Major and Minor Prophets of the Bible's Prophetic Books

Prophetic Books of the Bible
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The three Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—share a belief in some of the same prophets. In these religions, a prophet is considered to be an individual who has direct contact with God and who relates God's message to mankind. Abraham and Mosesh, for example, are considered prophets by all three religions. 

In Christian tradition, the scriptural prophets are divided into categories of major and minor prophets.

These labels do not refer to their relative importance, but rather to the length of the Biblical books said to be authored by them. Christians believe that there have been prophets throughout every era of God's relationship with mankind, but the Old Testament Biblical books of the prophets address the "classical" period of prophecy—during the later years of the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel, throughout the time of exile, and into the years of Israel's return from exile. The Prophetic Books are thought to have been written from the days of Elijah (874-853 BCE) until the time of Malachi (400 BCE).

Christians believe that a true prophet was called and equipped by God, empowered by the Holy Spirit to perform his job—to speak God's message, confront people with sin, warn of coming judgment and the consequences if people refused to repent and obey. As "seers," prophets also brought a message of hope and future blessing for those who walked in obedience.

In Christian tradition, the Biblical prophets pointed the way to Jesus, the Messiah, and showed humans their need of his salvation.

Prophetic Books of the Bible

Major Prophets

  • Isaiah: A long-lived prophet who lived in the middle of the 8th century BCE, Isaiah is said to have confronted a false prophet and to have predicted the coming of Jesus. He is also accepted as a prophet by Islam. 
  • Jeremiah: He is the author of the Book of Jeremiah and Lamentations. In Jewish tradition, he also is the author of the Book of Kings. His ministry lasted from roughly 626 BCE until 587 BCE. He is famous for efforts to reform idolatrous practices in Judah, and he preached throughout Israel. He is also regarded as a prophet by Jews and Muslims. 
  • Ezekiel: A prophet in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic traditions, Ezekiel is known for prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem and the eventual restoration of the land of Israel. He was born around 622 BCE, and his writings suggest he preached for about 22 years, and was a contemporary of Jeremiah. 
  • Daniel: In English and Greek Bible translations, Daniel is considered one of the Major Prophets; however, in the Hebrew canon it is part of "The Writings." Apparently born to a nobel Jewish family, Daniel was taken into captivity by King Nebuchanezzar of Babylon in about 604 BCE. For Christian, Daniel is a symbol of steadfast faith in God, most famously demonstrated by the story of Daniel in the lion's den, when his faith is said to have saved him from a bloody death. 

Minor Prophets

  • Hosea: An 8th century prophet in Israel, Hosea is sometimes referred to as the "prophet of doom" for his predictions that worship of false gods would lead to the fall of Israel. 
  • Joel: The dates of Joel's life as a prophet of ancient Israel are unknown, since the dating of this Bible book are in dispute. He may have lived anywhere from the 9th century BCE to the 5th century BCE. 
  • Amos:  A contemporary of Hosea and Isaiah, Amos preached from about 760 to 746 BCE in northern Israel on subjects of social injustice. 
  • Obadiah: Little is known of his life, but by interpretation of the prophecies in the book he authors, Obadiah likely lived some time in the 6th century BCE. His theme is the destruction of the enemies of God's people. 
  • Jonah: A prophet in northern Israel, Johan likely lived in the 8th century BCE. As represented by the famous story of Johan being swallowed by a whale, his example for Christians is the belief that sins can be forgiven. Some scholars view the book of Johah as a work of fiction, partially satirical in nature, but agree that an historical Jonah did live. 
  • Micah: He prophesied from approximately 737 to 696 BCE in Judah, and is known for predicting the destruction of Jerusalem and Samaria. 
  • Nahum: Known for writing about the fall of the Assyrian empire, Nahum likely lived in northern Galilee. The date of his life is unknown, although most place authorship of his writings at about 630 BCE.
  • Habakkuk: Less is known about Habakkuk than for any other prophet. The artistry of the book he authored has been widely praised. 
  • Zephaniah: He prophesied during the same time as Josiah, from about 641 to 610 BCE, in the area of Jerusalem. His book warns about consequences of disobedience to God's will. 
  • Haggai: Little is known about his life, but Haggai's most famous prophecy has been dated to about 520 BCE, when he commands Jews to rebuilt the temple in Judah. 
  • Malachi: There is no clear consensus on when Malachi lived, but most opinions place him at around 420 BCE. His primary theme is the justice and loyalty that God shows to mankind. 

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Fairchild, Mary. "Major and Minor Prophets of the Bible's Prophetic Books." ThoughtCo, Jan. 12, 2018, thoughtco.com/prophetic-books-of-the-bible-700270. Fairchild, Mary. (2018, January 12). Major and Minor Prophets of the Bible's Prophetic Books. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/prophetic-books-of-the-bible-700270 Fairchild, Mary. "Major and Minor Prophets of the Bible's Prophetic Books." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/prophetic-books-of-the-bible-700270 (accessed January 20, 2018).