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Contained below is a manuscript summarizing the class lecture(s) covering the above specified range of topics from the List of Topics for Religion 492. Quite often hyperlinks (underlined) to sources of information etc. will be inserted in the text of the lecture. Test questions for all quizzes and exams will be derived in their entirety or in part from these lectures; see Exams in the course syllabus for details. To display the Greek text contained in this page download and install the free BSTGreek from Bible Study Tools.
1.2.1 Divine Revelation
Gerald Bray, Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present, pp. 14-19
Nigel M. de S. Cameron, "Revelation, Idea of, " Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, online at http://bible.crosswalk.com/Dictionaries/BakersEvangelicalDictionary/
G.H. Joycy, "Revelation," Catholic Encyclopedia, online at
Resource Materials to also be studied:
Below is a copy of an article written by Dr. Lorin L Cranford and published in the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity by Garland Press (NYC) in 1996. This article needs to be carefully studied. The article covers the emerging concept from biblical times through the Church Fathers.
Revelation, Doctrine of
Lorin L. Cranford
The term "revelation" conveys the notion of uncovering something not previously
known. In Christian history, it has been used primarily as a technical
theological word to denote the self-manifestion of God and his will. Although
a number of verbs and their derivatives can be translated as "reveal,"
the primary Old Testament verb (no noun exists) is gâlah.
The concept of revelation is implicit in many additional expressions having
to do with God speaking and acting in a way that is audible, visible, or
both. New Testament words that connote the idea of revelation include apokaluptein,
The biblical terms, although not implying all that historical theology suggests, do imply the essential idea of divine self-disclosure. Of importance also is the initiative of God in this action of self-revealing; humanity discovers God only as he chooses to make himself known. More than just the providing of information about who God is and what he does, revelation is encounter with God and thus has a redemptive purpose.
In the Old Testament era, the revelation of God occurred "in many and various
ways" (Heb. 1:1; cf. Eichrodt 2.15-45). God is depicted as revealing himself
through natural phenomena (Exod. 19:9ff.; Deut. 5:22ff.; Ps. 18:11; 104:3;
Amos 1:2; Hab. 3:9f., 14; Isa. 30:27). Visions and drams also served as
vehicles of divine revelation (Exod. 33:22; Num. 24:4; Isa. 6:1ff.; Gen.
28:11ff.; 1 Sam. 28:6). Additionally, the theophany of Yahweh sometimes
took on human form (Num. 12:8; Exod. 33:23; Deut. 34:10; Judg. 6:22). There
is, however, a tendency to underscore the transcendence of God and thus
to portray the revelation of Yahweh either through an angel of God (Gen.
16:7, 9-11; Judg. 6:20; 2 SWam. 17:17, 20) or through a manifestation of
divine glory (Ps. 29: Exod. 24:15-17); Exek. 43:1-4). Seeking the face
of God is frequently a means of coming to know Yahweh and his will and
blessing (Gen. 32:30; 2 Sam. 21:1; 2 Chron. 7:14; Job 33:25). Knowledge
of the name of God means insight into the divine character and essence
(Ps. 118:26; Jer. 7:12; 1 Kings 8:33).
Most importantly, the revelation of God takes place directly in the words of God spoken to individuals. The use of the verbs for "say" with God as their subject is exceedingly numerous throughout the Old Testament (Gen. 1:28; Exod. 7:13; 2 Kings 1:3; Ezek. 2:8); similar is the use of the phrase "word(s) of the Lord" (Gen. 15:1; Exod. 4:28; 1 Sam. 3:1; Ps. 119; Jer. 6:10; 8:9; Dan. 9:2; Amos 3:1; Micah 1:1). The prophetic "thus says the Lord" became a pivotal vehicle for revealing God's will to the people of Israel. The writing down of those words became important, form the recording of the ten words on the tables of stone at Sinai by the finger of God (Exod. 31:18) to the command to Jeremiah to "write in a book all the words that I have spoken to you" (Jer. 30:2). The actions of God in the history of individuals (Ps. 3:1ff.; 118:13-14) and of Israel (Ps. 98:2-3; Jer. 33:16) stand as a major handle of divine revelation as well. The full revelation of God and the culmination of his will are seen in the eschatological "Day of the Lord" (Hosea 2:19ff.; Jer. 31:31ff.). Although scholarly debate the key content for the divine self-manifestion -- the acts of God in history (Wright); the covenant relation (Eichrodt); the cultic centers of worship (von Rad) -- the clear emphasis of the Old Testament is that God has made known both himself (as God of history, as holy and gracious, and as the Creator and Sustainer of the world) and his will, especially to his people "in many and various ways" (Heb. 1:1).
