Revelation is the act of revealing or disclosing (see etymology), or in the theological perception, making something obvious and clearly understood through active or passive communication with the divine, "which could not be known apart from the unveiling" (Goswiller 1987 p. 3).
In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process, or act of making divine knowledge understood, often through direct ontological realization which transcends the human state and reaches into the divine intellect.
Revelation in a religious sense can originate from God, a deity, or their agents such as an angel, and discloses a willed outcome, principles, behaviors, laws and doctrines; this fact of an outcome is the "realized principle" (or "realizing principle").
Rabbi Ishmael of the Amoraic era of Judaism interpreted laws from the Torah through 13 hermeneutic principles. This is the first appearance of hermeneutics in the World, through the exegetic interpretation of Biblical texts.
Biblical hermeneutics refers to methods of interpreting the Bible. Biblical hermeneutics is part of the broader hermeneutical question, relates to the problem of how one is to understand Holy Scripture. By definition, this is a theological act, ie. part of the discourse of a faith-community. This does not mean that it is of no relevance to those who do not consider themselves to be part of that community, but rather that it is an issue that arises out of the particular needs of that community.
Therefore, one ought to differentiate between Christian and Jewish Biblical hermeneutics: although there is an overlap between the two (and some form of dialogs), since they share part of their scriptures, they do arise out of different faith traditions and thus developed their own notion of hermeneutics.
It must also be stressed that theological differences within these faith communities preclude any 'definitive' statement on Biblical hermeneutics.
Pesher is a Hebrew word meaning "interpretation" in the sense of a "solution". It became known from one group of texts, numbering some hundreds, among the Dead Sea Scrolls. The pesharim (plural of Pesher) take a book of the Hebrew Bible, often from the prophets, such as Habakkuk, Nahum, or from the Psalms, quote it phrase by phrase, and after each quotation insert an interpretation, preceded by "its Pesher is".
A tafsir ((تفسير) tafsīr, also transliterated tafseer, Arabic "interpretation"), sharing the same etymology with Hebrew "pesher" is Qur'anic exegesis or commentary. Someone who writes tafsir is a mufassir ((مفسر) mufassir, plural (مفسرون) mufassirūn).
Orthodox Judaism believes that in addition to the written Torah, God also revealed to Moses a set of oral teachings, called the Oral Torah. In addition to this revealed law, Jewish law contains decrees and enactments made by prophets, rabbis, and sages over the course of Jewish history. Haredi Judaism tends to regard even rabbinic decrees as being of divine origin or divinely inspired, while Modern Orthodox Judaism tends to regard them as being more potentially subject to human error, although due to the Biblical verse "Do not stray from their words" ("Deuteronomy 17:11) it is still accepted as binding law.
Not only did God reveal himself to Moses and the entire Israelite nation he brought out from Egypt (numbering approximately 3 million), but it is asserted, in no uncertain terms, that God did not reveal himself in any manner as claimed by Christianity, Islam or any other religion. Judaism puts forth an argument that can be seen in the following parable:
Judaism's claim to divine revelation is distinct from that of Christianity and Islam. In particular, Judaism's claim to divine revelation on a national level removes the faith, hope and belief that exists so openly in other religions, replacing it instead with conviction from experience.
Conservative Judaism tends to regard both the Torah and the Oral law as not directly revealed. The Conservative approach tends to regard the Torah as compiled by redactors in a manner similar to the Documentary Hypothesis. However, Conservative Jews tend to regard the authors of the Torah as divinely inspired and many regard at least portions of it as originating with Moses. Positions can vary from the position of Joel Roth, following David Weiss HaLivni, that while the Torah originally given to Moses on Mount Sinai became corrupted or lost and had to be recompiled later by redactors, the recompiled Torah is nonetheless regarded as fully Divine and legally authoritative, to the position of Gordon Tucker that the Torah, while Divinely inspired, is a largely human document containing significant elements of human error, and should be regarded as the beginning of an ongoing process which is continuing today. Conservative Judaism also tends to regard the Oral Law as a whole as divinely inspired but subject to human error.
Reform and Reconstructionist Jews also tend to accept the Documentary Hypothesis for the origin of the Torah, and tend to view all of the Oral law as an entirely human creation. Accordingly, Progressive Judaism, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, believe that the Torah is not entirely a direct revelation from God, but is a document written by human ancestors, carrying human understanding and experience, and seeking to answer the question: 'What does God require of us?'. They believe that, though it contains many 'core-truths' about God and humanity, it is also time bound, sexist, primitive, and, sometimes, simply wrong. They believe that God's will is revealed through the interaction of humanity and God throughout history, and so, in that sense, Torah is an important part, but only a part, of an ongoing revelation.
