According to Catholic Tradition, did God create people to be prophets? Or did he choose people to be prophets based on good works?

For example, before Isaiah was born, did God know that he would be a prophet? Or did God choose Isaiah after he performed good works or proved his suitability to be a prophet in some way?

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    I can't speak for catholicism, but a related scripture is Jeremiah 1:5 where God tells Jeremiah that he was chosen even before his birth. I would expect an answer to address this. Also, "did God know X" will always be answered Yes, I suppose, but this is not in contradiction to a prophet being chosen after doing good. Anyway, this is an interesting question and I am looking forward to answers.
    – kutschkem
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 8:51
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    Are you asking this because you think it might be different than whether God chooses people generally based on their suitability or not?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 9:30
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    Your words: "For example, before Isaiah was born, did God know that he would be a prophet?" Is there anything God does not know? Better wording would be: "Since God knew even before Isaiah was born that he would be a prophet, did God choose Isaiah after he performed good works . . .?" Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 15:45
  • @rhetorician: Do you believe in free will? Or does God already know. ;)
    – Jim G.
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 19:45
  • @JimG.: I believe in the human ability to choose or decide, not in free will, per se. The only person in the universe with free will is God, who is free to do anything he chooses (i.e., within the parameters of his infinite perfections). IOW, I'm not a fan of either/or thinking, but I am a big fan of both/and thinking. E.g., "I believe in BOTH the ability of God's image bearers to make decisions--though not always the consequences of those decisions, AND that God's omniscience regarding those decisions does not, ipso facto, make them happen. Is this antinomy? Possibly yes, but possibly no. Don Commented Dec 6, 2014 at 4:35

1 Answer 1


The Catholic Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that prophecy is a gift:

CCC 2004 Among the special graces ought to be mentioned the graces of state that accompany the exercise of the responsibilities of the Christian life and of the ministries within the Church:

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; he who teaches, in his teaching; he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who contributes, in liberality; he who gives aid, with zeal; he who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.1

1. Rom 12:6-8.

This article Prophecy | New Advent says:

  1. The gift of prophecy is an extraordinary grace bestowed by God. It has never been confined to any particular tribe, family, or class of persons. There is no distinct faculty in human nature by which any normal or abnormal person can prophesy, neither is any special preparation required beforehand for the reception of this gift.
  2. Writing on the recipients of prophecy, Benedict XIV (Heroic Virtue, III, 144, 150) says: "The recipients of prophecy may be angels, devils, men, women, children, heathens, or gentiles; nor is it necessary that a man should be gifted with any particular disposition in order to receive the light of prophecy provided his intellect and senses be adapted for making manifest the things which God reveals to him. Though moral goodness is most profitable to a prophet, yet it is not necessary in order to obtain the gift of prophecy." He also tells us that the angels by their own natural penetration cannot know future events which are undermined and contingent or uncertain, neither can they know the secrets of the heart of another, whether man or angel.


From the foregoing, it is clear the gift of prophecy is an extraordinary grace bestowed by God upon whomever he chooses however unworthy (who is ever really worthy) they may be.

Did God create people to be prophets? God chooses or using Biblical and Church language, God chooses and calls whomever he chooses to whatever ministry he calls them to and this includes the prophetic ministry2.

Does God choose people to be prophets based on good works? From the foregoing, no he doesn't. Even devils may be the recipients of prophecy.

The initiative is always God's, his choice free and not dependent in any way on the recipient or their merits.

2. cf. Jn 15:15-17, I Cor:1:2, etc.


In Num 11:29 Moses wished:

29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

Thanks to the gift of God the Father through His Son, Jesus, by the working of the Holy Spirit, all the baptized share in the prophetic mission of Christ beyond Moses' expectations.

CCC 1268 The baptized have become "living stones" to be "built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood."3 By Baptism they share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. They are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that [they] may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called [them] out of darkness into his marvelous light."4 Baptism gives a share in the common priesthood of all believers.

3. 1 Pet 2:5.
4. 1 Pet 2:9.

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    But is the person set apart to receive that gift, or do they receive it for some other reason? That seems to be the thrust of the question. Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 11:49
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    Good citation about Moses (Dt 11:29), which made me think immediately about Paul's attitude toward those preachers in his day who were preaching Christ, not out of pure motives but out of selfish ambition. He said, "Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice." IOW, the messenger isn't as important as the message (though I'm sure God prefers that his messengers have pure motives!). Don Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 15:38
  • @MattGutting Point 2. from the advent Article has your answer. Even devils may be recipients of prophecy. If by set part means God choosing someone, then the answer is yes. Do they receive on account of some reason on their part, no. For what reason do they receive it, see CCC 2004 quoted above, for the glory of God and for the service of his people, in the New Covenant, his Church, His Mystical Body.
    – user13992
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 16:12
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    I think the gift of prophecy is distinct from the title of prophet. Presumably a prophet will have the gift of prophecy, but does having the gift of prophecy automatically make one a prophet, according to Catholic teaching?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 17:47
  • Do all "titled" prophets prophesy? Yes! Do all who prophesy titled "prophets"? No! What is common to both is the gift of prophecy - a titled prophet won't be one without the gift of prophecy - therefore the arguments in the answer remain valid.
    – user13992
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 18:39

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