In rabbinic Judaism the revelation of God was focused in the Torah, the Law of Yahweh. The developing oral tradition was understood as a precise exposition of the will of God based upon the Torah. Messianic expectation largely anticipated a superb exposition of the Torah. In Jewish apocalypticism, however, the revelation of God to the great figures of the past, now sealed, was to be disclosed at the end of time when the messianic age would burst in upon this present evil age. A third approach to revelation in ancient Judaism is represented by Philo and the Jewish Wisdom literature: the one-sided apocalyptic emphasis upon the transcendence of God was replaced in Hellenistic Judaism by an emphasis upon the immanence of God as revealed in creation and in philosophy.
Testament. The New Testament reaches behind early Judaism to the
Old Testament understanding of divine revelation, especially to the prophets.
yet early Judaism does exert influence upon the New Testament view, especially
at the point of an eschatological outlook.
In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus is both the focus and the bearer of divine revelation. The content of this revelation is the manifestion of God in and through the coming of his kingdom (Mark 1:14-15 and parallels; Matt. 4:12-17; Luke 4:14-15). Simeon speaks of the infant Jesus as "a light for revelation [apokalupsin] to the Gentiles" (Luke 2:32; cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6). In Jesus is the unique and exclusive revelation of the Father: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Matt. 11:27; cf. Luke 10:21-22). The words and the deeds (especially the miracles; cf. Matt. 9:32-33) of Jesus were the means of divine manifestation. Mere human comprehension is insufficient to receive this revelation (Matt. 11:6; Luke 7:23); this knowledge of salvation is denied to the wise but made available to those willing to receive it in faith and love (Matt. 11:25). The eschatological fullness of this revelation will be disclosed at the return of the Son of man (Luke 17:30).
The apostle Paul likewise understood revelation not merely as the imparting of divine knowledge but primarily as the coming of God, as the disclosure of the world to come, which took place in a historical development up to the death and resurrection of Jesus in the last time (1 Cor. 10:11; cr. Heb. 1:1-4) and which will culminate in the cosmic catastrophe at the end of history. Apokalupsis and its derivatives are significant in the Pauline letters. Although God has revealed himself in creation (Rom. 1:19) and in the human moral consciousness (Rom. 2:13-16), a greater saving revelation is needed. The gospel of Christ has been revealed to Paul (1 Cor. 2:10; Gal. 1:11-12, 16), and thus he claimed apostolic authority as a bearer of that revelation (Gal. 1:1- 13-17; cr. Rom. 15:15-21; 2 Cor. 13:2-4). The focus of this revelation is Christ (Rom. 1:2-6), but included in it is the righteousness of God (Rom. 1:17), the wrath of God (rom. 1:18), and the unity of humanity in redemption (Eph. 3:3-6). This revelation composes the Word of God (1 Thess 2:13; Col 1:25-29). Apokalupsis can also refer to specific manifestations of the will of God (Gal. 2:2; Phil. 3:15) as well as to ecstatic experiences (1 Cor. 14:6; 2 Cor. 12:1). The eschatological culmination will be in the revelation of Christ at the end of the ages (1 Cor. 1:7; Rom. 8:18; cf. 1 Peter 1:5; 5:1) together with judgment (1 Cor. 3:13) and the appearance of the Antichrist (2 Thess. 2:3, 6, 8).
