In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people.[1][2] The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy.

Claims of prophethood have existed in many cultures throughout history, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, in ancient Greek religion, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, and many others.


The English word prophet is a compound Greek word, from pro (in advance) and the verb phesein (to tell); thus, a προφήτης (profétés) is someone who foretells future events, and also conveys messages from the divine to humans; in a different interpretation, it means advocate or speaker.

In Hebrew, the word נָבִיא (nāvî), "spokesperson", traditionally translates as "prophet".[3] The second subdivision of the Tanakh, (Nevi'im), is devoted to the Hebrew prophets. The meaning of navi is perhaps described in Deuteronomy 18:18,[4] where God said, "...and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." Thus, the navi was thought to be the "mouth" of God. The root nun-bet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-bet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself "open".[5]

Abrahamic religions


Malachi, one of the last prophets of Israel, painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna, c. 1310 (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Siena Cathedral). “He [Mashiach] will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents” ( Malachi 4:6)[6]

In addition to writing and speaking messages from God, Israelite or Judean nevi'im ("spokespersons", "prophets") often acted out prophetic parables in their life.[7] For example, in order to contrast the people's disobedience with the obedience of the Rechabites, God has Jeremiah invite the Rechabites to drink wine, in disobedience to their ancestor's command. The Rechabites refuse, for which God commends them.[8][9] Other prophetic parables acted out by Jeremiah include burying a linen belt so that it gets ruined to illustrate how God intends to ruin Judah's pride.[10][11][11][12] Likewise, Jeremiah buys a clay jar and smashes it in the Valley of Ben Hinnom in front of elders and priests to illustrate that God will smash the nation of Judah and the city of Judah beyond repair.[13] God instructs Jeremiah to make a yoke from wood and leather straps and to put it on his own neck to demonstrate how God will put the nation under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.[14] In a similar way, the prophet Isaiah had to walk stripped and barefoot for three years to illustrate the coming captivity,[15] and the prophet Ezekiel had to lie on his side for 390 days and eat measured food to illustrate the coming siege.[16]

The prophetic assignment is not always portrayed as positive in the Hebrew Bible,[17][18][19] and prophets were often the target of persecution and opposition.[20] God's personal prediction for Jeremiah, "Attack you they will, overcome you they can't,"[21] was performed many times in the Bible prophecy">biblical narrative as Jeremiah warned of destruction of those who continued to refuse repentance and accept more moderate consequences.[20][22] In return for his adherence to God's discipline and speaking God's words, Jeremiah was attacked by his own brothers,[23] beaten and put into the stocks by a priest and false prophet,[24][25] imprisoned by the king,[26] threatened with death,[27] thrown into a cistern by Judah's officials,[28] and opposed by a false prophet.[29] Likewise, Isaiah was told by his hearers who rejected his message, "Leave the way! Get off the path! Let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel!"[18][30] The life of Moses being threatened by Pharaoh is another example.[31]

According to I Samuel 9:9,[32] the old name for navi is ro'eh, רֹאֶה, which literally means "Seer". That could document an ancient shift, from viewing prophets as seers for hire to viewing them as moral teachers. Allen (1971) comments that in the First Temple Era, there were essentially seer-priests, who formed a guild, divined, performed rituals and sacrifices, and were scribes, and then there were canonical prophets, who did none of these (and were against divination) and had instead a message to deliver. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">[citation needed] The seer-priests were usually attached to a local shrine or temple, such as Shiloh, and initiated others as priests in that priesthood: it was a mystical craft-guild with apprentices and recruitment. Canonical prophets were not organised this way.

Some examples of prophets in the Tanakh include Abraham, Moses, Miriam, Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Malachi, and Job. In Jewish tradition Daniel is not counted in the list of prophets.

A Jewish tradition suggests that there were twice as many prophets as the number which left Egypt, which would make 1,200,000 prophets.[33] The Talmud recognizes the existence of 48 male prophets who bequeathed permanent messages to mankind.[33] According to the Talmud there were also seven women who are counted as prophetesses whose message bears relevance for all generations: Sarah, Miriam, Devorah, Hannah (mother of the prophet Samuel), Abigail (a wife of King David), Huldah (from the time of Jeremiah), and Esther.[33] The Talmudic and Biblical commentator Rashi points out that Rebecca, Rachel, and Leah were also prophets.[34] Isaiah 8"> Isaiah 8:3-4[35] refers he married "the prophetess", which conceived and gave to him a son, named by God Mahèr-salàl-cash-baz. Her name isn't elsewhere specified.

