PROPHECY AND THE PROPHETIC OFFICE.
II. In the Old Testament.
III. In the New Testament.
I. Ethnic Prophecy: (§ 1). General Conceptions. Among many peoples the idea that God's spirit speaks directly to man was commonly held. Some early sages attribute to man's soul the faculty of premonition (Plato, Phdo, xx.; Cicero, De divitatione, i.; Plutarch, De oraculorum defectu, xl.). It was also believed that sometimes a divine power comes over a man and speaks through him. From the ecstatic state (see ECSTASY) in which this occurs, the seer bears the name mantis from mainesthai, "to rave." This, however, differs entirely from Hebrew prophecy; it were better to discover divine inspiration in poets, artists, and philosophers, but this gift is more ethical than religious. In man's intellectual life, phenomena were observed that were independent of his conscious thought, especially in the frequently realized premonitions. In some cases, as with the daimonion of Socrates, these were connected with the conscience and had a certain ethical value. Persons at the point of death were also supposed to possess this faculty. Especial stress was laid on dreams or trances, survivals of which may be found in modern times, as also on communications from the spirits of the departed. These spirits were evoked among various peoples-Babylonians, Egyptians (cf. Isa. xix. 3), Canaanites (Deut. xviii. 11-12), Persians, Thracians, Greeks (Odyssey, xi. 29 sqq.), Romans, and others. Cicero distinguishes between artificial and natural divination, but the latter is rare and it is known that prophetic dreams and the ecstatic state were induced by artificial means (G. Ebers, Aegypten und die Bücher Mosis, i. 321-322, Leipsic, 1868). External nature was also a source of inspiration. The noblest form was that of the sighing of the wind or the murmuring of the stream, conceived as the voice of God, as in Dodona. However, communications from this source necessarily lacked the precision and clearness of the divine word of the prophet. In Delphi, the Pythia's inspiration seems to have come from subterranean vapors; her obscure words were interpreted by priests who bore the name of prophçtai. With the Babylonians, the starry heavens were thought to have a determining influence on man's destiny (cf. Cicero, De divinatione, ii. 58, 60, 69). The casting of lots (see LOT, HEBREW USE OF) to determine doubtful questions was also prevalent, and this, as well as dreams, was sometimes used by God to reveal his will; the Urim and Thummim (q.v.) may have been a kind of lot.
(§ 2). Biblical Attitude toward Soothsaying. With the exceptions just mentioned, the Bible opposes all these heathen means of reading the future; magic and soothsaying were punished by death (Lev. xx. 27). By Magic (q.v.) is understood an attempt on man's part to utilize demonic powers (but see COMPARATIVE RELIGION, V. 1, b, § 5). There were magicians who called up the spirits of the dead (I Sam. xxviii.), also those who drew their conclusions from the movement of the clouds (cf. Isa. viii. 19; Jer. xxvii. 9). It is, however, principally by its contents that Old-Testament prophecy differs from heathen soothsaying, since with the latter, the main object is to gain information regarding the future. Without denying the ethical and religious quality of some of the Delphic oracles, it is still to be noted that these do not surpass the natural powers of human consciousness, while they fail to give any insight into the counsels of the Almighty. While analogies for the Messianic prophecies may be found in the ideal pictures of the future from heathen sages, the absolute confidence in the ultimate realization of their ideals is lacking. The religion of ancient Egypt, and more especially that of Zoroaster (see ZOROASTER, ZOROASTRIANISM), with its conflict between good and evil, resulting in the ultimate triumph of the former, approach Hebrew prophecy much more closely; but the conceptions are more abstract than those of the Bible, which sees in daily life the beginning of the realization of God's promises. According to Renan, prophecy was a special endowment of the Semitic mind, but, although this is true to a certain extent, there is no real analogy to Hebrew prophecy among the other Semitic peoples. The Koran possesses but little originality and lacks the high ethical worth characteristic of the true prophets. The Babylonian penitential psalms (Schrader, KAT, 3d ed., pp. 384-385), sometimes adduced as a prototype of the suffering servant of Yahweh, show a king who bewails his sufferings and asserts his innocence, but there is no trace of a plan of God which is served by this suffering, or indeed of any prophetic thought.
