From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. Meaning of revelation . The English word, which comes from the Latin, implies the drawing back of a veil, the unveiling of something hidden. It is the almost exact equivalent of the NT word apocalypse or ‘uncovering’ (  Revelation 1:1 ). For our present purpose the word is specially applied to the revelation of God, the ‘unveiling’ of the unseen God to the mind and beart of man. The application of the word is very varied. The widest sense is that in which it is used by Gwatkin ( Knowledge of God , vol. i. p. 5): ‘Any fact which gives knowledge is a revelation, … the revelation and the knowledge of God are correlative terms expressing two sides of the same thing.’ The following specific uses of the term need consideration: ( a ) The revelation of God through nature . This refers to the indications of wisdom, power, and purpose in the material world around (  Romans 1:20 ). ( b ) The revelation of God in man . This applies to the traces of God in man’s conscience with its sense of obligation, in his emotional nature with its desire and capacity for fellowship, in his personality which demands personality for its satisfaction. ( c ) The revelation of God in history . This means the marks of an over-ruling providence and purpose in the affairs of mankind, of a Divinity that has shaped man’s ends, the traces of a progress and onward sweep in history. All these aspects of revelation are usually summed up in the term ‘natural religion,’ and do not touch the specific meaning of revelation which is associated with Christianity. ( d ) The revelation of God in Judaism and Christianity . By revelation, as applied in this way, we mean a special, historical, supernatural communication from God to man. Not merely information about God, but a revelation a disclosure of God Himself in His character and His relation to man. In addition to revelation through nature, conscience, and reason, Christianity implies a special revelation in the Person of Christ.

2. Problem of revelation . The statement of the full content of the Christian revelation is naturally excluded from this article, but for our purpose we may say briefly that its essence is the self-manifestation of God in the Person of Christ for the redemption of mankind. Christianity is the revelation of God’s grace for man through the historic Personality of Christ. The problem is to correlate this supernatural content with the historical process by means of which it has been revealed, and to do justice at once to the superhuman fact and content, and the human media and conditions of the revelation. In so doing we shall be brought face to face with the antitheses of revelation and discovery, of revelation and speculation, of revelation and evolution; and, while we recognize to the full the historical processes by which Christianity has come to us, we shall see that the gospel of Christ is not adequately accounted for except by means of a personal revelation of God, using and guiding history for the purpose, and that it cannot be explained merely in terms of history, discovery, philosophy, and evolution.

3. Possibility of revelation . We argue this on two grounds. ( a ) From the Being of God . Granted a God as a Supreme Being (which for our present purpose we assume), He must necessarily be able to reveal Himself to man. Given God as personal, this includes the power of self-revelation. Belief in a Divine Being at once makes revelation possible. A bare theism has never been a permanent standing-ground, for men either have receded from it or have gone forward in the direction of the Christian revelation. ( b ) From the nature of man . The fact of personality, with all its possibilities, implies man’s capacity for communion with a Being higher than himself, or higher than any other human personality. ‘Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee’ (Augustine).

4. Probability of revelation . This also we argue on two grounds: ( a ) from the nature of God , and ( b ) from the needs of man . Granted a Supreme Personal Being, we believe not only in His ability, but in His willingness to reveal Himself to man. Belief in God prepares us to expect a revelation. Human personality with its capacity for God prepares us to expect a revelation, which thus becomes antecedently probable. The desire for it is an argument for expecting it. Man, as man, needs a revelation to guide him, an authority above and greater than himself in things spiritual and Divine. Still more does man as a sinner need such a Divine revelation. Amid the sins and sorrows, the fears and trials, the difficulties and perplexities of life, man needs some Divine revelation that will assure him of salvation, holiness, and immortality. No one can say that the light of nature is sufficient for these needs, and that therefore a revelation could add nothing. Most men would agree that there is at least room for a revelation in view of the sin and suffering in the world. Our deepest instincts cry out against the thought that sin is final or permanent, and yet it is equally clear that nothing but an interposition from above can deal with it. It is impossible to conceive of God leaving man to himself without a definite, clear, and sufficient manifestation of His own character, His will, His love, His grace.

5. Credibility of revelation . The proofs of a Divine revelation are many, varied, converging, and cumulative, ( a ) Speculatively , we may argue that ‘the universe points to idealism, and idealism to theism, and theism to a revelation’ (Illingworth, Reason and Revelation , p. 243). ( b ) Historically , the Christian revelation comes to us commended by its witnesses in (1) miracle, (2) prophecy, and (3) spiritual adaptation to human nature, ( c ) Behind all these are the presuppositions of natural religion as seen in nature, man, and history, ( d ) But ultimately the credibility of Christianity as a revelation rests on the Person of its Founder , and all evidences converge towards and centre in Him. Christ is Christianity, and Christians believe primarily and fundamentally in the fact and trustworthiness of Christ. Herein lies the final proof of the credibility of Christianity as a Divine revelation. If it he said that God has made other manifestations of Himself in the course of history, we do not deny it. All truth, however mediated, must necessarily have come from the primal Source of truth. The genuineness of Christianity does not necessarily disprove the genuineness of other religions as ‘broken lights.’ Each system claiming to be a revelation, whether partial or final, must be tested by its own evidence, and a decision made accordingly. The real criterion of all religions claiming to he Divine is their power to save. It is not truth in itself, but truth as exemplified in human life and delivering from sin, that constitutes the final proof of a religion. Not the ideal, but the ideal practically realized in human experience, is the supreme test. When this is applied, the true relation of Christianity to other systems is at once seen.

6. Methods of revelation . ( a ) The Christian revelation is first and foremost a revelation of life . Christianity is primarily a religion of facts rather than of truths, the doctrines only arising out of the facts. All through the historic period God’s manifestation has been given to life. Whether we think of the patriarchs, kings, and prophets of the OT, or of Christ and His Apostles in the NT, revelation has ever been connected with human life and personality. ( b ) But mediately it has been given in word , first oral and then written. Both in the OT and in the NT we notice first what God was and did to men, and afterwards what He said . We can and must distinguish between the revelation and the record, the former being necessarily prior to the latter, but nevertheless the revelation needed the record for accuracy and availability. At the same time it is essential to remember that Scripture is not simply a record of a revelation, but that the history itself is a revelation of God. On the one hand, the Bible is a product of the Divine process of self-manifestation; and, on the other, the Bible itself makes God known to man. Christianity, therefore, like Judaism before it, is a book religion (though it is also much more), as recording and conveying the Divine manifestation to man. A revelation must be embodied somewhere to he made available for all generations, and of the three possible media human reason, an ecclesiastical institution, and a hook, the last-named is by far the most trustworthy as a vehicle of transmission. It matters not how God reveals Himself, so long as we can he sure of the accuracy of that which is transmitted. Christ is our supreme and final authority, and our one requirement is the purest, clearest form of His historic personal manifestation. We do not set aside reason because it is human, or an institution because it is liable to error, nor do we accept the book merely as a book; hut we believe that the two former do not, and the latter does, enshrine for us the record of Christ’s revelation in its best available form.

7. Development of revelation . Revelation has been mediated through history, and has therefore been progressive, ( a ) Primitive revelation is the first stage. How men first came to conceive of God must remain a matter of conjecture. As there is so little known about primitive man, so also there must be about primitive religion. One thing, however, is quite clear, that the terms ‘savage’ and ‘primitive’ are not synonymous, for the savage to-day often represents a degeneration from primitive man. All analogy favours the idea that primitive revelation was such a manifestation of God when man was created as would he sufficient to maintain a true relation with Him, that at the Creation man had an immediate capacity, however immature, of entering into fellowship with God; and with this religions endowment we may assume a measure of Divine revelation sufficient to enable man to worship in an elementary way, and to keep true to God. No one is able to prove this, hut there is no reason to deny its possibility or probability. Without some such assumption, all idea of revelation vanishes, and religion is resolved into merely human conceptions of God. Revelation is more than the soul’s instinctive apprehension of God, for the simple reason that the instinctive apprehension itself has to he accounted for. The difficulties urged by some writers on the philosophy of religion against primitive revelation arise out of the assumption that all revelations are mere natural processes. There is no argument against primitive revelation which is not valid against all revelation, Christianity included. The power and possibility of man’s self-development towards God are inconsistent with the fact of sin and man’s bent towards evil. ( b ) OT revelation . However and whenever the OT came into existence, we cannot help being conscious of something in it beyond that which is merely human and historical. There is that in the OT characters and record which cannot be explained solely in terms of historic continuity. The OT does not merely represent an endeavour to obtain an ever worthier idea of God; it records a true idea of God impressed on the people in the course of history, under a Divine direction which we call a revelation. The OT conception of God is so vastly different from that which obtained in the surrounding nations, that unless we predicate something supernatural, there is no possibility of accounting for so marked a difference between people who were in other respects so very much alike. As Wellhausen truly says, ‘Why did not Chemosh of Moah, for instance, develop into a God of Righteousness, and the Creator of heaven and earth?’ It is possible to give a satisfying answer to this question only by predicating a Divine revelation in the OT. ( c ) The NT revelation . The historical revelation culminated in the manifestation of Jesus Christ. It was given at a particular time and place, mediated through One Person, and authenticated by supernatural credentials. In Christ the self-disclosure of God reached its climax, and the NT is the permanent witness of the uniqueness of Christianity in the world. ‘God, who in ancient days spoke to our forefathers in many distinct messages and by various methods through the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken unto us through a Son’ (  Hebrews 1:1 , Weymouth). And the Person of Christ is utterly inexplicable in terms of history, or discovery, and requires the hypothesis of revelation.

