Meaning of PROPHET in English

a divinely inspired revealer, interpreter, or spokesman. In Western culture, the classic period of Israelite prophecy has tended to predominate in analyses of the phenomenon, but the figure of the prophet is to be found in numerous manifestations throughout history and worldwide. The prophet differs from other religious functionaries and representatives of religious authority in that he claims no personal part in his utterance. He speaks not his own mind but a revelation from without. He may be inspired with his message (as in the case of Jeremiah), or he may be possessed by a spiritual powera god, a spirit, the Holy Ghostwhich uses him as an instrument and speaks through him (as in Aeschylus' description of Cassandra in the Agamemnon and of the prophet of Apollo in the Eumenides). Plato defined the prophet as one who speaks in ecstasy, and in the Hellenistic period Philo of Alexandria similarly stated that the prophet speaks nothing of his own but resembles the lyre on which someone else plays. The prophetic or charismatic (from Greek charisma, divine gift) state may occur spontaneously, or it may be induced by a variety of techniques: by meditation, by mystico-magical formulas and gestures (the mantras and mudras of esoteric Buddhism, for example), by music (II Kings 3:15, And when the minstrel played, the power of the Lord came upon him), by drumming, dancing, or the ingestion of intoxicants or narcotics. Prophets very often resist the call (Amos and Jeremiah among the Hebrew prophets; many prospective shamans) until overcome by the superior power that wants to use them as its instrument. In contrast to the diviner, who uses or manipulates objective techniques and signs to address what are primarily private needs and anxieties, the prophet, impelled by the spirit, may articulate a message of more general and fundamental import, enunciating principles and norms that are critical of the present, in either a destructive or a reforming sense. He may address his group (tribe, nation) as a whole or may found a new society that will realize his message. The prophetic personality thus frequently becomes a religious founder, reformer, or sectarian leader (Zoroaster, Muhammad, and others). The ideal-typical prophet (in Max Weber's sense) is, however, less concerned with founding a new religion or introducing revolutionary reforms than with criticizing his society from the inside, as it were, and in the light of what he believes to be the divinely established norms underlying its existence. If he is a revolutionary, he very frequently does not know it. The semantic spectrum of the term prophetic has consequently become rather wide. According to whether the emphasis is on possession and ecstasy, inspired utterance, prediction of the future, visionary experience, ethical fervour, passionate social criticism, sense of absolute commitment, millenarian and apocalyptic expectation, etc., the most diverse phenomena and personalities have been called prophetic: Montanists, Pentecostals, Zoroaster, Muhammad, Joachim of Fiore, Savonarola, Thomas Mntzer, Jakob Bhme, George Fox, Joseph Smith, and many others. The moral seriousness of the ancient Chinese sages and their profound regard for the law of heaven has suggested comparisons with Hebrew prophecy, and the Egyptian text known as the Peasant's Complaint has been claimed as a witness for a prophetic movement in ancient Egypt. Even Marxism has at times been qualified as prophetic, both because of its passionate protest against social injustice and because of the eschatological structure of its doctrine. Disregarding this wide and at times merely figurative use of prophetic, there may be recognized a distinct prophetic type of religion. Its main characteristics are a dynamic conception of a deity, an emphasis on the will (both of God and of man) as a constitutive factor of the religious reality, a basic dualism, a profound awareness of the seriousness of sin (as distinct from breaking a taboo), a radical ethical outlook based on unequivocal choice between good and evil, a positive attitude toward society and toward this world in general, and a relationship to the time process that could crystallize in eschatological and messianic hopes.

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