II. In the Old Testament: The Old Testament records the visions of men who were not Israelites, such as Eliphaz (Job iv. 12 sqq.) and Balaam (Num. xxii.-xxiv.), and also of the prophets of Baal and Ashera. In Israel, however, prophecy attained an incomparable significance, for here clairvoyance was ennobled by being used in the service of God; the mantic frenzy lost its pathological character and the prophet became the proclaimer of the purest religious truth and of the profoundest mysteries of God's kingdom. Prophetism in the service of Yahweh was the medium through which the national religion of Israel was called to life, and it guarded the purity of this religion against popular corruption and prepared the way for its development into the supreme religion of mankind.
1. Historical Development of Prophecy: (§ 1). Prophetic Basis of Old-Testament Religion. It is significant for the entire conception of God in the Old Testament that, from the beginning, the Israelites derived their knowledge of him from personal revelations, appearances, and monitions. Genesis teaches that the patriarchs were honored with such revelations. Friends of God like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, received prophetic direction at critical periods of their life. More especially the beginnings of the religion of the covenant are the work of a man of high prophetic gifts, a mediator between God and his people. The authority of Moses (q.v.) rested on his reputation as the servant of Yahweh, as the seer and spokesman of his God. Miriam and others possessed the gift of prophecy (Ex. xv. 20: Num. xi. 25 sqq.). From, this time prophecy never wholly died out (Deut. xviii. 9 sqq.); in the time of the judges, Deborah and others appeared (Judges iv. 4, vi. 8, cf. ii. 1; I Sam. ii. 27). Samuel (q.v.) marks an epoch; he is called the seer, not in the lower sense of soothsayer, but as a tried and trusted organ of Yahweh. He may be regarded as the first of the prophets, both because of his superior endowments and because the prophetic communities seem to have owed their origin to him; at least, they first appear in his time. As their name ("sons of the prophets") indicates, they were disciples who gathered about a master; as communities they seem to have remained in their respective settlements, while such masters as Samuel, Elijah, or Elisha, wandered from place to place. Their settlements appear to have been in the quiet country outside the city limits; a few lightly constructed huts, in a place offering a supply of water and vegetable growth, sufficed for the simple needs of these people. The sitting of the disciples before the master (II Kings, iv. 38) indicates a preaching or teaching activity on the master's part. Ecstatic phenomena (see ECSTASY) are not to be regarded as habitual with them, but represented a stage in the development of prophecy which might be compared with the revival meetings of modern Christianity. Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha were certainly in intimate relation with the "sons of the prophets," a fact which proves the high worth of the latter. Sacred music was cultivated in the communities (I Sam. x. 5) and served to induce the ecstatic state; it could also awaken the higher prophetic sense (II Kings, iii. 15). On the other hand, these schools may have contributed to the degradation of prophecy by making it more professional.
(§ 2). Samuel to Elisha. Individual prophets continually appear in the time of the kings as spokesmen of the King of kings. In David's time, the prophets were in perfect accord with the sovereign; Samuel had anointed him and Nathan and Gad aided him with their counsel (cf. II Chron. xxix. 25). To a prophet, the education of Solomon was entrusted. In his reign the prophet Ahia of Shiloh predicted the destruction of the Davidic kingdom and anointed Jeroboam king over the ten tribes. The authority of the prophets is also shown in the case of Rehoboam, who refrained from a campaign against the revolting tribes because the prophet Shemaiah declared their revolt an act of God (I Kings xii. 21 sqq.). The worldly character of most of the rulers of the Ephraimite kingdom evoked the heroic qualities of the prophets of Yahweh. When under Ahab and Jezebel the plot was laid to substitute for Yahweh's worship that of Baal, the prophetic caste opposed the design and suffered bloody persecution, and finally Elijah (q.v.) frustrated the entire plan. This prophet towers above all the others of his time; his hairy mantle seems to have become the prophetic garb (Zech, xiii. 4, A. V. margin; cf. Matt. iii. 4, xi. 8). It appears also, that at that period the prophets bore a sign or scar on their foreheads (I Kings xx. 38); according to a much later source, on the chest (Zech. xiii. 6, A. V. "hands"); this indicates self-inflicted wounds (I Kings xviii. 28). The most trusted disciple and successor of Elijah was Elisha (q.v.). It appears (II Kings iv. 23) that he gathered a community about him on new moons and sabbaths, doubtless for teaching and edification. This formed a center of worship independent of the sanctuary at Bethel (II Kings iv. 42). As a consequence of Elijah's reforming activity, Elisha led a more quiet life, but he completed his predecessor's work.
