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The Prophets (Perennial Classics) (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 16. Oktober 2001

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According to the popular definition, a prophet is one who accurately predicts the future. But in the Jewish tradition, as Abraham Joshua Heschel explains in The Prophets, these figures earn their title by witnessing the world around them with outstanding passion. Prophets are those whose "life and soul are at stake" in what they say about "the mystery of [God's] relation to man." They are "some of the most disturbing people who have ever lived," and yet they are also "the men whose image is our refuge in distress, and whose voice and vision sustain our faith." Heschel's book, one of the classic texts on the subject, contains sophisticated, straightforward discussions of each of the Hebrew prophets, the primary themes of their preaching, and comparisons of Israel's prophets to those of other religions'. Throughout, Heschel avoids the two great temptations in any discussion of prophesy: overstating the supernatural quality of a prophet's epiphany ("A prophet is a person, not a microphone"), and reducing prophesy to a merely human phenomenon. Instead, Heschel describes the prophet's peculiar status as God's spokesman in a way that does justice to its complexity: "He speaks from the perspective of God as perceived from the perspective of his own situation." --Michael Joseph Gross

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Abraham Heschel was an Orthodox Jewish scholar who was born in Warsaw and fled the Nazi regime, ending in the United States. "The Prophets" is an expanded English translation of his German doctoral thesis, first published in 1962. Both volumes are here conveniently reprinted in a single volume, marking the hundredth anniversary of his birth.Heschel's approach to the prophets seeks to take account both of their divine inspiration and of the human personalities through which this came. He rejects any approach that stresses revelation to the exclusion of the human role or that views the prophets in purely human terms. The key to the prophets, for Heschel, is the divine pathos. Their writings reveal the passionate God, being 'filled with echoes of divine love and disappointment, mercy and indignation'. Much modern theology has moved away from the traditional doctrine that God is impassible, not subject to feelings or emotions. Heschel's work has been influential in that move, as for example on Jiirgen Moltmann's "The Crucified God."In the first volume Heschel expounds the thought of a number of the prophets: Amos, Hosea, First and Second Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and Habakkuk. The second volume focuses especially on the divine pathos. But doesn't 'anthropopathic language', speaking of God's feelings in human terms, prejudice the transcendence of God? There are two opposite errors to avoid. On the one hand we must not make God so 'Wholly Other' that he remains unknown. On the other hand we must not reduce him to human terms. The prophets used anthropomorphic and anthropopathic language of God, but did not imagine that this described him adequately. Adapting Isaiah 55:8, 'My pathos is not your pathos, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and my pathos than your pathos.' The essential meaning of the divine pathos 'is not to be seen in its psychological denotation, as standin -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Gebundene Ausgabe.

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Rabbi Abraham Heschel is an intellectual and prophetic hero of mine. Any one who would stand up to the pope and say 'I'd rather die than convert' (when trying to get the Roman Catholic Church to drop 'conversion of the Jews' as an official aim of the church) has the sort of integrity of belief and identity that I aspire to and most likely will never attain.
Heschel's book `The Prophets' became an almost instant classic. Simply reading through the chapter titles and subtitles (a partial list of titles appears at the bottom of this review) will give a sense of the breadth and depth of this work.
Heschel sees an urgent need for prophets and prophecy in today's world. 'The things that horrified the prophets are even now daily occurrences all over the world.' In examining the prophecies of Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, &c, he discerns the common strands of the word of God in all that they said and did, and teaches the reader how to discern similar prophetic aspects in today's world.
`The prophet is human, yet he employs note one octave too high for our ears.'
The Bible says, let him who has ears to hear, listen. Alas, ordinarily we do not have the hearing range to be able to give adequate attention and comprehension to today's prophetic voices. Most often the voice of the prophet is one we do not want to hear (look at how the Israelites reacted to their prophets!). Prophets were often seen as doom-sayers and problematic people.
Indeed, every prediction of disaster is in itself an exhortation to repentance. The prophet is sent not only to upbraid, but to 'strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees.'
Every prophetic utterance, according to Heschel, has to have within its core a message of hope.
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This two-volume work is one of the best I know of for explaining how Jews relate to the Prophets. While non-Jews tend to think of "prophets" as psychics who foretell the future, the Jewish concept of a prophet is someone who is inspired by God to advance the cause of social justice by confronting the people and their rulers. "Feed the widow, the orphan, the stranger!" shouts the prophet in the marketplace. "Forsake your dead idols -- return to the Lord!" he tells the king. Yes, the prophet may foretell future events, but he also preaches another option: return to the ways of God, and the terrible things foretold in a prophecy may not have to happen. A prophecy is a warning, a call to repentence -- not a prognistication written in stone.
Heschel's scholarship in this work is excellent and very, very readable, even if you are not a seminarian. Like his shorter books, such as "The Sabbath" and "The Earth is the Lord's," this work is written in dynamic, inspiring prose that reaches the level of fine literature. In the first volume, he discusses specific biblical prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. (Christians may be surprised to learn that, in classical Jewish sources, the "suffering servant" refers Jacob who, in turn, is used by Isaiah as a metaphor for the entire Jewish people collectively. In other words, the Jews are the "suffering servant" of God, not Jesus.) Volume II discusses more general concepts about prophets and prophecy.
As an historical note, I would add that Rabbi Heschel not only wrote about prophets and social responsibility, he also walked the walk -- quite literally. He was active in the Civil Rights movement in the USA, and walked with Dr.
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Abraham Joshua Heschel's two volume work on the prophets is scholarly in the sense that Heschel's wide reading and research enable him to talk quite knowledgeably about these men, their messages, and how they concern modern society. Volume 1 of The Prophets deals more with the specific prophets, with chapters on Amos, Hosea, Habakkuk, Jeremiah etc., although some of my favorite sections of the book were his wise commentary chapters, such as chapter one "What manner of man is the prophet" or chapter 11 on "Justice". I don't always view things as Heschel does (e.g. I don't see Israel as being the suffering servant described in Isaiah, nor do I think the book of Isaiah was authored by multiple people: "First Isaiah" or "Second Isaiah"), yet I find Heschel's approach sound and practical. This book can be read by seminary students, but it is geared more for the lay reader as it avoids heavy esoteric problems of linguistics or textual criticism and concentrates more on the MESSAGE of the prophets. I found the text an exhortation to my own spirituality. It is easy for me to recommend reading, underlining, and contemplating this fine work.
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