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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 (Nu 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in an inspired psalm or epistle or history, in which no human activity--not even the control of the will--is superseded, but the Holy Spirit works in, with and through them all in such a manner as to communicate to the product qualities distinctly superhuman.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 (Nu 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 (Dt 34:10), and God spoke to him mouth to mouth, even manifestly, and not in dark speeches (Nu 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" (Nu 12:6). And although, throughout its entire duration, God, in fulfillment of His promise (Dt 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 (Nu 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 (Dt 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 (Dt 18:15,18,20). 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 (Dt 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" (Jer 1:9; compare 5:14; Isa 51:16; 59:21; Nu 22:35; 23:5,12,16). 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" (Ezek 3:4). It is a process of nothing other than "dictation" which is thus described (2 Sam 14:3,19), 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 Ex 4:10-17; 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" (nabhi'), 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" (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 (Ezek 3:26 f) and creates for him the fruit of the lips (Isa 57:19; compare 6:7; 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" (Isa 50:4,5). 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 Isa 29:10,11; Ob 1:1); and then proceeds to set at the head of subordinate sections the remarkable words, "The word that Isaiah .... saw" (2:1); "the burden (margin "oracle") .... which Isaiah .... did see" (13:1). Similarly there stand at the head of other prophecies: "the words of Amos .... which he saw" (Am 1:1); "the word of Yahweh that came to Micah .... which he saw" (Mic 1:1); "the oracle which Habakkuk the prophet did see" (Hab 1:1 margin); and elsewhere such language occurs as this: "the word that Yahweh hath showed me" (Jer 38:21); "the prophets have seen .... oracles" (Lam 2:14); "the word of Yahweh came .... and I looked, and, behold" (Ezek 1:3,4); "Woe unto the foolish prophets, that follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing" (Ezek 13:3); "I .... will look forth to see what he will speak with me,.... Yahweh .... said, Write the vision" (Hab 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 (Nu 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 Ezek 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" (Jer 23:16,26; 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 Sam 10:6,10; Neh 9:30; Zec 7:12; Joel 2:28,29). The prophets were therefore `men of the Spirit' (Hos 9:7). What constituted them prophets was that the Spirit was put upon them (Isa 42:1) or poured out on them (Joel 2:28,29), and they were consequently filled with the Spirit (Mic 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 Ki 3:15; Ezek 1:3; 3:14,22; 33:22; 37:1; 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 Pet 1:20,21).
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" (pherein) is not the same as to be led (agein), much less to be guided or directed (hodegein): 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 Pet 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 His product through them. It is this fact which gives to the process the right to be called actively, and to the product the right to be called passively, a revelation. Although the circumstance that what is done is done by and through the action of human powers keeps the product in form and quality in a true sense human, yet the confluent operation of the Holy Spirit throughout the whole process raises the result above what could by any possibility be achieved by mere human powers and constitutes it expressly a supernatural product. The human traits are traceable throughout its whole extent, but at bottom it is a divine gift, and the language of Paul is the most proper mode of speech that could be applied to it: "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth" (1 Cor 2:13); "The things which I write unto you .... are the commandment of the Lord" (1 Cor 14:37).
7. Complete Revelation of God in Christ:
It is supposed that all the forms of special or redemptive revelation which underlie and give its content to the religion of the Bible may without violence be subsumed under one or another of these three modes--external manifestation, internal suggestion, and concursive operation. All, that is, except the culminating revelation, not through, but in, Jesus Christ. As in His person, in which dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, He rises above all classification and is sui generis; so the revelation accumulated in Him stands outside all the divers portions and divers manners in which otherwise revelation has been given and sums up in itself all that has been or can be made known of God and of His redemption. He does not so much make a revelation of God as Himself is the revelation of God; He does not merely disclose God's purpose of redemption, He is unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. The theophanies are but faint shadows in comparison with His manifestation of God in the flesh. The prophets could prophesy only as the Spirit of Christ which was in them testified, revealing to them as to servants one or another of the secrets of the Lord Yahweh; from Him as His Son, Yahweh has no secrets, but whatsoever the Father knows that the Son knows also. Whatever truth men have been made partakers of by the Spirit of truth is His (for all things whatsoever the Father hath are His) and is taken by the Spirit of truth and declared to men that He may be glorified. Nevertheless, though all revelation is thus summed up in Him, we should not fail to note very carefully that it would also be all sealed up in Him--so little is revelation conveyed by fact alone, without the word--had it not been thus taken by the Spirit of truth and declared unto men. The entirety of the New Testament is but the explanatory word accompanying and giving its effect to the fact of Christ. And when this fact was in all its meaning made the possession of men, revelation was completed and in that sense ceased. Jesus Christ is no less the end of revelation than He is the end of the law.
