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Title: Prophecy  
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Subject: Oracle, Nostradamus, Private revelation, Assemblies of God USA, Inspiration of Ellen G. White
Collection: Christian Genres, Mythology, Prophecy
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Prophecy involves a process in which one or more messages allegedly communicated to a prophet[1] are then communicated to other people. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of events to come (compare divine knowledge). Historically, clairvoyance has been used as an adjunct to prophecy.[2]


  • Etymology 1
  • Definitions 2
  • Ancient civilizations 3
  • Bahá'í Faith 4
  • Buddhism 5
  • China 6
  • Christianity 7
    • Later Christianity 7.1
    • Latter Day Saint movement 7.2
      • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 7.2.1
  • Islam 8
  • Judaism 9
  • Native American prophecy 10
  • Nostradamus 11
  • Skepticism 12
  • Psychological understandings 13
  • See also 14
  • References 15
  • Sources 16
  • Further reading 17
  • External links 18


The English word "prophecy" (noun) in the sense of "function of a prophet" appeared in Europe from about 1225, from Old French profecie (12th century), and from Late Latin prophetia, Greek prophetia "gift of interpreting the will of God", from Greek prophetes (see prophet). The related meaning "thing spoken or written by a prophet" is from c. 1300, while the verb "to prophesy" is recorded by 1377.[3]

The word prophecy comes from the Greek verb, προφημι (prophemi), which means “to say beforehand, foretell”; it is a combination of the Greek words, προ and φημι. The Greek prefix προ also means "before," "in front of," so etymologically προφημι means to speak in front of, as a spokesperson.[4]


The revolution of 1831. As prophecied by that learned astrologer General Ikey Wether-Bridge
  • Rabbinic scholar Maimonides, suggested that "prophecy is, in truth and reality, an emanation sent forth by Divine Being through the medium of the Active Intellect, in the first instance to man's rational faculty, and then to his imaginative faculty."[5]
  • The former closely relates to the definition by Al-Fârâbî who developed the theory of prophecy in Islam.[6]
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia defines a Christian conception of prophecy as "understood in its strict sense, it means the foreknowledge of future events, though it may sometimes apply to past events of which there is no memory, and to present hidden things which cannot be known by the natural light of reason."[7]

From a skeptical point of view, there is a Latin maxim: prophecy written after the fact vaticinium ex eventu.[8]

Ancient civilizations

Prophecy is by no means new or limited to any one culture. It is a common property to all known ancient societies around the world, some more than others. Many systems and rules about prophecy have been proposed over several millennia.

Bahá'í Faith

In 1863, Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, claimed to have been the promised messianic figure of all previous religions, and a Manifestation of God,[9] a type of prophet in the Bahá'í writings that serves as intermediary between the divine and humanity and who speak with the voice of a god.[10] Bahá'u'lláh claimed that, while being imprisoned in the Siyah-Chal in Iran, he underwent a series of mystical experiences including having a vision of the Maid of Heaven who told him of his divine mission, and the promise of divine assistance;[11] In Bahá'í belief, the Maid of Heaven is a representation of the divine.[12]


