admitted to his office by the ceremony of anointing ( 1 Kings 19:16;  Isaiah 61:1;  Psalms 105:15). They were called his sons. Their chief subject of study was, no doubt, the law and its interpretation; oral, as distinct from symbolical, teaching being henceforward tacitly transferred from the priestly to the prophetical order. Subsidiary subjects of instruction were music and sacred poetry, both of which had been connected with prophecy from the time of Moses ( Exodus 15:20) and the Judges ( Judges 4:4;  Judges 5:1). The prophets that meet Saul "came down from the high place with a psaltery and a tabret, and a pipe and a harp before them" ( 1 Samuel 10:5). Elijah calls a minstrel to evoke the prophetic gift in himself ( 2 Kings 3:15). David "separates to the service of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who should Prophesy with harps and with psalteries and with cymbals.... All these were under the hands of their father for song in the house of the Lord with cymbals, psalteries, and harps for the service of the house of God" ( 1 Chronicles 25:16). Hymns, or sacred songs, are found in the books of  Jonah 2:2,  Isaiah 12:1;  Isaiah 26:1,  Habakkuk 3:2. It was probably the duty of the prophetical students to compose verses to be sung in the Temple (see Lowth, Sacred Poetry Of The Hebrews, lect. 18). Having been themselves trained and taught. the prophets, whether still residing within their college or having left its precincts, had the task of teaching others. From the question addressed to the Shunamite by her husband, "Wherefore wilt thou go to him to-day? It is neither new moon nor Sabbath" ( 2 Kings 4:23), it appears that weekly and monthly religious meetings were held as an ordinary practice by the prophets (see Patrick, Conmm. ad loc.). Thus we find that "Elisha sat in his house" engaged in his official occupation (comp.  Ezekiel 8:1;  Ezekiel 14:1;  Ezekiel 20:1), "and the elders sat with him" ( 2 Kings 6:32), when the king of Israel sent to slay him. It was at these meetings, probably, that many of the warnings and exhortations on morality and spiritual religion were addressed by the prophets to their countrymen. (See Schools Of Prophets).

    The schools of the prophets were thus engaged in what we may call pastoral functions, rather than in the disclosure of things to come; their office was to bring home to men's business and bosoms the announcements already made. Selected from the Levitical and priestly classes, they performed services chiefly of a priestly character ( 1 Samuel 9:13), but presided over devotional exercises and gave spiritual instruction. We may regard Elijah as the type of the whole prophetical order at this period; "a man of heroic energy in action, rather than of prolific thought or excellent discourse. Power was given him to smite the earth with plagues ( Revelation 11:6). When an impression had been made by these extraordinary displays of power, a still small voice was heard to quicken the people to newness of life." If we pass on to the religious teachers who are associated with the name and age of David Nathan, Solomon, and others, who composed the Psalms we shall see that these aimed at the religious education of their contemporaries by a pure stream of didactic and devotional poetry. Their object was to advance the members of the ancient economy to the highest degree of light and purity which was attainable in that state of minority. The predictive element crops out most distinctly in the Messianic psalms, which point to the ultimate completion of the kingdom in David's Lord, and the universal reign of righteousness, truth, and peace. When these efforts failed to stem the tide of corruption and to rescue the chosen people from disorder, ancient prophecy assumed the form of specific prediction. The moral element is chiefly seen in denouncing the iniquity and unrighteousness of the age, but the distinctive characteristic is that, in exposing the evils which prevailed, they directed the eye to the future. This band of religious teachers who are popularly spoken of as "the prophets" commenced with Hosea soon after the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. Hosea's labors commenced in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah, and Jeroboam II, king of Israel, and were prolonged to the time of Hezekiah, comprising more than sixty years, so that with him were contemporary Amos, Jonah, Joel, Obadiah, Isaiah, Micah, Nahum. Next to these in order of time cane Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Habakkuk, Zephaniah. The last three were Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. From these we derive our amplest materials for comparing the anticipations of prophecy with the subsequent events of history. Thus the prophets of the Old Covenant form a regular succession; they are members of an unbroken continuous chain, of which one perpetually reaches forth the hand to the other. (See Major And Minorprophets )