(§ 3). Amos to Malachi. The political successes of the kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II. served to estrange the people from God, and under this prince arose the prophets of misfortune, Amos and Hosea (qq.v.), who laid bare the moral perversity of the time and prophesied the destruction of the kingdom. Amos and Hosea differ from Elijah and Elisha in being exclusively bearers of the divine word, which they committed to writing, as became the custom from their time (see HEBREW LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE, II.). In the kingdom of Judah, the attitude of the prophets toward the monarchy was essentially different from that in Israel. Although they found unrighteousness in civil and political life, they found also a better ground upon which to build for the future. The house of David, with its fundamental promises and the choice of Zion as God's dwelling-place, gave hope and confidence, even in times of apostasy, that God's plans were being realized. There were also God-fearing rulers, willing to receive prophetic counsel, who sought to restore the pure and ancient religion of Yahweh. Thus II Chron. xv. 1 sqq. relates of Asa that he was influenced in this direction by the prophet Azariah, the son of Oded; Asa's successor, Jehoshaphat, sought the approval of God's word for his undertakings (I Kings xxii; 5). Early in the succeeding period, the writing down of prophecies in Judah must have begun. With the appearance of Isaiah and Micah (qq. v.), Judean prophecy reached its highest point; the former shows the action of the divine word in the whole history of the people, while both draw pictures of the future Messianic kingdom such as had never before been attained. There was a rich development of prophecy toward the period of the downfall of the kingdom of Judah; Nahum, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk (qq.v.) wrote during the passing of the empire from the Assyrians to the Babylonians. A prophetess, Huldah, enjoyed the highest consideration in the eighteenth year of Josiah (II Kings xxii. 14). Jeremiah (q.v.) was called by God to give prophetic testimony during the last struggle of the monarchy; while the somewhat younger Ezekiel (q.v.) was also greatly favored with visions by God; he was in perfect agreement with Jeremiah in the latter's judgments on kings and peoples. Besides these leading prophets, there was in Judah and Israel a prophetic gild, whose members Isaiah, Micah, and Jeremiah condemn on account of their conformity to popular clamor and their readiness to see divine inspiration in the dictates of sentimental patriotism, and also because of their indifference to the necessity of chastisement for moral perversity (cf. Isa. xxviii. 7; Mic. iii. 5 sqq.; Jer. xxiii. 9-40; Ezek. xii. 24). Among the Babylonian exiles there were optimistic dreamers who claimed to be prophets but were sternly condemned by Jeremiah (Jer. xxix. 8 sqq.). The visions of Daniel occupy an exceptional position, and because of the obscurity touching their origin were not included among the prophetic books of the canon. A notable prophet at the end of the captivity is the one usually designated as Deutero-Isaiah (see ISAIAH, II.). He realized that with the fall of Babylon and the victories of Cyrus the prophecies regarding Israel's liberation were beginning to be fulfilled, and he proclaimed the consummation of God's reign on earth. To the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (qq.v.) it is due that, in spite of all obstacles, the building of the Temple was energetically begun in 520. To the time of Ezra and Nehemiah belongs the last canonical prophet, Malachi (q.v.), whose diction is less lyric and more didactic. Great difference is observable in the attitude of the earlier and the later prophets regarding ritual observances; the former freely denounce the corrupt and unspiritual worship to which their contemporaries were devoted; the latter, on the other hand, living at a time when the ritual had been purified and idealized, were more inclined to denounce any neglect to participate in it. Later Judaism looked upon Malachi as the last of the prophets. Even in the heroic age of the Maccabees, it was felt that prophecy had forsaken the land and that the only hope for its renewal lay in the future. Still, there were always those who either claimed or were supposed to possess this gift, as is shown in the pseudepigraphic apocalypses (see PSEUDEPIGRAPHA OF THE OLD TESTAMENT) and in what is related of the Essenes (q.v.).