The Nevi'im, the books of the Prophets, are considered divine and true. This does not imply that the books of the prophets are always read literally. Jewish tradition has always held that prophets used metaphors and analogies. There exists a wide range of commentaries explaining and elucidating those verses consisting of metaphor.
Rabbinic Judaism regards Moses as the greatest of the prophets, and this view is one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith of traditional Judaism. Consistent with the view that revelation to Moses was generally clearer than revelation to other prophets, Orthodox views of revelation to prophets other than Moses have included a range of perspectives as to directness. For example, Maimonides in The Guide for the Perplexed said that accounts of revelation in the Nevi'im were not always as literal as in the Torah and that some prophetic accounts reflect allegories rather than literal commands or predictions.
Conservative Rabbi and philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), author of a number of works on prophecy, offered a view of the nature of revelation as a process rather than an event. In his work God in Search of Man, he discussed the experience of being a prophet. In his book Prophetic Inspiration After the Prophets: Maimonides and Others, Heschel references to continued prophetic inspiration in Jewish Rabbinic Literature following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and into medieval and even Modern times. He wrote that
Christianity regards the Bible, a collection of canonical books in two parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament, as authoritative: written by human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Some Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant. Protestants believe that the scriptures contain all revealed truth necessary for salvation (See Sola scriptura).
The Old Testament contains the entire Jewish Tanakh, though in the Christian canon the books are ordered differently and some books of the Tanakh are divided into several books by the Christian canon. The Catholic and Orthodox canons include the Hebrew Jewish canon and other books (from the Septuagint Greek Jewish canon) which Catholics call Deuterocanonical, while Protestants consider them Apocrypha.
The first four books of the New Testament are the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), which recount the life and teachings of Jesus. The first three are often called synoptic because of the amount of material they share. The rest of the New Testament consists of a sequel to Luke's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, which describes the very early history of the Church, a collection of letters from early Christian leaders to congregations or individuals, the Pauline and General epistles, and the apocalyptic Book of Revelation.
In a number of passages the Bible claims divine inspiration for itself. Besides the direct accounts of written revelation, such as Moses receiving the Ten Commandments, the Prophets of the Old Testament frequently claimed that their message was divine by the formula "Thus says the LORD" (for example, 1 Kgs 12:22–24; 1 Chr 17:3–4; Jer 35:13; Ezek 2:4; Zech 7:9; etc.). In the New Testament, Jesus treats the Old Testament as authoritative and says it "cannot be broken" (John 10:34–36). 2 Timothy 3:16 says: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correction and training in righteousness", and the Second Epistle of Peter claims that "no prophecy of Scripture ... was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet 1:20–21). That epistle also claims divine authority for the Apostles (3:2) and includes Paul's letters as being counted with the Scriptures (3:16).
Biblical theology is a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing himself to Man following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It particularly focuses on the epochs of the writings in order to understand how each part of it ultimately points forward to fulfillment in the life mission of Jesus Christ.
Biblical theology is sometimes called the "history of special revelation" since it deals with the unfolding and expanding nature of revelation as history progresses through the Bible.
An important note that should be made in relation to the concept of progressive revelation is that the Christian Biblical concept differs from the Islamic understanding in which successive revelations of God might annul former revelations — correcting where past communities distorted revealed truths, abrogating laws no longer deemed suitable for the revelatory community, and affirming the central core truth of God's monotheistic nature, the fact of human accountability before God on the Final Day. The Christian model within Biblical theology sees the concept of progressive revelation as progressive revelation of new truth which supports, expands and stands upon former revelations of God's truth like brick laying. This progressive revelation ultimately climaxes in Christ, and ends with the New Testament Acts of the Apostles under the direction of the Holy Spirit awaiting the second coming of Christ.
Systematic theology is the attempt to formulate a coherent philosophy which is applicable to the component parts of a given faith's system of belief. Inherent to a system of theological thought is that a method is developed, one which can be applied both broadly and particularly. While a systematic theology must take into account the sacred texts of its faith, it also looks to history, philosophy, science, and ethics to produce as full a view and as versatile a philosophical approach as possible.
Significant systematic theologians are:
Thomas Aquinas, Roman Catholic, who believed in two types of revelation from God: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation occurs through observation of the created order. Such observations can logically lead to important conclusions, such as the existence of God.
Though one may deduce the existence of God and some of God's attributes through general revelation, certain specifics may be known only through special revelation. In Aquinas's view, special revelation is equivalent to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The major theological components of Christianity, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, are revealed in the teachings of the Church and the Scriptures and may not otherwise be deduced.
