In his First Epistle to the Corinthians, Paul often speaks about prophesy (προφητεύητε) as one among the skills, members of the community may have; I cite some passages:

1 Corinthians 11:4 Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head -- it is the same as if her head were shaven.

1 Corinthians 12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speakers in various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? 29 Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

1 Corinthians 14:1 Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 3 On the other hand, he who prophesies speaks to men for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. He who prophesies is greater than he who speaks in tongues, unless some one interprets, so that the church may be edified. 6 Now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how shall I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching?

In the Jewish tradition, a prophet (נביא) was in first place a person conveying the Message of God to his people, sometimes predicting the future. In pagan Greek tradition, a prophet (προφήτος) was also someone who was said to have connections to the deities, mainly for prediction of the future. At least in the Jewish context, as we know, a prophet was an extraordinary person, not a person you may find here and there in the community.

What skill did Paul mean by prophesy/προφητεύητε?

  • Hi Dflat, biblically speaking people have their own spirit and they can have spirits within them. Jesus cast out many spirits from people. Spirits when they are in a person they can do a couple of things. When believers receive the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit has a connection to the Son who has a connection to the Father. I believe the Holy Spirit inside the believer gives the believer spirit/mind words and/or a person filled with the Holy Spirit will be taken over by the Holy Spirit to declare things. I also believe the Holy Spirit can give people imagery or even smells for the serving of
    – user35803
    Mar 30, 2021 at 0:44
  • the Lord. In general I believe that's what it means.
    – user35803
    Mar 30, 2021 at 0:46
  • I also had this question without being able to answer. hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/24777/… concerns this topic but does not answer this question.
    – Jeschu
    Mar 30, 2021 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


Even in the Jewish tradition, besides the major and minor prophets whose names were attached to some books of the OT, there was a class of relatively unknown prophets.

1 Samuel 10:

9As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul’s heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. 10When he and his servant arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he joined in their prophesying. 11When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, “What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?”

  1. There is a company of relatively unknown prophets.

  2. Saul prophesied but he was not formally a prophet.

2 Kings 2 mentions some more instances of such a class of prophets:

3a The company of the prophets at Bethel came out to Elisha and asked, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

5a The company of the prophets at Jericho went up to Elisha and asked him, “Do you know that the Lord is going to take your master from you today?”

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan.

Even though this class of prophets was relatively unknown, they were not ordinary people:

15 The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.”

They saw spiritual realities.

What skill did Paul mean by prophesy/προφητεύητε?

When a person was enabled by the Spirit to observe spiritual realities, he prophesied.

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