2. Characteristics: (§ 1). Objective View. According to Old-Testament ideas, the distinguishing quality of prophetic discourse consists in the fact that it results from the action of a supernatural power which gives to the prophet of Israel the contents of his discourse; the words he utters are not his own, but those of God. Since the prophet is not free to follow his own inclination, but feels himself bound and led by an overmastering power, this is frequently called the "hand of God" (Isa. viii. 11; Jer. xv. 17; Ezek. i. 3; II Kings iii. 15), which comes over him, falls upon him, snatches him away from his accustomed range of thought and view, and brings him into connection with God. The power is often called the spirit of Yahweh, just as the prophet is said to be the man of the spirit (Hos. ix. 7, A. V. margin). This spirit of the Lord is not to be confused with the universal divine spirit of life, dwelling in every human being, giving life and breath to even the brutes; it should rather be compared with that divine spirit which enabled members of the community, such as the judges or the artificer Bezaleel, to accomplish wonderful acts in the service of God (Ex. xxxi. 3, xxxv. 31). It is, therefore, necessary to distinguish various grades and also various gifts in this communication of the divine spirit. With the prophets, the spirit vouchsafed to them remains distinct from their natural consciousness and reveals itself in clear and definite announcements. The expressions used to designate its coming upon a man are "to come upon" (Num. xxiv. 2; II Chron. xv. 1), or, more forcibly, "fall upon" (Ezek. xi. 5). It is also said that this spirit clothes itself with a man as with a garment, and so makes him its corporeal envelope (Judges vi. 34). It is also said that the spirit "descends upon one," "rests upon him" (Num. xi. 25, 26; II Kings ii. 15; Isa. xi. 2); hence that the spirit of God "is upon" him (Isa. lxi. 1). Even where the spirit abides permanently, this relation had its beginning in a divine act which, as a rule, is neither coincident in time or fact with the bestowal of the universal spirit of life. The gift of prophecy is not hereditary, the privilege of a special gild or school. While members of the old prophetic societies prepared themselves to receive the spirit, it blew whither it listed. On the other hand, the spirit of prophecy came upon Amos, who was neither a prophet or the son of a prophet (Amos vii. 14-15), and at once constituted him a prophet of divine quality. Occasionally also, the spirit spoke through men who were not chosen for continuous teaching and preaching, such as David (II Sam. xxiii. 2); indeed, it sometimes seized upon persons whose mind was otherwise far removed from God, as when the Lord made the heathen seer Balaam his organ, and when the high priest Caiaphas spoke a word of the Lord (John xi. 51). The moment for revelation was always chosen by God, contrary to the practise in the heathen oracles and also to the use of the Urim and Thummim (q.v.), where the initiative came from the questioner. When counsel is sought, God often remains silent, but this does not exclude the fact that divine prophetic words are sometimes elicited later from the tried prophet (II Sam. vii. 2 sqq.).
(§ 2). Subjective Conditions. The prophet may also prepare himself to receive the divine word (Hab. ii. 1), even sensual means like music are not excluded; but whether the Lord will allow himself to be persuaded to speak, depends exclusively upon his grace. The receptive side of prophecy is sometimes designated as seeing and at others as hearing. The oldest name of the prophet was, according to I Sam. ix. 9, ro'eh, "seer." In this expression lies the conception that the prophet whose eye God has unveiled gazes on those things that God usually hides from mortal sight; they may be symbolically represented to the eye of the seer, but even then he is not the creator of these signs and figures-this distinguishes him from the poet-but another intelligence presents them to him and their meaning is often only gradually revealed (cf., e.g., Zech. ii. 2 sqq., iv. 4-5). In the titles of some prophetic books (Amos i. 1; Isa. i. 1; Mic. i. 1; Hab. i. 1) prophetic words are said to have been "seen" by the prophet. E. König (Offenbarungsbegriff, ii. 192, cf. pp. 2 sqq., Leipsic, 1882) looks upon this as a figure of speech, a later modification of prophetic diction; he supposes that the verb hazah (in contradistinction to ra'ah) is not used in genuine prophetic passages for the reception of revelations by true prophets, but only in the case of false prophets, and that it "designates a process which takes place in man's inner consciousness" (ii. 30). But the verb hazah may be used for something objectively seen (Isa. xxx. 10; Ezek. xii. 27). The verb ra'ah signifies the relation of the eye to the object seen, while hazah indicates the continued gazing upon a picture or image, and therefore applies to prophetic vision in general. The fact must be emphasized that, after receiving the revelation, the prophets are able to give an exact account of what they have seen or heard. This distinguishes them from shamans, who make their disclosures in a state of trance. The prophets also retain their consciousness and the memory of the past during the revelation (cf., e.g., Ex. iv.