Monday, September 25, 2006

RCIA: Prophets & Prophecy (Session #4, October 8th)


A. To understand the role of prophets in God’s revelation of Himself to humanity, and to understand the language of prophecy


A. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)

1. Prophet (Glossary)

B. Catholic Encyclopedia (CE)

1. Prophecy

2. Prophecy, Prophet, and Prophetess

C. Bible

1. Most (if not all) books of the Bible have prophetic material in them


A. What is prophecy?

1. Divine inspirations concerning what is secret, whether future or not. A Divine light by which God reveals things concerning the unknown and by which these things are in some way represented to the mind of the prophet, whose duty it is to manifest them to others. (CE)

i. In place of charms and oracles and other devices, God bestows instead the gift of prophecy

2. Content

i. Knowledge of forgotten pasts

ii. Knowledge of the hidden present

iii. Foreknowledge of future events

3. Transmission

i. Supernatural, from God

ii. Beyond the natural power of our intelligence

iii. Manifested by words and/or signs

iv. Conveyed to the intellect, the senses, or the imagination

v. The prophet was almost always awake

4. Types of prophecy

i. Perfect vs. Imperfect

a. Perfect: the prophet is sure of the thing being revealed and that it is God who is revealing it

b. Imperfect prophecy lacks one of those two characteristics (2 Samuel 7:2-5a, 13a)

ii. Denunciation, Foreknowledge, Predestination

a. Denunciation: future events that hinge upon cause-and-effect (Jonah)

b. Foreknowledge: future events that hinge upon free will, but which God sees in the present from eternity

c. Predestination: future events that are God’s infallible, unpreventable will, and which He shall cause to come about (the coming of the Messiah)

B. What is a (true) prophet?

1. One sent by God to form the people of the Old Covenant in the hope of salvation. (CCC)

i. Interpreter and herald of Yahweh whose duty is to communicate God’s will and designs to Israel

a. Preaching, foretelling, leading the people when they went astray

b. Preparing the way for the new kingdom of God ushered in by the Messiah

c. In a time of polytheism, prophets of God spoke for “Yahweh” (the name revealed to Moses), the one true God

ii. The Hebrew word is nevi, originally meaning “proclaimer” and developing into the Biblical usage of “interpreter and mouthpiece of God” (Exodus 7:1-2)

iii. Greek word prophetes comes from pro-phanai (to speak for, to speak in the name of someone)

2. No “tribe of prophets” (contrast with the Mosaic priesthood of Levi)

i. The gift of prophecy is an extraordinary grace bestowed by God on whomever He pleases

a. No preparation required, no training needed

b. Men, women, children, angels, demons, gentiles, etc.

c. Moral goodness preferred, but not necessary

ii. Prophetic message initiated by God (Jeremiah 1:2) or by prayer on the part of the prophet (Jeremiah 42:4)

iii. Prophets other than adult Hebrew males

a. Miriam, the sister of Moses

b. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist

c. Samuel and Daniel as children

d. Balaam, a Moabite (Gentile) (Numbers 24:15-17)

e. Demons (Matthew 8:28-29)

C. What is a false prophet?

1. Either one who claims prophecy falsely, or one who reveals God in a manner contrary to the understanding revealed in Scripture. (Jeremiah 23:30-32)

2. True prophets should be virtuous, well-tempered, and in good mental health

3. True prophets should speak in conformity with Christian truth if they are inspired by the Spirit

4. True prophets should speak of things of grave and important nature, for the good of the Church or for souls in general

i. This excludes fortune-telling, crystal-gazers, etc.

