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The Prophets (1962)

by Abraham Joshua Heschel

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1,294711,506 (4.31)7
The Prophets is widely recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship. Heschel attempts to understand the thoughts, feelings, and impressions of each of the progphets, presenting the reader with a sense of their very being. He effectively achieves a balance between the objective supernatural and the subjective human situation, and presents a unique discussion of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk and their particular challenges and journeys. The Prophets is both scholarly and devotional, an indispensable part of an in-depth understanding of the Old Testament.… (more)
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The Hebrew prophets are fascinating. They were an important part of Israel's life, yet they often spoke of their rulers in very unflattering terms. When national life turned sour, the prophets were there to interpret geopolitical events from God's perspective.

"History to us is the record of human experience; to the prophet it is a record of God's experience" (219).

In other words:

"Prophecy, then, may be described as exegesis of existence from a divine perspective" (xxvii).

Abraham Heschel's lengthy study on the prophets is poetic and insightful. The first half of the book is a survey of the various prophets and the main themes that consumed them. If you have ever struggled with reading the prophets, these chapters are a goldmine of information and inspiration.

The second half of the book is concerned with the prophets themselves. How is it that humans can speak for God? The answer centres on Heschel's idea of God's pathos. For Heschel, the Holy One of Israel, Maker of heaven and earth, is utterly transcendent. God never reveals himself to humans. Instead, he reveals his pathos.

The pathos of God is his heart of God for man, which takes on various forms such as "love and anger, grief and joy, mercy and wrath" (618). This is what the prophet engages when he or she encounters God. From the perspective of a prophet:

"God's presence is my first thought; His unity and transcendence, my second; His concern and involvement (justice and compassion), my third" (619).

Prophets are so in touch with God, they are able to sympathize with God's pathos. Matters which may seem small to humans such as imbalanced scales take on cosmic importance when viewed through God's justice.

The prophets are so moved by their encounters with God that they can seem unhinged to the rest of the world. Unlike the diviners of other contemporary cultures, however, they are not mad. The Hebrew prophets did not lose themselves in some sort of mystical absorption into the divine. Prophets (like Habakkuk, for example) can engage God in dialogue. They bring their own lives into the prophetic process.

I need to challenge Heschel on one point. He insists that the prophets never encounter the transcendent God. Instead, they encounter God-towards-man, or God's pathos. "Revelation means, not that God makes Himself known, but that He makes His will known" (620). From a Christian perspective, the miracle of the incarnation is precisely that God has made Himself known in Jesus. In a very real sense, Jesus is the pathos of God made flesh.

Heschel's comprehensive study of the Hebrew Prophets deserves continued engagement today. ( )
  StephenBarkley | Jul 30, 2016 |
Abraham Heschel is a seminal name in religious studies and the author of "Man Is Not Alone" and "God in Search of Man." When "The Prophets" was first published in 1962, it was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship."The Prophets" provides a unique opportunity for readers of the Old Testament, both Christian and Jewish, to gain fresh and deep knowledge of Israel's prophetic movement. The author's profound understanding of the prophets also opens the door to new insight into the philosophy of religion.
  Priory | Jan 20, 2014 |
NO OF PAGES: 287 SUB CAT I: Prophecy SUB CAT II: Commentary SUB CAT III: DESCRIPTION: This book explores the phenomenon of prophecy as such, to analyze its fundamental presuppositions and the nature of prophetic inspiration. It also seeks by comparative study to set forth the uniqueness of the prophetic faith.NOTES: SUBTITLE:
  BeitHallel | Feb 18, 2011 |
two volumes
  AniArnott | Jan 11, 2010 |
Author is a Jew
  jerol | Jul 11, 2009 |
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The Prophets is widely recognized as a masterpiece of biblical scholarship. Heschel attempts to understand the thoughts, feelings, and impressions of each of the progphets, presenting the reader with a sense of their very being. He effectively achieves a balance between the objective supernatural and the subjective human situation, and presents a unique discussion of Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk and their particular challenges and journeys. The Prophets is both scholarly and devotional, an indispensable part of an in-depth understanding of the Old Testament.

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