    In the first book of the Maccabees (9:17) the discontinuance of the prophetic calling is considered as forming an important era in Jewish history (see Stemann, De TerDmino Prophetarum [Rost. 1723]), while at the same time an expectation of the renewal in future ages of prophetic gifts is avowed ( 1 Maccabees 4:46;  1 Maccabees 14:41). After the Babylonian exile the sacred writings were collected, which enabled every one to find the way of salvation; but the immediate revelations to the people of Israel were to cease for a while, in order to raise a stronger longing for the appearance of the Messiah, and to prepare for him a welcome reception. For the same reason the ark of the covenant had been taken away from the people. The danger of a complete apostasy, which in earlier times might have been incurred by this withdrawal, was not now to be apprehended. The external worship of the Lord was so firmly established that no extraordinary helps were wanted. Taking also into consideration the altered character of the people, we may add that the time after the exile was more fit to produce men learned in the law than prophets. Before this period, the faithful and the unbelieving were strongly opposed to each other, which excited the former to great exertions. These relaxed when the opposition ceased, and pious priests now took the place of prophets. The time after the exile is characterized by weakness and dependence; the people looked up to the past as to a height which they could not gain; the earlier writings obtained unconditional authority, and the disposition for receiving prophetic gifts was lost. About a hundred years after the return from the Babylonian exile, the prophetic profession ceased. The Jewish tradition uniformly states that after Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi no prophet arose among the Jews till John the Baptist woke afresh the echoes of a long lost inspiration as the prelude to a new dispensation. For its resumption under the New Test. economy, see § 10 below.

    2. Manner Of Life Of The Prophets. The prophets went about poorly and coarsely dressed ( 2 Kings 1:8), not as a mere piece of asceticism, but that their very apparel might teach what the people ought to do; it was a "sermo propheticus realis." Comp.  1 Kings 21:27, where Ahab does penance in the manner figured by the prophet: "And it came to pass, when Ahab heard these words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh and fasted" (see Nicolai, De Prophetarum Vestitu [Magdeb. 1746]; Zacharia, De ProphetaTumn labitu [Sodin, 1756]). The general appearance and life of the prophet were very similar to those of the Eastern dervish at the present day. His dress was a hairy garment, girt with a leathern girdle ( Isaiah 20:2;  Zechariah 13:4;  Matthew 3:4). He was married or unmarried as he chose; but his manner of life and diet were stern and austere ( 2 Kings 4:10;  2 Kings 4:38;  1 Kings 19:6;  Matthew 3:4). Generally the prophets were not anxious to attract notice by ostentatious display; nor did they seek worldly wealth, most of them living in poverty and even want ( 1 Kings 14:3;  2 Kings 4:1;  2 Kings 4:38;  2 Kings 4:42;  2 Kings 6:5). The decay of the congregation of God deeply chagrined them (comp.  Micah 7:1, and many passages in Jeremiah). Insult, persecution, imprisonment, and death were often the reward of their godly life. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews says ( Hebrews 11:37): "They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented" (comp. Christ's speech,  Matthew 23:29 sq.;  2 Chronicles 24:17 sq.). The condition of the prophets, in their temporal humiliation, is vividly represented in the lives of Elijah and Elisha in the books of the Kings; and Jeremiah concludes the description of his sufferings in the 20th chapter by cursing the day of his birth. Repudiated by the world in which they were aliens, they typified the life of him whose appearance they announced, and whose spirit dwelt in them. They figured him, however, not only in his lowness, but in his elevation. The Lord stood by them, gave evidence in their favor by fulfilling their predictions, frequently proved by miracles that they were his own messengers, or retaliated on their enemies the injury done them. The prophets addressed the people of both kingdoms: they were not confined to particular places, but prophesied where it was required. For this reason they were most numerous in capital towns, especially in Jerusalem, where they generally spoke in the Temple. Sometimes their advice was asked, and then their prophecies take the form of answers to questions submitted to them (Isaiah 37; Ezekiel 20; Zechariah 7). But much more frequently they felt themselves inwardly moved to address the people without their advice having been asked, and they were not afraid to stand forward in places where their appearance, perhaps, produced indignation and terror. Whatever lay within or around the sphere of religion and morals formed the object of their care. They strenuously opposed the worship of false gods ( Isaiah 1:10 sq.), as well as the finery of women (3, 16 sq.). Priests, princes, kings, all must hear them must, however reluctantly, allow them to perform their calling as long as they spoke in the name of the true God, and as long as the result did not disprove their pretensions to be the servants of the invisible King of Israel ( Jeremiah 37:15-21).

