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According to the popular definition, a prophet is one who accurately predicts the future. But in the Jewish tradition,
as Abraham Joshua Heschel explains in The Prophets, these figures earn their title by witnessing the world around them
with outstanding passion. Prophets are those whose "life and soul are at stake" in what they say about "the mystery of
[God's] relation to man." They are "some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived," and yet they are also
"the men whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith." Heschel's book, one of
the classic texts on the subject, contains sophisticated, straightforward discussions of each of the Hebrew prophets,
the primary themes of their preaching, and comparisons of Israel's prophets to those of other religions'. Throughout,
Heschel avoids the two great temptations in any discussion of prophesy: overstating the supernatural quality of a
prophet's epiphany ("A prophet is a person, not a microphone"), and reducing prophesy to a merely human phenomenon.
Instead, Heschel describes the prophet's peculiar status as God's spokesman in a way that does justice to its
complexity: "He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation." --Michael