This introduction surveys views of the prophet and prophecy from patristic and early medieval teachings to the eve of the Protestant reformations. Christian leaders across the church’s history simultaneously affirmed understandings of prophecy as foretelling and prophecy as interpretation of Scripture, with a growing emphasis on the latter and a continued emphasis on the role of revelation in both forms. Whereas Augustine’s teachings concerning prophecy tended to restrain apocalyptic expectation, the teachings of Joachim of Fiore introduced a radical shift in connecting biblical prophecy directly with human history. Consequently, on the eve of the Protestant reformations, late medieval conceptions of prophecy paved the way for increasing expectation of a figure who would usher in a new age. All the while early-modern Catholic leaders continued to affirm the ongoing contemporary function of prophecy, even as they sought to constrain such apocalyptic fervor.
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