[b-hebrew] nevi

Heard, Christopher Christopher.Heard at pepperdine.edu
Wed Aug 17 19:16:03 EDT 2005


Re: your question about "prophet," quoted below. This is not really a  
semantic/lexical issue, but a matter of socio-theological roles.

Although it is a somewhat simplistic distinction, I often use this  
distinction with my first-year college students. I don't much like  
the term "forthtelling," since it is a word nobody ever really uses,  
but the intended distinction is useful. In common parlance, at least  
in American English, prophets are usually associated with  
"foretelling" the future; when making this distinction with my  
students, I prefer to use the phrases "predicting the future" or,  
better, "announcing God's plans." The use of the term "forthtelling"  
is intended to communicate the idea of ethical/moral/spiritual  
teaching, so I prefer the phrases "proclaiming God's will" or,  
better, "appealing for behavior" (usually behavioral change).

Neither of these senses really has much bearing on the designation of  
Abraham as a "prophet" in Genesis 20, however. What is foregrounded  
there is the _intercessory_ function of a prophet. Abraham functions  
as a "prophet" in Genesis 20 by praying on behalf of Abimelech. I'm  
sure there are a number of studies that address this intercessory  
role, but one I recently read was Donald Widmer, _Moses, God, and the  
Dynamics of Intercessory Prayer_. You can read a little more about  
this book on my blog at http://www.heardworld.com/higgaion/2005/07/ 
moses-god-and-dynamics-of-intercessory.html if you wish. The main  
thrust of the book is an exegesis of Moses' prayers in Exodus 32-34  
and Numbers 13-14, but there is considerable attention given to the  
intercessory function of biblical prophets, and plenty of  
bibliography on that as well.

Best wishes,


On Aug 17, 2005, at 9:03 AM, Read, James C wrote:
> Reading through Genesis I noticed that the first occurence of the  
> word we translate as prophet is
> found in reference to Abraham. This reminded me of my Hebrew  
> lecturer at St. Andrews who argued
> (years ago) that the orignal meaning of prophet meant something  
> similar to 'forth teller' rather
> than 'fore teller' and that his primary characteristic was that of  
> speaking out rather than that
> of predicting the future.
> Any thoughts?

R. Christopher Heard
Assistant Professor of Religion
Seaver Fellow in Religion
Pepperdine University
Malibu, California 90263-4352
Professional Web Page: http://faculty.pepperdine.edu/cheard
Internet Resource Index: http://www.iTanakh.org
Personal Web Page: http://www.heardworld.com

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