In Arabic and Hebrew, the term nabī (Arabic plural form: أَنْبِيَاء anbiyāʼ) means "prophet". Forms of this noun occur 75 times in the Quran. The term nubuwwah (Arabic: نُبُوَّة meaning "prophethood") occurs five times in the Quran. The terms rasūl (Arabic plural: رُسُل rusul) and mursal (ِArabic singular: مُرْسَل mursal; plural: مُرْسَلُون mursalūn) denote "messenger with law given/ received by God" and occur more than 300 times. The term for a prophetic "message" (ِArabic singular: رِسَالَة risālah; plural: رِسَالَات risālāt), appears in the Quran in ten instances.
The Syriac form of rasūl Allāh (literally: "messenger of God"), s̲h̲eliḥeh d-allāhā, occurs frequently in the apocryphal Acts of St. Thomas. The corresponding verb for s̲h̲eliḥeh—s̲h̲alaḥ, occurs in connection with the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.
The words "prophet" (Arabic: نبي nabī) and "messenger" (Arabic: رسول rasūl) appear several times in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The following table shows these words in different languages:
Prophet and Messenger in the Bible
||Messenger, Prophet, Apostle
shalah /ʃalaħ/ (verb)
In the Hebrew Bible, the word nabi ("spokesperson, prophet") occurs commonly. The biblical word for "messenger", mal'akh, refers today to Angels in Judaism, but originally was used for human messenger both of God and of men, thus it is only somewhat equivalent of rasūl. According to Judaism, Haggai, Zaqariah, and Malachi were the last prophets, all of whom lived at the end of the 70-year Babylonian exile. With them, the authentic period of Nevuah ("prophecy") died, and nowadays only the "Bath Kol" (בת קול, lit. daughter of a voice, "voice of God") exists (Sanhedrin 11a).
In the New Testament, however, the word "messenger" becomes more frequent, sometimes in association with the concept of a prophet. "Messenger" may refer to Jesus, to his Apostles and to John the Baptist. But the last book of the Old Testament, the Book of Malachi, speaks of a messenger that Christian commentators interpret as a reference to the future prophet John the Baptist (Yahya).