Could Jews Accept the Prophets
of Christianity and Islam?
Judaism’s position on acknowledging prophets is based on the verses of the Torah; in Deuteronomy 18, 18-22:
“(18) I will raise up a prophet from the midst of their brothers, like yourself. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him.
(19) And if anybody will not listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, I will call him to account.
(20) But any prophet who presumes to speak in my name something that I did not command him to speak,
[This means, there will be those who claim to be prophets of God, or who even honestly believe to be prophets of God, but their words are not God’s words… The crucial question is therefore: How can we determine if someone is a true prophet?]
or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.
(21) And if you should say to yourself: “How can we recognize the word that the Lord did not speak?”
(22) If that prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and it does not come true, that is something that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has uttered it presumptuously. Do not fear him.”
[This is often understood to mean that a prophet must first prove himself as a true prophet with accurate predictions before he may be believed and followed…]
Furthermore, see the following verses in Deuteronomy 13, 1-6:
“(1) All that I command you, you shall carefully perform, do not add to it and do not take away from it. [This means that a prophet cannot be accepted if his words change the instructions of the Torah]
(2) If a prophet stands up from among you, or a dreamer of dreams, and even if he gives you a sign or a miracle,
[Bringing a sign is often understood as a condition for a prophet to be accepted.]
(3) and that sign or that miracle comes true, but he says: “Let us follow other gods that you don’t know, and let’s worship them”,
[an example of something that God didn’t command]
(4) You shall not listen to the words of that prophet, or of that dreamer, because the Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
(5) After the Lord your God shall you follow, Him shall you fear, His commandments shall you keep, [the commandments that were already given to you]
to His voice shall you listen, Him shall you worship, and to Him shall you cleave.
(6) That prophet or that dreamer shall be put to death, for he preached apostasy from the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, and who saved you from the house of slavery, and he wanted to lead you astray from the path that the Lord your God has commanded you to follow. This is how you must remove the evil from your midst.”
In these Torah verses, God promises the Children of Israel that even after Moses dies, He will not leave them without spiritual guidance, but He will send them another prophet to instruct them how to act. Like all the prophecies of Moses in the Torah, these texts too, are specifically directed to the Israelites, meaning, this verse talks about a prophet that will be sent to the Jewish people.
According to the understanding of the Jewish sages, "I will raise up a prophet" does not mean that God will send a prophet after Moses only once in history, but it means that God may send a prophet anytime He wants to.
One thing is clear from these verses: It is impossible for a true believer to believe in every prophet. This is because the Torah implies that there will be false prophets as well. The main problem is how to determine which prophets are real and which ones are false? If someone comes to us and claims to be a prophet, how can we be sure that he speaks the truth? How can we know that he is not lying or mistaken, that he is not a false prophet?
For that reason, the Torah gives a number of guidelines.
First of all, he has to come “ from the midst of their brothers, like yourself”.
Some Muslim scholars interpret this verse as a prediction of the coming of Muhammad, as it says in the verse that the prophet will come “from their brothers”. They believe that this must mean that the prophet has to come from the brothers of the Jews, meaning from among the Arabs. However, this is a misunderstanding because the verse says: “from among their brothers, like yourself”, meaning “like Moses”. Just as Moses was from among the Children of Israel, so too any future prophets that God will send to the Israelites. Furthermore, the term “your brother” and “your brothers” appears many times in the Torah, and always means “someone from the same family, tribe, or people”.
Finally, if the requirement was to be understood that a prophet, sent by God to the Jews, had to be from among the Arabs, then all Jewish prophets after Moses would (God forbid) be false prophets, including Samuel, Elijah, Jonah, Zechariah and many others as they all were from among the Israelites. Therefore, the verse “… from the midst of their brothers, like yourself” means that each prophet that is sent to the Israelites has to be an Israelite himself. (Of course this does not exclude the possibility that God may send non-Jewish prophets to other nations.)
There is some discussion among Jewish scholars whether an Israelite prophet has to be born into the people of Israel or if he can be someone who converted to Judaism. For instance, Yehuda ha-Levi (1075-1141) in his famous book Kitāb ar-Radd wa-d-Dalīl fī ad-Dīn adh-Dhalīl, also commonly known as Sefer ha-Kuzari, taught that a convert cannot become a prophet. However, this contradicts the Talmudic opinion that the prophet Obadiah had converted to the Israelite faith.
Secondly, another guideline in the Torah is that this person must predict something that comes true. Of course, this has to be something that happens during his lifetime, as this proof of prophethood is necessary in order to follow him.
