What is a prophet?

What is a prophet? September 9, 2019


James Jordan Kirtland Safety Society front
Director Mark Goodman gives instructions to some of the actors in the “Witnesses” project on the set back in Ontario’s Upper Canada Village. As the store front sign in this photo might suggest, our “Witnesses” project will engage the tough issues involved in the story.  (Photograph courtesy of James Jordan)


James Jordan, from Ontario
There’s a prodigious amount of work behind every onscreen minute in projects such as this one.
(Photograph by James Jordan)


In connection with my MESA 250 class, I’m re-reading Frederick Mathewson Denny, An Introduction to Islam, 4th ed.  (Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall, 2011).  Here’s a passage, drawn from pages 20-21, that impressed me:


In the simplest sense, a prophet is a person who transmits a message from God, about the divine world, to humans. . . .  The conventional understanding is that he or she is a person who can foretell the future.  This was part of what the Israelite prophets did, but it would be a mistake for us to center our understanding on that alone.  The sort of divining of the future of which the great prophets were capable was based on a clear moral vision rather than on occult powers.  If the people disobeyed the Lord, then ruin would surely come.  This did not require extraordinary perceptions, but a basic grasp of what it meant to be faithful to the covenant, which contained reciprocal obligations and conditions.  The great prophets — and here is meant those who have left the most lasting impressions on the Jews and Christians, who know them through the Bible — were not so much foretellers as forth tellers.  That is, they spoke fearlessly and independently against the abuses and sins of their own times, predicting dire consequences if the people did not mend their ways and fulfill their covenant obligations to God, who always fulfilled his.  This is the heart of ethical monotheism.  It matters cosmically whether one is faithful to the covenant with God, and the prophets spoke in the name of God, convinced that his spirit was with them for the task.  


I don’t quite entirely agree with Fred’s take — I first came to know him many years ago; he’s now retired from the University of Colorado at Boulder — but I think he’s very much on the right track.


The photographs featured in this blog entry are drawn from a current attempt to recount the story of a modern prophet.

James Jordan inside
Fortunately, we have lots of people who are helping out in lots of ways. (Photo by James Jordan)


James Jordan, focused on Mark Goodman
Director Mark Goodman preparing a group of actors for a scene in the main “Witnesses” film.
(Photograph by James Jordan)


Incidentally, we’re still raising money for this project, particularly for distribution and for the “Snippets” that we want to produce in conjunction with the films.  (See here.)  If you choose to contribute, please indicate whether you want your donation to go to the Witnesses project in particular or to the Interpreter Foundation more generally,  whether you would be willing to have your name appear as a donor (e.g., in the credits to the film and/or on the Interpreter Foundation website), and, if so, how you would like it to appear.


Two intent filmmakers and a fair amount of green.
Some of my critics seem to have imagined that I would be doing this film pretty much on my own, with a handheld Super-8 movie camera. (I won’t be.)
Thanks to James Jordan for sending these photographs to me.


I like the fact that he's very young.
Any guesses as to who this character might be?   (Still photo courtesy of James Jordan)


A mob scene from "Witnesses"
Not everything in our story will be sweetness and light. Sometimes, as in this scene, it will be just light. Of one kind or another. (Still photo by James Jordan)


Posted from Bountiful, Utah



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