prophet

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
Post Reply

prophet

Post by Archived Topic » Fri Feb 12, 1999 12:00 am

Do you happen to know the complete etymology (as well as literal translation) of the word 'prophet'?

Submitted by Oj Ganesh (Gainesville - U.S.A.)
Post actions:
Signature: Topic imported and archived

prophet

Post by Jonathon Green » Sun Feb 14, 1999 8:00 am

Greek 'propheteis', an interpreter, proclaimer, spokesman, esp. of the will of the deity; an inspired person. This is a blend of pro-, forth, before, for + pheteis, a speaker.
I add the OED's lengthy discussion of th word:

One who speaks for God or for any deity, as the inspired revealer or interpreter of his will; one who is held or (more loosely) who claims to have this function; an inspired or quasi-inspired teacher.
In popular use, generally connoting the special function of revealing or predicting the future. The Greek propheteis was originally the spokesman or interpreter of a divinity, e.g. of Zeus, Dionysus, Apollo, or the deliverer or interpreter of an oracle, corresponding generally to the Latin 'vates'. By the Septuagint it was adopted to render the Heb. 'naba', in the O.Test. applied indiscriminately to the prophets of Jehovah, of Baal and other heathen deities, and even to ‘false prophets’, reputed or pretended soothsayers. In the N.T. it is used in the same senses as in the LXX, but mainly applied to the Hebrew prophets of Jehovah, also to John the Baptist, as well as to certain persons in the Early Church, who were recognized as possessing more or less of the character of the old Hebrew prophets, or as inspired to utter special revelations and predictions; also applied historically to Balaam, and by St. Paul, in the old Greek sense, to Epimenides the Cretan, while ‘false prophets’ are frequently mentioned. The Greek word was adopted in L. as propheta chiefly in post-classical times, and largely under Christian influences; and this is the regular rendering in the Itala, Vulgate, and Christian Fathers. From Ecclesiastical Latin it has passed down into the Romanic and Teutonic languages. In English the earliest uses are derived from the Scriptures; but the word is currently used in all the ancient senses and in modern ones derived from them.
Post actions:
Signature: Jonathon Green

End of topic.
Post Reply