    As seen above, there were institutions for training prophets; the senior members instructed a number of pupils and directed them. These schools had been first established by Samuel ( 1 Samuel 10:8;  1 Samuel 19:19); and at a later time there were such institutions in different places, as Bethel and Gilgal ( 2 Kings 2:3;  2 Kings 4:38;  2 Kings 6:1). The pupils of the prophets lived in fellowship united, and were called "sons of the prophets;" while the senior or experienced prophets were considered as their spiritual parents, and were styled fathers (comp.  2 Kings 2:12;  2 Kings 6:21). Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha are mentioned as principals of such institutions. From them the Lord generally chose his instruments. Amos relates of himself ( Amos 7:14-15), as a thing uncommon, that he had been trained in no school of prophets, but was a herdsman, when the Lord took him to prophesy unto the people of Israel. At the same time, this example shows that the bestowal of prophetic gifts was not limited to the school of the prophets. Women also might come forward as prophetesses, as instanced in Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah, though such cases are of comparatively rare occurrence. We should also observe that only as regards the kingdom of Israel we have express accounts of the continuance of the schools of prophets. What is recorded of them is not directly applicable to the kingdom of Judah, especially since, as stated above, prophecy had in it an essentially different position. We cannot assume that the organization and regulations of the schools of the prophets in the kingdom of Judah were as settled and established as in the kingdom of Israel. In the latter, the schools of the prophets had a kind of moastic constitution: they were not institutions of general education, but missionary stations; which explains the circumstance that they were established exactly in places which were the chief seats of superstition. The spiritual fathers travelled about to visit the training-schools; the pupils had their common board and dwelling, and those who married and left ceased not on that account to be connected with their colleges, but remained members of them. The widow of such a pupil of the schools of prophets who is mentioned in  2 Kings 4:1 sq., considered Elisha as the person bound to care for her. The offerings which, by the Mosaic law, were to be given to the Levites were by the pious of the kingdom of Israel brought to the schools of the prophets (4:42). The prophets of the kingdom of Israel thus in some sort stood in a hostile position to the priests. These points of difference in the situation of the prophets of the two kingdoms must not be lost sight of; and we further add that prophecy in the kingdom of Israel was much more completed with extraordinary events than in the kingdom of Judah: the history of the latter offers no prophetical deeds equalling those of Elijah and Elisha. Prophecy in the kingdom of Israel not being grounded on a hierarchy venerable for its antiquity, consecrated by divine miracles, and constantly flavored with divine protection, it needed to be supported more powerful, I and to be legitimized more evidently. In conclusion, it may be observed that the expression "schools of the prophets" is not exactly suited to their nature; as general instruction was not their object. The so-called prophets' schools were associations of men endowed with the spirit of God, for the purpose of carrying on their work, the feeble powers of junior members being directed and strengthened by those of a higher class. To those who entered these unions the Divine Spirit had already been imparted, which was the imperative condition of their reception. (See Sons Of Prophets).

    III. The Prophetic Functions. These have already been in part glanced at, but the importance of the subject demands a fuller exposition. To belong to the prophetic order and to possess the prophetic gift are not convertible terms. There might be members of the prophetic order to whom the gift of prophecy was not vouchsafed. There might be inspired prophets who did not belong to the prophetic order. As we have seen above, the inspired prophet generally came from the college of the prophets, and belonged to the prophetic order; but this was not always the case. In the instance of the prophet Amos, the rule and the exception are both manifested. When Amaziah, the idolatrous Israelitish priest, threatens the prophet and desires him to "flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread and prophesy there, but not to prophesy again any more at Bethel," Amos in reply says "I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdsman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit: and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go prophesy unto my people Israel" ( Amos 7:14). That is, thought called to the prophetic Office, he did not belong to the prophetic Order, and had not been trained in the prophetical colleges; and this. he indicates, was an unusual occurrence (see J. Smith On Prophecy, ch. 9).

    1. In a general way, we may indicate that the sphere of action of the prophets was absolutely limited to Israelites, and there is only one case of a prophet going to the heathen to preach among them that of Jonah sent to Nineveh. He goes, however, to Nineveh to shame the Hebrews by the reception which he meets with there, and acting upon his own nation w as thus even in this case the prophet's ultimate object. Many predictions of the Old Test. concern, indeed, the events of foreign nations, but they are always uttered and written with reference to Israel, and the prophets thought not of publishing them among the heathens themselves. The conversion of the pagans to the worship of the true God was indeed a favorite idea of the prophets; but the Divine Spirit told them that it was not to be effected by their exertions, as it was connected with extensive future changes, which they might not forestall.

