Ancient Greece Oracles: There are a couple of dictionary meanings of oracle which are as follows: (1) a prophecy revealed by a priest or priestess; or (2) an authoritative person who divines the future or a seer; or (3) a holy place where answers from a particular deity are sought.
What is an oracle in the bible
Greece had such a place and such a person was known as an Oracle and was the source from whom the ancient Greeks sought to find answers to their most serious questions. The Bible has used the Greek word logion which means Oracle and was used to describe the utterances of the Almighty.
In Classical antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination.
The word is derived from the Latin verb orate meaning “to speak” and refers to the priest or priestess uttering the prediction. In extended use, Oracle may also refer to the site of the oracle, and also to the oracular utterances themselves which were known as smokiness in Greek.
Ancient Greek prophets
Oracles were considered to be a gateway through which the gods spoke interacted with the common people. In this sense, they were different from prophets who interpreted signs sent by the gods through bird signs, animal entrails, and other various methods.
Oracle of Dione and Zeus
The most important oracles of Greek antiquity were Pythia, priestess to Apollo at Delphi, and the oracle of Dione and Zeus at Dodona in Epirus. Other temples of Apollo were located at Didyma on the coast of Asia Minor, at Corinth and Bassae in the Peloponnese, and at the islands of Delos and Aegina in the Aegean Sea. While only the Delphic Oracle was a female; rest all others were male.
The Sibylline Oracles are a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters attributed to the Sibyls, prophetesses who uttered divine revelations in a turbulent state.In Greece, the old oracles were devoted to the Mother Goddess.
Oracle of Dodona
At the oracle of Dodona, she was called Dione which was the feminine form of Dios meaning “godly”, who represented the earth that is the fertile soil was probably the chief female goddess of the Pie pantheon. Python, daughter or son of Gaia was the earth dragon of Delphi represented as a serpent.
The Pythia, who was an oracle at Delphi, only gave prophecies on the seventh day of each month since the number seven was closely associated with Apollo, during the nine warmer months of the year; thus, Delphi was not considered as the major source of divination for the ancient Greeks.
The Delphic Oracle exerted significant influence throughout the Hellenic culture. This female was essentially the highest authority both civilly as well as religiously in the otherwise male-dominated ancient Greece. She responded to diverse questions of citizens, foreigners, kings, and philosophers on issues of political impact, war, duty, crime, laws including personal issues as well.
However, there was a catch. Just before delivering a lecture the Pythia, would chew leaves from Apollo’s sacred laurel tree and would then sit on her holy tripod, seated in the innermost sanctum, over a crack on the rock from where noxious volcanic fumes emanated. The semi-Hellenic countries around the Greek world, such as Lydia, Caria, and even Egypt also respected her and came to Delphi as supplicants.
King of Lydia
There is a very interesting incident relating to Croesus who was the king of Lydia around 560BC, who wanted to test the accuracy of the oracles to the world. He sent out ambassadors to seven sites who were all to ask the oracles on the same day what the king was doing at that very moment.
Croesus proclaimed the oracle at Delphi to be the most accurate, who correctly reported that the king was making a lamb-and-tortoise stew, and so he graced her with a magnitude of precious gifts.
The oracle’s powers were highly sought after and never doubted. Any inconsistencies between prophecies and events were considered as failure to correctly interpret the responses and not an error of the oracle. Very often prophecies were worded ambiguously, so as to cover all contingencies especially ex-post facto.