June 21, 2008

FORTHTELLING VS FORETELLING


Benjamin West's Isaiah's Lips Anointed with Fire, courtesy of wikipedia.

El Cabrero is traveling at the moment but the blog goes on. The theme is one of the world's first short stories, the biblical book of Jonah, which sits among the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible or Christian Old Testament.

The terms prophet, prophetic, and prophecy are badly abused these days. Some folks consider themselves prophetic any time they rant. And other folks of the fundamentalist persuasion are under the impression that ancient Hebrews had nothing better to talk about than things that would happen 2,500 years later. These folks torture the Bible until it confesses that the end of the world is at hand.

In reality, the term is applied to a large number of people in the Hebrew Bible over centuries, so it's hard to come up with a single definition. According to the Oxford Companion to the Bible,

In general, it may be said that prophets were men or women believed to be recipients through audition, vision, or dream of divine messages that they passed on to others by means of speech or symbolic actions.


The major Hebrew prophets aimed most of their thunder at the rulers and powerful people of their day, calling them back to the Covenant and to God's demand of justice for the poor. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel put it,

Prophecy is the voice that God has lent to the silent agony, a voice to the plundered poor, to the profane riches of the world. It is a form of living, a crossing point of God and man. God is raging in the prophet's words.


For a really good introduction to and overview of the topic, check out Walter Brueggemann's The Prophetic Imagination.

Most of the prophetic books in the Hebrew Bible contain teachings attributed by the prophets with some accompanying narrative. The book of Jonah is unique in that it is all story. And it's a good one.

More on that tomorrow.

STILL TRAVELING. Regular posts with links and snarky comments about current events should resume June 30.

GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED

1 comment:

Yennob said...

Goodness, you're as bad as I am at taking time off. Can't wait to see where these posts lead too. :)