IV. Biblical Terminology.
1. The Ordinary Forms:
There is not much additional to be learned concerning the nature and processes of revelation, from the terms currently employed in Scripture to express the idea. These terms are ordinarily the common words for disclosing, making known, making manifest, applied with more or less heightened significance to supernatural acts or effects in kind. In the English Bible (the King James Version) the verb "reveal" occurs about 51 times, of which 22 are in the Old Testament and 29 in the New Testament. In the Old Testament the word is always the rendering of a Hebrew term galah, or its Aramaic equivalent gelah, the root meaning of which appears to be "nakedness." When applied to revelation, it seems to hint at the removal of obstacles to perception or the uncovering of objects to perception. In the New Testament the word "reveal" is always (with the single exception of Lk 2:35) the rendering of a Greek term apokalupto (but in 2 Thess 1:7; 1 Pet 4:13 the corresponding noun apokalupsis), which has a very similar basal significance with its Hebrew parallel. As this Hebrew word formed no substantive in this sense, the noun "revelation" does not occur in the English Old Testament, the idea being expressed, however, by other Hebrew terms variously rendered. It occurs in the English New Testament, on the other hand, about a dozen times, and always as the rendering of the substantive corresponding to the verb rendered "reveal" (apokalupsis). On the face of the English Bible, the terms "reveal," "revelation" bear therefore uniformly the general sense of "disclose," "disclosure." The idea is found in the Bible, however, much more frequently than the terms "reveal" "revelation" in English Versions of the Bible. Indeed, the Hebrew and Greek terms exclusively so rendered occur more frequently in this sense than in this rendering in the English Bible. And by their side there stand various other terms which express in one way or another the general conception.
In the New Testament the verb phaneroo, with the general sense of making manifest, manifesting, is the most common of these. It differs from apokalupto as the more general and external term from the more special and inward. Other terms also are occasionally used: epiphaneia, "manifestation" (2 Thess 2:8; 1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 1:10; 4:1; Tit 2:13; compare epiphaino, Tit 2:11; 3:4); deiknuo (Rev 1:1; 17:1; 22:1,6,8; compare Acts 9:16; 1 Tim 4:15); exegomai (Jn 1:18), of which, however, only one perhaps--chrematizo (Mt 2:12,22; Lk 2:20; Acts 10:22; Heb 8:5; 11:7; 12:25); p chrematismos (Rom 11:4)--calls for particular notice as in a special way, according to its usage, expressing the idea of a divine communication.
In the Old Testament, the common Hebrew verb for "seeing" (ra'ah) is used in its appropriate stems, with God as the subject, for "appearing," "showing": "the Lord appeared unto .... "; "the word which the Lord showed me." And from this verb not only is an active substantive formed which supplied the more ancient designation of the official organ of revelation: ro'eh, "seer"; but also objective substantives, mar'ah, and mar'eh, which were used to designate the thing seen in a revelation--the "vision." By the side of these terms there were others in use, derived from a root which supplies to the Aramaic its common word for "seeing," but in Hebrew has a somewhat more pregnant meaning, chazah. Its active derivative, chozeh, was a designation of a prophet which remained in occasional use, alternating with the more customary nabhi', long after ro'eh, had become practically obsolete; and its passive derivatives chazon, chizzayon, chazuth, machazeh provided the ordinary terms for the substance of the revelation or "vision." The distinction between the two sets of terms, derived respectively from ra'ah and chazah, while not to be unduly pressed, seems to lie in the direction that the former suggests external manifestations and the latter internal revelations. The ro'eh is he to whom divine manifestations, the chozeh he to whom divine communications, have been vouchsafed; the mar'eh is an appearance, the chazon and its companions a vision. It may be of interest to observe that mar'ah is the term employed in Nu 12:6, while it is chazon which commonly occurs in the headings of the written prophecies to indicate their revelatory character. From this it may possibly be inferred that in the former passage it is the mode, in the latter the contents of the revelation that is emphasized. Perhaps a like distinction may be traced between the chazon of Dan 8:15 and the mar'eh of the next verse. The ordinary verb for "knowing," yadha`, expressing in its causative stems the idea of making known, informing, is also very naturally employed, with God as its subject, in the sense of revealing, and that, in accordance with the natural sense of the word, with a tendency to pregnancy of implication, of revealing effectively, of not merely uncovering to observation, but making to know. Accordingly, it is paralleled riot merely with galah (Ps 98:2: `The Lord hath made known his salvation; his righteousness hath he displayed in the sight of the nation'), but also with such terms as lamadh (Ps 25:4: `Make known to me thy ways, O Lord: teach me thy paths'). This verb yadha` forms no substantive in the sense of "revelation" (compare da`ath, Nu 24:16; Ps 19:3).
