What is Prophecy?

Here’s one that comes up a lot in the context of Bible Study.

Of all the genres of Biblical liturature (and, yes, the Bible is not only made up of many books but many types of books – more on that in another post), the prophetic liturature is often the least well understood. This is not an affectation solely of the laity, or the casual Christian reader. The history, nature and ultimatemeaning of the prophets challenges even the most experienced clerics and scholars.

Why, in a tradition like early Judaism, with it’s commitments to meaning-filled history and cultic sacrifice and legal codes, would there – seemingly all of the sudden – arrise a class of court-advisors-turned-commentators who would begin to write highly-stylized books of commentary that seemed to radically change the very nature of the religion? Moreover, why would the writings of these folks become so important to the overall development of the tradition? And finally, what, if anything, do these ancient writings have to do with either the more recent history of Jesus or even the contemporary or future histories of the Church?

Enquiring minds want to know.

There is probably enough for several posts here, so let’s start stick with the basics? What is prophecy? Is it simply a religious brand of fortune telling? A glimpse of the future embedded in the deep past? Only kind of.

To put it simply, prophecy is a statement about how God sees the world. When God speaks to or through a prophet, he is making a statement – often figurative, frequently concise, sometimes obscure – about his unique point of view on a state of affairs. Because God is omniscient and sees all times, the Divine point of view can will frequently feel to us like it is predictive of the future. It is, however, also very likely that the statement can be applied to the path (history frequently feels cyclical and we, humans are retry slow learners sometimes). Mostly, however, I believe that prophecy has to do with the present – otherwise God would have said something sooner or waited until later to say what was on his mind. In many cases, prophecy is about all three phases of history (past, present and future) reflecting the eternal nature of God and his commitment to be with us always.

So there you have it – prophecy in a nutshell. Certainly there is more to explore and we will certainly revisit this topic in the future. Wait! Is that a prophecy? No. Its just a guess.

Keep those questions coming in.

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