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Two Classics on the Prophets: A Must Read, Especially During the Christmas holidays an Lenten Season When the Prophets Play a Large Role in Our Liturgies.

Book: The Prophets: An Introduction Part I
Author: Abraham J. Heschel
Harper and Row Publishers, NY, pp. 235


Excerpt from Introduction:

This book is about some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived: the men whose inspiration brought the Bible into being the men whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith.

The significance of Israel's prophets lies not only in what they said but also in what they were. We cannot fully understand what they meant to say to us unless we have some degree of awareness of what happened to them. The moments that passed in their lives are not now available and cannot become the object of scientific analysis. All we have is the consciousness of those moments as preserved in words.

My aim therefore is to attain an understanding of the prophets through an analysis and description of his consciousness, to relate what came to pass in his life facing man, being faced by God as reflected and affirmed in his mind. By consciousness, in other words, I mean here not only the perception of particular moments of inspiration, but also the totality of impressions, thoughts, and feelings which make up the prophet's being.

Excerpt from Book:

The words of the prophet are stern, sour, stinging. But behind his austerity is love and compassion for mankind. Ezekiel sets forth what all other prophets imply: "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?"

Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but also to "strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees." Almost every prophet brings consolation, promise, and the hope of reconciliation along with censure and castigation. He begins with a message of doom; he concludes with a message of hope

Table of Contents:

1. What manner of man is the prophet?
2. Amos
3. Hosea
4. Isaiah
5. Micah
6. Jeremiah
7. Habakkuk
8. Second Isaiah
9. History
10. Chastisement
11. Justice


Book: The Prophets Part II
Author: Abraham J. Heschel


Excerpt from Book:

"The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? The prophets, therefore, do not regard the mystery of God's entering into communion with them as the substance of the event. The substance and worth of their experience is seen in the communicated meaning, in the content, in the word to be conveyed. In the overwhelming majority of their utterances they dwell upon the content and speak little of the act. The primary purpose of prophecy is to impart understanding rather than to bestow exaltation.

These ideas may be contrasted not only with the prophet's proclamation of the divine pathos, which is positive affirmation about God's relation to the world, but also with the nature of the prophetic act, which is not a junction of the soul with the Supreme Being, but an encounter with the God of Israel. The prophet's experience is not one in which thought is lost an volition dissolved: the prophet receives a message which he must be able to communicate: he senses a pathos to which he responds in sympathy. A person deprived of pathos would not be in a position to experience the God of pathos. The office of prophet, which consists of setting forth a message in blunt and clear terms rather than in dark oracles an intimations, must have its source in moments of comprehension and understanding. The prophet encounters real otherness, else there would be no mission: but also retains the fullness of his own person, else there would be no vocation.

Table of Contents

1. The theology of pathos
2. Comparisons an contrasts
3. The philosophy of pathos
4. Antropopathy
5. The meaning and mystery of wrath
6. Ira Dei
7. Religion of sympathy
8. Prophecy and ecstasy
9. The theory of ecstasy
10. An examination of the theory of ecstasy
11. Prophecy and poetic inspiration
12. Prophecy and psychosis
13. Explanations of prophetic inspiration
14. Event and experience
15. Prophets throughout the world
16. Prophet, priest, King
17. Conclusions