The Johannine writings express the idea of revelation primarily through the phaneroun word group. The incarnate Word has revealed the glory of the Father to the believing eyes (John 1:9-18). Through his deeds and words, Jesus revealed himself and the Father's will (John 1:31; 2:11; 7:4; 9:3; 14:21; 17:6; 21:1, 14; 1 John 1:2; 3:5, 8; 4:9).
In summary, revelation in the New Testament denotes the unveiling of the salvation of God in the redemptive work of his Son. The gospel message came into being as the apostolic witness to this saving act of God in Christ. Yet the revelation of God will be unveiled in it completeness only with the return of the Son at the close of the age.
Apostolic Fathers. As with the biblical materials, no systematic presentation or treatise on the doctrine of revelation exists in any of the church fathers. Yet the concept of revelation is certainly present in their writings. In the apostolic fathers, the variation of vocabulary is similar to that of the New Testament in reference to the phenomena of divine revelation: most important are the term apokaluptein ("reveal") and phaneroun ("make manifest"), along with their cognates. Also significant are dêloun ("show") and gnôrizein ("make known") as well as the noun oikonomia ("administration," plan of salvation). God has revealed himself in the Word: "...there is on God, who manifested himself through jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word proceeding from silence, who in all respects was well pleasing to him that sent him" (Ignatius, Mag. 8.2). This revelation was for the salvation of sinful humanity (Ignatius, Eph. 19:2-3). Thus, the hearing and obeying of the word of the Lord, as a tradition passed down through the true descendants of the apostles became pivotal (Did. 4:1; Barn. 9:9; 1 Clem. 2:1; Ignatius, Eph. 15:2); the tradition found in scriptural basis in the Old Testament revelation (1 Clem. 13:1; Barn. 6). Also, this revelation of Christ could come directly through visions and dreams (Hermas, Vis. 2.1.2; Sim. 2:1; M. Polyc. 22.3). The question of an established written canon delimiting the parameters of revelation was not an issue with the apostolic fathers. The basic theme of revelation was the universal rule of God that became visible in the cosmos and in the Christ event.
Justin Martyr and others sought in hellenistic philosophy a means of showing
the superiority of Christianity. They argued that Greek philosophy, based
upon human reason, gives limited access to truth, whereas Christianity,
based upon divine revelation, provides total access. The key is Christ
as Logos, the divine Reason. God as pure Spirit (thus transcendent and
inaccessible) made himself accessible through the Logos.
Justin Martyr produced the most extensive development of the Logos theme. He adapted the Stoic concept of the Logos as the Reason behind creation to the Logos motif in the New Testament. Through the Logos, God created all things (2 Apol. 6.3), and through him God continues to speak (Dial. 62.4). All truth has its origin in the Logos. There is a seed (sperma tou Logou) in every person providing a partial knowledge of truth (2 Apol 8.1; 13/5); Greek philosophy thus reflects partial insight into divine truth (1 Apol. 46.2-3). The revelatory action of the Logos is seen better in the patriarchs and the prophets: "Jesus is the one who appeared and spoke to Moses, Abraham, and, in a word, to all the patriarchs" (Dial. 113.4; cf. 37.4; 58.3; 7.1-2). But in the incarnation of the Word, divine revelation reaches its high point (Dial. 127.4; 1 Apol. 63). Thus, in Jesus there is exclusive knowledge of the Father (1 Apol. 13.3; 63.13; Dial. 121.4). This knowledge comprises the superior doctrine that is contained in the memoirs of the apostles, "which are called Gospels" (1 Apol. 66.3; Dial. 102.5; 103.6-8; 104.1).
Theophilus of Antioch held a similar view of the revelation of the transcendent God through the divine Logos (Autol. 2.22). Athenagoras (esp. Leg. 10) and the Epistle to Diagnetus (7.1-9.6) shared in the Logos doctrine of Justin, although they did not develop it as extensively.