The Haedong Kosung-jon (Biographies of High Monks) records that King

  •  "Prophecy".  
  • The James Randi Educational Foundation

External links

  • Adamson, Peter, Prophecy, in Muhammad in History, Thought, and Culture: An Encyclopedia of the Prophet of God (2 vols.), Edited by C. Fitzpatrick and A. Walker, Santa Barbara, ABC-CLIO, 2014. ISBN 1610691776
  • H. H. Rowley. 1956. Prophecy and Religion in Ancient China and Israel. New York: Harper & Brothers. vi, 154 p.
  • Jim Thompson. 2008. Prophecy Today: a Further Word from God?: Does God-Given Prophecy Continue in Today's Church, or Doesn't It?. (Evangelical Press), ISBN 978-0-85234-673-0
  • Marcus Tullius Cicero. 1997. De divinatione. Trans. Arthur Stanley Pease. Darmstadt: Wissenschaflliche Buchgesellschaft.
  • David Edward Aune. 1963. Prophecy in Early Christianity and the Ancient Mediterranean World. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans. ISBN 0-8028-3584-8.
  • Christopher Forbes. 1997. Prophecy and Inspired Speech: in Early Christianity and Its Hellenistic Environment. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson. ISBN 1-56563-269-9.
  • Clifford S. Hill. 1991. Prophecy, Past and Present: an Exploration of the Prophetic Ministry in the Bible and the Church today. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Vine. ISBN 0-8028-0635-X.
  • Jürgen Beyer. 2002. 'Prophezeiungen', Enzyklopädie des Märchens: Handwörterbuch zur historischen und vergleichenden Erzählforschung [N.B.: In English renders as "Encyclopedia of the fairy tale: Handy dictionary for historical and comparative tale research"]. Berlin & New York: Walter de Gruyter. In vol. 10, on col. 1419–1432.
  • Stacey Campbell. 2008. Ecstatic Prophecy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Chosen Books/Baker Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8007-9449-1.

Further reading

  • Alcalay, Reuben., The Complete Hebrew – English dictionary, Hemed Books, New York, 1996 ISBN 978-965-448-179-3
  • Tucker, T.G., Etymological dictionary of Latin, Ares Publishers, Inc., Chicago, 1985 ISBN 978-0-89005-172-6
  • Helm, June., Prophecy and Power among the Dogrib Indians, University of Nebraska Press, 1994


  • Online Etymological Dictionary
  • Maxwell, Joe (1994). "PLUS: Seminary Women 'Rewrite Their Stories", Christianity Today, January 5, 2012
  1. ^ Prophecy (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. ^ Compare: Guiley, Rosemary (2006). "clairvoyance". The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy. Infobase Publishing. p. 59.  
  3. ^ "Prophecy" in the Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. ^ Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon
  5. ^ (Rambam, The Guide p.225)
  6. ^ The influence of Islamic Philosophy on Maimonides's thought, Diana Steigerwald Religious Studies, California State University (Long Beach)
  7. ^ "Prophecy" in the Catholic Encyclopedia
  8. ^ as at 29-08-08
  9. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Bahá'u'lláh – Theological Status". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. pp. 78–79.  
  10. ^ Hatcher, W.S.; Martin, J.D. (1998). The Bahá'í Faith: The Emerging Global Religion. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 116–123.  
  11. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Bahá'u'lláh – Life". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 73.  
  12. ^ Smith, Peter (2000). "Maid of Heaven". A concise encyclopedia of the Bahá'í Faith. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. p. 230.  
  13. ^ Korea: a religious history, James Huntley Grayson, p. 34
  14. ^ Walter Brueggemann, The Prophetic Imagination, (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1978), 13.
  15. ^ F.W.Dillstone; Christianity and Symbolism; London 1955, p275; referenced in 'The function of prophetic drama' in "The place is too small for us": the Israelite prophets in recent scholarship, by R. P. Gordon, 1995 Eisenbrauns, (cf Galatians 4:24)
  16. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Church History, Book V, Chapter 16 & 18 Montanus...became beside himself, and being suddenly in a sort of frenzy and ecstasy, he raved, and began to babble and utter strange things, prophesying in a manner contrary to the constant custom of the Church handed down by tradition from the beginning.... His actions and his teaching show who this new teacher is. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who made laws for fasting; who named Pepuza and Tymion, small towns in Phrygia, Jerusalem, wishing to gather people to them from all directions; who appointed collectors of money; who contrived the receiving of gifts under the name of offerings; who provided salaries for those who preached his doctrine, that its teaching might prevail through gluttony.
  17. ^ History of the Church of God Ministry of Jesus Christ International (official page)
  18. ^ The Corruption of the Bible – A Fact Attested by the Quran" The True Call
  19. ^ The Guide for the Perplexed /Part II/Chapter XXXIX
  20. ^ a b The Suprarational Grounds of Rationalism: Maimonides and The Criteria of Prophecy, Mark R. Sunwall
  21. ^ The Guide for the Perplexed (Friedlander)/Part II/Chapters#CHAPTER XLV
  22. ^  
  23. ^ p.27, Helm
  24. ^ Dogrib prophecy
  25. ^ Lemesurier, Peter, The Unknown Nostradamus, 2003
  26. ^ The James Randi Educational Foundation
  27. ^ Deikman, A. J. (1982). The Observing self: Mysticism and psychotherapy. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 21.  
  28. ^ Poloma, Margaret (2003). Main street mystics: The Toronto blessing & reviving Pentecostalism. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press. p. 115.  
  29. ^ Poloma, M. M. (2003). Main street mystics: The Toronto blessing & reviving Pentecostalism. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press. p. 126.  
  30. ^ Jaynes, J. (1976). Main street mystics: The origins of consciousness in the breakdown of the bicameral mind. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 74. 
  31. ^ Pearce, J. C. (2002–2004). The Biology of Transcendence: A blueprint of the human spirit. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions International. p. 191.  
  32. ^ Pearce, J. C. The Biology of Transcendence. p. 192. 
  33. ^ Pearce, J. C. The Biology of Transcendence. pp. 194 & 196. 
  34. ^


