Basic Definitions

["God"]  [Prophet]  [Prophecy]  [interpret, translate]  [Messiah]  [The Messiah(s)]  [Messianic prophecy]

Definitions below are in the context of "messianic prophecy"only.


In this article "God" (in quotes) and "he" (no quotes) are used as generic references to one or more beings (regardless of gender) considered to be supernatural and divine by one or more religions. Examples are Jesus (Christianity), HaShem/Adonai (Judaism) and Allah (Islam).


A prophet is someone who speaks on behalf of "God". The prophet can speak three types of statements:

In each case, the prophet is not acting on his own ability or authority but receives both the information and his authority from "God".

Various interpreters say that "God" gives his prophets "indicia" of their office such as the ability to perform miracles, e.g., Moses parting the yom suph (literally "Sea of reeds", commonly translated "Red Sea") at Exodus 14:21, or Jesus walking on water at Matthew 14:25.


A prophecy is a declaration about a future event. "God" reveals the information to the prophet, who then tells others. Every prophecy is "predictive prophecy"—if the statement does not foretell the future it may be a declaration or a revelation but it is not a prophecy.

By contrast, a "prediction" of future events is speculation based on human reasoning, not divine revelation.

Various explanations are proposed for other methods of foretelling the future, e.g., clairvoyance, such as psychic powers believed by some to be inherent in humans, or intentional or unintentional contact with spirits.

Interpret, interpreter, translate

In the prophecy context, "translate" means to render the meaning of text into a different language, while "interpret" means the act of determining what future event, situation or condition the prophet was describing, and a "interpreter" would interpret, not translate.

Messiah (general)

The word messiah comes from the Hebrew mashiach (משיח), meaning "anointed". "Anointed" means "specially appointed, authorized and empowered". In other words, a messiah is someone who is specially appointed, authorized and empowered by "God" for a particular task.

Many people have been referred to as a messiah, e.g., Moses, the Kohen Gadol (Jewish High Priest), and Cyrus the Great of Persia. (Isaiah 45:1 "This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus . . .")

A messiah is generally considered to be someone appointed to deliver a large group of people from tremendous oppression and then lead the group for a period of time. Although many religions claim that "God" delivered them from some oppression not every "deliverer" is considered a "messiah" in the sense of Messianic prophecy.

The Messiah (or Messiahs)

A number of religions, mainly Abrahamic religions, believe that one person was or will be given a special anointing from "God" that will far surpass any other anointings. That person is referred to as the Messiah. Some of those religions believe that there are or will be two such special persons. Some Jewish interpreters speak of a Mashiach ben Yosef and a Mashiach ben David, Messiah son of (or descendant of, or "in the manner of") Joseph of Egypt, sometimes called the "suffering Messiah", and Messiah descendant of (King) David, who will free Israel from its enemies, restore its glory and power and rule.

Messianic prophecy

A messianic prophecy is considered to be a prophecy about the Messiah(s).