This brief sketch of the historical development of revelation will enable us to understand the importance of the truth of the progressiveness of revelation. God taught men as they were able to bear it, leading them step by step from the dawn to the noonday of His self-disclosure. While each stage of the revelation was adequate for that time, it was not necessarily adequate with reference to succeeding stages. This principle of progress enables us to avoid a twofold error: it prevents us from undervaluing the OT by reason of the fuller light of the NT; and it prevents us from using the OT in any of its stages without guidance from the completer revelation of the NT. We thus distinguish carefully between the dispensational truth intended absolutely for immediate need at each stage, and those permanent elements in the OT which are of eternal validity. It is necessary to remember the difference between what is written for us and to us. ‘All Scripture was written for our learning,’ but not all was written to us directly. If it be said that revelation should be universal, and not limited to one time or place or nation, the answer is that the historical method is in exact accordance with the method of communicating and receiving all our knowledge. It is obvious that in the course of history some nations and men have influenced mankind more than others, and this fact constitutes an analogy, and argues the possibility that a special revelation might also be mediated through some particular race and person. Further, by limiting revelation in this way, God took the best means of preserving the revelation from corruption. Continuous and universal tradition has very few safeguards against deterioration, as the Jewish history only too clearly shows. Our acceptance of the revelation enshrined in the NT is based on the belief that it comes through men uniquely authorized and equipped to declare God’s will. Its authority depends on the fact that their special relation to Christ and their exceptional possession of the Spirit gave them the power to receive and declare God’s truth for mankind. Not fitness to edify, or age, or the possession of truth, but with these, and underlying them, the presence of a Divine element in the men whose writings we possess, gives the books their authority for us as a record and vehicle of Divine revelation. This uniqueness may be seen by a simple appeal to fact. The comparison of the Apostolic and sub-Apostolic ages shows the uniqueness of the NT. Between the first and second centuries there is a chasm ‘sheer, abrupt, abysmal’ (Schaff), and no transition exists which was so silent, and yet so sudden and remarkable. The most beautiful product of the second century, the Epistle of Diognetus , is incomparably inferior to any book of the NT. ‘There is no steeper descent in history than that which directly follows the Apostolic age. We pass at once from writings unsurpassed in creative power to writings of marked intellectual poverty, … the distinction commonly made between the books of the Canon and the rest is fully justified’ (Gwatkin, Knowledge of God , ii. 80). This difference marks the distinction between the Spirit of God in revelation and in illumination. Since the close of the NT times there has been strictly no addition to the revelation, but only its manifold realization and application in the Christian Church and the world. It should be carefully noted that we believe in the Divine revelation contained in the Scriptures, without holding any particular theory of inspiration. The supreme question is whether they contain a revelation of Divine truth. Are they true and trustworthy for our spiritual life? If so, they are authoritative whatever may have been the precise method of their delivery. The primary question is not the method of inspiration, but the fact of authority. Yet, however difficult it may be to define its character or limits, we believe in a special inspiration of the Bible based on the authority of its authors and on their unique power to reveal God’s will. This special inspiration is (1) testified to by the Scriptures themselves, (2) has ever been held in the Christian Church, and (3) constantly authenticates itself to the Christian conscience through the ages.

8. Purpose of revelation . The essential purpose of revelation is life  : the gift of the life of God to the life of man. Its practical character is stamped on every part. The ‘chief end of revelation’ is not philosophy, though it has a philosophy profound and worthy. It is not doctrine, though it has a doctrine satisfying and inspiring. It is not enjoyment, though it has its experiences precious and lasting. It is not even morality, though it has its ethic unique and powerful. Christianity has all these, but is far more than them all. It is the religion of redemption, including salvation from sin, equipment for holiness, and provision for life to be lived in fellowship with God and for His glory. The ‘chief end’ of revelation is the union of God and man, and in that union the fulfilment of all God’s purposes for the world. The elements of sonship, worship, stewardship, fellowship, heirship, practically sum up the purpose of Divine revelation as it concerns man’s life a life in which he receives God’s grace, realizes God’s will, reproduces God’s character, renders God service, and rejoices in God’s presence in the Kingdom of grace below and the Kingdom of glory above.

W. H. Griffith Thomas.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [2]

Since God is supreme and sovereign, answerable to no one, he has no need to make himself known to mere humans. Yet in his grace he has chosen to do so, and people are responsible to him concerning what they learn from him ( Deuteronomy 29:29). The activity of God in making himself and his truth known is called revelation.

Revelation through nature and conscience

God has given humankind a general revelation of himself through nature. The created world tells people everywhere something of the sovereign power, glory and love of God ( Psalms 19:1-4;  Psalms 104:1-32;  Acts 14:17;  Acts 17:26-27;  Romans 1:19-20). Many, however, though recognizing the natural world to be full of wonder and beauty, refuse to accept it as evidence of the presence and power of God ( Romans 1:21). When people humbly submit to God in faith, they see him revealing himself to them through nature ( Genesis 9:13-16;  Psalms 29:3-10; Habakkuk 3;  Matthew 6:26;  Matthew 6:30; see also Creation ; Nature ).

In addition to providing a general revelation through nature, God has revealed something of himself through the basic knowledge of right and wrong that he has put within the hearts of all people. This unwritten standard, which makes possible the operation of the human conscience, is sometimes called ‘natural law’ ( Romans 2:15; see Conscience ).

The revelation through conscience, like the revelation through nature, gives people some understanding of God, but it does not give them the detailed knowledge that is necessary for salvation. Such knowledge comes through the more specific revelation God has made through his spoken and written Word ( 1 Corinthians 1:21).

Revelation through Christ and the Word

Earlier revelations of God to individuals prepared the way for the fuller revelation that God gave through the nation Israel ( Genesis 12:1-3;  Genesis 17:1-8;  Genesis 17:16;  Exodus 3:2-6). The entire Old Testament history of Israel was itself a revelation of God. Through his prophets and other special messengers, God taught his people and interpreted the events of their history to make himself and his purposes known to them ( Numbers 12:6-8;  Amos 3:7;  Hebrews 1:1; see Prophecy ). The Old Testament Scriptures are a revelation of God.

However, something even greater than this was necessary to save people fully from the consequences of their sin and bring them into a right relation with God. God himself took human form and made himself known perfectly through Jesus Christ ( John 1:14;  John 1:18;  John 14:8-9;  Hebrews 1:2). The gospel of Jesus Christ reveals how God, through Christ, is able to forgive guilty sinners, declare them righteous and build them into a unified body, the church ( Romans 1:17;  Romans 16:25-26;  Ephesians 3:5-6; see Gospel ; Mystery ).

When people come to Christ in repentance and faith, they receive a fuller revelation and a personal understanding of God ( Matthew 11:27;  Matthew 16:17;  Galatians 1:16). Because revelation is solely an activity of God and is exercised according to his sovereign will, God may choose to give additional special revelations to certain people ( Acts 9:10-16;  1 Corinthians 14:30;  2 Corinthians 12:1;  2 Corinthians 12:7;  Galatians 1:11-12;  Galatians 2:2;  Ephesians 3:3; see Apocalyptic Literature; Prophecy; Vision )

Just as God had given revelations during the time leading up to Christ’s coming, so he gave them during the time immediately after Christ’s coming. Previously he had given revelations through the history of Israel; now he gave them through the events of the early church. And just as God used prophets and others to record and interpret his pre-Christ revelation, so he used apostles and others to record and interpret his post-Christ revelation ( 1 Corinthians 2:10;  1 Corinthians 2:13;  2 Peter 3:15-16). The New Testament joins with the Old Testament to form the complete written revelation God has given (see Inspiration ; Scriptures ).

From all this it becomes evident that God’s revelation is progressive. This does not mean that later revelations contradict those that were earlier; it means rather that later revelations develop the earlier, as God works towards the completion of his purposes through Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 1:9-12;  Ephesians 3:3-11;  1 Peter 1:10-12; see Interpretation sub-heading ‘Progressive Revelation’).

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

The act of revealing or making a thing public that was before unknown; it is also used for the discoveries made by God to his prophets, and by them to the world; and more particularly for the books of the Old and New Testament. A revelation is, in the first place, possible. God may, for any thing we can certainly tell, think proper to make some discovery to his creatures which they knew not before. As he is a being of infinite power, we may be assured he cannot be at a loss for means to communicate his will, and that in such a manner as will sufficiently mark it his own.