2. "Word of Yahweh" and "Torah":
The most common vehicles of the idea of "revelation" in the Old Testament are, however, two expressions which are yet to be mentioned. These are the phrase, "word of Yahweh," and the term commonly but inadequately rendered in the English Versions of the Bible by "law." The former (debhar Yahweh, varied to debhar 'Elohim or debhar ha-'Elohim; compare ne'um Yahweh, massa' Yahweh) occurs scores of times and is at once the simplest and the most colorless designation of a divine communication. By the latter (torah), the proper meaning of which is "instruction," a strong implication of authoritativeness is conveyed; and, in this sense, it becomes what may be called the technical designation of a specifically divine communication. The two are not infrequently brought together, as in Isa 1:10: "Hear the word of Yahweh, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law (margin "teaching") of our God, ye people of Gomorrah"; or Isa 2:3 margin; Mic 4:2: "For out of Zion shall go forth the law (margin "instruction"), and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem." Both terms are used for any divine communication of whatever extent; and both came to be employed to express the entire body of divine revelation, conceived as a unitary whole. In this comprehensive usage, the emphasis of the one came to fall more on the graciousness, and of the other more on the authoritativeness of this body of divine revelation; and both passed into the New Testament with these implications. "The word of God," or simply "the word," comes thus to mean in the New Testament just the gospel, "the word of the proclamation of redemption, that is, all that which God has to say to man, and causes to be said" looking to his salvation. It expresses, in a word, precisely what we technically speak of as God's redemptive revelation. "The law," on the other hand, means in this New Testament use, just the whole body of the authoritative instruction which God has given men. It expresses, in other words, what we commonly speak of as God's supernatural revelation. The two things, of course, are the same: God's authoritative revelation is His gracious revelation; God's redemptive revelation is His supernatural revelation. The two terms merely look at the one aggregate of revelation from two aspects, and each emphasizes its own aspect of this one aggregated revelation.
Now, this aggregated revelation lay before the men of the New Testament in a written form, and it was impossible to speak freely of it without consciousness of and at least occasional reference to its written form. Accordingly we hear of a Word of God that is written, (Jn 15:25; 1 Cor 15:54), and the Divine Word is naturally contrasted with mere tradition, as if its written form were of its very idea (Mk 7:10); indeed, the written body of revelation--with an emphasis on its written form--is designated expressly `the prophetic word' (2 Pet 1:19).
3. "The Scriptures":
More distinctly still, "the Law" comes to be thought of as a written, not exactly, code, but body of Divinely authoritative instructions. The phrase, "It is written in your law" (Jn 10:34; 15:25; Rom 3:19; 1 Cor 14:21), acquires the precise sense of, "It is set forth in your authoritative Scriptures, all the content of which is `law,' that is, divine instruction." Thus, "the Word of God," "the Law," came to mean just the written body of revelation, what we call, and what the New Testament writers called, in the same high sense which we give the term, "the Scriptures." These "Scriptures" are thus identified with the revelation of God, conceived as a well-defined corpus, and two conceptions rise before us which have had a determining part to play in the history of Christianity--the conception of an authoritative Canon of Scripture, and the conception of this Canon of Scripture as just the Word of God written. The former conception was thrown into prominence in opposition to the Gnostic heresies in the earliest age of the church, and gave rise to a richly varied mode of speech concerning the Scriptures, emphasizing their authority in legal language, which goes back to and rests on the Biblical. usage of "Law." The latter it was left to the Reformation to do justice to in its struggle against, on the one side, the Romish depression of the Scriptures in favor of the traditions of the church, and on the other side the Enthusiasts' supercession of them in the interests of the "inner Word." When Tertullian, on the one hand, speaks of the Scriptures as an "Instrument," a legal document, his terminology has an express warrant in the Scriptures' own usage of torah, "law," to designate their entire content. And when John Gerhard argues that "between the Word of God and Sacred Scripture, taken in a material sense, there is no real difference," he is only declaring plainly what is definitely implied in the New Testament use of "the Word of God" with the written revelation in mind. What is important to recognize is that the Scriptures themselves represent the Scriptures as not merely containing here and there the record of revelations--"words of God," toroth--given by God, but as themselves, in all their extent, a revelation, an authoritative body of gracious instructions from God; or, since they alone, of all the revelations which God may have given, are extant--rather as the Revelation, the only "Word of God" accessible to men, in all their parts "law," that is, authoritative instruction from God.
Herman Witsius, "De Prophetis et Prophetia" in Miscell. Sacr., I, Leiden, 1736, 1-318; G. F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament, English translation, Edinburgh, 1874, I, part I (and the appropriate sections in other Biblical Theologies); H. Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek(2), I, Kampen, 1906, 290-406 (and the appropriate sections in other dogmatic treatises); H. Voigt, Fundamentaldogmatik, Gotha, 1874, 173 ff; A. Kuyper, Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology, English translation, New York, 1898, Division III, Chapter ii; A. E. Krauss, Die Lehre von der Offenbarung, Gotha, 1868; C. F. Fritzsche, De revelationis notione biblica, Leipzig, 1828; E. W. Hengstenberg, The Christology of the O T, ET2, Edinburgh, 1868, IV, Appendix 6, pp. 396-444; E. Konig, Per Offenbarungsbegriff des Altes Testament, Leipzig, 1882; A. B. Davidson, Old Testament Prophecy, 1903; W. J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise, New York, 1905; James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World, 1893, as per Index, "Revelation," and Revelation and Inspiration, London and New York, 1910. Also: T. Christlieb, Modern Doubt and Christian Belief, English translation, New York, 1874; G. P. Fisher, The Nature and Method of Revelation, New York, 1890; C. M. Mead, Supernatural Revelation, 1889; J. Quirmbach, Die Lehre des h. Paulus von der naturlichen Gotteserkenntnis, etc., Freiburg, 1906.
Benjamin B. Warfield
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'revelation, 3-4'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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