-vi, xxxii. 7 sqq.; Isa. vi. 5; Jer. i. 6). An ecstasy, inducing a purely passive condition which assumed the characteristics of madness, sometimes appears in the case of the disciples of the prophets, or in that of a Saul (I Sam. xix. 24); but with those prophets who are familiar with the voice of the Lord this state is replaced by a certain self-control, which was necessary to enable them to apprehend clearly the word of the Lord and make it fruitful. Balaam, the half-heathen seer, the man with the "closed eye" ("whose eyes are open," A. V.), that is, whose eyes are closed to the outer world, while to his prophetic gaze hidden and distant things are unveiled, bears the strongest likeness to the shamans; still, even he speaks with full consciousness of what he has seen. The individual characteristics of the prophets assert themselves in this particular. Judging from the emotion that still vibrates in his written words, Hosea was more powerfully affected physically than Haggai, for instance, and Ezekiel suffered more in this respect beneath the hand of the Lord than did Isaiah. In both Jewish and Christian theology much has been written on the psychical condition of the prophets. While the oldest patristic view, resting on Philo and Plato, lays stress on the ecstatic element, ecclesiastical theology since the Montanistic controversy (see MONTANUS, MONTANISM) has rather striven to exclude the idea of any abnormal psychical disturbance (cf. G. F. Oehler, Theologie des Alten Testaments, pp. 745 sqq., Stuttgart, 1891). König believes that the communication of God to the prophets was always an audible one and expressly rejects the parallel adduced by Oehler and Riehm with the way God's spirit speaks to the Christian petitioner and assures him that his prayer is heard (cf. E. Riehm, Die messianischen Weissagungen, 38 sqq., Gotha, 1885, Eng. transl., Messianic Prophecy, Edinburgh, 1891; Oehler, ut sup., p. 764). He holds that if the revelation had been made to the inner consciousness of the prophets, they would have been unable to distinguish clearly the divine voice from that of their own hearts. This view, however, unduly limits the power of the divine spirit, and overlooks the fact that sensual impressions may as easily lead to self-deception-there are hallucinations both of sight and of hearing. With the Old-Testament prophets, the intrinsic majesty and sacredness of the revelation brought the conviction of its truth.
(§ 3). Objectivity of the Message. If the word of the Lord is something seen or perceived, something which comes to the prophet from without, it can not be the product of his subjective conjectures, fears, or premonitions. While the false prophet calculates which result is the most probable and allows himself to be influenced by patriotism and personal advantage, the true prophet proclaims things contradictory to appearances and probabilities, things that offend his people and even deeply wound his own heart; yet he proclaims them with unshakable confidence. It must therefore be assumed that he had a higher source of knowledge. The ultra-rationalistic theology saw in the prophet only a man of superior gifts of mind and heart, a close observer of life, one familiar with virtue and hence with God, and one possessing that sure glance into the future which was lacking to the ordinary man. The difficulties to be overcome when an attempt is made to explain the duplex consciousness of the prophets and their boldness in the name of God, without having recourse to the intervention of a higher factor, is greatly increased by the quality of Old-Testament prophecy. This can not be explained by mere thought or by general convictions or simple premonitions.
(§ 4). Delivery of the Message. The second act in the genesis of the prophetic word is its enunciation. This side of prophetic activity is most often expressed by the word nabhi, "the speaker," namely, for God (cf. C. von Orelli, Alttestamentliche Weissagung, pp. 7-8, Vienna, 1882; Eng. transl., Old Testament Prophecy, Edinburgh, 1885). The effort has been made to see in nabhi, according to its fundamental meaning, a designation of a Canaanite dervish and to distinguish it from ro'eh, supposed to signify the more noble seer. But apart from the doubtful equation, nabhi=madman, these bands of dervishes represent rather a degeneration of something higher. In Amos vii. 12 sqq., hozeh, the synonym of ro'eh, has already the same meaning as nabhi, and Amos himself (ii. 11-12) in no wise despises the nebi'im. The same spiritual power that has brought God's revelation with imperative certainty to the prophet's soul urges him to proclaim it to those to whom he is sent. This divine causation, which not only forces him to see but also to repeat what he has seen, is forcibly expressed in Amos iii. 8; that is, just as involuntarily as one starts in terror on hearing the voice of the lion, so must the prophet prophesy when God's mighty word comes upon him. When he tries to keep this word to himself, it burns his heart (Jer. xx. 9). False prophets indeed allow themselves to be influenced by human considerations and by the prospect of gain (cf. Mic. iii. 5, 11; Isa. lvi. l0); with the true prophet, however, "thus saith the Lord" means that a complete divine thought has been implanted in the prophet's being.