2. It is desirable. For, whatever the light of nature could do for man before reason was depraved, it is evident that it has done little for man since. Though reason be necessary to examine the authority of divine revelation, yet, in the present state, it is incapable of giving us proper discoveries of God, the way of salvation, or of bringing us into a state of communion with God. It therefore follows.

3. That it is necessary. Without it we can attain to no certain knowledge of God, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of pardon, of justification, of sanctification, of happiness, of a future state of rewards and punishments.

4. No revelation, as Mr. Brown observes, relative to the redemption of mankind, could answer its respective ends, unless it were sufficiently marked with internal and external evidences. That the Bible hath internal evidence, is evident from the ideas it gives us of God's perfections, of the law of nature, of redemption, of the state of man, &c. As to its external evidence, it is easily seen by the characters of the men who composed it, the miracles wrought, its success, the fulfillment of its predictions, &c. (


5. The contents of revelation are agreeable to reason. It is true there are some things above the reach of reason; but a revelation containing such things is no contradiction, as long as it is not against reason; for if every thing be rejected which cannot be exactly comprehended, we must become unbelievers at once of almost every thing around us. The doctrines, the institutions, the threatenings, the precepts, the promises, of the Bible, are every way reasonable. The matter, form, and exhibition of revelation are consonant with reason.

6. The revelation contained in our Bible is perfectly credible. It is an address to the reason, judgment, and affections of men. The Old Testament abounds with the finest specimens of history, sublimity, and interesting scenes of Providence. The facts of the New Testament are supported by undoubted evidence from enemies and friends. The attestations to the early existence of Christianity are numerous from Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenxus, Justin Martyr, and Tatian, who were Christians; and by Tactitus, Sueton, Serenus, Pliny, &c. who were Heathens. (


7. The revelations contained in our Bible are divinely inspired. The matter, the manner, the scope, the predictions, miracles, preservation, &c. &c. all prove this. (


8. Revelation is intended for universal benefit. It is a common objection to it, that hitherto it has been confined to few, and therefore could not come from God who is so benevolent; but this mode of arguing will equally hold good against the permission of sin, the inequalities of Providence, the dreadful evils and miseries of mankind which God could have prevented. It must be farther observed, that none deserve a revelation; that men have despised and abused the early revelations he gave to his people. This revelation, we have reason to believe, shall be made known to mankind. Already it is spreading its genuine influence. In the cold regions of the north, in the burning regions of the south, the Bible begins to be known; and, from the predictions it contains, we believe the glorious sun of revelation shall shine and illuminate the whole globe.

9. The effects of revelation which have already taken place in the world have been astonishing. In proportion as the Bible has been known, arts and sciences have been cultivated, peace and liberty have been diffused, civil and moral obligation have been attended to. Nations have emerged from ignorance and barbarity, whole communities have been morally reformed, unnatural practices abolished, and wise laws instituted. Its spiritual effects have been wonderful. Kings and peasants, conquerors and philosophers, the wise and the ignorant, the rich and the poor, have been brought to the foot of the cross; yea, millions have been enlightened, improved, reformed, and made happy by its influences. Let any one deny this, and he must be a hardened, ignorant infidel, indeed. Great is the truth, and must prevail.

See Dr. Leland's Necessity of Revelation. "This work, " says Mr. Ryland, "has had no answer, and I am persuaded it never will meet with a solid confutation." Halyburton against the Deists; Leland's View of Deistical Writers; Brown's compendium of Natural and Revealed Religion; Stillingfleet's Origines Sacrae, is, perhaps, one of the ablest defences of revealed religion ever written. Delany's Revelation examined with Candour; Arch. Campbell on Revelation; Ellis on Divine Things; Gale's Court of the Gentiles.

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [4]

1: Ἀποκάλυψις (Strong'S #602 — Noun Feminine — apokalupsis — ap-ok-al'-oop-sis )

"an uncovering" (akin to apokalupto; see above), "is used in the NT of (a) the drawing away by Christ of the veil of darkness covering the Gentiles,  Luke 2:32; cp.  Isaiah 25:7; (b) 'the mystery,' the purpose of God in this age,  Romans 16:25;  Ephesians 3:3; (c) the communication of the knowledge of God to the soul,  Ephesians 1:17; (d) an expression of the mind of God for the instruction of the church,  1—Corinthians 14:6,26 , for the instruction of the Apostle Paul,  2—Corinthians 12:1,7;  Galatians 1:12 , and for his guidance,  Galatians 2:2; (e) the Lord Jesus Christ, to the saints at His Parousia,  1—Corinthians 1:7 , RV (AV, 'coming');  1—Peter 1:7 , RV (AV, 'appearing'),13; 4:13; (f) the Lord Jesus Christ when He comes to dispense the judgments of God,  2—Thessalonians 1:7; cp.  Romans 2:5; (g) the saints, to the creation, in association with Christ in His glorious reign,  Romans 8:19 , RV, 'revealing' (AV, 'manifestation'); (h) the symbolic forecast of the final judgments of God,  Revelation 1:1 (hence the Greek title of the book, transliterated 'Apocalypse' and translated 'Revelation')." * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, pp. 228,229.] See Appearing , Coming , Lighten , B, Note, Manifestation.

King James Dictionary [5]

REVELA'TION, n. L. revelatus, revelo. See Reveal.

1. The act of disclosing or discovering to others what was before unknown to them appropriately, the disclosure or communication of truth to men by God himself, or by his authorized agents, the prophets and apostles.

How that by revelation he made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words.  Ephesians 3 .  2 Corinthians 12 .

2. That which is revealed appropriately, the sacred truths which God has communicated to man for his instruction and direction. The revelations of God are contained in the Old and New Testament. 3. The Apocalypse the last book of the sacred canon, containing the prophecies of St. John.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) Specifically, the last book of the sacred canon, containing the prophecies of St. John; the Apocalypse.

(2): ( n.) The act of revealing, disclosing, or discovering to others what was before unknown to them.

(3): ( n.) That which is revealed.

(4): ( n.) The act of revealing divine truth.

(5): ( n.) That which is revealed by God to man; esp., the Bible.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

An extraordinary and supernatural disclosure made by God, whether by dream, vision, ecstasy, or otherwise, of truths beyond man's unaided power to discover. Paul, alluding to his visions and revelations,  2 Corinthians 12:1,7 , speaks of them in the third person, out of modesty; and declares that he could not tell whether he was in the body or out of the body. Elsewhere he says that he had received his gospel by a particular revelation,  Galatians 1:12 .

For the Book Of Revelation see Apocalypse .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Hebrews 1:1

Revelation and inspiration differ. Revelation is the supernatural communication of truth to the mind; inspiration (q.v.) secures to the teacher or writer infallibility in communicating that truth to others. It renders its subject the spokesman or prophet of God in such a sense that everything he asserts to be true, whether fact or doctrine or moral principle, is true, infallibly true.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [9]

or APOCALYPSIS, is the name given to a canonical book of the New Testament. See Apocalypse .

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [10]

See Inspiration.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [11]

rev - - lā´shun  :

I. The Nature Of Revelation

1. The Religion of the Bible the Only Supernatural Religion

2. General and Special Revelation

(1) Revelation in Eden

(2) Revelation among the Heathen

II. The Process Of Revelation

1. Place of Revelation among the Redemptive Acts of God

2. Stages of Material Development

III. The Modes Of Revelation

1. The Several Modes of Revelation

2. Equal Supernaturalness of the Several Modes

3. The Prophet God's Mouthpiece

4. Visionary Form of Prophecy

5. "Passivity" of Prophets

6. Revelation by Inspiration

7. Complete Revelation of God in Christ

IV. Biblical Terminology

1. The Ordinary Forms

2. "Word of Yahweh" and "Torah"

3. "The Scriptures"


I. The Nature of Revelation.

1. The Religion of the Bible the Only Supernatural Religion:

The religion of the Bible is a frankly supernatural religion. By this is not meant merely that, according to it, all men, as creatures, live, move and have their being in God. It is meant that, according to it, God has intervened extraordinarily, in the course of the sinful world's development, for the salvation of men otherwise lost. In Eden the Lord God had been present with sinless man in such a sense as to form a distinct element in his social environment ( Genesis 3:8 ). This intimate association was broken up by the Fall. But God did not therefore withdraw Himself from concernment with men. Rather, He began at once a series of interventions in human history by means of which man might be rescued from his sin and, despite it, brought to the end destined for him. These interventions involved the segregation of a people for Himself, by whom God should be known, and whose distinction should be that God should be "nigh unto them" as He was not to other nations ( Deuteronomy 4:7;  Psalm 145:18 ). But this people was not permitted to imagine that it owed its segregation to anything in itself fitted to attract or determine the Divine preference; no consciousness was more poignant in Israel than that Yahweh had chosen it, not it Him, and that Yahweh's choice of it rested solely on His gracious will. Nor was this people permitted to imagine that it was for its own sake alone that it had been singled out to be the sole recipient of the knowledge of Yahweh; it was made clear from the beginning that God's mysteriously gracious dealing with it had as its ultimate end the blessing of the whole world ( Genesis 12:2 ,  Genesis 12:3;  Genesis 17:4 ,  Genesis 17:5 ,  Genesis 17:6 ,  Genesis 17:16;  Genesis 18:18;  Genesis 22:18; compare  Romans 4:13 ), the bringing together again of the divided families of the earth under the glorious reign of Yahweh, and the reversal of the curse under which the whole world lay for its sin ( Genesis 12:3 ). Meanwhile, however, Yahweh was known only in Israel. To Israel God showed His word and made known His statutes and judgments, and after this fashion He dealt with no other nation; and therefore none other knew His judgments ( Psalm 147:19 f). Accordingly, when the hope of Israel (who was also the desire of all nations) came, His own lips unhesitatingly declared that the salvation He brought, though of universal application, was "from the Jews" (  John 4:22 ). And the nations to which this salvation had not been made known are declared by the chief agent in its proclamation to them to be, meanwhile, "far off," "having no hope" and "without God in the world" ( Ephesians 2:12 ), because they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenant of the promise.