Special revelation and natural revelation are complementary rather than contradictory in nature.
Karl Barth, Reformed (1886-1968), who tries to recover the Doctrine of the Trinity in theology from its putative loss in liberalism. His argument follows from the idea that God is the object of God’s own self-knowledge, and revelation in the Bible means the self-unveiling to humanity of the God who cannot be discovered by humanity simply through its own efforts. Note here that the Bible is not The Revelation; rather, it points to revelation. In Barth's theology, he emphasizes again and again that human concepts can never be considered as identical to God's revelation. In this aspect, Scripture is also written human language, expressing human concepts. It cannot be considered as identical to God's revelation. However, in His freedom and love, God truly reveals Himself through human language and concepts. Thus he claims that Christ is truly presented in Scripture and the preaching of the church.
Christianity continued from Judaism a belief in the existence of a single omnipotent God who created and sustains the universe. Against this background belief in the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit was expressed as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, which considers that the three persons of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) share a single Divine substance. This substance is not considered divided, in the sense that each person has a third of the substance; rather, each person is considered to have the whole substance. The distinction lies in their relations, the Father being unbegotten, the Son begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeding. The "begetting" does not refer to Mary's conceiving Jesus, but to a divine begetting before Creation.
Christians were willing to die for their faith because of 3 key ideas that can be noted from their own writings. One: their belief that Jesus was resurrected, two: religious experience, and three: fuller understanding that Jesus is God's Son and died for everyone's Sins.
Central to the doctrines of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches is Apostolic Succession, the belief that the bishops are the spiritual successors of the original twelve apostles, through the historically unbroken chain of consecration (see: Holy Orders). The New Testament contains warnings against teachings considered to be only masquerading as Christianity, and shows how reference was made to the leaders of the Church to decide what was true doctrine. The Catholic Church teaches that it is the continuation of those who remained faithful to the apostolic and episcopal leadership and rejected false teachings.
Whereas Catholics and Eastern Orthodox look to synods, and the Catholics also to the Pope, for authority, Protestants, a wide branch of Christian believers, look to the Bible for authority. The Protestants characterize the dogma concerning the Pope as Christ's representative head of the Church on earth, the concept of meritorious works, and the Catholic idea of a treasury of the merits of saints, as a denial that Christ is the only mediator between God and man: Solus Christus (Christ alone).
Christians believe the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, and that his active participation in a believer's life (even to the extent of "indwelling", or in a certain sense taking up residence within, the believer) is essential to living a Christian life. In Catholic, Orthodox, and some Anglican theology, this indwelling in received through the sacrament called Confirmation or, in the East, Chrismation. Most Protestants believe that the Spirit indwells a new believer at the time of salvation. Pentecostal and charismatic Protestants believe the Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a distinct experience separate from other experiences like conversion.
Pentecostalism is an American offshoot of Methodism. The doctrine of charismatic gifts is a well-known feature of Pentecostalism. Charismatic gifts are extra-normal abilities that are transmitted from the divine to individuals. These gifts include glossolalia (speaking in tongues), healing ability, and prophesy. Such gifts are bestowed upon Pentecostals at baptism, and are a fixture of Pentecostal church services. The ecstatic receipt of charismatic gifts can be accompanied by a loss of motor control, giving Pentecostals the nickname "Holy Rollers."
The charismatic movement adopted the Pentecostal doctrines of charismatic gifts: speaking in tongues, prophesying, etc. Many charismatic Christians have gone on to form separate churches and denominations.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sets itself apart from most other faiths claiming salvation through Jesus Christ in regards to revelation. This church, also known as the Mormons, believes that their founder, Joseph Smith Jr., was called directly by God the Father and his son Jesus Christ to restore the church that Christ established on the earth during his life and ministry. The church has claimed constant revelation by the leaders and members of the church ever since that occasion. The Latter-day Saints take as their doctrine that revelation continues to flow from heaven to the church's leaders, and that the president of the church receives revelation directly from God for the direction of the Church. Each member of the Latter-day Saints is also confirmed a member of the church following baptism and given the "gift of the Holy Ghost" by which each member is encouraged to develop a personal relationship with that divine being and receive personal revelation for their own direction and that of their family.
