A proper analysis of the topic of prophets in the first ‘division’ of the Christian Bible named the Old Testament; the recognized repository of the Law, the Prophets, Hagiographa and chronicle of the covenant between God and Israel; should begin with a definition of the focus of our study. Succinctly, the term ‘prophecy’ generally means to foretell or predict future events. The religious application of the word implies that the individual – known as a prophet - offers utterances of ‘divine’ or ‘inspired’ predictions or revelations. Unfortunately, often a person who was considered a ‘true’ prophet by some was at the same time disparaged as a ‘false prophet’ by others. It is also notable that the ‘term’ prophet had a vast meaning in the Old Testament which encompassed among other things the functions of being a preacher and a writer as well as someone who is a prognosticator of the future. There are numerous cautions scattered throughout the text of the Bible warning ‘society’ to beware of false prophets (and, for that matter, false Messiahs). For instance, in Matthew 7: 15 – 23 are the words "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”.
Other admonishments can also be found, such as within the ‘Acts of the Apostles’ when Barnabas and Paul met up with Elmyrus Bar-Jesus; or the additional reference to Elmyrus in Deuteronomy against proselytizing falsely in an attempt to dissuade another from the ‘true faith’. Indeed, there are enough citations of prophecy and the practice of its fraudulent application to consume the next few pages of print. Let us instead agree that ‘we’ have been sufficiently counseled apropos of the fact that there are multiple references in the Bible to ‘prophecy’ (both true and false) in general and turn out attention to the criterion for recognizing those who are ‘true’ and those who have been called out as ‘false’ prophets portending God’s promises for man. After which we will consider some of the more illustrious true and false prophets of the Bible. The Bible tests of a true prophet
Certainly, employing logic, the obvious ‘next step’ on the continuum of our quest to differentiate between true and false prophets would require us to seek God’s signs with regard to prophecy that have been made available through the text (the Old Testament). In this way we would have a framework by which we could definitively recognize a true prophet. In fact, there are multiple harbingers in the Bible of authentic prophets offered to the layman. This writer will offer but three of these as evidence that God has provided man with the ability to ascertain those who speak on his behalf – and those who do not.
First, the Lord often visits his presence on true prophets through dreams and visions, thereby making His will known through them to man. And where can one find proof of this in the Holy Book? Specifically in Numbers 12:6 it is written that ‘and he said, Hear now my words: If there be a prophet among you, [I] the LORD will make myself known unto him in a vision, [and] will speak unto him in a dream’. In addition, God told man that a true prophet's sayings are completely compatible and consistent with all that the Holy Spirit has revealed through scripture. Isaiah 8:20 tells us that ‘to the law and to the testimony, if they (a professed prophet) speak not according to this word, [it is] because [there is] no light in them’. ‘They’ (false prophets) lack the spirituality and endorsement to speak for the Lord. Yet, a third, and for...