The religion of the Bible, thus announces itself, not as the product of men's search after God, if haply they may feel after Him and find Him, but as the creation in men of the gracious God, forming a people for Himself, that they may show forth His praise. In other words, the religion of the Bible presents itself as distinctively a revealed religion. Or rather, to speak more exactly, it announces itself as the revealed religion, as the only revealed religion; and sets itself as such over against all other religions, which are represented as all products, in a sense in which it is not, of the art and device of man.

It is not, however, implied in this exclusive claim to revelation - which is made by the religion of the Bible in all the stages of its history - that the living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that in them is, has left Himself without witness among the peoples of the world ( Acts 14:17 ). It is asserted indeed, that in the process of His redemptive work, God suffered for a season all the nations to walk in their own ways; but it is added that to none of them has He failed to do good, and to give from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness. And not only is He represented as thus constantly showing Himself in His providence not far from any one of them, thus wooing them to seek Him if haply they might feel after Him and find Him ( Acts 17:27 ), but as from the foundation of the world openly manifesting Himself to them in the works of His hands, in which His everlasting power and divinity are clearly seen ( Romans 1:20 ). That men at large have not retained Him in their knowledge, or served Him as they ought, is not due therefore to failure on His part to keep open the way to knowledge of Him, but to the darkening of their senseless hearts by sin and to the vanity of their sin-deflected reasonings ( Romans 1:21 ff), by means of which they have supplanted the truth of God by a lie and have come to worship and serve the creature rather than the ever-blessed Creator. It is, indeed, precisely because in their sin they have thus held down the truth in unrighteousness and have refused to have God in their knowledge (so it is intimated); and because, moreover, in their sin, the revelation God gives of Himself in His works of creation and providence no longer suffices for men's needs, that God has intervened supernaturally in the course of history to form a people for Himself, through whom at length all the world should be blessed.

2. General and Special Revelation:

It is quite obvious that there are brought before us in these several representations two species or stages of revelation, which should be discriminated to avoid confusion. There is the revelation which God continuously makes to all men: by it His power and divinity are made known. And there is the revelation which He makes exclusively to His chosen people: through it His saving grace is made known. Both species or stages of revelation are insisted upon throughout the Scriptures. They are, for example, brought significantly together in such a declaration as we find in  Psalm 19:1-14 : "The heavens declare the glory of God ... their line is gone out through all the earth" (  Psalm 19:1 ,  Psalm 19:4 ); "The law of Yahweh is perfect, restoring the soul" ( Psalm 19:7 ). The Psalmist takes his beginning here from the praise of the glory of God, the Creator of all that is, which has been written upon the very heavens, that none may fail to see it. From this he rises, however, quickly to the more full-throated praise of the mercy of Yahweh, the covenant God, who has visited His people with saving instruction. Upon this higher revelation there is finally based a prayer for salvation from sin, which ends in a great threefold acclamation, instinct with adoring gratitude: "O Yahweh, my rock, and my redeemer" ( Psalm 19:14 ). "The heavens," comments Lord Bacon, "indeed tell of the glory of God, but not of His will according to which the poet prays to be pardoned and sanctified." In so commenting, Lord Bacon touches the exact point of distinction between the two species or stages of revelation. The one is adapted to man as man; the other to man as sinner; and since man, on becoming sinner, has not ceased to be man, but has only acquired new needs requiring additional provisions to bring him to the end of his existence, so the revelation directed to man as sinner does not supersede that given to man as man, but supplements it with these new provisions for his attainment, in his new condition of blindness, helplessness and guilt induced by sin, of the end of his being.

These two species or stages of revelation have been commonly distinguished from one another by the distinctive names of natural and supernatural revelation, or general and special revelation, or natural and soteriological revelation. Each of these modes of discriminating them has its particular fitness and describes a real difference between the two in nature, reach or purpose. The one is communicated through the media of natural phenomena, occurring in the course of nature or of history; the other implies an intervention in the natural course of things and is not merely in source but in mode supernatural. The one is addressed generally to all intelligent creatures, and is therefore accessible to all men; the other is addressed to a special class of sinners, to whom God would make known His salvation. The one has in view to meet and supply the natural need of creatures for knowledge of their God; the other to rescue broken and deformed sinners from their sin and its consequences. But, though thus distinguished from one another, it is important that the two species or stages of revelation should not be set in opposition to one another, or the closeness of their mutual relations or the constancy of their interaction be obscured. They constitute together a unitary whole, and each is incomplete without the other. In its most general idea, revelation is rooted in creation and the relations with His intelligent creatures into which God has brought Himself by giving them being. Its object is to realize the end of man's creation, to be attained only through knowledge of God and perfect and unbroken communion with Him. On the entrance of sin into the world, destroying this communion with God and obscuring the knowledge of Him derived from nature, another mode of revelation was necessitated, having also another content, adapted to the new relation to God and the new conditions of intellect, heart and will brought about by sin. It must not be supposed, however, that this new mode of revelation was an ex post facto expedient, introduced to meet an unforeseen contingency. The actual course of human development was in the nature of the case the expected and the intended course of human development, for which man was created; and revelation, therefore, in its double form was the divine purpose for man from the beginning, and constitutes a unitary provision for the realization of the end of his creation in the actual circumstances in which he exists. We may distinguish in this unitary revelation the two elements by the cooperation of which the effect is produced; but we should bear in mind that only by their cooperation is the effect produced. Without special revelation, general revelation would be for sinful men incomplete and ineffective, and could issue, as in point of fact it has issued wherever it alone has been accessible, only in leaving them without excuse (  Romans 1:20 ). Without general revelation, special revelation would lack that basis in the fundamental knowledge of God as the mighty and wise, righteous and good maker and ruler of all things, apart from which the further revelation of this great God's interventions in the world for the salvation of sinners could not be either intelligible, credible or operative.

(1) Revelation in Eden.

Only in Eden has general revelation been adequate to the needs of man. Not being a sinner, man in Eden had no need of that grace of God itself by which sinners are restored to communion with Him, or of the special revelation of this grace of God to sinners to enable them to live with God. And not being a sinner, man in Eden, as he contemplated the works of God, saw God in the unclouded mirror of his mind with a clarity of vision, and lived with Him in the untroubled depths of his heart with a trustful intimacy of association, inconceivable to sinners. Nevertheless, the revelation of God in Eden was not merely "natural." Not only does the prohibition of the forbidden fruit involve a positive commandment ( Genesis 2:16 ), but the whole history implies an immediacy of intercourse with God which cannot easily be set to the credit of the picturesque art of the narrative, or be fully accounted for by the vividness of the perception of God in His works proper to sinless creatures. The impression is strong that what is meant to be conveyed to us is that man dwelt with God in Eden, and enjoyed with Him immediate and not merely mediate communion. In that case, we may understand that if man had not fallen, he would have continued to enjoy immediate intercourse with God, and that the cessation of this immediate intercourse is due to sin. It is not then the supernaturalness of special revelation which is rooted in sin, but, if we may be allowed the expression, the specialness of supernatural revelation. Had man not fallen, heaven would have continued to lie about him through all his history, as it lay about his infancy; every man would have enjoyed direct vision of God and immediate speech with Him. Man having fallen, the cherubim and the flame of a sword, turning every way, keep the path; and God breaks His way in a round-about fashion into man's darkened heart to reveal there His redemptive love. By slow steps and gradual stages He at once works out His saving purpose and molds the world for its reception, choosing a people for Himself and training it through long and weary ages, until at last when the fullness of time has come, He bares His arm and sends out the proclamation of His great salvation to all the earth.

(2) Revelation Among the Heathen.