Writings. Parallel to the defense of Christianity against Jews
and pagans without was the defense of orthodoxy against the substantial
influence of Gnosticism within. Drawing on aspects of Greek philosophy,
Gnostic teachers, such as Basilides and Valentinus (Marcion can be included
although not a Gnostic in the strictest sense), set forth Christ as the
revealer of the unknown God; Yahweh is a mere demiurge, a secondary reflection
of God. The Old Testament thus is either radically reinterpreted or else
is rejected outright as having no revelatory value (Marcion). In the "Christianizing"
of Greek mythology, Gnosticism found an immediate revelation through its
possession of a special gnosis ("knowledge"). This in turn was supported,
especially by Marcion, through the development of a written canon of New
Testament scriptures as authoritative revelation.
In response, Irenaeus of Lyons (esp. Haer. 2) argued for the unity of the revelation of God in both Testaments, basing his argument on the doctrine of the Trinity. Christ as the Word (much as the Logos concept of Justin) is the unifying source who becomes the manifestation of God through special Old Testament theophanies, for example, to Abraham (Haer. 4.7.1-3), although these but foreshadow the supreme New Testament manifestation in the incarnation of the Word (Haer. 4.20.5). The terminus of this revelatory activity is the doctrine taught by Christ, preserved by his apostles and entrusted to his church to guard faithfully (Haer. 1.8.1; 1.10.2; 2.9.1). The whole issue of the New Testament canon thus emerged in response to Marcion's efforts.
Similarly, Tertullian deals with the understanding of revelation in connection with the question of the knowledge of God. He basically disallowed philosophy as a means of revelation (Apol. 47) in favor of the Old and New Testament scriptures (Apol. 18-23); the apostles had been entrusted with that complete revelation (Praescr. 20-21). Only the orthodox church possessing the rule of faith (regula fidei), the oral tradition established through proper succession of the bishops from the apostles, can correctly use and appeal to the scriptures (Praescr. 19). The tradition and the scriptures contain the identical content: the saving knowledge of God (Praescr. 38).
Fathers. Clement of Alexandria combined the philosophically oriented
Logos doctrine of Justin with Irenaeus's Christian interpretation of the
Old Testament (Stra. 6:15). The Logos as divine light is the source
of true revelation as found in philosophy (Stra. 1.19-20), in the
Law (Paed. 11), and supremely in the New Testament gospel (Stra.
5.34; Prot. 10.1). The church stands as the recipient of that full
illumination of the incarnate Logos (Stra. 1.98.4;
112.2) received as the gift of faith (Stra. 1.34.2-4). Once received, the
true gnôsis blossoms through contemplation, obedience, and
movement to perfection (Stra. 2.46.1).
Origen also based his concept of revelation on the Logos doctrine (Princ. 1.1.1; Jo. 1.16-23). Origen stressed its revelatory character and unity with the New Testament (Princ. pref. 4). The scriptures must then be understood through the spirit of the Logos (Princ. 4.2.3), since he stands behind them. Through spiritual purification, the believer can move toward the perfect knowledge to be given in the eternal gospel unveiled at the second coming of Christ (Comm. in Rom. 1.4; Comm. in Mt. 17.19).
Later, Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria largely repeated and extended the concepts set forth by Clement and Origen, while focusing on Christological insights in the context of opposition to Arianism and Nestorianism. Athanasius underscored three sources of revelatory knowledge of God: Christ as the illuminating Word (Gent. 42), creation illumined by the Word (Gent. 35), and the internal image of God (Gent. 34). The incarnation of the Word manifest Christ as a divine person (Inc. 14) and his doctrine of salvation (Inc. 3; Ar. 2.55). Cyril of Alexandria stressed Christ as revealing light (Jo. 5.2 [PG 73.777]; 6 [73.993]).
