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By Dr. John E. Russell

The word "prophet" is the transliteration of prophetes, which is the compound Greek word, pro, "for, on behalf of" + phemi, "to speak," therefore "to speak for another" (FREEMAN 39). The translators of the Septuagint used the Greek word prophetes to translate three Hebrew words: roeh and hozeh, both translated "seer," and nabhi, "one who speaks for God." (VINE 904)(FREEMAN 39-40). Nabhi is the primary Old Testament word for "prophet." Freeman says,

The term [nabhi] "prophet" emphasized the prophet's utterances, roeh and hozeh indicated his method of receiving the divine communication. The terms for "seer" speak of the receptive aspect, whereas the term for "prophet" points up the communicative function (FREEMAN 40-41).

Definition of "Prophet"

The prophet or prophetess has a call to the ministry, is a member of the clergy and is one who is a preacher and/or teacher. The prophet's ministry is characterized by the gift of prophecy (1 CO 12:10), one of the three gifts of utterance. The prophet's ministry is also characterized by the three revelation gifts: (1) the word of knowledge; (2) the word of wisdom and (3) discerning of spirits.

Old Testament Prophets

Prophets' function

  1. The Old Testament prophets were forthtellers. God called them to be moral and ethical teachers and preachers.
  2. They were also foretellers. They predicted future events concerning Israel, the Gentiles and the coming Messianic Age.
  3. They functioned as watchmen to warn of religious apostasy (EZ 3:17; 33:7).
  4. God guided kings through them.


Some male prophets were, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Obadiah, Joel, Jonah, Hosea, Amos, Micah, Nahum, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, John the Baptist and Jesus. (John the Baptist and Jesus are included since their ministries were before Jesus death and resurrection, which marked the beginning of the New Testament. However, Jesus did minister on earth for a short time after his resurrection and he continues to minister as a prophet and priest.)

Some female prophets were Miriam, Moses’ sister; Isaiah's wife (IS8:2-3); Huldah, wife of Shallum (2KI 22:14); Noadiah (NE 6:14); and Anna, daughter of Phanuel (LK 2:26-28) (FREEMAN 35-36).

New Testament Prophets

Prophets' function

  1. Like their Old Testament counterparts, New Testament prophets were forthtellers. God called them to be preachers and teachers of the Gospel.
  2. They were also foretellers. They predicted future events. An example is of the time Agabus prophesied of Paul's imprisonment. Now, the Holy Spirit indwells believers in a unique way and leads each believer. The New Testament prophets did not lead others as the Old Testament prophets did. However, they did give individuals messages from God that would confirm God's will for them. I remember Reverend Anna Schrader, a friend who was a prophetess. She once gave us supernatural guidance from the Lord before we left on a trip from San Antonio. I had not really sought the Lord and he changed our itinerary for our proposed trip, which worked out better for my family and me. (Reverend Anna Schrader was ordained in 1912. I served on her board while teaching at International Bible College, San Antonio TX, USA.)

NT Examples

Some male prophets were Jesus, Paul, Agabus, Judas and Silas.

Anna was a female prophet. (Mary, Elizabeth, and Phillip's four daughters prophesied, but may have done so as laymen) (FREEMAN 36).

Recent Examples

Theologically, we live in the Church Age, i.e, in New Testament times. Therefore, the same principles apply to us that applied to New Testament figures. Some male examples of present day prophets are William Branham, Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and David Wilkerson. Anna Schrader is an example of a female prophet.

I was stationed at Fort Jackson SC in the late 1960s and we attended a David Wilkerson meeting. Carolyn, my wife, went up for prayer. David Wilkerson simply said to her, "You already know what you should do, and take that as a word from the Lord." This confirmed that she was to live near my mother in Mississippi instead of near her folks in Missouri when I went to Vietnam as an Army Chaplain. A daughter would ordinarily live near her parents.

There is an outbreak of the occult in our times. Satan has his counterfeit of the genuine. Let us encourage prophets to yield to the Holy Spirit and prophesy as the Holy Spirit leads. Let us encourage laymen to yield to the Holy Spirit. Some have overreacted to spurious prophecy to the point that they have quenched the Holy Spirit. The Bible commands us,

19 Do not put out the Spirit’s fire;
20 do not treat prophecies with contempt.
21 Test everything. Hold on to the good
(1TH 5:19-21, NIV).

Taken from Chapter 4 of my eBook, Ephesians. Download this book free at

© John E. Russell 2002-2004.

In Essentials: Unity; In non-essentials: Liberty; In all things: Charity—Peter Meiderlin 1626.

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