Certainly, from the gate of Eden onward, God's general revelation ceased to be, in the strict sense, supernatural. It is, of course, not meant that God deserted His world and left it to fester in its iniquity. His providence still ruled over all, leading steadily onward to the goal for which man had been created, and of the attainment of which in God's own good time and way the very continuance of men's existence, under God's providential government, was a pledge. And His Spirit still everywhere wrought upon the hearts of men, stirring up all their powers (though created in the image of God, marred and impaired by sin) to their best activities, and to such splendid effect in every department of human achievement as to command the admiration of all ages, and in the highest region of all, that of conduct, to call out from an apostle the encomium that though they had no law they did by nature (observe the word "nature") the things of the law. All this, however, remains within the limits of Nature, that is to say, within the sphere of operation of divinely-directed and assisted second causes. It illustrates merely the heights to which the powers of man may attain under the guidance of providence and the influences of what we have learned to call God's "common grace." Nowhere, throughout the whole ethnic domain, are the conceptions of God and His ways put within the reach of man, through God's revelation of Himself in the works of creation and providence, transcended; nowhere is the slightest knowledge betrayed of anything concerning God and His purposes, which could be known only by its being supernaturally told to men. Of the entire body of "saving truth," for example, which is the burden of what we call "special revelation," the whole heathen world remained in total ignorance. And even its hold on the general truths of religion, not being vitalized by supernatural enforcements, grew weak, and its knowledge of the very nature of God decayed, until it ran out to the dreadful issue which Paul sketches for us in that inspired philosophy of religion which he incorporates in the latter part of the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.

Behind even the ethnic development, there lay, of course, the supernatural intercourse of man with God which had obtained before the entrance of sin into the world, and the supernatural revelations at the gate of Eden ( Genesis 3:8 ), and at the second origin of the human race, the Flood ( Genesis 8:21 ,  Genesis 8:22; 9:1-17). How long the tradition of this primitive revelation lingered in nooks and corners of the heathen world, conditioning and vitalizing the natural revelation of God always accessible, we have no means of estimating. Neither is it easy to measure the effect of God's special revelation of Himself to His people upon men outside the bounds of, indeed, but coming into contact with, this chosen people, or sharing with them a common natural inheritance. Lot and Ishmael and Esau can scarcely have been wholly ignorant of the word of God which came to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob; nor could the Egyptians from whose hands God wrested His people with a mighty arm fail to learn something of Yahweh, any more than the mixed multitudes who witnessed the ministry of Christ could fail to infer something from His gracious walk and mighty works. It is natural to infer that no nation which was intimately associated with Israel's life could remain entirely unaffected by Israel's revelation. But whatever impressions were thus conveyed reached apparently individuals only: the heathen which surrounded Israel, even those most closely affiliated with Israel, remained heathen; they had no revelation. In the sporadic instances when God visited an alien with a supernatural communication - such as the dreams sent to Abimelech (Gen 20) and to Pharaoh (Gen 40; 41) and to Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 2:1 ff) and to the soldier in the camp of Midian (  Judges 7:13 ) - it was in the interests, not of the heathen world, but of the chosen people that they were sent; and these instances derive their significance wholly from this fact. There remain, no doubt, the mysterious figure of Melchizedek, perhaps also of Jethro, and the strange apparition of Balaam, who also, however, appear in the sacred narrative only in connection with the history of God's dealings with His people and in their interest. Their unexplained appearance cannot in any event avail to modify the general fact that the life of the heathen peoples lay outside the supernatural revelation of God. The heathen were suffered to walk in their own ways ( Acts 14:16 ).

II. The Process of Revelation.

Meanwhile, however, God had not forgotten them, but was preparing salvation for them also through the supernatural revelation of His grace that He was making to His people. According to the Biblical representation, in the midst of and working confluently with the revelation which He has always been giving of Himself on the plane of Nature, God was making also from the very fall of man a further revelation of Himself on the plane of grace. In contrast with His general, natural revelation, in which all men by virtue of their very nature as men share, this special, supernatural revelation was granted at first only to individuals, then progressively to a family, a tribe, a nation, a race, until, when the fullness of time was come, it was made the possession of the whole world. It may be difficult to obtain from Scripture a clear account of why God chose thus to give this revelation of His grace only progressively; or, to be more explicit, through the process of a historical development. Such is, however, the ordinary mode of the Divine working: it is so that God made the worlds, it is so that He creates the human race itself, the recipient of this revelation, it is so that He builds up His kingdom in the world and in the individual soul, which only gradually comes whether to the knowledge of God or to the fruition of His salvation. As to the fact, the Scriptures are explicit, tracing for us, or rather embodying in their own growth, the record of the steady advance of this gracious revelation through definite stages from its first faint beginnings to its glorious completion in Jesus Christ.

1. Place of Revelation Among the Redemptive Acts of God:

So express is its relation to the development of the kingdom of God itself, or rather to that great series of divine operations which are directed to the building up of the kingdom of God in the world, that it is sometimes confounded with them or thought of as simply their reflection in the contemplating mind of man. Thus it is not infrequently said that revelation, meaning this special redemptive revelation, has been communicated in deeds, not in words; and it is occasionally elaborately argued that the sole manner in which God has revealed Himself as the Saviour of sinners is just by performing those mighty acts by which sinners are saved. This is not, however, the Biblical representation. Revelation is, of course, often made through the instrumentality of deeds; and the series of His great redemptive acts by which He saves the world constitutes the pre-eminent revelation of the grace of God - so far as these redemptive acts are open to observation and are perceived in their significance. But revelation, after all, is the correlate of understanding and has as its proximate end just the production of knowledge, though not, of course, knowledge for its own sake, but for the sake of salvation. The series of the redemptive acts of God, accordingly, can properly be designated "revelation" only when and so far as they are contemplated as adapted and designed to produce knowledge of God and His purpose and methods of grace. No bare series of unexplained acts can be thought, however, adapted to produce knowledge, especially if these acts be, as in this case, of a highly transcendental character. Nor can this particular series of acts be thought to have as its main design the production of knowledge; its main design is rather to save man. No doubt the production of knowledge of the divine grace is one of the means by which this main design of the redemptive acts of God is attained. But this only renders it the more necessary that the proximate result of producing knowledge should not fail; and it is doubtless for this reason that the series of redemptive acts of God has not been left to explain itself, but the explanatory word has been added to it. Revelation thus appears, however, not as the mere reflection of the redeeming acts of God in the minds of men, but as a factor in the redeeming work of God, a component part of the series of His redeeming acts, without which that series would be incomplete and so far inoperative for its main end. Thus, the Scriptures represent it, not confounding revelation with the series of the redemptive acts of God, but placing it among the redemptive acts of God and giving it a function as a substantive element in the operations by which the merciful God saves sinful men. It is therefore not made even a mere constant accompaniment of the redemptive acts of God, giving their explanation that they may be understood. It occupies a far more independent place among them than this, and as frequently precedes them to prepare their way as it accompanies or follows them to interpret their meaning. It is, in one word, itself a redemptive act of God and by no means the least important in the series of His redemptive acts.

This might, indeed, have been inferred from its very nature, and from the nature of the salvation which was being worked out by these redemptive acts of God. One of the most grievous of the effects of sin is the deformation of the image of God reflected in the human mind, and there can be no recovery from sin which does not bring with it the correction of this deformation and the reflection in the soul of man of the whole glory of the Lord God Almighty. Man is an intelligent being; his superiority over the brute is found, among other things, precisely in the direction of all his life by his intelligence; and his blessedness is rooted in the true knowledge of his God - for this is life eternal, that we should know the only true God and Him whom He has sent. Dealing with man as an intelligent being, God the Lord has saved him by means of a revelation, by which he has been brought into an evermore and more adequate knowledge of God, and been led ever more and more to do his part in working out his own salvation with fear and trembling as he perceived with ever more and more clearness how God is working it out for him through mighty deeds of grace.

2. Stages of Material Development:

This is not the place to trace, even in outline, from the material point of view, the development of God's redemptive revelation from its first beginnings, in the promise given to Abraham - or rather in what has been called the Protevangelium at the gate of Eden - to its completion in the advent and work of Christ and the teaching of His apostles; a steadily advancing development, which, as it lies spread out to view in the pages of Scripture, takes to those who look at it from the consummation backward, the appearance of the shadow cast athwart preceding ages by the great figure of Christ. Even from the formal point of view, however, there has been pointed out a progressive advance in the method of revelation, consonant with its advance in content, or rather with the advancing stages of the building up of the kingdom of God, to subserve which is the whole object of revelation. Three distinct steps in revelation have been discriminated from this point of view. They are distinguished precisely by the increasing independence of revelation of the deeds constituting the series of the redemptive acts of God, in which, nevertheless, all revelation is a substantial element. Discriminations like this must not be taken too absolutely; and in the present instance the chronological sequence cannot be pressed. But, with much interlacing, three generally successive stages of revelation may be recognized, producing periods at least characteristically of what we may somewhat conventionally call theophany, prophecy and inspiration. What may be somewhat indefinitely marked off as the Patriarchal age is characteristically "the period of Outward Manifestations, and Symbols, and Theophanies": during it "God spoke to men through their senses, in physical phenomena, as the burning bush, the cloudy pillar, or in sensuous forms, as men, angels, etc.... In the Prophetic age, on the contrary, the prevailing mode of revelation was by means of inward prophetic inspiration": God spoke to men characteristically by the movements of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. "Prevailingly, at any rate from Samuel downwards, the supernatural revelation was a revelation in the hearts of the foremost thinkers of the people, or, as we call it, prophetic inspiration, without the aid of external sensuous symbols of God" (A.B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy , 1903, p. 148; compare pp. 12-14,145 ff). This internal method of revelation reaches its culmination in the New Testament period, which is preeminently the age of the Spirit. What is especially characteristic of this age is revelation through the medium of the written word, what may be called apostolic as distinguished from prophetic inspiration. The revealing Spirit speaks through chosen men as His organs, but through these organs in such a fashion that the most intimate processes of their souls become the instruments by means of which He speaks His mind. Thus, at all events there are brought clearly before us three well-marked modes of revelation, which we may perhaps designate respectively, not with perfect discrimination, it is true, but not misleadingly, (1) external manifestation, (2) internal suggestion, and (3) concursive operation.