(§ 5). Form of the Message. The concrete form and vivid realism of the relation springs from the fact that it describes a vision beheld by the prophet or some occurrence. He does not teach general, abstract truths, but his gaze is fixed upon the activities of the living God. This revelation first appears in an impressive form before the prophet's soul and it is only later combined with his own reflections. He may be morally disposed to expect, even to demand, a judgment upon Jerusalem, but what he prophetically beholds may be a visitation far in excess of what he believes reasonable. The form of prophetic inspiration depends upon the mental characteristics of the people and the race. A peculiarity of the Semites is a certain directness of perception; the single phenomenon is apprehended by them in immediate connection with its supreme cause. This natural gift was raised by the divine spirit to the potency of a charisma (cf. CHARISMATA) and herein lay the peculiar greatness as well as the limitations of Old-Testament prophecy; its greatness, in that it enabled the prophets to recognize the rule of God even in its external manifestations; its limitations, in that this incorporation of divine ideas is inadequate. As a rule, this revelation of God is designated as a word of Yahweh, and herein lies an important formal peculiarity. In that it is a word, the prophetic revelation is distinguished from the imperfect prototypes by which future persons and events are foreshadowed. The whole Mosaic sacrificial institution points to a future and perfect means of atonement; David, the king after God's heart, is the type of a future and greater ruler in whom the ideal which hovered before David will be fully realized. The symbolical interpretation of the Bible, practised by both Jews and Christians from an early time, has fallen into disrepute because of the capricious way in which it was employed, but modern natural science fully recognizes in the lower primitive types a prefiguring of the later and higher ones. The prophet gives a language to these symbols and discloses their hidden sense. The high priest offered his sacrifice of atonement for centuries before any one saw in it a prophecy of the future, as did the Second Isaiah; sentiment and premonition were freely aroused by the symbolic worship, but they first became clear and definite ideas of the future through the prophetic word.
(§ 6). Contents. As to its contents, prophecy is in no wise confined to future events. What happens at a distance and is therefore inaccessible to the senses, or what by its very nature belongs to a sphere unattainable for man's sensual and intellectual organs, is revealed to the prophet by the spirit of God. So, for example, Isaiah and Ezekiel beheld the majesty of him who was seated in the heavens; Ezekiel saw, in Babylon, what took place in Jerusalem (viii. 1 sqq.) or what Nebuchadnezzar did on the confines of Canaan. To the unsuspicious Jeremiah were revealed the plots laid against him by his fellow countrymen and even by his brethren. Nevertheless, the prediction of future events occupies an important place in prophecy. That the God who speaks through the prophets is he who determines all mundane events is proven according to the Biblical view by the fact that he reveals beforehand to his servants that which is to take place (Deut. xviii. 22; Amos iii. 7; Isa. xli. 22). The attempt has been made to limit this vision into the future to general ideas regarding the course of historical development, and to refer the special predictions which could not be thence derived to uncertain premonitions belonging rather to the domain of soothsaying. In this way Schleiermacher (Der christliche Glaube, Berlin, 1861) distinguishes in Old-Testament prophecy on the one hand actual predictions which possess a higher or lower degree of exactitude, on the other hand, Messianic prophecies in which the prophet rises from the particular to the general and where the statements rather belong to the realm of symbolism. In agreement with him it has been the custom to recognize only those ideas springing from general, ethical, and religious convictions regarding the future as the essentially divine part of prophecy. Here, however, something which appears in history as a living unity is arbitrarily divided. The sayings of the patriarchs, those of Balaam and similar predictions, may be explained as "predictions after the event"; but too many definite and well-authenticated predictions have been preserved from strictly historic times to make it possible to do away with them, and these are by prophets representing the highest level of Israelitic prophetism, when it must long have been purified from the mantic elements said to have accompanied its beginnings. Such are Isaiah's word against the Assyrians (xxxvii. 21), Jeremiah's announcement of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, and Ezekiel's story of the catastrophe in the capital city (xxi. 8 sqq., xxi. 18 sqq.).
