Prophecy in a broad sense, is the prediction of future events or the speaking of divine words (divine Revelation) through chosen human messengers (prophets). The etymology of the word is Greek, from pro- “before” plus the root of phanai “speak”, i.e. “speaking before” or “foretelling” (proclamation). Prophecy is a general term for assertions presented as the revelation of divine will. Sometimes the Greek word mantikՍ (divination) is translated as prophecy.
Throughout history, people have sought knowledge of future events from special individuals or groups who were thought to have the gift of prophecy, such as Oracles at Delphi in ancient Greece. Cultures in which prophecy played an important role include the Persians, Assyrians, Celts, Chaldeans, Chinese, Druids, Egyptians, Greeks, Hebrews, Indians, indigenous North Americans, Mayans, Tibetans, and many in the Christian and Muslim traditions, among others.
Prophecy in religion
In many religions, gods or other supernatural agents are thought to sometimes provide prophecies to certain individuals, sometimes known as prophets, by dreams or visions. The Tanakh, the Old Testament of the Bible, contains prophecies from various Hebrew prophets . The Book of Revelation in the New Testament is accepted by many Christians as a prophecy that includes divine promises of an anointed messiah or Christ that would lead the people in war and personally issue judgement at the end times and Armageddon “End of the World”.
Christians believe that Jesus fulfilled many of the promises spoken in Old Testament prophecy, including that he would be called ‘son of God’, and that he will return in the future and fulfill other prophecies such as those in the Book of Revelation. In the New Testament, many Christians see most of Jesus’ life as God speaking through Jesus. In the Bible prophecy is often referred as one of the fivefold ministries or spiritual gifts that accompany the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The five ministries being; Apostles; Prophets; Evangelists; Teachers and Pastors. Paul teaches in Corinthians that it is for the benefit of the whole body. It is not meant in Christianity for believers to know the future. But it is important for God to speak to believers as he does through his prophets.
Muslims maintain Muhammad (circa 600 AD), was mentioned in the prophecies of earlier prophets, in the chain of their prophets like Jesus & Moses . Their belief is that an angel (Gabriel) visited him in the cave called Hira on the Mount Jabal-al-Noor in Makkah. From then onwards he started reciting the Quran they believe to be from God. Such events equated with dreams, visions and remote viewing by deniers were taken to be true by followers & took him to be the ‘Last Prophet’ until the ‘End of Times’. Then again Muhammad left some prophecies about future personalities like Mahdi & the second return of Jesus. Some of the followers keep waiting for such prophecies to be fulfilled.
More recently, in the 1800s, Joseph Smith claimed to have translated golden plates through divine inspiration from Jesus, thereby producing the Book of Mormon. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that their founder was a “latter-day” prophet and that God has continued to call prophets to lead the Church in modern times.
In 1863, Bahո’u’llոh, the founder of the Bahո’վ Faith, claimed the he is the ‘Promised One’ of all religions. And Baha’is see both the Jewish and Christian scriptures, especially the books of Isaiah, Daniel, Micah, and Revelation as containing many prophecies promising the coming of Baha’u’llah and the Baha’i Faith. He is not acknowledged by Christians, Jews or Muslims as the ‘Promised One’ as they believe the events of the End Time did not occur during his lifetime.
Many prophecies from many differing sources relate to the Promised One as diverse as the Book of Enoch, Bible (Old and New Testaments), Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, Buddhist, Chinese, Muslim and Zoroastrian sources, and indigenous people’s prophecies to name a few.
Evidence of prophecy
Prophecy always involves some kind of communication regarding the future or with different realms of existence, which are sometimes not identifiable through history, discernible by or in harmony with empirical science. Therefore, some sceptics consider prophecy to be false. Believers, however, claim that prophecy is possible through supernatural means, which bypass the natural laws and is witnessed historically. Scientists tend to reject phenomena regarded as supernatural because they do not believe there is a way to bypass the physical laws of this universe.
The hypothetical power allowing fulfilment of prophecy has not been scientifically tested and remains unproven, but many people believe that certain prophecies have been fulfilled. Skeptics believe many apparently fulfilled prophecies can be explained as coincidences, or that some prophecies were actually invented after the fact to match the circumstances of a past event
Many prophecies are vague, allowing them to be applied to many possible future events. The cryptic prophecies of Nostradamus are a prime example of this, but Nostradamus’s supporters argue that detailed predictions would have earned him a reputation for witchcraft.
For a theory to be considered genuinely scientific it must in some sense predict the future. A scientific theory differs from prophecy in that it is both falsifiable and reproducible. In principle, a scientific theory makes a prediction that could actually invalidate the theory by not coming true. Furthermore, a scientific theory makes a prediction that can be tested under reproducible conditions by different experimenters. All of classical physics claims to do this, that is condition A will always lead to condition B in all experiments. Newton’s Laws and the theory of relativity generate quantified solutions that can be tested with measurements. Using them one can predict to high accuracy, millennia into the future, the orbits of the planets for instance. Quantum physics, however, generates statistical probabilities. Thus, condition A will sometimes lead to B and sometimes to C or even D,E,F…, and one cannot predict what will happen in a certain instance, but only that A will lead to B or C x out of y instances.