Prophet (definition)

Prophet [from Latin propheta, from Greek prophetes (Doric prophatas) “an interpreter, spokesman,” mainly of God, “inspired preacher or teacher,” from pro “before” (from PIE root *per- “forward,” hence “in front of, before”) + root of phanai “to speak,” from PIE root *bha- “to speak, tell, say.”]

The Greek word was used in Septuagint (LXX) for Hebrew nabj or nav’i (נָבִיא nāvî) the one who speaks by divine inspiration. Early Latin writers translated Greek prophetes with Latin vates, but the Latinized form propheta predominated in post-Classical times, chiefly due to Christian writers, probably because of pagan associations of vates. In English, meaning “prophetic writer of the Old Testament” is from late 14° c.
In Arabic was translated as al-nabiy, but also sometimes as al-rasul, properly “the messenger”.

In general, is a person who speaks for inspiration of a Divinity, manifesting His will and, often, foretelling the future in His Name. The presence of prophets, attested, in various forms (divination, oracles, trance, etc.), in the history of all religions, takes on peculiar characteristics in the religion of the people of Israel, as documented in the Old Testament, where they are wont to distinguish the pre-classical prophets (11th-9th century BC) and the “canonical” or “writers” prophets (8th-5th centuries BC). The figure of the prophet soon specifies himself as one who speaks in the name of YHWH and manifests His designs, guiding Israel on its historical journey; and against the tendency of this to continually deviate from the commitments assumed with the Covenant of the Sinai of Moses, the action of the prophet often assumes the character of reproaching the people and its leaders, of political intervention and moral appeal.

The first Christian communities place the figure of Jesus in the line of biblical prophetism as an eschatological prophet, equal to Moses, indeed as the greatest prophet in relationship with GOD “in spirit and truth”, mediator of revelation. Later, the history of Christianity sees the continuous presence of prophets, men endowed with the charism of prophecy, a gift of the Spirit.

With reference to the Islamic religion, attribute of Mohammed (Mohammed), as it speaks in the name of ALLAH (GOD in the Arabic language) and announces its will.


The Prophet is not the announcer of a remote future, but rather a servant of the LORD, who speaks and works in his historical present through the gift of a Divine charism. The Hebrew terms are defined with which a prophet is defined, but the first of all, and perhaps the one that most represents it is nabì, a word from the Book of Genesis which means “he who is called” or “he who calls”.
Another term used in the Holy Scriptures is chozè, “a man who has visions”
, and in fact they are able to intuit the mystery of reality thanks to a transcendental channel of knowledge. Parallel is the name of rò’è, or seer, or as a channel of connection between GOD and the rest of the people. The Greek word prophetes it means “he who speaks in the name of”, or “in front of”, therefore also in anticipation of an event that must happen. Delightful is the description given by the Christian’s Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi who speaks of the prophet saying:

He is an “inspired” character, who announces a transcendent word and covers it with flesh, that are human words, often coloring it with his humanity, his style, his experience.”

But often the prophet plays not only a religious function, but also a historical and political one. Ravasi also writes:

It offers a Message that goes beyond the temporal limited boundaries and expands into a future and universal validity, linked to the constants of the Action of GOD in history. “

The prophets are guardians of the purity of the Biblical Faith, adversaries of any compromise with private interests and power, witnesses of spirituality and justice, this is a prophet.


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