We're up to number 6 on the list of 13 principles of Judaism given by the Rambam (based on the Torah of course). #6: The belief that G-d communicates with man through prophecy.
On the face of it most people might think that this is one area Jew and Christian would agree upon, but it isn’t. Christians use the term to mean "predicting the future." This is not the meaning of the Hebrew. The Hebrew word for prophecy is נְבוּאָה / navua (a feminine noun). A נָבִיא / navi (prophet) had direct communication with G-d (through dreams and / or visions with the exception of Moses who spoke directly with G-d), and who relayed G-d’s message to his or her own generation.
The way a Christian uses the term "prophet" or "prophecy" would be a רֹאֶה Ro'eh (“Seer”) not a נָבִיא Navi (“Prophet”).
Samuel is called a רֹאֶה Ro'eh (“Seer”) in Divrei Hayamim Alef / 1 Chronicles 9:22, 26:28 and 29:29, but he is also called a נָבִיא Navi (“Prophet”) in Divrei Hayamim Beit / 2 Chronicles 35:18, showing that the two terms are not identical. There is also the word חֹזֶה Ḥozeh (“Visionary”). This word describes someone who experiences “visions."
Some messages had meaning for the current and future generations, but all prophecy must have a message for the current generation (of that prophet), be direct from G-d (not through an angel or intermediary) and cannot contradict the Torah.
Thus prophecy is a personal relationship and contact between a tzedak (righteous person) and G-d. This is usually through dreams although Moses had communication with G-d while he was awake. Navua doesn’t mean fortune telling or predicting the future, although sometimes these are present.
The word is based on niv sefatayim meaning "fruit of the lips," which emphasizes the navi's role as a speaker. A navi is really a spokesperson for G-d – one who speaks to his or her generation on behalf of G-d.
The greatest navi to ever live was Moses. He could hear G-d clearly and directly (as if “face to face”). “When Moses came into the Tent of Meeting to speak to Him, he heard the Voice speaking to him." (Bamidbar / Numbers 7:89).
Most other navi’s heard from G-d as if through a prism, or a fog – through dreams and visions “I make Myself known to him (other prophets than Moses) in a vision. I speak to him in a dream." (Bamidbar / Numbers 12:6).
The Rambam wrote that to be a prophet one must be wise, have a clear mind, be; of impeccable character, and totally in control of their emotions. A prophet is mature, of a calm nature and full of joy. A prophet is not interested in material things or the frivolities of life. A prophet’s desire is to devote themselves entirely to knowing and serving G-d.
At the height of prophecy all Jews were prophets – and prophecy existed in Israel because having all the Jews together in the holy land made for a holy enough link for it to exist and thrive. There were Yeshivot (schools) dedicated to training people to be navis – because one must be very much a tzedak (righteous person) to have that kind of a link to G-d.
Not all prophets were Jews (though most were) and there were women as well as men prophets.
Even if a person meets all the criteria G-d may not give them prophecy (and for now we are not in an age of prophecy so there are no prophets. Jesus and Mohamad could not have been prophets, because prophecy was gone by then).
If a prophet did tell of what would happen in the future such a statement was given either as a promise or a warning. Promises always come to pass. Warnings from prophets (of potential calamities) may or may not happen. Any negative prophetic warning can always be prevented through prayer and repentance. Think of the story of Jonah and the people of Nineveh who were able to avoid the curse by heeding the prophet’s warning. . .
The Book of Daniel is not found in Prophets in the T’nach and is not considered prophecy. Christians upon hearing this are usually outraged – but consider the definition you’ve been given. Daniel did not communicate directly with G-d. Daniel communicated with an angel. Also, a prophet has a message for his or her own generation (which may also be pertinent to future generations). Daniel's message was pertinent only to future generations, not to his own. Thus the information in Sefer Daniel (the Book of Daniel) is not prophecy. This does not lessen its value or importance. Was Daniel a prophet? That was a debate among our sages, some say yes and some say no. We do know that the information we have from him is not prophecy (for the reasons just given).
The T’nach itself gives us a stern warning against listening to soothsayers and diviners. Vayikra / Leviticus 19:26-31 “you shall not indulge in sorcery, and you shall not believe in lucky times. . . You shall not turn to the mediums, nor shall you seek after the wizards, [and thereby] be defiled by them; I am the L-rd your G-d.”