(§ 7). Relation of Prediction to the Present. That it is the God who rules in nature and history who manifests himself to his people for their spiritual and material consecration is the most important phase in prophecy. The oldest parts of Genesis see in God the creator of the universe, whose will and rule are not confined to the spiritual and moral sphere, who also forms the external world according to his free will; and the prophets tell us how this divine will transformed and will transform the universe until it fully conforms to him. For this living God everything is predestined; even the details of prophecy can not be fortuitous. Neither the enrichment of human knowledge, nor the mere attainment of earthly happiness, not to speak of lower needs, can be the aim of the prophets. The people indeed willingly sought them for counsel and aid (cf. I Sam. ix. 6 sqq.; II Kings iv. 40), but the genuine prophet only answered questions and petitions a reply to which served to make a deeper impression upon men to the honor of God. The less the will of Yahweh prevailed in the present, the more the prophets referred to its realization in the future; but they always spoke of the future kingdom of God in the forms and colors at their command. The pictures they drew were historically conditioned and limited, for prophecy had first to serve the realization of the divine will in the present and this is possible only when it is made comprehensible for the hearers of the time; the kingdom, therefore, is depicted according to local and national limitations, in which form the future appeared to the prophet. Often, however, this picture was so intensified by the spirit animating it that the temporal bounds constituting its framework yielded. Thus the prophets beheld the advent of Messianic salvation in the forms of their own time and place. For the prophets of the exile, for example, it was connected with the return from captivity, while the generation which experienced this return postponed the blessed "end of days" to the future. From what has been said, it results that prophecy has a history, wherein lies both its permanent contents and its progressive growth. The news of the future kingdom of God was not communicated to the people of God at one time and as a definite doctrine--they would not indeed have been able to receive it; but that side of the Messianic future was disclosed which it was possible and beneficial for them to behold. Hence epoch-making changes in the national life, such as the founding of the Davidic kingdom on Zion or the Babylonian captivity and the destruction of the Temple were not only predicted in the prophetic word, but also served as a starting-point for a new phase of prophecy and rendered possible its essential progress. Which side of prophecy should be most prominent depended upon changes in the external aspect of affairs, but also upon the moral level of the people; to a self-righteous people, proud of their good fortune, a judgment must be announced, by means of which God wills to prepare the way for his rule. This phase of prophecy is predominant from Solomon to the exile. For a chastened and humbled people, however, the consolatory promises of the blessed fruition of God's plans were to be presented. If, therefore, the direction taken by the prophetic sayings depended upon the ethical needs of each generation, its spiritual height was often conditioned thereby. Even though the prophecies are not a product of the spirit of the age, God's spirit speaks therein first to the community of the present, and an educational progress is unfailingly recognized, so that, according to the capacity of each generation, the revelation assumes a more spiritual or a more sensual form, and, in general, a more profound mental effort is required of the later generations, since their horizon has been enlarged and enriched by many experiences. Still, this progress is not in a direct line, for after periods of the highest elevation of prophetic knowledge, there follow times when its flight is lower. The personal quality of the individual prophet also influences his prophecy, for his relation to the divine inspirations is not that of a clear mirror from which the divine pictures are reflected. The liveliness and tendency of his imagination, the conceptions with which he was already familiar through his life and calling, appear in his writings.