III. The Modes of Revelation.

1. Modes of Revelation:

Theophany may be taken as the typical form of "external manifestation"; but by its side may be ranged all of those mighty works by which God makes Himself known, including express miracles, no doubt, but along with them every supernatural intervention in the affairs of men, by means of which a better understanding is communicated of what God is or what are His purposes of grace to a sinful race. Under "internal suggestion" may be subsumed all the characteristic phenomena of what is most properly spoken of as "prophecy": visions and dreams, which, according to a fundamental passage ( Numbers 12:6 ), constitute the typical forms of prophecy, and with them the whole "prophetic word," which shares its essential characteristic with visions and dreams, since it comes not by the will of man but from God. By "concursive operation" may be meant that form of revelation illustrated in an inspired psalm or epistle or history, in which no human activity - not even the control of the will - is superseded, but the Holy Spirit works in, with and through them all in such a manner as to communicate to the product qualities distinctly superhuman. There is no age in the history of the religion of the Bible, from that of Moses to that of Christ and His apostles, in which all these modes of revelation do not find place. One or another may seem particularly characteristic of this age or of that; but they all occur in every age. And they occur side by side, broadly speaking, on the same level. No discrimination is drawn between them in point of worthiness as modes of revelation, and much less in point of purity in the revelations communicated through them. The circumstance that God spoke to Moses, not by dream or vision but mouth to mouth, is, indeed, adverted to ( Numbers 12:8 ) as a proof of the peculiar favor shown to Moses and even of the superior dignity of Moses above other organs of revelation: God admitted him to an intimacy of intercourse which He did not accord to others. But though Moses was thus distinguished above all others in the dealings of God with him, no distinction is drawn between the revelations given through him and those given through other organs of revelation in point either of Divinity or of authority. And beyond this we have no Scriptural warrant to go on in contrasting one mode of revelation with another. Dreams may seem to us little fitted to serve as vehicles of divine communications. But there is no suggestion in Scripture that revelations through dreams stand on a lower plane than any others; and we should not fail to remember that the essential characteristics of revelations through dreams are shared by all forms of revelation in which (whether we should call them visions or not) the images or ideas which fill, or pass in procession through, the consciousness are determined by some other power than the recipient's own will. It may seem natural to suppose that revelations rise in rank in proportion to the fullness of the engagement of the mental activity of the recipient in their reception. But we should bear in mind that the intellectual or spiritual quality of a revelation is not derived from the recipient but from its Divine Giver. The fundamental fact in all revelation is that it is from God. This is what gives unity to the whole process of revelation, given though it may be in divers portions and in divers manners and distributed though it may be through the ages in accordance with the mere will of God, or as it may have suited His developing purpose - this and its unitary end, which is ever the building up of the kingdom of God. In whatever diversity of forms, by means of whatever variety of modes, in whatever distinguishable stages it is given, it is ever the revelation of the One God, and it is ever the one consistently developing redemptive revelation of God.

2. Equal Supernaturalness of the Several Modes:

On a prima facie view it may indeed seem likely that a difference in the quality of their supernaturalness would inevitably obtain between revelations given through such divergent modes. The completely supernatural character of revelations given in theophanies is obvious. He who will not allow that God speaks to man, to make known His gracious purposes toward him, has no other recourse here than to pronounce the stories legendary. The objectivity of the mode of communication which is adopted is intense, and it is thrown up to observation with the greatest emphasis. Into the natural life of man God intrudes in a purely supernatural manner, bearing a purely supernatural communication. In these communications we are given accordingly just a series of "naked messages of God." But not even in the Patriarchal age were all revelations given in theophanies or objective appearances. There were dreams, and visions, and revelations without explicit intimation in the narrative of how they were communicated. And when we pass on in the history, we do not, indeed, leave behind us theophanies and objective appearances. It is not only made the very characteristic of Moses, the greatest figure in the whole history of revelation except only that of Christ, that he knew God face to face ( Deuteronomy 34:10 ), and God spoke to him mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches ( Numbers 12:8 ); but throughout the whole history of revelation down to the appearance of Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus, God has shown Himself visibly to His servants whenever it has seemed good to Him to do so and has spoken with them in objective speech. Nevertheless, it is expressly made the characteristic of the Prophetic age that God makes Himself known to His servants "in a vision," "in a dream" ( Numbers 12:6 ). And although, throughout its entire duration, God, in fulfillment of His promise ( Deuteronomy 18:18 ), put His words in the mouths of His prophets and gave them His commandments to speak, yet it would seem inherent in the very employment of men as instruments of revelation that the words of God given through them are spoken by human mouths; and the purity of their supernaturalness may seem so far obscured. And when it is not merely the mouths of men with which God thus serves Himself in the delivery of His messages, but their minds and hearts as well - the play of their religious feelings, or the processes of their logical reasoning, or the tenacity of their memories, as, say, in a psalm or in an epistle, or a history - the supernatural element in the communication may easily seem to retire still farther into the background. It can scarcely be a matter of surprise, therefore, that question has been raised as to the relation of the natural and the supernatural in such revelations, and, in many current manners of thinking and speaking of them, the completeness of their supernaturalness has been limited and curtailed in the interests of the natural instrumentalities employed. The plausibility of such reasoning renders it the more necessary that we should observe the unvarying emphasis which the Scriptures place upon the absolute supernaturalness of revelation in all its modes alike. In the view of the Scriptures, the completely supernatural character of revelation is in no way lessened by the circumstance that it has been given through the instrumentality of men. They affirm, indeed, with the greatest possible emphasis that the Divine word delivered through men is the pure word of God, diluted with no human admixture whatever.

3. The Prophet God's Mouthpiece:

We have already been led to note that even on the occasion when Moses is exalted above all other organs of revelation ( Numbers 12:6 ff), in point of dignity and favor, no suggestion whatever is made of any inferiority, in either the directness or the purity of their supernaturalness, attaching to other organs of revelation. There might never afterward arise a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face (  Deuteronomy 34:10 ). But each of the whole series of prophets raised up by Yahweh that the people might always know His will was to be like Moses in speaking to the people only what Yahweh commanded them ( Deuteronomy 18:15 ,  Deuteronomy 18:18 ,  Deuteronomy 18:20 ). In this great promise, securing to Israel the succession of prophets, there is also included a declaration of precisely how Yahweh would communicate His messages not so much to them as through them. "I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee," we read ( Deuteronomy 18:18 ), " and I will put my words in his mouth , and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him." The process of revelation through the prophets was a process by which Yahweh put His words in the mouths of the prophets, and the prophets spoke precisely these words and no others. So the prophets themselves ever asserted. "Then Yahweh put forth his hand, and touched my mouth," explains Jeremiah in his account of how he received his prophecies, "and Yahweh said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" ( Jeremiah 1:9; compare  Jeremiah 5:14;  Isaiah 51:16;  Isaiah 59:21;  Numbers 22:35;  Numbers 23:5 ,  Numbers 23:12 ,  Numbers 23:16 ). Accordingly, the words "with which" they spoke were not their own but the Lord's: "And he said unto me," records Ezekiel, "Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them" ( Ezekiel 3:4 ). It is a process of nothing other than "dictation" which is thus described ( 2 Samuel 14:3 ,  2 Samuel 14:19 ), though, of course, the question may remain open of the exact processes by which this dictation is accomplished. The fundamental passage which brings the central fact before us in the most vivid manner is, no doubt, the account of the commissioning of Moses and Aaron given in  Exodus 4:10-17;  Exodus 7:1-7 . Here, in the most express words, Yahweh declares that He who made the mouth can be with it to teach it what to speak, and announces the precise function of a prophet to be that he is "a mouth of God," who speaks not his own but God's words. Accordingly, the Hebrew name for "prophet" ( nābhı̄' ), whatever may be its etymology, means throughout the Scriptures just "spokesman," though not "spokesman" in general, but Spokesman by way of eminence, that is, God's spokesman; and the characteristic formula by which a prophetic declaration is announced is: "The word of Yahweh came to me," or the brief "saith Yahweh" (יהוה נאם , ne'um Yahweh ). In no case does a prophet put his words forward as his own words. That he is a prophet at all is due not to choice on his own part, but to a call of God, obeyed often with reluctance; and he prophesies or forbears to prophesy, not according to his own will but as the Lord opens and shuts his mouth ( Ezekiel 3:26 f) and creates for him the fruit of the lips (  Isaiah 57:19; compare  Isaiah 6:7;  Isaiah 50:4 ). In contrast with the false prophets, he strenuously asserts that he does not speak out of his own heart ("heart" in Biblical language includes the whole inner man), but all that he proclaims is the pure word of Yahweh.