The Cappadocian fathers, Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus, were concerned to refute the teaching of Eunomius that the divine essence could be known by the human mind and therefore was not mysterious to those who adhered to the true doctrine. Their response was to reemphasize the incomprehensible character of the very divine essence that remains a mystery even to the one enlightened by revelation (Basil, Hom. Spir. 16.38 [PG 32.136-140]; Gregory of Nyssa, Beat. 6 [44.1269]; Gregory of Nazianzus, Or. 31.26). In a similar vein, the Antiochene John Chrysostom stressed, against the Anomoeans, the incomprehensibleness of God from a pastoral stance. One must stand in awe before this hiddenness of God, which can be penetrated only by the Son and the Spirit (Incomprehens. 1-3 [PG 48.701-728]; Hom. 15 in Jo. 1 [59.98]). Only in Christ are believers given a glimpse into the mystery hidden from the nations and from the angels (Hom. 5 in Gal. 1-2 [62.331-333]).
Fathers. The west saw less of a tendency toward speculative
theology. Following in the train of Tertullian, Cyprian of Carthage stressed
obedience to the "tradition of the Lord" as the focal point of divine revelation
(Ep. 63.2-10): "Neither the apostle [Paul] himself nor an angel
from heaven can preach or teach any otherwise than Christ has once taught
and his apostles have announced" (Ep. 63.11). The source of that
tradition is the gospel and the apostolic tradition as recorded in the
In the fourth century, Hilary of Poitiers and Ambrose emphasized a more mystical tone via influence from the eastern tradition and thus prepared the way for Augustine. In Hilary's view, the mind has to advance "behind the knowledge of natural reason" to a faith that "rejects the captious and useless questions of philosophy" and grasps the "deeds of God" in the incarnation of christ (Trin. 1.13). The Holy Spirit's guidance in this quest for knowledge is crucial (Trin. 1.38).
Augustine made use of motifs from the Johannine writings in the New Testament in order to focus upon Christ as the Way and Mediator of the revelation of the Father. The Son uniquely makes the Father known to humanity (Trin. 8.3; In epist. Ioh. 47.3). He is the Prophet (In epist Ioh. 24.7), the Master of both the Old and New Testaments (In epist Ioh. 45.9) who teaches the truths of salvation (In epist. Ioh. 17.15; 21.7). The apostles and prophets stand as witnesses to Christ the Light, and their testimony must be believed if the invisible realities are to be grasped (Civ. Dei 11.3). the apostles, the scriptures, and the church are the links to Christ and guarantee the authenticity of the faith (In epist. Ioh. 109.1; Fid. et symb. 1.1; Enchir. 1.4; Util. cred. 8.20). Revelation (revelatio) is closely identified with illumination (illuminatio): "Unless he who dwells within reveals, to what purpose do I speak?" (In epist. Ioh. 26.7).
G.E. Wright and R.H. Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God (Garden City: Doubleday, 1957).
M. Harl, Origène et la fonction révélatrice du Verbe incarné (Paris: Seuil, 1958).
C.-M. Edsman, W. Eichrodt, E.L. Dietrich. O.A. Piper, L. Richter, and G. Gloeger, "Offenbarung," Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, rev. 3rd. ed., ed. K. Galling (Tübingen: Mohr, 1960).
W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961, 1967).
D.F.D. Moule, "Revelation," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G.A. Buttrick (Nashville: Abingdon, 1962).
G. von Rad, Old Testament Theology, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Row, 1962, 1965).
A. Oepke, "Apokaluptô, apokalupsis," Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. G. Kittel and G. Friedrich (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964-1976).
Y.M.-J. Congar, Tradition and Traditions: An Historical and a Theological Essay (New York: Macmillan, 1966).
G. Moran, Theology of Revelation (New York: Herder and Herder, 1966).
E. Schillebeeckx, Revelation and Theology (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1967).
A. Dulles, Revelation Theology: A History (New York: Herder and Herder, 1969).
H. von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972).
M. Schmaus, A. Grillmeier, and L. Scheffczyk, eds. Handbuch der Dogmengeschichte (Freiburg: Herder, 1971), Vol. 1.1A: M. Seybold et al., Offenbarung: Von der Schrift bis zum Ausgang der Scholastik.
