The Greek word prophetes means ‘spokesman’ or ‘prophet’. In the Bible prophets proclaim the will of God and make predictions. Some are concrete, such as Isaiah announcing the coming of a saviour (Christ). The ambiguity of other prophecies allowed theologians to interpret the ones in the Old Testament as prefigurations of events in the New Testament.
Of the prophets, chiefly Moses, Jonah (in the fish) and Daniel (in the lion’s den) are portrayed in art, followed by Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. The latter warned the Jewish people to obey God, whereupon the king of Judea imprisoned him. Jeremiah’s prediction came to pass: Jerusalem was destroyed. In some depictions Jeremiah is shown sorrowing while the city burns.
New Testament prophets include John the Baptist and Anna. She recognized the young Jesus as the Saviour announced by John when she met him in the Temple with Mary and Joseph.