See also

Some cite aspects of cognitive psychology such as pattern forming and attention to the formation of prophecy in modern-day society as well as the declining influence of religion in daily life.[34]

Child development and consciousness author Joseph Chilton Pearce remarked that revelation typically appears in symbolic form and “in a single flash of insight.”[31] He used the metaphor of lightning striking and suggests that the revelation is “a result of a buildup of resonant potential.”[32] Pearce compared it to the earth asking a question and the sky answering it. Focus, he said, feeds into “a unified field of like resonance (and becomes) capable of attracting and receiving the field’s answer when it does form."[33]

Psychologist Julian Jaynes proposed that this is a temporary accessing of the bicameral mind; that is, a temporary separating of functions, such that the authoritarian part of the mind seems to literally be speaking to the person as if a separate (and external) voice. Jaynes posits that the gods heard as voices in the head were and are organizations of the central nervous system. God speaking through man, according to Jaynes, is a more recent vestige of God speaking to man; the product of a more integrated higher self. When the bicameral mind speaks, there is no introspection. We simply experience the Lord telling us what to do. In earlier times, posits Jaynes, there was additionally a visual component, now lost.[30]

“(P)rophecy can be likened to a bridge between the individual ‘mystical self’ and the communal ‘mystical body’,” writes religious sociologist Margaret Poloma.[28] Prophecy seems to involve “the free association that occurred through the workings of the right brain.”[29]

The phenomenon of prophecy is not well understood in psychology research literature. Psychiatrist and neurologist Arthur Deikman describes the phenomenon as an "intuitive knowing, a type of perception that bypasses the usual sensory channels and rational intellect."[27]

Psychological understandings

One point to remember is that the probability of an event changes as soon as a prophecy (or divination) exists. . . . The accuracy or outcome of any prophecy is altered by the desires and attachments of the seer and those who hear the prophecy.[26]

According to skeptics, many apparently fulfilled prophecies can be explained as coincidences (possibly aided by the prophecy's own vagueness), or that some prophecies were actually invented after the fact to match the circumstances of a past event ("postdiction"). Whitcomb in The Magician's Companion observes,


Most reliable academic sources maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus's quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power. Moreover, none of the sources listed offers any evidence that anyone has ever interpreted any of Nostradamus's pseudo-prophetic works specifically enough to allow a clear identification of any event in advance.[25]

Esoteric prophecy has been claimed for, but not by, Michel de Nostredame popularly referred to as Nostradamus who claimed to be a converted Christian. It is known that he had suffered several tragedies in his life, and had been persecuted to some degree for his cryptic esoteric writings about the future, reportedly derived through a use of a crystal ball. Nostradamus was a French apothecary and reputed seer who published collections of foreknowledge of future events. He is best known for his book Les Propheties ("The Prophecies"), the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Since the publication of this book, Nostradamus has attracted an esoteric following that, along with the popularistic press, credits him with foreseeing world events. His esoteric cryptic foreseeings have in some cases been assimilated to the results of applying the alleged Bible code, as well as to other purported pseudo-prophetic works.