(§ 8). Fulfilment. Historical fulfilment belongs necessarily to genuine prophecy. It contains not merely abstract truths of permanent authority, nor simply ideals, the esthetic or religious value of which might depend on the degree of their realization in life, but, more especially, an outlook upon the works and plans of God in the world. Indeed, the divine word itself is conceived as something living and efficient. Therefore, the prophet, when he pronounces it, accomplishes, so to speak, a divine act; he is the organ of divine activity (Jer. i. 10, xxv. 15 sqq.). Hence realization is a requisite for the full acceptation of prophecy. In Biblical phraseology there is a reference to the fact that only after the realization of the prediction does the prophecy attain its true value and authority. God acknowledges his word in this way and redeems it. When God lets a prophetic word "fall to the ground" (I Sam. iii. 19), this proves its falsity (Deut. xviii. 21-22). The fulfilment differs, however, according to the character and purpose of the prophecy. Where the emphasis is laid upon the external form and a near term is indicated for a special judgment, whether of an individual or a people, it necessarily follows that the fulfilment must be literal, if the sayings are genuine. There are in the canon a great number of such predictions, the fulfilment of which is either expressly stated or is at least presupposed. Such prophecies became a sign that the Lord had spoken by the prophet. But these sayings do not always contain an unalterable judgment of God; indeed, as a rule, the menacing prophecy is intended to produce a change of the people's heart; if this purpose was attained, God's attitude was modified and his sentence was no longer to be executed (as in Jonah's experience with Nineveh, cf. Jonah iv. 2; Jer. xxvi. 18-19).
(C. VON ORELLI.)
III. In the New Testament: The Lord himself announced that after his death prophets would arise, men who in the same way and with the same authority as the messengers of God in the Old Testament would present the truths of the approaching salvation to the people of Israel and urge them to decide either for or against them (Matt. xxiii. 34; cf. Luke xi. 49). The work of Jesus as well as that of his predecessor John was of a prophetic nature (Matt. xiii. 57, xiv. 5, xxi. 26; Luke vii. 16, xiii. 33, xxiv. 19). The testimony to the resurrection and exaltation of Christ as presented by the first Christian community bears a thoroughly prophetic character, and the first effect of the spirit of Pentecost was the prophesying of those believers who were suddenly and miraculously filled with its power. They spoke "as the spirit gave them utterance" (Acts ii. 4) and their word was corroborated by sayings and wonders (Acts iii. 6, iv. 30, v. 12, 15, 16); the judicial and awe-inspiring quality of this prophecy is revealed in the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira (v. 1-11). Several prophets arose from it, such as Stephen (although he does not bear this name), for whoever was chosen by the spirit of Christ as an organ for the communication of the truths of salvation was endowed with the special charisma of inspired speech (II Cor. ii. 14-17). New-Testament prophecy belongs to the period of the founding of the Church when faith especially needed the guidance and support of the spirit of Christ, and when the written word either did not yet exist or was not in general use.
Among those possessing the gift of prophecy, the Acts mention Agabus (xi. 28), who predicted in Antioch the great famine of 44-45 A.D. (Josephus, Ant., XX., iv. 2), and in Cæsarea foretold to Paul the fate awaiting him in Jerusalem (Acts xxi. 10, 11), Barnabas, Symeon Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen and Saul of the Antiochian community (Acts xiii. 1), from whom came the command to dedicate Barnabas and Saul to the work for which they were called by the Holy Spirit. Judas and Silas, who were sent with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to give verbal support to the epistle of the community, were also prophets, as were the four virgin daughters of Philip (Acts xxi. 9). The gift of prophecy was not, however, confined to individuals, but was wide-spread in the apostolic communities. When Paul enumerates in his epistles the gifts, offices, and powers of the church, he places the prophets in the second rank, immediately after the apostles. Prophecy, recognized as a spiritual gift, is to be preferred to the speaking with tongues, for prophecy traverses the mind of the speaker and is addressed to the mind of the hearer (I Cor. xiv.). Therefore, the apostle desired that, during worship, two or three prophets should stand up and speak, one after the other, according as the spirit moved them. To test the truth and the divine origin of such communications, the Church had the gift of the "discerning of spirits" (I Cor. xii. 10).
The Revelation of John was certainly intended to close the era of prophecy until the Lord's second coming. For after the death of the apostles, prophecy slowly gave place to the use of the New-Testament Scriptures, which became from that time, and are to-day, the norm and source of divine truth. The Montanist movement of the second century (see MONTANUS, MONTANISM) naturally produced in the Church a distrust of new prophets, and this appears, with Luther at the time of the Reformation. Theprophetic word (II Pet. i.19), which shines as alight in the darkness until the breaking of the new day, must suffice for the faithful.