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Related to Prophets: Nostradamus
of the Bible.
The term prophetes in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) and in the New Testament conveys the Hebrew nabhi, which in ancient Palestine referred to a preacher who while in a state of ecstasy predicted the future in the name of god. In the eighth century B.C. the term also came to be applied to religiopolitical orators and preachers. The most eminent prophets of the ninth century B.C. were Elijah and his disciple Elisha, who by their denunciations came into conflict with royal authority. Grouped around them were young prophets—called sons of the prophets—who lived in various cities, such as Bethel and Jericho. The figure of Elijah subsequently played a major role in Jewish and Christian eschatology.
The complication of social relations and the profound exacerbation of sociopolitical conflicts in Israel and Judah led to the rise in the eighth century B.C. of what was called the prophets’ movement, of which the major spokesmen were Amos, Ho-sea, Isaiah (so-called Proto-Isaiah), and Micah in the eighth century B.C.; Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, and Habbakuk in the seventh century B.C., and Ezekiel, so-called Deutero-Isaiah, Haggai, and Zechariah in the sixth century B.C. Sharply exposing the crimes of the rich and the power of the propertied classes, the prophets inveighed against the dispossession of the peasants from the land and the oppression and arbitrary treatment of the lower social strata. The prophets called for the renunciation of war and predicted the victory of social justice in the future, when men would “beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah). The prophets’ demands for the centralization of worship in accord with the universalism of Yahweh and ethical monotheism objectively promoted centralization and royal authority. The prophets affirmed the superiority of a moral-ethical foundation over worship as such, with its bare ritualism and the sacrifice of animals.
The religiopolitical speeches, sermons, and oracles (predictions) of the prophets were first given orally. Afterward, they were written down and collected into anthologies, which gradually were supplemented and combined (not always in the chronological order of their composition) into separate books, which were edited for the final time evidently in the period of the rule of the Achaemenids in the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. By their size the books of the prophets are conventionally divided into major and minor ones. The three major books of the prophets that are extant are Isaiah (consisting of the works of two and possibly three authors who lived at different times), Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. There are 12 minor prophets.
The prophets’ works are distinguished by the richness and vividness of poetic language. They were an important contribution to the development of classical Hebrew language and literature. Prophetic literature greatly influenced later Jewish sectarian (Essene-Qumranite) and Christian ideology and literature. The prophets were referred to by Christian heretical movements in the Middle Ages, ideologists of peasant wars and other popular movements, and the Utopian socialists.
REFERENCESHeaton, E. W. The Old Testament Prophets. Harmondsworth, 1958.
Eissfeldt, O. “The Prophetic Literature.” In The Old Testament and Modern Study. Edited by H. H. Rowbey. Oxford .
Fohrer, G. Geschichte der israelitischen Religion. Berlin .
I. D. AMUSIN