In another type of example, it is recorded that there are three Dogrib prophets who had claimed to have been divinely inspired to bring the message of Christianity's God to their people.[23] This prophecy among the Dogrib involves elements such as dances and trance-like states.[24]

There exists a problem in verifying most Native American prophecy, in that they remain primarily an oral tradition, and thus there is no way to cite references of where writings have been committed to paper. In their system, the best reference is an Elder, who acts as a repository of the accumulated wisdom of their tradition.

Native American prophecy

Malachi, whose full name was Ezra Ha'Sofer (the scribe), is acknowledged to have been the last prophet of Israel if one accepts the opinion that Nechemyah died in Babylon before 9th Tevet 3448 (313 BCE).[22]

The Tanakh contains prophecies from various Hebrew prophets (55 in total) who communicated messages from God to the nation of Israel, and later the population of Judea and elsewhere. In Jewish tradition Daniel is not counted in the list of prophets.

Experience of prophecy in the Torah and the rest of Tanakh do not restrict it to Jews. Nor is the prophetic experience restricted to the Hebrew language.

Of the twelfth mode, Maimonides focuses his attention on its "implicit superiority to the penultimate stage in the above series", and therefore above all other prophetic and semi-prophetic modes.[20]

  1. Inspired actions
  2. Inspired words
  3. Allegorical dream revelations
  4. Auditory dream revelations
  5. Audiovisual dream revelations/human speaker
  6. Audiovisual dream revelations/angelic speaker
  7. Audiovisual dream revelations/Divine speaker
  8. Allegorical waking vision
  9. Auditory waking revelation
  10. Audiovisual waking revelation/human speaker
  11. Audiovisual waking revelation/angelic speaker
  12. Audiovisual waking revelation/Divine speaker (that refers implicitly to Moses)

Maimonides, in his The Guide for the Perplexed, outlines twelve modes of prophecy[21] from lesser to greater degree of clarity:

Maimonides' theory of prophecy contains two elements (1) an explanation of what prophecy is, and (2) a ranking of the various types of prophecy and prophecy-like phenomena. I think we can use the ranking of prophecy implicate in Maimonides to substantiate our thesis that the rationalism of Maimonides is essentially a moral rationalism.[20]

The rabbinic teachings, notably Maimonides (Rambam), suggest there were many levels of prophecy, from the highest such as those experienced by Moses, to the lowest where the individuals were able to apprehend the Divine Will, but not respond or even describe this experience to others, citing in example, Shem, Eber and most notably, Noah, who, in biblical narrative, does not issue prophetic declarations.[19]

In the Torah, prophecy often consisted of a conditioned warning by God of the consequences should the society, specific communities, or their leaders not adhere to Torah's instructions in the time contemporary with the prophet's life. Prophecies sometimes included conditioned promises of blessing for obeying God, and returning to behaviors and laws as written in the Torah. Conditioned warning prophecies feature in all Jewish works of the Tanakh.


Muslims believe that the Qur'an predicted many events years before they happened and that such prophecies are proof of the divine origin of the Qur'an. The Qur'an itself states "For every prophecy is a term, and you will come to know (it)." [Quran 6:67] Muslims also recognize the validity of some prophecies in other sacred texts like in the Bible; however, they believe that, unlike the Qur'an, some parts of the Bible have been corrupted over the years, and as a result, not all of the prophecies and verses in the Bible are accurate.[18]


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) which was maintained by Brigham Young and his followers in Utah is the largest LDS body. The current Prophet/President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Thomas S. Monson. The church has, since Joseph Smith's death on June 27, 1844, held a belief that the president of their church is also a literal prophet of God, and the only true prophet on the earth. The church also maintains that further revelations claimed to have been given through Joseph Smith are published in the Doctrine and Covenants, one of four sacred LDS texts. Additional revelations and prophecies outside the Standard Works, such as Joseph Smith's "White Horse Prophecy", concerning a great and final war in the United States before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, can be found in other church published works.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Following Smith's murder, there was a Latter Day Saint sects that have splintered from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. To this day, there are an unknown number of organizations within the Latter Day Saint Movement, each with their own proposed prophet.

