Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Idioms, Wikipedia.
Related to Prophets: Nostradamus
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.


Heaton, 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 [1961].
Fohrer, G. Geschichte der israelitischen Religion. Berlin [1968].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
Passepartout was now the only person left in the car, and the Elder, looking him full in the face, reminded him that, two years after the assassination of Joseph Smith, the inspired prophet, Brigham Young, his successor, left Nauvoo for the banks of the Great Salt Lake, where, in the midst of that fertile region, directly on the route of the emigrants who crossed Utah on their way to California, the new colony, thanks to the polygamy practised by the Mormons, had flourished beyond expectations.
They saw few or no churches, but the prophet's mansion, the court-house, and the arsenal, blue-brick houses with verandas and porches, surrounded by gardens bordered with acacias, palms, and locusts.
I wouldn't be used to such grand people as the patriarchs and prophets, and I would be sheepish and tongue-tied in their company, and mighty glad to get out of it.
The like of me go meddling around at the reception of a prophet? A mudsill like me trying to push in and help receive an awful grandee like Edward J.
"Prophet," he said, presumably addressing Kalon, "I wish you would tell me a lot about your religion."
In the long and startled stillness of the room the prophet of Apollo slowly rose; and really it was like the rising of the sun.
Carlyle, like Johnson, was a Prophet with a message.
And although for us of to-day the light of Carlyle as a prophet may be somewhat dimmed, we may still find, as a great man of his own day found, that the good his writings do us, is "not as philosophy to instruct, but as poetry to animate."*
Here, tradition says, the prophet Samuel was born, and here the Shunamite woman built a little house upon the city wall for the accommodation of the prophet Elisha.
One hears -- one hears such dreadful stories about those who oppose the Prophet: something terrible always happens to them."
Say, sirrah, hast thou ever proved thyself A prophet? When the riddling Sphinx was here Why hadst thou no deliverance for this folk?
Yet even then beyond the reach of any plummet --"out of the belly of hell" --when the whale grounded upon the ocean's utmost bones, even then, God heard the engulphed, repenting prophet when he cried.