prophet [Gr.,=foreteller], a religious leader and spokesperson, particularly used in the Bible. The prophets emitted messages from the divine through inspired speech, the interpretation of omens and dreams, and the casting of lots and divination. The word derives from Greek cults, in which prophets interpreted answers to questions put to oracular mediums (see oracles). The concept of a divine interpreter is common in religion, yet the function varies according to culture; thus the term can be defined only with respect to a particular religion. Usually prophet connotes inspired utterance of a spontaneous nature, while priest suggests established ritual duties.
Sections in this article:
- Among Native Americans
- The Prophetic Tradition in the Ancient Middle East
- In Christianity and Islam
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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