“Prophet” as a Messianic Title

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Jesus spoke of himself using many messianic titles from Scripture. Names such as "Son of Man," "Green Tree" and "King" all have their origins in messianic passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus also was referred to by such messianic titles as "Lord" (Luke 5:8), "Son of God" (Luke 1:35) and "Son of David" (Luke 18:38). One title applied to Jesus is not so clearly messianic: “Prophet.” There can be little doubt that Jesus viewed himself as a prophet, and that many of his contemporaries concurred. Jesus claimed to be a prophet when he quoted the popular saying, “No one is a prophet in his own village,” going on to compare himself to Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:24-27). He made the same claim when he said, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). But what did the people of Nain have in mind when they exclaimed, “A great prophet has been raised in our midst!” (Luke 7:16)?

Revised: 27-Nov-2015

Jesus spoke of himself using many messianic titles from Scripture. Names such as “Son of Man” in Luke 19:10, “Green Tree” in Luke 23:31, and “King” in Matthew 25:34 all have their origins in messianic passages from the Hebrew Scriptures. Jesus also was referred to by such messianic titles as “Lord” (Luke 5:8), “Son of God” (Luke 1:35) and “Son of David” (Luke 18:38).

One title applied to Jesus is not so clearly messianic: “Prophet.” There can be little doubt that Jesus viewed himself as a prophet, and that many of his contemporaries concurred.

Jesus the Prophet

Jesus claimed to be a prophet when he quoted the popular saying, “No one is a prophet in his own village,” going on to compare himself to Elijah and Elisha (Luke 4:24-27). He made the same claim when he said, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

One possible candidate for the New Testament city of Nain was located in the Judean wilderness east of Jerusalem. Photograph by David Bivin.

But what did the people of Nain have in mind when they exclaimed, “A great prophet has been raised in our midst!” (Luke 7:16)? Since they had just witnessed the bringing to life of a dead man, a miracle that also had been performed by Elijah (1 Kgs. 17:17-24) and Elisha (2 Kgs. 4:18-37), one might conclude that the people viewed Jesus as a prophet of the stature of these or other biblical prophets. However, the language of their exclamation suggests a connection with a scriptural passage that points to a more radical conclusion.

Prophecy of Moses

Moses told the people: “A prophet from your midst, from your brothers, like me, will raise for you the Lord your God. To him you must listen” (a literal translation of Deut. 18:15).

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David N. Bivin

David N. Bivin
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David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
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