The Latter Day Saint movement maintains that its first prophet, Joseph Smith, was visited by God and Jesus Christ in 1820. The Latter Day Saints further claims that God communicated directly with Joseph Smith on many subsequent occasions, and that following the death of Joseph Smith God has continued to speak through subsequent prophets. Joseph Smith claims to have been led by an angel to a large hill in upstate New York, where he was shown an ancient manuscript engraved on plates of gold metal. Joseph Smith claimed to have translated this manuscript into modern English under divine inspiration by the gift and power of God, and the publication of this translation are known as the Book of Mormon.

Latter Day Saint movement

In 1994, the Apostolic-Prophetic Movement came on the scene, largely due to the influence of the Toronto, Brownsville and Kansas City revivals. Along with the Charismatic Movement's speaking in tongues and prophecy, the Prophetic Movement distinguished itself from past movements with physical twitching, moaning, sightings of gold dust, "glory clouds" and gems that (allegedly) fell from heaven. (Maxwell, 1994 p1).

Since 1972, the neo-Pentecostal Church of God Ministry of Jesus Christ International has expressed a belief in prophecy. The church claims this gift is manifested by one person (the prophesier) laying their hands on another person, who receives an individual message said by the prophesier. Prophesiers are believed to be used by the Holy Ghost as instruments through whom God expresses his promises, advice and commandments. The church claims people receive messages about their future, in the form of promises given by God and expected to be fulfilled by divine action.[17]

The "father" of the Healing Revival is said to have been William M. Branham, who started a religious cult based on his sermons and prophecies. His predictions include the End of the World in 1977, Benito Mussolini's last stand in Ethiopia, egg-shaped cars, and more during sermons recorded from 1947 to 1965.

Subsequently there are few examples of the prophetic and certain other gifts (until the Scottish Covenanters like Prophet Peden and John Wishart). Prophecy and certain other spiritual gifts were somewhat rarely acknowledged throughout church history. From 1904 to 1906, the Azusa Street Revival occurred in Los Angeles, California and is sometimes considered the birthplace of the Pentecostal movement. This revival is well known for the "speaking in tongues" that occurred there. Some participants of the Azusa Street Revival are claimed to have prophesied. Pentecostals believe prophecy and certain other gifts are once again being given to Christians. The Charismatic Movement, which began to move into mainline denominations, also accepts spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues and prophecy.

The gift of prophecy was acknowledged in the Church after the death of the apostles. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr argued that prophets were no longer among Israel but were in the Church. The Shepherd of Hermas, written around the mid-2nd century—John A. T. Robinson dates it before 85 AD, describes the way prophecy was being used within the church of that time. Irenaeus confirms the existence of such spiritual gifts in his Against Heresies. Although some modern commentators claim that Montanus was rejected because he claimed to be a prophet, a careful examination of history shows that the gift of prophecy was still acknowledged during the time of Montanus, and that he was controversial because of the manner in which he prophesied and the doctrines he propagated.[16]

Later Christianity

According to Walter Brueggemann, the task of prophetic (Christian) ministry is to nurture, nourish and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture.[14] A recognized form of Christian prophecy is the "prophetic drama" which Frederick Dillistone describes as a "metaphorical conjunction between present situations and future events".[15]

The New Testament refers to prophecy as one of the spiritual gifts given by the indwelling Holy Spirit[Rom 12:6]. From this, many Christians believe that the gift of prophecy is the supernatural ability to receive and convey a message from God. The purpose of the message may be to "edify, exhort and comfort" the members of the Church. In this context, not all prophecies contain predictions about the future. The Apostle Paul teaches in First Corinthians that prophecy is for the benefit of the whole Church and not just of the individual exercising the gift.[1 Cor. 14:22]


In ancient Chinese, prophetic texts are known as Chen(谶). The most famous Chinese prophecy is the Tui bei tu (推背圖)



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