Save Big On Open-Box & Pre-owned: Buy "The Prophets (Perennial Classics)” from Amazon Warehouse Deals and save 35% off the $19.99 list price. Product is eligible for Amazon's 30-day returns policy and Prime or FREE Shipping. See all Open-Box & Pre-owned offers from Amazon Warehouse Deals.
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Prophets (Perennial Classics) Paperback – October 16, 2001
Frequently Bought Together
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Special Offers and Product Promotions
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 Joseph Gross
Abraham Heschel was an Orthodox Jewish scholar who was born in Warsaw and fled the Nazi regime, ending in the United States. "The Prophets" is an expanded English translation of his German doctoral thesis, first published in 1962. Both volumes are here conveniently reprinted in a single volume, marking the hundredth anniversary of his birth.
Heschel's approach to the prophets seeks to take account both of their divine inspiration and of the human personalities through which this came. He rejects any approach that stresses revelation to the exclusion of the human role or that views the prophets in purely human terms. The key to the prophets, for Heschel, is the divine pathos. Their writings reveal the passionate God, being 'filled with echoes of divine love and disappointment, mercy and indignation'. Much modern theology has moved away from the traditional doctrine that God is impassible, not subject to feelings or emotions. Heschel's work has been influential in that move, as for example on Jiirgen Moltmann's "The Crucified God."
In the first volume Heschel expounds the thought of a number of the prophets: Amos, Hosea, First and Second Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk. The second volume focuses especially on the divine pathos. But doesn't 'anthropopathic language', speaking of God's feelings in human terms, prejudice the transcendence of God? There are two opposite errors to avoid. On the one hand we must not make God so 'Wholly Other' that he remains unknown. On the other hand we must not reduce him to human terms. The prophets used anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language of God, but did not imagine that this described him adequately. Adapting Isaiah 55:8, 'My pathos is not your pathos, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my pathos than your pathos.' The essential meaning of the divine pathos 'is not to be seen in its psychological denotation, as standin --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
Heschel's book `The Prophets' became an almost instant classic. Simply reading through the chapter titles and subtitles (a partial list of titles appears at the bottom of this review) will give a sense of the breadth and depth of this work.
Heschel sees an urgent need for prophets and prophecy in today's world. 'The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.' In examining the prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, &c, he discerns the common strands of the word of God in all that they said and did, and teaches the reader how to discern similar prophetic aspects in today's world.
`The prophet is human, yet he employs note one octave too high for our ears.'
The Bible says, let him who has ears to hear, listen. Alas, ordinarily we do not have the hearing range to be able to give adequate attention and comprehension to today's prophetic voices. Most often the voice of the prophet is one we do not want to hear (look at how the Israelites reacted to their prophets!). Prophets were often seen as doom-sayers and problematic people.
Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but to 'strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.'
Every prophetic utterance, according to Heschel, has to have within its core a message of hope. Without hope, without a promise to greater community and participation in the love of God, there is no true prophecy. The road may be hard and long, involving pain and even death, but in the end, the prophet's goal is greater life for all.
`To be a prophet is both a distinction and an affliction.'
Being a prophet has never been a chosen profession. Indeed, like Jonah, we'll often go to extraordinary lengths to avoid even the smallest call to prophecy. Prophetic voices are inconvenient, not least of which to the person charged to be the speaker of that voice. Yet the prophet is much more than a mouthpiece.
`The prophet claims to be far more than a messenger. He is a person who stands in the presence of God.'
The prophet becomes one with God in many ways, yet remains a human being. This creates a tension in the prophet, as Heschel writes about Isaiah:
`Indeed, two sympathies dwell in a prophet's soul: sympathy for God and sympathy for the people. Speaking to the people, he is emotionally at one with God; in the presence of God, beholding a vision, he is emotionally at one with the people.'
Yet prophecy has its limits.
`A prophet can give man a new word, but not a new heart.... Prophecy is not God's only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.'
It was the prophet who, long before ideas of political unity and divers peoples living together in community, first conceived of the idea of a unity that binds all human beings together.
Read and prepare to be enlightened, inspired, irritated, and educated.
- What manner of man is the prophet?
- The Theology of Pathos
- The Philosophy of Pathos
- The Meaning and Mystery of Wrath
- Religion of Sympathy
- Prophecy and Ecstasy
- Prophecy and Poetic Inspiration
- Prophecy and Psychosis (there is a fine line between prophecy and madness, after all!)
`This, then, is the ultimate category of prophetic theology: involvement, attentiveness, concern. Prophetic religion may be defined, not as what man does with his ultimate concern, but rather what man does with God's concern.'
Heschel's scholarship in this work is excellent and very, very readable, even if you are not a seminarian. Like his shorter books, such as "The Sabbath" and "The Earth is the Lord's," this work is written in dynamic, inspiring prose that reaches the level of fine literature. In the first volume, he discusses specific biblical prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. (Christians may be surprised to learn that, in classical Jewish sources, the "suffering servant" refers Jacob who, in turn, is used by Isaiah as a metaphor for the entire Jewish people collectively. In other words, the Jews are the "suffering servant" of God, not Jesus.) Volume II discusses more general concepts about prophets and prophecy.
As an historical note, I would add that Rabbi Heschel not only wrote about prophets and social responsibility, he also walked the walk -- quite literally. He was active in the Civil Rights movement in the USA, and walked with Dr. Martin Luther King in the second Selma march in Alabama (look for a white-haired man in a black skullcap near King, next time you view footage of that event.) Rabbi Heschel said of that march that he "felt as if his feet were praying." His book, "The Prophets," will let you enter the mind and soul that went with those feet.
This book challenges you to look at the world from a probable perspective of the man and not necessarily the mission, although these subjects are covered at an aggregate level.
The author transports the vivid reader into the mind of a prophet and helps one understand the frustrations, depression, and sense of injustice that the propet may have felt. The prophet is not dehumanized to demigod status like most other readings on the subject. The prophet is viewed as sympathetic to God and in tune with the message. These men feel the emotion.
What I find most appealing is that the author allows God to have emotions which I find refreshing in light of the influence that Maimonides (whom I enjoy abundantly) has had on Judaic thought.
The only negative, if any, is that this is not the most easy read, but what philosphy student likes light reading!
The 2 volumes are not "easy reading" even for those who are familiar with the Scriptures. I had to read it through twice in order to feel I grasped Heschel's insights and commentary. But the time and effort are amply rewarded when we can say, in awe, "My God, How Great Thou Art."