In the New Testament, the term prophecy is used of enthusiastic, presumably inspired utterances. This tradition was perpetuated in Montanism, an early Christian sect (late 2d cent. A.D.). Such prophecy has a somewhat dubious history in Christianity (e.g., in Joachim of Floris and Joanna Southcott), but there have been millennialists and miracle-working preachers among the unassailably orthodox (e.g., St. Vincent Ferrer). Some varieties of Protestantism have emphasized "inspired" utterances or behavior; the most spectacular were the Anabaptists (e.g., Thomas Münzer and John of Leiden). Emanuel Swedenborg and Joseph Smith are examples of self-proclaimed prophets who came out of Protestant backgrounds. Islam confesses Muhammad as the last and greatest of prophets. He gathered a community based on his being the divine messenger of the final revelation of God.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.