Prophets in Tanakh are not always Jews.[33] The story of Balaam in Numbers 22 describes a non-Jewish prophet.[36] According to the Talmud, Obadiah is said to have been a convert to Judaism.

The last nevi'im ("spokespersons", "prophets") mentioned in the Jewish Bible are Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, all of whom lived at the end of the 70-year Babylonian exile. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 11a) states that Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi were the last prophets, and nowadays only the "Bath Kol" (בת קול, lit. daughter of a voice, "voice of God") exists.


The Vision of Isaiah is depicted in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

Traditional definitions

In Christianity, a prophet (or seer) is one inspired by God through the Holy Spirit (Christianity)">Holy Spirit to deliver a message. Some Christian denominations limit a prophet's message to words intended only for the entire church congregation, excluding personal messages not intended for the body of believers; but in the Bible on a number of occasions prophets were called to deliver personal messages.[37] The reception of a message is termed revelation and the delivery of the message is termed prophecy.

The term "prophet" applies to those who receive public or private revelation. Public revelation, in Catholicism, is part of the Deposit of faith, the revelation of which was completed by Jesus; whereas private revelation does not add to the Deposit. The term "deposit of faith" refers to the entirety of Jesus Christ's revelation, and is passed to successive generations in two different forms, sacred scripture (the Bible) and sacred tradition.

The Bible terms anyone who claims to speak God's words or to teach in his name without being a prophet a false prophet. Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">[citation needed] One Old Testament text in Deuteronomy[38] contains a warning against those who prophesy events which do not come to pass and says they should be put to death. Elsewhere a false prophet may be someone who is purposely trying to deceive, is delusional, under the influence of Satan or is speaking from his own spirit.[39]

Ongoing prophecy

St. John the Baptist Preaching, c. 1665, by Mattia Preti

Some Christians believe that the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts to Christians. These may include prophecy, tongues, miraculous healing ability, and discernment (Matthew 12:32 KJV "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."). Cessationists believe that these gifts were given only in New Testament times and that they ceased after the last apostle died.

New Testament passages that explicitly discuss prophets existing after the death and resurrection of Christ include Revelation 11:10,[40] Matthew 10:40–41 and 23:34,[41] John 13:20 and 15:20[42] and Acts 11:25–30, 13:1 and 15:32.[43]

The Didache gives extensive instruction in how to distinguish between true and false prophets, as well as commands regarding tithes to prophets in the church.[44] Irenaeus, wrote of 2nd-century believers with the gift of prophecy,[45] while Justin Martyr argued in his Dialogue with Trypho that prophets were not found among the Jews in his time, but that the church had prophets.[46] The Shepherd of Hermas describes revelation in a vision regarding the proper operation of prophecy in the church.[47] Eusebius mentions that Quadratus and Ammia of Philadelphia were both prominent prophets following the age of the Twelve Apostles.[48][49] Tertullian, writing of the church meetings of the Montanists (to whom he belonged), described in detail the practice of prophecy in the 2nd-century church.[50]

A number of later Christian saints were claimed to have powers of prophecy, such as Columba of Iona (521-597), Saint Malachy (1094-1148) or Padre Pio (1887-1968). Template Template-Fact" style="white-space:nowrap;">[citation needed] Marian apparitions like those at Fatima in 1917 or at Kibeho in Rwanda in the 1980s often included prophetic predictions regarding the future of the world as well as of the local areas they occurred in.[51]

Prophetic movements in particular can be traced throughout the Christian Church's history, expressing themselves in (for example) Montanism, Novatianism, Donatism, Franciscanism, Anabaptism, Camisard enthusiasm, Puritanism, Quakerism, Quietism, Lutheranism[52] and Pietism. Modern Pentecostals and Charismatics, members of movements which together comprised approximately 584 million people as of 2011