W. Mundle, B. Gärtner, and C. Brown, "Revelation," The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. C. Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975-1978).
J. Barr, "Revelation in History," The Interpreter's Dictionary of the bible: Supplementary Volume, ed. K. Crim (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), Kelly, pp. 29-79.
W. Wieland, Offenbarung bei Augustinus (Mainz: Brunewald, 1978).
D. A. Pailin, "Revelation," The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, eds. A. Richardson and J. Bowden (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1983).
At the heart of the idea of 'revelation' in the Judeo-Christian tradition is the conviction that the one true God has spoken to us mortals. He who stands both as our Creator and our Redeemer has made himself and his will known to humankind. In the Hebrew roots of primitive Christianity, Yahweh communicated his desires to humankind first with Adam; then to his chosen people Israel through the patriarchs, then through Moses, and finally through the prophets. These communications of God were gradually recorded in written form and thus comprise the major thrust of the documents now considered sacred scripture (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) by Jews and Christians alike. Therefore these documents attain the status of authoritative sources for understanding the will of God as revealed to humankind.
In the emerging Judaism at the beginning of the Christian era, diverse viewpoints had already emerged regarding the nature and the parameters of this conviction of the scriptures as divine revelation. The religious group known as the Sadducees held to the view that inside the threefold division of Hebrew scriptures -- Law (Torah), Prophets (Nevi'im), and Writings (Kethuvim) -- the highest and most authoritative segment was the divine law, Torah, as contained in the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Prophets and Writings were valuable sources of insight and understanding but did not constitute authoritative scriptures with divine revelation as did the Law. Another group, the Pharisees, however, accepted all three segments of the Hebrew scriptures as divine revelation and binding upon devout Jews. Additionally, they considered the developing rabbinical interpretation of these scriptures as equally authoritative as well. This last segment was in oral form at the beginning of the Christian era but gradually transitioned over to written interpretative tradition to eventually be incorporated into the Talmud.
The early Christian tradition of Jesus and the apostles builds upon this Hebrew understand, but will some important modifications. The Hebrew scriptures will be accepted as divine revelation and authoritative by both Jesus and the apostles. But the emerging interpretative tradition viewed as authoritative by the Pharisees will be rejected by Jesus as 'human tradition' (Mk 7:5-9, NRSV): 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, "This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition." 9 Then he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! Paul seems to be alluding to something similar with his declaration in Col. 2:8 (NRSV): "8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ." Thus a great deal of the emphasis of both Jesus and the apostles was on refocusing attention back on to the Old Testament scriptures as divine revelation, along with a new approach to interpreting them that was perceived as correct and proper.
Along side this view of the Old Testament scriptures lay the conviction that Jesus as the incarnate divine Son of God could speak authoritatively the words of God himself. Both in his words and deeds Jesus became the message of God (the Logos, oJ logov") who reveals the Father's will (Jhn 1:1-18, v. 18, NRSV): "No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known." And as Paul states it (Col. 2:9-10, NRSV): "For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have come to fullness in him, who is the head of every ruler and authority." Thus the revelation of God comes to completeness in Christ in order to bring about the new covenant relation of salvation for all humanity through commitment to this Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-5, NRSV): "1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs." This perspective meant that Jesus stood as the correct interpreter of the Old Testament scriptures and as the exclusive source of direct communication with the Heavenly Father. Then, both the Old Testament scriptures and Jesus himself become divine revelation of God's will for all humankind for all ages.
