Before I get to today’s word, we have some unfinished business from last week’s challenge to find another English word that comes from the root sesqui-. Carrie Lewis from the Writing Well site correctly came up with the word "sesquicentennial." Cetennial, of course, is the celebration of a 100-year anniversay (from the same base as cent and century). Sesqui- means "one and a half," so sesquicentennial is the 150th anniversary of something. Not of my birthday, in case you’re wondering.

[You should go check out Carrie’s blog. It’s full of wonderful information and inspiration for writers.]

And now for today’s word: "prophet."

The Greek prefix pro- means "before," as in 
          program (gram=write–we write the program before the big event, right?)
propel (pel=to drive–makes me think of a cowboy driving the cows before him in a cattle drive) 
          propose (pose=put/place–put your idea before me, and I’ll see what I think)

The Greek base -phet comes from phanai, "to speak," which is related to the familiar Greek phono, meaning "sound." My trusty Webster’s New World College Dictionary tells me the Greeks got it from the Indo-European bha, where we get the word ban. Interesting.

So a prophet "speaks before." Before what? Before something happens? Of course: a prophet tells the future. Yawn. But if you look at the Biblical use of the word, it takes on a new life.

My Hebrew-Greek Study Bible puts it this way:  "pro must be regarded not as having reference to time (meaning before), but rather as local, in the context of space…" Get that? "Before" in space, not in time. I used this concept earlier when I said "put your idea before me." In modern English, we like to use "in front of."

An Old Testament prophet may or may not have foretold the future, most likely not. The important thing to the ancient Hebrews was that a prophet was in communion with God and was therefore able to lay God’s will before them. Let me say that again: A prophet laid out God’s will before the people. The Greek language of the New Testament carried this meaning forward.

This was so much more than Nostradamus. It was about the prophet’s intimacy with God. (Well, the gods, little g, in Greco-Roman culture). As Christians, we understand that we, too, have this intimacy with God, through Jesus. We can know God’s will for our lives, not merely know future events ahead of time, because God cares for us intimately as people, rather than as cogs in some great plan.

God is so much more than a piece of paper in a fortune cookie. So, much, much more.

[BONUS: The Latins took the prefix pro- and infused it with the meaning of "acting for/ supporting," as in prolife.]

WORD NERD CHALLENGE: Find out the derivation of the word "profane," and comment below. Hint: It does not come from phanai, like prophet does. I think you’ll find this one interesting!