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In religion, a prophet is an individual who has claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and to speak for them, serving as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural source to other people. The message that the prophet conveys is called a prophecy, which transports – at least in Judaism – a message beyond mere pagan soothsaying, augury, divination, or forecasting, and, most prominently in the neviim of the Tanakh, often comprises issues of social justice.
Claims of prophethood have existed in many cultures through history, including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, in Ancient Greece, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and many others. Traditionally, prophets are regarded as having a role in society that promotes change due to their messages and actions which can convey the displeasure of God for the behavior of people.
The English word is a compound Greek word, from pro (in advance) and the verb phesein (to tell); thus, a (profétés) is someone who foretells future events, and also conveys messages from the divine to humans; in a different interpretation, it means advocate or speaker. In the late 20th century the appellation of prophet has been used to refer to individuals particularly successful at analysis in the field of economics, such as in the derogatory prophet of greed. Alternatively, social commentators who suggest escalating crisis are often called prophets of doom.
In Hebrew, the word נָבִיא (navi), "spokesperson", traditionally translates as "prophet". The second subdivision of the Hebrew Bible, TaNaKh (for "Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim"), is devoted to the Hebrew prophets. The meaning of navi is perhaps described in Deuteronomy 18:18, where God said, "...and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." Thus, the navi was thought to be the "mouth" of God. The root nun-bet-alef ("navi") is based on the two-letter root nun-bet which denotes hollowness or openness; to receive transcendental wisdom, one must make oneself "open". Cf. Rashbam's comment to Genesis 20:7.
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