A prophet is a person who makes comments about the present and/or predictions of the future, called prophecies, that he or she claims are coming from a divine source. Sometimes a prophet claims not just to be receiving a message from the divinity but to be possessed by a divine spirit or god, which speaks through the prophet. In either case, prophets insist that they have not added their own interpretation to the messages they have received but are repeating them word for word. The nature of these messages is what, according to some experts in paranormal phenomena, distinguishes prophecy from divination.
People practicing divination typically focus on an individual’s needs and concerns, whereas most prophecies are intended for a much broader audience, to warn social, political, and/or religious groups that unless they take certain actions or change their ways, then bad things will happen. However, believers in the ability to foretell the future disagree on whether prophecy and divination are fundamentally different in regard to how the prophet or fortuneteller makes a prediction. Some agree with prophets that their predictions come from a divine source, while others believe that the messages are the result of the prophet using a form of extrasensory perception called precognition in order to glimpse the future. Sceptics, however, say that the prophet has imagined the message.
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning