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Question #89328 posted on 04/20/2017 6:01 p.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I decided to take on Elder Nelson's challenge to read all the scriptures about Jesus Christ listed in the topical guide. Right now I am at the scripture in Luke 2 that talks about Mary and Joseph taking Christ to the temple to be named. At the temple, Jesus is recognized and praised by Simeon and by the "prophetess" Anna.

More research using the Gospel Library app revealed that there are five named "prophetesses" in the scriptures: Anna (Luke 2:36), Miriam, the sister of Moses (Exodus 15:20), Deborah, a judge (Judges 4.4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14 and 2 Chronicles 34:22), and Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14). In addition to the named prophetesses, there is an unnamed prophetess cited in Isaiah 8:30/2 Nephi 18:3. Lastly, Jesus denounces Jezebel in Revelation 2:20 for calling herself a prophetess when she is clearly an adulteress.

The TG reference for the Luke scripture is "Woman." Likewise, the Isaiah and corresponding Compare Isaiah verses indicate the "prophetess" means "wife."

So, my first question is, what do the scriptures mean when they use the term "prophetess"? ("Prophetess" is not listed in the Bible Dictionary, nor is it listed in Mormon Doctrine.) The scriptures themselves tend to speak of the women listed as having similar status as actual prophets, or at least having a level of wisdom that is recognized, respected, and sought. But the footnotes seem to take the term down to its most basic element of being female. But then the Jezebel scripture in Revelation says that Jezebel is NOT a prophetess. Jezebel IS female, though, so this implies that being a prophetess is something more than being a woman or wife.

None of the five named prophetesses have their own books of scripture, so I feel like they may not have actually had the same status as prophets.

So my second question is this: Are there books of scripture written by these or other women in apocryphal writings or elsewhere? The Book of Mormon shows us that you don't necessarily have to be a prophet to keep the records; Omni, for example, has a book in his name, but calls himself a "wicked man." The records are then passed down from father to son, generation after generation, and I am assuming that not each of these men were prophets so much as scribes.

-sand dollar

A:

Dear you,

The Guide to the Scriptures describes a prophetess as "a woman who has received a testimony of Jesus and enjoys the spirit of revelation." I think it's important to recognize that there's a difference between someone who has the spiritual gift of prophecy, and someone who is a "prophet" in the sense of having the office of prophet, seer, and revelator in a priesthood calling. This Ensign article does a good job of outlining what the gift of prophecy is. Basically, it's people who have a testimony of Christ, and who teach and lead through the Spirit. Thus, although the title of "prophetess" doesn't necessarily indicate that those women held a priesthood office, it does indicate that they had a special gift and were viewed by their community as powerful spiritual leaders.

I wasn't able to find any apocryphal writings by the prophetesses you named, but some apocryphal or pseudographical writings centered on women include the Gospel of Mary, the Book of Judith, an expansion on the Book of Esther, and an addition to the Book of Daniel about Susanna.

-Zedability

A:

Dear Doctor,

For the fullest explanation, you should look up Women in the Old Testament by Camille Fronk Olson. I've recommended it before because it's amazing.

Basically, prophet is often used as a general sense, meaning that those people who are Biblical prophets and prophetesses are those who possess the gift of prophecy, "but are not authorized with keys to direct the affairs of God's church."

More information from the book explains:

Therefore, prophetesses and prophets are endowed with spiritual knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, they then bear that witness by the same Spirit. More than predicting future events, prophets and prophetesses deliver God's message of warning or direction pertaining to current situations...

...the title of prophetess speaks more about the woman herself. Women were qualified as true prophetesses by their faith in the Savior's atonement rather than by marriage to a righteous man.

By giving them the label of prophetess, biblical authors imply that these women devoted time to testify of the Messiah. 

- Tally M.