Thirdly, this prophet cannot prophecy in the name of other gods, and he cannot call the people to worship idols.
Fourthly, he cannot tell the people to forsake that which God commanded before (through Moses). As the Torah says: “The hidden things belong to the Lord our God, but what is revealed is up to us and to our children forever, to obey all the words of this Torah.”
And finally, there can be no abrogation, as no commandments of the Torah may be added, and nothing is to be removed from them. This is also derived from the verse: “Do not add to the word which I command you, nor take away from it, that you may observe the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”
After careful reading of these texts, we can see that accepting a prophet does not merely mean confessing his prophethood; rather it consists of following his instructions. If someone believes and confesses that a certain person is a prophet, but he does not practice the words of this prophet, then his acceptance means nothing. For that reason, if we are told the name of a certain prophet that lived a long time ago, without knowing the words this prophet had spoken, then we cannot test him according to the verses of the Torah. Also, if his words are not recorded and we have none of his instructions to follow, believing in such a prophet is without meaning.
One may ask the question: If a prophet after Moses cannot add anything to the Torah or abolish anything from it, then according to Jews, what can possibly be the purpose, the task and the mission of such a prophet?
Judaism teaches that the task of later prophets after Moses and after the Torah, is not to abrogate (replace) the Torah but to confirm it and strengthen it, to give admonitions and warnings in case of disobedience, to give promises and blessings in case of compliance, to give consolation after disaster, announce forgiveness after repentance, and offer predictions for the future, all this in the name of the Almighty God and by His command. According to Jewish tradition, there were numerous prophets among the people of Israel but the words of most of these were not recorded and their names have been forgotten because their message was only meant for their own generation.
Because there can be no replacement and no abrogation of the Torah, it has never been a central question in Judaism who was the last prophet, because all Jewish prophets, with no exception, refer back to the message and the laws of Moses. The most important question is not: “Who was the last prophet?”, but “Which revelation is eternally valid and which is meant temporarily?”
This also explains why Jews do not attach much value to others who claim to believe in the prophets of Israel, while they do not study their words, nor follow their instructions. Of course, these groups of non-Jews are sincere in their acceptance of Moses, Ezekiel, Isaiah and others, but their acceptance is only in name.
As far as the possibility of non-Jewish prophets is concerned, Jews have only received criteria in the Torah to test a prophet that was sent to them from among the Jewish people. Because non-Jewish prophets are not in that category, their prophethood cannot be tested according to the criteria of the Torah, and Judaism cannot take an definite position on their validity. If, however, such a prophet would tell Jews to leave the Torah and follow another revelation, that prophet would be deemed a false prophet.
Now we can understand one of the reasons why Judaism has never officially accepted the prophets of other nations, except for those specifically mentioned in their own Scriptures. There can be prophets from other nations but these prophets are only sent to these other nations. As their message would be directed to people who are not obliged to live by the commandments of the Torah, it might appear as if they go against the Torah. They would tell these people to believe in One God and to desist from abominable sins, but they would not tell them to follow the specific commandments as given to the Children of Israel by Moses. For instance, as the message of such a prophet is not directed to the Israelites, he may tell his followers to fast for an entire month, including on the Shabbat when Jews are not allowed to fast. In that case, if Jews would follow this (possibly true) prophet, they would violate their eternal specific covenant with God.
We can therefore conclude that it is possible that there be a non-Jewish prophet who, sent to a non-Jewish nation, may even issue commandments that contradict the laws of the Torah, but that such a prophet may not be followed by Jews. However, Jews have no criteria to determine if someone who purports to be a prophets is genuine. All they now is that he is not a prophet for them.
 But not according to the Samaritans
 The books of the prophets indicate that there were many false prophets.
See: Jeremiah 5:31, 6:13-14, 14:14-16; 23:14; Ezekiel 13:1-23; 22:25-28; Micah 3:11
 Kuzari, part 1, paragraph 115
 Talmud Babli, Sanhedrin 39b
 Deuteronomy 29:29
 Deuteronomy 4:2
 According to the Talmud there were: 1,200,000 prophets (Talmud Babli, Megillah 14a).
 The Talmud teaches that prophecy stopped shortly after the destruction of the First Temple and that Haggai, Zekharyah and Mal’akhi were the last prophets (Talmud Babli, Baba Batra 16b). According to Ibn Ezra, Mal’akhi was the very last prophet.
 For instance, the Torah mentions Balaam as a non-Israelite prophet. Also Job is generally believed to have been a non-Jewish prophet.
 Such as Shabbat, Pesach, Sukkot, etc.
 Except if it coincides with Yom Kippur.