Messianic believers (who some Jews do not consider to be Jewish since they accept Jesus as the Messiah, who in dominant Jewish understanding has not yet arrived) commonly hold the Tanakh to be divinely inspired. The Tanakh includes the Torah (first five books of Moses), Nevi'im (the Prophets) and Ketuvim (the Writings). The Apostolic Writings (or New Testament) are often considered to also be divinely inspired. Many hold them to be equal in authority to the Tanakh, but this is not universal and can vary from individual to individual even within the same synagogue or Torah study. Some Messianic believers are most often troubled by the writings of Paul (whom they often call Rabbi Sha'ul) and may reject his writings, hold them in less esteem than those of the Gospel writers, or even reject him. Often, the emphasis is on the idea that the Tanakh is the only scripture the Early Church had and that, except for the recorded words of Jesus, the Apostolic Writings were meant as inspired commentary on the Tanakh.
Divine revelation plays a very important role in the Muslim faith. While religious books of most faiths acknowledge their human author's contribution to the divine text, the Qur'an claims to have been revealed word by word and letter by letter. The Qur'an is therefore, no doubt, a milestone in the development of revelation literature, and its authenticity is not seriously questioned. Islam knows different forms and degrees of divine revelation. See for example.
Muslims believe that God revealed his final message to humanity through Muhammad ibn Abdullah (c. 570 - July 6, 632) via the angel Gabriel. Muhammad is considered to have been God's final prophet, the "Seal of the Prophets". The revelations Muhammad preached form the holy book of Islam, the Qur'an. The Qur'an is believed to be the flawless final revelation of God to humanity, valid until the day of the Resurrection.
Muslims hold that the message of Islam - submission to the will of the one God - is the same as the message preached by all the messengers sent by God to humanity since Adam. From an Islamic point of view, Islam is the oldest of the monotheistic religions because it represents both the original and the final revelation of God to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Members of all sects of Islam believe that the Qur'an codifies the direct words of God.
According to Islamic traditions, Muhammad began receiving revelations from God (Arabic: ألله Allah) from the age of 40, delivered through the angel Gabriel over the last 23 years of his life. The content of these revelations, known as the Qur'an, was memorized and recorded by his followers and compiled into a single volume shortly after his death. The Qur'an, along with the details of Muhammad’s life as recounted by his biographers and his contemporaries, forms the basis of Islamic theology. Within Islam, he is considered the last and most important prophet of God. Muslims do not regard him as the founder of a new religion but as the restorer of the original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham and other prophets whose messages had become misinterpreted or corrupted over time (only misinterpreted according to some).
The Qur'ān retells stories of many of the people and events recounted in Jewish and Christian sacred books (Tanakh, Bible) and devotional literature (Apocrypha, Midrash), although it differs in many details. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Heber, Shelah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Jethro, David, Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Jonah, Aaron, Moses, Zechariah, Jesus, and John the Baptist are mentioned in the Qur'an as prophets of God (see Prophets of Islam). Muslims believe the common elements or resemblances between the Bible and other Jewish and Christian writings and Islamic dispensations is due to the common divine source, and that the Christian or Jewish texts were authentic divine revelations given to prophets. According to the Qur'ān
"It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). 3:3 "Muslims claim that those texts were neglected or corrupted (tahrif) by the Jews and Christians and have been replaced by God's final and perfect revelation, which is the Qur'ān. Many Jews and Christians believe that the biblical archaeological record refutes this assertion, because the Dead Sea Scrolls (the Tanakh and other Jewish writings which predate the origin of the Qur'an) have been fully translated, validating the authenticity of the Greek Septuagint.
Following the progression and spread of literacy in human history, the Central Figures of the Bahá'í Faith were in a position in the 1800s to receive thousands of written enquiries, and to thus write thousands of responses, hundreds of which amount to whole and proper books, while many are the shorter texts, as letters. Additionally survey publications have attempted to broadly review important themes across many dozens of individual texts (see listings in articles below). In addition to the practicality of literacy however, the Bahá'í faith has large works which were divinely revealed in a very short time, as in a night, or a few days. Additionally, because many of the works were first recorded by an amanuensis, most were submitted for approval and had corrections added - another milestone in that the final text was personally approved by the revelator.
Bahá'u'lláh would occasionally write the words of revelation down himself, but normally the revelation was dictated to his amanuensis, who sometimes recorded it in what has been called 'revelation writing', a shorthand script written with extreme speed owing to the rapidity of the utterance of the words. Afterwards, Bahá'u'lláh revised and approved these drafts. These 'revelation drafts' and many other transcriptions of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh's, circa 17,000 items, some of which are in his own handwriting, are kept in the International Bahá'í Archives in Haifa, Israel.