4. Visionary Form of Prophecy:

The fundamental passage does not quite leave the matter, however, with this general declaration. It describes the characteristic manner in which Yahweh communicates His messages to His prophets as through the medium of visions and dreams. Neither visions in the technical sense of that word, nor dreams, appear, however, to have been the customary mode of revelation to the prophets, the record of whose revelations has come down to us. But, on the other hand, there are numerous indications in the record that the universal mode of revelation to them was one which was in some sense a vision, and can be classed only in the category distinctively so called.

The whole nomenclature of prophecy presupposes, indeed, its vision-form. Prophecy is distinctively a word, and what is delivered by the prophets is proclaimed as the "word of Yahweh." That it should be announced by the formula, "Thus saith the Lord," is, therefore, only what we expect; and we are prepared for such a description of its process as: "The Lord Yahweh ... wakeneth mine ear to hear," He "hath opened mine ear" ( Isaiah 50:4 ,  Isaiah 50:5 ). But this is not the way of speaking of their messages which is most usual in the prophets. Rather is the whole body of prophecy cursorily presented as a thing seen. Isaiah places at the head of his book: "The vision of Isaiah ... which he saw" (compare  Isaiah 29:10 ,  Isaiah 29:11;  Obadiah 1:1 ); and then proceeds to set at the head of subordinate sections the remarkable words, "The word that Isaiah ... saw" ( Isaiah 2:1 ); "the burden (margin "oracle")...which Isaiah ... did see" ( Isaiah 13:1 ). Similarly there stand at the head of other prophecies: "the words of Amos ... which he saw" ( Amos 1:1 ); "the word of Yahweh that came to Micah ... which he saw" ( Micah 1:1 ); "the oracle which Habakkuk the prophet did see" ( Habakkuk 1:1 margin); and elsewhere such language occurs as this: "the word that Yahweh hath showed me" (  Jeremiah 38:21 ); "the prophets have seen ... oracles" ( Lamentations 2:14 ); "the word of Yahweh came ... and I looked, and, behold" ( Ezekiel 1:3 ,  Ezekiel 1:4 ); "Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing" ( Ezekiel 13:3 ); "I ... will look forth to see what he will speak with me,... Yahweh ... said, Write the vision" ( Habakkuk 2:1 f). It is an inadequate explanation of such language to suppose it merely a relic of a time when vision was more predominantly the form of revelation. There is no proof that vision in the technical sense ever was more predominantly the form of revelation than in the days of the great writing prophets; and such language as we have quoted too obviously represents the living point of view of the prophets to admit of the supposition that it was merely conventional on their lips. The prophets, in a word, represent the divine communications which they received as given to them in some sense in visions.

It is possible, no doubt, to exaggerate the significance of this. It is an exaggeration, for example, to insist that therefore all the divine communications made to the prophets must have come to them in external appearances and objective speech, addressed to and received by means of the bodily eye and ear. This would be to break down the distinction between manifestation and revelation, and to assimilate the mode of prophetic revelation to that granted to Moses, though these are expressly distinguished ( Numbers 12:6-8 ). It is also an exaggeration to insist that therefore the prophetic state must be conceived as that of strict ecstasy, involving the complete abeyance of all mental life on the part of the prophet ( amentia ), and possibly also accompanying physical effects. It is quite clear from the records which the prophets themselves give us of their revelations that their intelligence was alert in all stages of their reception of them. The purpose of both these extreme views is the good one of doing full justice to the objectivity of the revelations vouchsafed to the prophets. If these revelations took place entirely externally to the prophet, who merely stood off and contemplated them, or if they were implanted in the prophets by a process so violent as not only to supersede their mental activity but, for the time being, to annihilate it, it would be quite clear that they came from a source other than the prophets' own minds. It is undoubtedly the fundamental contention of the prophets that the revelations given through them are not their own but wholly God's. The significant language we have just quoted from  Ezekiel 13:3 : "Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing," is a typical utterance of their sense of the complete objectivity of their messages. What distinguishes the false prophets is precisely that they "prophesy out of their own heart" (Ezek 13:2-17), or, to draw the antithesis sharply, that "they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of Yahweh" (  Jeremiah 23:16 ,  Jeremiah 23:26;  Jeremiah 14:14 ). But these extreme views fail to do justice, the one to the equally important fact that the word of God, given through the prophets, comes as the pure and unmixed word of God not merely to, but from, the prophets; and the other to the equally obvious fact that the intelligence of the prophets is alert throughout the whole process of the reception and delivery of the revelation made through them. See Inspiration; Prophecy .

That which gives to prophecy as a mode of revelation its place in the category of visions, strictly so called, and dreams is that it shares with them the distinguishing characteristic which determines the class. In them all alike the movements of the mind are determined by something extraneous to the subject's will, or rather, since we are speaking of supernaturally given dreams and visions, extraneous to the totality of the subject's own psychoses. A power not himself takes possession of his consciousness and determines it according to its will. That power, in the case of the prophets, was fully recognized and energetically asserted to be Yahweh Himself or, to be more specific, the Spirit of Yahweh ( 1 Samuel 10:6 ,  1 Samuel 10:10;  Nehemiah 9:30;  Zechariah 7:12;  Joel 2:28 ,  Joel 2:29 ). The prophets were therefore 'men of the Spirit' ( Hosea 9:7 ). What constituted them prophets was that the Spirit was put upon them ( Isaiah 42:1 ) or poured out on them ( Joel 2:28 ,  Joel 2:29 ), and they were consequently filled with the Spirit ( Micah 3:8 ), or, in another but equivalent locution, that "the hand" of the Lord, or "the power of the hand" of the Lord, was upon them ( 2 Kings 3:15;  Ezekiel 1:3;  Ezekiel 3:14 ,  Ezekiel 3:22;  Ezekiel 33:22;  Ezekiel 37:1;  Ezekiel 40:1 ), that is to say, they were under the divine control. This control is represented as complete and compelling, so that, under it, the prophet becomes not the "mover," but the "moved" in the formation of his message. The apostle Peter very purely reflects the prophetic consciousness in his well-known declaration: 'No prophecy of scripture comes of private interpretation; for prophecy was never brought by the will of man; but it was as borne by the Holy Spirit that men spoke from God' ( 2 Peter 1:20 ,  2 Peter 1:21 ).

5. "Passivity" of Prophets:

What this language of Peter emphasizes - and what is emphasized in the whole account which the prophets give of their own consciousness - is, to speak plainly, the passivity of the prophets with respect to the revelation given through them. This is the significance of the phrase: 'it was as borne by the Holy Spirit that men spoke from God.' To be "borne" ( φέρειν , phérein ) is not the same as to be led ( ἄγειν , ágein ), much less to be guided or directed ( ὁδηγεῖν , hodégeı́n ): he that is "borne" contributes nothing to the movement induced, but is the object to be moved. The term "passivity" is, perhaps, however, liable to some misapprehension, and should not be overstrained. It is not intended to deny that the intelligence of the prophets was active in the reception of their message; it was by means of their active intelligence that their message was received: their intelligence was the instrument of revelation. It is intended to deny only that their intelligence was active in the production of their message: that it was creatively as distinguished from receptively active. For reception itself is a kind of activity. What the prophets are solicitous that their readers shall understand is that they are in no sense coauthors with God of their messages. Their messages are given them, given them entire, and given them precisely as they are given out by them. God speaks through them: they are not merely His messengers, but "His mouth." But at the same time their intelligence is active in the reception, retention and announcing of their messages, contributing nothing to them but presenting fit instruments for the communication of them - instruments capable of understanding, responding profoundly to and zealously proclaiming them.