    That the Lord would send such prophets was promised to the people by Moses, who by a special law ( Deuteronomy 18:1) secured them authority and safety. As his ordinary servants and teachers, God appointed the priests: the characteristic mark which distinguished the prophets from them was inspiration; and this explains the circumstance that, in times of great moral and religious corruption, when the ordinary means no longer sufficed to reclaim the people, the number of prophets increased. The regular religious instruction of the people was no part of the business of the prophets: their proper duty as only to rouse and excite. The contrary viz. that a part of the regular duty of the prophets was to instruct the people-is often argued from  2 Kings 4:23, where it is said that the Shunamitess on the sabbaths and days of new moon used to go to the prophet Elisha; but this passage applies only to the kingdom of Israel, and admits of no inference with respect to the kingdom of Judah. As regards the latter, there is no proof that prophets held meetings for instruction and edification on sacred days. Their position was here quite different from that of the prophets in the kingdom of Israel. The agency of the prophets in the kingdom of Judah was only of a subsidiary kind. These extraordinary messengers of the Lord only filled there the gaps left by the regular servants of God, the priests and the Levites: the priesthood never became there utterly degenerate, and each lapse was followed by a revival of which the prophets were the vigorous agents. The divine election always vindicated itself, and in the purity of the origin of the priesthood lay the certainty of its continued renewal. On the contrary, the priesthood in the kingdom of Israel had no divine sanction, no promise; it was corrupt in its very source: to reform itself would have been to dissolve itself. The priests there were the mercenary servants of the king, and had a brand upon their own consciences. Hence in the kingdom of Israel the prophets were the regular ministers of God: with their office all stood or fell, and hence they were required to do many things besides what the original conception of the office of a prophet implied-a circumstance from the oversight of which many erroneous notions on the nature of prophecy have sprung. This led to another difference, to which we shall revert below, viz. that in the kingdom of Judah the prophetic office did not, as in Israel, possess a fixed organization and complete construction.

    In their labors, as respected their own times, the prophets were strictly bound to the Mosaic law. and not allowed to add to it or to diminish aught from it. What was said in this respect to the whole people ( Deuteronomy 4:2;  Deuteronomy 13:1) applied also to them. We find, therefore, prophecy always takes its ground on the Mosaic law to which it refers, from which it derives its sanction, and with which it is fully impressed and saturated. There is no chapter in the prophets in which there are not several references to the law. The business of the prophets was to explain it, to lay it to the hearts of the people, and to preserve vital its spirit. It was, indeed, also their duty to point to future reforms, when the ever-living spirit of the law would break its hitherto imperfect form, and make for itself another: thus  Jeremiah 3:16 foretells days when the ark of the covenant shall be no more, and ( Jeremiah 31:31) days when a new covenant will be made with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. But for their own times they never once dreamed of altering any, even the minutest and least essential precept, even as to its form; how much less as to its spirit, which even the Lord himself declares ( Matthew 5:18) to be immutable and eternal! The passages which some interpreters have alleged as opposed to sacrifices as instituted by the Mosaic law have been misunderstood; they do not denounce sacrifices generally, but only those of the Canaanites, with whom sacrifice was not even a form of true worship. but opposed to the genuine and spiritual service of God.

    2. More specifically, the sixteen prophets whose books are in the Canon have that place of honor because they were endowed with the Prophetic Gift as well as ordinarily (so far as we know) belonging to the Prophetic Order . There were hundreds of prophets contemporary with each of these sixteen prophets; and no doubt numberless compositions in sacred poetry and numberless moral exhortations were issued from the several schools, but only sixteen books find their place in the Canon. Why is this? Because these sixteen had what their brother collegians had not the divine call to the office of prophet, and the divine illumination to enlighten them. It was not sufficient to have been taught and trained in preparation for a future call. Teaching and training served as a preparation only. When the schoolmaster's work was done, then, if the instrument was worthy, God's work began. Moses had an external call at the burning bush (Exodus 3, 2). The Lord called Samuel so that Eli perceived, and Samuel learned, that it was the Lord who called him (1 Samuel 3, 10).  Isaiah 6:8,  Jeremiah 1:5,  Ezekiel 2:4,  Amos 7:15, declare their special mission. Nor was it sufficient for this call to have been made once for all. Each prophetical utterance is the result of a communication of the divine to the human spirit, received either by "vision" ( Isaiah 6:1) or by "the word of the Lord" ( Jeremiah 2:1). (See Aids To Faith, essay 3, "On Prophecy.") What, then, are the characteristics of the sixteen prophets thus called and commissioned, and intrusted with the messages of God to his people?