For extended comments on the divine revelation of the Báb, Bahá'u'lláh, and `Abdu'l-Bahá see Number of tablets revealed by Bahá'u'lláh by Robert Stockman and Juan Cole and Numbers and Classifications of Sacred Writings texts by Universal House of Justice. Second-hand notes of the words of the Central Figures of the Bahá'í faith are termed pilgrim notes and have little status. See also Horace Holley's preface of The Bahá'í Revelation, including Selections from the Bahá'í Holy Writings and Talks by `Abdu'l-Bahá
Latter-day Saints believe in an open scriptural canon, and in addition to the Bible and the Book of Mormon, have books of scripture containing the revelations of modern-day prophets such as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
Church leaders (from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) have taught during the Church's General Conferences that conference talks which are "...[spoken as] moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture...". In addition, many Mormons believe that ancient prophets in other regions of the world received revelations that resulted in additional scriptures that have been lost and may, one day, be forthcoming. Hence, the belief in continuing revelation (i.e., an open canon).
During his adult life—from the time he began translating the Book of Mormon in 1827 until his death in 1844—Smith introduced a large number of religious teachings. Although a number of his teachings are similar to doctrines circulating during his lifetime, several are unique to Latter Day Saint denominations.
Nearly all Smith's teachings had some root in the King James Version of the Bible, or his interpretation or elaboration of it. However, he believed in other scripture, and that in some instances, the Bible was translated incorrectly or incompletely. Thus, he "restored" temples, orders of priesthood, and other elements of the Bible that he believed had been wrongly abandoned by mainstream Christianity as part of a Great Apostasy.
In many cases, Smith's doctrines or interpretations of the Bible, as well as his own claimed revelations, placed him at odds with mainstream Christianity. For example, Smith rejected mainstream Christianity's long-standing formulation of the Trinity as recorded in the 4th century Nicene Creed.
Joseph Smith taught that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate personages, with Heavenly Father and Jesus having physical bodies of "flesh and bone," while the Holy Ghost has only a spiritual body. He also taught that God is the Heavenly Father of all mankind and that mankind is made in His express image.
Smith's claim to be a prophet of God has led to much controversy. Smith was a polarizing figure in his time, and he continues to be a focus of controversy between his millions of followers—most of whom revere him as a prophet with the same authority as prophets of the standard Christian canon—and opponents of Mormonism, who think him to have been either delusional or fraudulent.
The publishing arm of Jehovah's Witnesses, known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania engages in extensive publication work. In addition to their two magazines -'The Watchtower' and 'Awake!'- they also publish many brochures, tracts and books including the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Protestant canon. This Bible is distinct in its extensive use of the name Jehovah, an English version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, also replacing the Greek word for "Lord" over 200 times in the New Testament. The translators have opted to remain anonymous but others have identified them as being prominent leaders of the movement.
Frederick William Franz became the leading theologian, and is believed to have been the principal translator of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Also produced were a Greek-English New Testament interlinear (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) and a Bible dictionary (Aid to Bible Understanding).
Revelation or information from a supernatural source is of much lesser importance in some other religious traditions. It is not of great importance in the Asian religions Taoism, and Confucianism but similarities have been noted between the Abrahamic view of revelation and the Buddhist principle of Enlightenment.
Paul Johannes Tillich (1886–1965) was a theologian and Christian existentialist philosopher. Tillich was, along with contemporary Karl Barth, one of the more influential Protestant theologians of the twentieth century.
Tillich's approach to Protestant theology was highly systematic. He sought to correlate culture and faith such that "faith need not be unacceptable to contemporary culture and contemporary culture need not be unacceptable to faith". Consequently, Tillich's orientation is apologetic, seeking to make concrete theological answers that are applicable to ordinary daily life. This contributed to his popularity because it made him easily accessible to lay readers. In a broader perspective, revelation is understood as the fountainhead of religion. Tillich sought to reconcile revelation and reason by arguing that revelation never runs counter to reason (affirming Thomas Aquinas who said that faith is eminently rational), but both poles of the subjective human experience are complementary.
Tillich's radical departure from traditional Christian theology is his view of Christ. According to Tillich, Christ is the "New Being", who rectifies in himself the alienation between essence and existence. Essence fully shows itself within Christ, but Christ is also a finite man. This indicates, for Tillich, a revolution in the very nature of being. The gap is healed and essence can now be found within existence. Thus for Tillich, Christ is not God per se in himself, but Christ is the revelation of God. Whereas traditional Christianity regards Christ as wholly man and wholly God, Tillich believed that Christ was the emblem of the highest goal of man, what God wants men to become. Thus to be a Christian is to make oneself progressively "Christ-like", a very possible goal in Tillich's eyes. In other words, Christ is not God in the traditional sense, but reveals the essence inherent in all existence, including mine and your own. Thus Christ is not different from you or me except insofar as he fully reveals God within his own finitude, something you and I can also do in principle.
"God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him."