There is, no doubt, a not unnatural hesitancy abroad in thinking of the prophets as exhibiting only such merely receptive activities. In the interests of their personalities, we are asked not to represent God as dealing mechanically with them, pouring His revelations into their souls to be simply received as in so many buckets, or violently wresting their minds from their own proper action that He may do His own thinking with them. Must we not rather suppose, we are asked, that all revelations must be "psychologically mediated," must be given "after the mode of moral mediation," and must be made first of all their recipients' "own spiritual possession?" And is not, in point of fact, the personality of each prophet clearly traceable in his message, and that to such an extent as to compel us to recognize him as in a true sense its real author? The plausibility of such questionings should not be permitted to obscure the fact that the mode of the communication of the prophetic messages which is suggested by them is directly contradicted by the prophets' own representations of their relations to the revealing Spirit. In the prophets' own view they were just instruments through whom God gave revelations which came from them, not as their own product, but as the pure word of Yahweh. Neither should the plausibility of such questionings blind us to their speciousness. They exploit subordinate considerations, which are not without their validity in their own place and under their own limiting conditions, as if they were the determining or even the sole considerations in the case, and in neglect of the really determining considerations. God is Himself the author of the instruments He employs for the communication of His messages to men and has framed them into precisely the instruments He desired for the exact communication of His message. There is just ground for the expectation that He will use all the instruments He employs according to their natures; intelligent beings therefore as intelligent beings, moral agents as moral agents. But there is no just ground for asserting that God is incapable of employing the intelligent beings He has Himself created and formed to His will, to proclaim His messages purely as He gives them to them; or of making truly the possession of rational minds conceptions which they have themselves had no part in creating. And there is no ground for imagining that God is unable to frame His own message in the language of the organs of His revelation without its thereby ceasing to be, because expressed in a fashion natural to these organs, therefore purely His message. One would suppose it to lie in the very nature of the case that if the Lord makes any revelation to men, He would do it in the language of men; or, to individualize more explicitly, in the language of the man He employs as the organ of His revelation; and that naturally means, not the language of his nation or circle merely, but his own particular language, inclusive of all that gives individuality to his self-expression. We may speak of this, if we will, as "the accommodation of the revealing God to the several prophetic individualities." But we should avoid thinking of it externally and therefore mechanically, as if the revealing Spirit artificially phrased the message which He gives through each prophet in the particular forms of speech proper to the individuality of each, so as to create the illusion that the message comes out of the heart of the prophet himself. Precisely what the prophets affirm is that their messages do not come out of their own hearts and do not represent the workings of their own spirits. Nor is there any illusion in the phenomenon we are contemplating; and it is a much more intimate, and, we may add, a much more interesting phenomenon than an external "accommodation" of speech to individual habitudes. It includes, on the one hand, the "accommodation" of the prophet, through his total preparation, to the speech in which the revelation to be given through him is to be clothed; and on the other involves little more than the consistent carrying into detail of the broad principle that God uses the instruments He employs in accordance with their natures.

No doubt, on adequate occasion, the very stones might cry out by the power of God, and dumb beasts speak, and mysterious voices sound forth from the void; and there have not been lacking instances in which men have been compelled by the same power to speak what they would not, and in languages whose very sounds were strange to their ears. But ordinarily when God the Lord would speak to men He avails Himself of the services of a human tongue with which to speak, and He employs this tongue according to its nature as a tongue and according to the particular nature of the tongue which He employs. It is vain to say that the message delivered through the instrumentality of this tongue is conditioned at least in its form by the tongue by which it is spoken, if not, indeed, limited, curtailed, in some degree determined even in its matter, by it. Not only was it God the Lord who made the tongue, and who made this particular tongue with all its peculiarities, not without regard to the message He would deliver through it; but His control of it is perfect and complete, and it is as absurd to say that He cannot speak His message by it purely without that message suffering change from the peculiarities of its tone and modes of enunciation, as it would be to say that no new truth can be announced in any language because the elements of speech by the combination of which the truth in question is announced are already in existence with their fixed range of connotation. The marks of the several individualities imprinted on the messages of the prophets, in other words, are only a part of the general fact that these messages are couched in human language, and in no way beyond that general fact affect their purity as direct communications from God.

6. Revelation by Inspiration:

A new set of problems is raised by the mode of revelation which we have called "concursive operation." This mode of revelation differs from prophecy, properly so called, precisely by the employment in it, as is not done in prophecy, of the total personality of the organ of revelation, as a factor. It has been common to speak of the mode of the Spirit's action in this form of revelation, therefore, as an assistance, a superintendence, a direction, a control, the meaning being that the effect aimed at - the discovery and enunciation of divine truth - is attained through the action of the human powers - historical research, logical reasoning, ethical thought, religious aspiration - acting not by themselves, however, but under the prevailing assistance, superintendence, direction, control of the Divine Spirit. This manner of speaking has the advantage of setting this mode of revelation sharply in contrast with prophetic revelation, as involving merely a determining, and not, as in prophetic revelation, a supercessive action of the revealing Spirit. We are warned, however, against pressing this discrimination too far by the inclusion of the whole body of Scripture in such passages as  2 Peter 1:20 f in the category of prophecy, and the assignment of their origin not to a mere "leading" but to the "bearing" of the Holy Spirit. In any event such terms as assistance, superintendence, direction, control, inadequately express the nature of the Spirit's action in revelation by "concursive operation." The Spirit is not to be conceived as standing outside of the human powers employed for the effect in view, ready to supplement any inadequacies they may show and to supply any defects they may manifest, but as working confluently in, with and by them, elevating them, directing them, controlling them, energizing them, so that, as His instruments, they rise above themselves and under His inspiration do His work and reach His aim. The product, therefore, which is attained by their means is

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

( Ἀποκάλυψις ), a disclosure of something that was before unknown; and divine revelation is the direct communication of truths before unknown from God to men. The disclosure may be made by dream, vision, oral communication, or otherwise ( Daniel 2:19;  1 Corinthians 14:26;  2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12;  Revelation 1:1). Revelation is not to be confounded with Inspiration. The former refers to those things only of which the sacred writers were ignorant before they were divinely taught, while the latter has a more general meaning. Accordingly revelation may be defined that operation of the Holy Spirit by which truths before unknown are communicated to men; and inspiration, the operation of the Holy Spirit by which not only unknown truths are communicated, but by which also men are excited to publish truths for the instruction of others, and are guarded from all error in doing it. Thus it was revealed to the ancient prophets that the Messiah should appear, and they were inspired to publish the fact for the benefit of others. The affecting scenes at the cross of Christ were not revealed to John, for he saw them with his own eyes ( John 19:35); but he was inspired to write a history of this event, and by supernatural guidance was kept from all error in his record. It is therefore true, as the apostle affirms, that every part of the Bible is given by inspiration of God ( 2 Timothy 3:16), though every part of the Bible is not the result of immediate revelation. For convenience' sake, we call the whole Bible a revelation from God, because most of the truths it contains were made known by direct communication from God, and could have been discovered in no other way; and generally it is only the incidental circumstances attending the communication of these truths that would be ascertained by the writers in the ordinary modes of obtaining information.

Concerning a divine revelation, we remark that,

1. It is possible. God may, for aught we know, think proper to make known to his creatures what they before were ignorant of; and, as a Being of infinite power, he cannot be at a loss for means of communication.

2. It is desirable; for while reason is necessary to examine the matter of revelation, it is incapable, unaided, of finding out God.

3. It is necessary; for without it we can attain to no certain knowledge of God, of Christ, and of salvation.

4. Revelation must, to answer its endsbe sufficiently marked with internal and external evidences. These the Bible has.

5. Its contents must be agreeable to reason. Not that everything revealed must be within the range of reason; but this may be true, and yet there be no contradiction. To calm, dispassionate reason there is nothing in doctrine, command, warning, promises, or threatenings which is opposed thereto.

6. It must be credible; and we find the facts of Scripture supported by abundant evidence from friend and foe.

7. Revelation also must necessarily bear the prevailing impress of the circumstances and tastes of the times and nations in which it was originally given. The Bible, however, though it bears the distinct impress of Asiatic manners, as it should do, is most remarkable for rising above all local and temporary peculiarities, and seizing on the great principles common to human nature under all circumstances; thus showing that as it is intended for universal benefit, so will it be made known to all mankind. The language of the Bible is the language of men, otherwise it would not be a divine revelation to men. It is to be understood by the same means and according to the same laws bv which all other human language is understood. It is addressed to the common-sense of men, and common- sense is to be consulted in its interpretation. In a narrower sense, "revelation" is used to express the manifestation of Jesus Christ to Jews and Gentiles ( Luke 2:32); the manifestation of the glory with which God will glorify his elect and faithful seryants at the: last judgment ( Romans 8:19), and the declaration of his just judgments in his conduct both towards the elect and towards the reprobate (2:5-16). There is a very noble application of the word revelation to the consummation of all things, or the revelation of Jesus Christ in his future glory ( 1 Corinthians 1:7;  1 Peter 1:13). See Brown, Compendium Of Natural And Revealed Religion; Archbp. Campbell, On Revelation; Delany, Revelation Examined; Ellis, On Divine Things; Fuller, Works; Horne, Introduction; Leland, Necessity Of Revelation; View Of Deistical Writers. (See Inspiration); (See Miracles); (See Prophecy).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

Name properly applicable to the knowledge of God, or of divine things, imparted to the mind of man, by the operation of the Divine Spirit in the human soul, and as apprehended by it.