    (1.) They were the national poets of Judaea. We have already shown that music and poetry, chants and hymns, were a main part of the studies of the class from which, generally speaking, they were derived. As is natural, we find not only the songs previously specified, but the rest of their compositions, poetical, or breathing the spirit of poetry. Bishop Lowth "esteems the whole book of Isaiah poetical, a few passages excepted, which, if brought together. would not at most exceed the bulk of five or six chapters," "half of the book of Jeremiah," "the greater part of Ezekiel." The rest of the prophets are mainly poetical, but Haggai is "prosaic," and Jonah and Daniel are plain prose (Sacred Poetry, lect. 21). The prophetical style differs from that of books properly called poetical, whose sublimity it all but outvies, only in being less restrained by those external forms which distinguish poetical language from prose, and in introducing more frequently than prose does plays upon words and thoughts. This peculiarity may he explained by the practical tendency of prophetical addresses, which avoid all that is unintelligible, aid studiously introduce what is best calculated for the moment to strike the hearers. The same appears from many other circumstances, e.g. the union of music with prophesying, the demeanor of Saul when among the prophets ( 1 Samuel 10:5), Balaam's description of himself ( Numbers 24:3) as a man whose eyes were opened, who saw the vision of the Almighty, and heard the words of God, the established phraseology to denote the inspiring impulse, viz. "the hand of the Lord was strong upon him" ( Ezekiel 3:14; comp.  Isaiah 8:11;  2 Kings 3:15), etc. (See § 6, below.)

    (2.) They were annalists and historians. A great portion of Isaiah, of Jeremiah, of Daniel, of Jonah, of Haggai, is direct or indirect history.

    (3.) They were preachers of patriotism; their patriotism being founded on the religious motive. To the subject of the theocracy, the enemy of his nation was the enemy of God, the traitor to the public weal was a traitor to his God: a denunciation of an enemy was a denunciation of a representative of evil; an exhortation in behalf of Jerusalem was an exhortation in behalf of God's kingdom on earth, "the city of our God, the mountain of holiness, beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, the city of the great King" ( Psalms 48:1-2).

    (4.) They were preachers of morals and of spiritual religion. The symbolical teaching of the law had lost much of its effect. Instead of learning the necessity of purity by the legal washings, the majority came to rest in the outward act as in itself sufficient. It was the work, then, of the prophets to hold up before the eves of their countrymen a high and pure morality, not veiled in symbols and acts, but such as none could profess to misunderstand. Thus, in his first chapter, Isaiah contrasts ceremonial observances with spiritual morality: "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them... Wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment; relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" ( Isaiah 1:14-17). He proceeds to denounce God's judgments on the oppression and covetousness of the rulers, the pride of the women (ch. 3), on grasping, profligacy, iniquity, injustice (ch. 5), and so on throughout. The system of morals put forward by the prophets, if not higher or sterner or purer than that of the law, is more plainly declared, and with greater, because now more needed, vehemence of diction. "Magna fides et grandis aldacia prophetarum," says St. Jerome (In Ezekiel). This was their general characteristic, but that gifts and graces might be dissevered is proved by the cases of Balaam, Jonah, Caiaphas, and the disobedient prophet of Judah.

    (5.) They were extraordinary, but yet authorized, exponents of the law. As an instance of this we may take Isaiah's description of a true fast ( Isaiah 58:3-7); Ezekiel's explanation of the sins of the father being visited on the children (ch. 18); Micah's preference of "doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God," to "thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil" ( Micah 6:6-8). In these, as in other similar cases (comp.  Hosea 6:6;  Amos 5:21), it was the task of the prophets to restore the balance which had been overthrown by the Jews and their teachers dwelling on one side or oil the outer covering of a truth or of a duty, and leaving the other side or the inner meaning out of sight.

    (6.) They held, as we have shown above, a pastoral or quasi-pastoral office.

    (7.) They were a political power in the state. Strong in the safeguard of their religious character, they were able to serve as a counterpoise to the royal authority when wielded even by an Ahab.

    (8.) But the prophets were something more than national poets and annalists, preachers of patriotism, moral teachers, exponents of the law, pastors, and politicians. We have not yet touched upon their most essential characteristic, which is that they were instruments of revealing God's will to man; as in other ways, so, specially, by predicting future events, and, in particular, by foretelling the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the redemption effected by him. There are two chief ways of exhibiting this fact one is suitable when discoursing with Christians, the other when arguing with unbelievers. To the Christian it is enough to show that the truth of the New Testament and the truthfulness of its authors, and of the Lord himself, are bound up with the truth of the existence of this predictive element in the prophets. To the unbeliever it is necessary to show that facts have verified their predictions.

    (a.) In Matthew's Gospel, the first chapter, we find a quotation from the prophet Isaiah, "Behold a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel;" and, at the same time, we find a statement that the birth of Chri