PROPHESYING: History of "Prophesying." A means of promoting the knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures by means of discussions in common became customary among some of the Reformed churches. Although often confused with the reading and explanation of the Scriptures as practised during the Reformation, a certain kind of instruction in the Scriptures (called by the Germans Prophezei) has no connection with this. It first appeared in Zurich because of the need of winning such priests as possessed, besides sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures, the talent to explain in a familiar way the Christian message of salvation. According to the reformation of the foundation of the Gross Münster, every effort should be made for the appointment of those who should every day, publicly, for one hour, preach and teach the Holy Scriptures in the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages. On June 19, 1525, this regulation was put in force under the leadership of Zwingli. At eight o'clock each morning, excepting Fridays and Sundays, all the clergy of the city and the other preachers (students, chaplains, etc.), came together in the choir of the Gross Münster. After a short opening prayer, a part or the whole of a chapter of the Old Testament was read. The reading was followed by a dogmatic and practical exposition. These are the beginnings of the so-called prophesying. Megander introduced this custom in Bern, where it later developed into a school. With Peter Martyr (1556) followed the institution of the "theological lesson" for the people; prophesying was transformed into teaching. Encouraged by the example of Zurich, prophesying assumed a new and singular form in Lasco's fugitive community in London. One of their preachers, Micronius, relates, in 1554, that in the weekly prophesying, the Sunday sermons were subjected to a critical examination, so that the elders, doctors, and prophets could add thereto from the Scriptures whatever might be necessary for the understanding of the text and the edification of the congregation. This institution never attained great development as a liturgical element, since, on the one hand, the founding of theological schools took its place, and, on the other hand, the religious understanding of the congregation soon outgrew the need for its use.
Wherever religious excitement has demanded a more recondite explanation of Scripture, analogous phenomena appeared. For example, among the Jansenists of Port Royal, the study of the Scriptures was pursued in common, and from this circle Labadie transplanted the usage, in the form of a developed private worship, to Amiens (1644), Geneva (1659), and Middelburg (1666). Among his disciples in Geneva were Untereyk and Spener; the latter introduced the movement as collegia pietatis into Frankfort. From the time of Spener, prophesying, as modified by time, has endured in the Evangelical churches in the form of Bible conferences or of Bible lessons and readings, at home or in the church, and under the direction of members of the congregation or of the pastors or elders.