5. Prophecies that make known the sins of others, or delve into predestination (of a soul’s salvation or condemnation) are suspect

i. In particular, the Day of Judgment is a secret that has never been revealed

6. Look for fulfillment of prophecy, except where the prophecy was hinged upon conditions which have changed (Jonah)

i. Consider prophecy from God which may have been misinterpreted by humans

D. Who were some of the prophets?

1. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

i. God spoke directly to Abraham (and Isaac and Jacob)

ii. God formed the covenant of circumcision with Abraham, the first physical historical covenant

2. Moses and Aaron

i. God spoke directly to Moses, manifesting Himself in such forms as a bush burning but not consumed and a pillar of smoke

ii. God reveals himself by name to Moses: Yahweh (“I am who am”)

iii. God reveals himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob

3. Samuel and Nathan

i. Samuel was called by God as a young boy (1 Samuel 3:4-10), and his calling began the “institution” of prophets

a. Prophets did not have “schools”, nor did they “pass on” their “skill”, but prophets became main-stays and advisors to the king

ii. Nathan served King David and prophesied as well as instructed David using parables (2 Samuel 12:1-7a)

4. Elijah

i. Helped lead Israel back to God

ii. Raised a boy from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24)

iii. Fled to Mount Horeb when Jezebel threatened his life; there he received encouragement (1 Kings 19:8b-13a) and a mission from God (1 Kings 19:13b-18)

iv. Commanded by God to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16, 19-21)

5. Elisha

i. Succeeded Elijah and received a “double portion of [his] spirit” before Elijah was taken up into heaven amidst a whirlwind and a flaming chariot (2 Kings 2:9-12)

ii. Also raised a boy from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-35)

6. Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel

7. Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zachariah, Malachi

8. Called by God in different ways and responded differently (Amos 7:14-15; Jeremiah 1:4-5; Jonah 1:1-3a)

9. The fate of prophets…

i. All were threatened, most were killed

ii. Jesus referred to Jerusalem – and the Pharisees in particular – as the murderer of the prophets (Matthew 23:29-37)

E. What was the role of prophecy?

1. Literal and figurative meanings behind the images and words

i. Literal: 1 Kings 22:17

ii. Figurative: Jeremiah 1:11-12

iii. Literal and figurative: 2 Samuel 7:12-13

2. Usually oral instruction accompanied by symbolic gestures

i. In Jeremiah 27:2, he was prophesying God’s bondage of the Israelites under Nebuchadnezzar.

ii. Some prophecies appear to have been made exclusively to be written down

3. Preaching religion and morals, deploring idol worship and empty sacrifices; foretelling the Day of Yahweh, the Messiah, salvation, and the end of the world

F. What did they prophesy?

1. They did not just receive a mission of preaching and predicting God’s will, they were given a specific message, and all they spoke came to them by revelation and inspiration (2 Peter 1:21)

2. God’s abandonment of Israel for their wickedness and His return (Hosea)

3. God’s destruction of wicked nations if they did not repent (Jonah)

4. The new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 11:19-20, 36:26-28)

5. Obedience and love, instead of sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6)

6. The Messiah, details of his ministry, even John the Baptist (Isaiah 9:5-6, 53:1-12; Daniel 7:13-14; Zechariah 9:9; Malachi 3)

i. Jesus Christ is understood to be the consummation of prophecy, meaning that all the prophecies were ultimately pointing to his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection, as well as his purpose in the salvation of God’s people (Matthew 13:17)

7. The Resurrection (Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2)

G. What about prophecy during the time of Christ?

1. The angel Gabriel, appearing to Mary, regarding Jesus (Luke 1:26-37)

2. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist, upon seeing Mary (Luke 1:41-45)

3. Zechariah, father of John the Baptist, upon John’s birth (Luke 1:68-79)

4. Simeon, in the temple at the presentation of Jesus (Luke 2:25-35)

5. Anna, recognizing the fulfillment of God’s promise (Luke 2:36-38)

6. John the Baptist, possessing the spirit of Elijah (Luke 3:15-16)

7. Jesus as prophet

i. As a boy in Jerusalem (Luke 2:46-49)

ii. At the start of his ministry (Luke 4:14-21; cf. Isaiah 61:1-2)

iii. About John the Baptist (Luke 7:27, cf. Malachi 3:1)

iv. He taught with an authority never known before, for the source of his teaching was not outside of him, but in him

H. Where is prophecy now?

1. The book of Revelation is the last formally acknowledged prophetic work of Divine inspiration, but the prophetic spirit has not disappeared

2. We have freedom in accepting or rejecting private or particular prophecy, but we should be slow to judge either way

i. The real litmus test is fulfillment!


A. The Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53)

1. Examining the parallels between the prophecy and the ministry of Jesus

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