This creates problems for Christians. The Christian bible is full of stories of Jesus talking to the dead, demons, the "devil", etc. are all forbidden. (D'varim / Deuteronomy 18:11 and 19:31).
We are warned not to follow false prophets – including those who show us miracles. Miracles do not “prove” a prophet (let alone a messiah). "If there should stand up in your midst a prophet or a dreamer of a dream, and he will produce to you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes about, of which he spoke to you, saying "Let us follow gods of others that you did not know (at Sinai) and we shall worship them do not hearken to the words of that prophet or to that dreamer of a dream, for HASHEM, your G-d, is testing you to know whether you love HASHEM, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. HASHEM, your G-d, shall you follow and Him shall you fear; His commandments shall you observe and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave. And that prophet and that dreamer of a dream shall be put to death, for he had spoken perversion against HASHEM, your G-d Who takes you out of the land of Egypt, and Who redeems you from the house of slavery to make you stray from the path on which HASHEM, you G-d, has commanded you to go; and you shall destroy the evil from your midst." (Artscroll) D’varim / Deuteronomy 13:2-6).
If someone adds to or subtracts from the Torah -- changing any of its lessons and mitzvot -- they are a false prophet. D'varim / Deuteronomy 18 says there will be prophets after Moses -- and that these prophets will not change or "add to" Torah. Both Jesus and Mohamad changed the unchangeable rules of the Torah, thus they would have been false prophets.
By the time of Jesus (and later Mohamad) prophecy had been gone for hundreds of years. As Israel was destroyed and holiness declined (with the encroachment of Hellenism) prophecy became more and more sporadic. The last prophets realized that it was declining and that we were entering a period when there would be no more prophecy for a long time. Therefore Ezra, a prophet, called a Sanhedrin which came to be known as the Men of the Great Assembly. There were 120 members rather than 70. They codified the T’nach and Siddur (prayer book) and prepared the Jews for the move from the era of Prophecy to the era of Knowledge . . .the era we are still in today.
The T’nach tells us of the end of prophecy. We have not seen our signs; there is no longer a prophet, and no one with us knows how long. (T'hillim / Psalms 74:9).
Two things converged to bring prophecy to an end. One is the Diaspora -- the dispersal of Jews from the land of Judah (Israel). The majority of Jews did not return to Israel from the Babylonian (Iranian) exile, and without a majority of Jews in Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel aka the land of the living) prophecy is limited.
The second reason prophecy ended is because the Men of the Great Assembly appealed to G-d to remove the desire for idolatry and with it went the gift of prophecy (Talmud, Yoma 69b).
With the end of prophecy came the "Age of Wisdom." We still have the spirit of G-d in our midst and we have His Torah, along with His sages. The instructions had been given, now it is up to us to implement them. This is why the last of the prophets implemented the T'nach (Jewish bible, including Prophets and Writings) as well as the Siddur (Jewish prayer book).
Thus we know for certain that Jesus was not a prophet. For one thing, the age of prophecy had been gone for hundreds of years. For another, there is proof within the Christian bible itself that Jesus was not a prophet (or rather that he was a false prophet).
According to the Christian bible, Jesus “prophesied” the following: Matthew 16:28 (NIV) “"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom." The generation that Jesus addressed died 20 centuries ago, ergo this was a false prediction.
Jesus also predicted the time he will spend in the tomb (the “Sign of Jonah”): Matthew 12:40 (NIV) “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus died on Friday afternoon and “rose” on Sunday before dawn – a total of some 36 hours. The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus remained in the tomb from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening at nightfall - a total of some 26 hours (Matthew 28:1). Neither equal three days. Again, false prophecy.
Conclusion: If Jesus was a prophet at all, he was a false one. But it is immaterial as prophecy ended with the last of the prophets in the T'nach (Ezra and the other prophets in the Great Assembly).
Princple 6: "A person should know that among human beings there are found individuals endowed with character traits that are extremely refined and high in caliber to a great degree of perfection. Their souls are primed to receive pure intellectual form. Consequencly their human intellect merges with the Active intellect from which profound emanation flows. Such people are prophets, and this is the phenominom of prophecy." The Rambam.
Sophiee Saguy has been countering false missionary claims about Judaism and the T'nach (Jewish bible) for nearly twenty years. You may find her on FaceBook and at the Messiah Truth forum.