Prophecy describes the disclosing of information that is not known to the prophet by any ordinary means. In general, this can mean divine inspiration, revelation, or interpretation. More specifically, it can refer to professed psychic predictions.
Prophecy, in a broad sense, is the prediction of future events. The etymology of the word is ultimately Greek, from pro- "before" plus the root of phanai "speak", i. e. "speaking before" or "foretelling", but prophecy often implies the involvement of supernatural phenomena, whether it is communication with a deity, the reading of magical signs, or astrology. It is also used as a general term for the revelation of divine will.
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 North American Indians, Mayans, Celts, Druids, Chinese, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Egyptians, Hindus, Hebrews, Tibetans, Greeks, and many in the Christian tradition, among others.
Definitions of prophecy
Rabbinic scholar Maimonides, suggested that "prophecy is, in truth and reality, an emanation sent forth by the Divine Being through the medium of the Active Intellect, in the first instance to man's rational faculty, and then to his imaginative faculty." This closely relates to the definition by Al-Fârâbî who developed the theory of prophecy in Islam. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines prophecy as "understood in its strict sense, it means the foreknowledge of future events, though it may sometimes apply to past events of which there is no memory, and to present hidden things which cannot be known by the natural light of reason." From a skeptical point of view, there is a Latin maxim: prophecy written after the fact (vaticinium ex eventu).
As the term is used in mystical theology, it applies both to the prophecies of canonical Scripture and to private prophecies. Understood in its strict sense, it means the foreknowledge of future events, though it may sometimes apply to past events of which there is nomemory, and to present hidden things which cannot be known by the natural light of reason. St. Paul, (speaking of prophecy in 1 Corinthians 14), does not confine its meaning to predictions of future events, but includes under it Divine inspirations concerning what is secret, whether future or not. As, however, the manifestation of hidden present mysteries or past events comes under revelation, we have here to understand by prophecy what is in its strict and proper sense, namely the revelation of future events. Prophecy consists in knowledge and in the manifestation of what is known. The knowledge must be supernatural and infused by God because it concerns things beyond the natural power of created intelligence; and the knowledge must be manifested either by words or signs, because the gift of prophecy is given primarily for the good of others, and hence needs to be manifested. It is a Divine light by which God reveals things concerning the unknown future and by which these things are in some way represented to the mind of the prophet, whose duty it is to manifest them to others.