The preservation of the life and teachings of Jesus took its place at the top of the agenda for early Christians as they sought to both understand this new revelation of God and to spread it through missionary activity. The strategy for achieving this centered in Jesus pulling twelve individuals around him during his earthly ministry so that they could become authoritative witnesses of this divine revelation in Christ through receiving training by him and through observing his living of life. Once he had ascended back to the Father in Heaven, their task was to carry on his work by proclaiming this new divine revelation, increasingly now labeled as the Gospel (to; eujaggevlion). The focus in the first few decades after Jesus' ascension was the oral transmission of this message through preaching and teaching. By the middle of the first Christian century, however, written expressions began appearing, first in the letters of the apostle Paul, then the gospel documents themselves telling the story of Jesus in written form. By the close of the beginning Christian century, the various written documents from apostolic leaders were in place, although not initially written as a collection for general distribution. These documents would claim divine authority for their message either from connection with the earthly Jesus and/or with the resurrected Christ, and through connection with apostolic origins. The status (hJ ajpostolhv) of apostle (oJ ajpovstolo") for the Twelve and for Paul gave authorization for writing these documents, which would eventually be elevated to sacred scripture status. This issue would become controversial in the middle of the first century, especially in regard to Paul whose claim to apostleship would be challenged and then vigorously defended, e.g., Gal. 1-2; 2 Cor. 10-13. But these credentials were perceived as critical to being able to preach and teach the Gospel message with divine commissioning and authority.
Thus, the Christian modification of the earlier Jewish view of 'revelation' added to the formula the central role of Jesus as the divine Son of God whose teachings constitute the words of God himself. The enduring apostolic witness to these words became the 27 written documents that collectively comprise the New Testament. These documents come to be called the Word of God along with the Old Testament scriptures.
In the centuries that followed various Christian communities and leaders began a process of collecting these individually written documents, making copies of them, and then distributing them to other communities. Also, quite a large number of other written documents laying claim to authoritative status would be rejected as not being the revelation of God and thus unworthy of use for worship and study. By the middle of the fourth century the 27 documents now in our New Testament had become stabilized on a widespread basis as the exclusive group of writings to be considered as divine revelation and thus authorized to be included in the canon of the New Testament. Also during this time another pattern had developed that would lay claim to authoritative status as well. The ancient world's decided preference for ideas being transmitted orally over against written forms generated another body of orally memorized Christian belief that would be passed from one generation to the next through study and memorization. In the Latin, it came to be termed the regula fidei (rule of faith). The content and parameters of this orally transmitted belief system depended upon the parallel development of the concept of apostolic succession. 1 Clement42 written by Clement of Rome in AD 96 is the earliest known expression of this (see footnote 1 below for Greek text): "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, 'I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.' " Out of this evolving system then came the idea that the oral message of the gospel was passed down the beginning with Peter to successive bishops of the Church who faithfully taught it to other properly ordained leaders succeeding them. In the heretical confrontations that exploded in Christianity beginning in the middle of the second century this oral message became the basis for evaluating any interpretation of the emerging collections of the written documents. Thus when an interpretation was made from the written documents that stood in contradiction to this orally understood message, such an interpretation was automatically rejected as heresy. In Western Christianity gradually this oral message, the regula fidei, transitioned into written form and stands today as the foundation of contemporary Roman Catholic belief, with the bishop of Rome, the pope, standing as the ultimate interpretative authority for both streams of the message. A less structured and less centralized pattern gradually emerged in Eastern Orthodox Christianity but still works somewhat along the same lines.
The Protestant Reformation brought about a radical re-thinking of this understanding of divine revelation. The interpretative principle of sola scriptura, the written scriptures as the exclusive basis of divine revelation for faith determination, led to a general rejection of the Roman Catholic concept of the tradition of the church standing as the interpretative standard for the written scriptures. In the sixteenth century, divergent views surfaced. Reformers such as Luther, Zwinglii, and Calvin increasingly felt the need for some kind of interpretative standard, although not vested in the personality of a single spiritual leader like the pope. They attempted to reach back to the early church fathers who at various times collectively adopted statements of belief commonly considered as the bottom line understanding of the teaching of the written scriptures. Theses are usually called creeds. One of the most commonly used creed still today is the Apostles' Creed. For the sixteenth century reformers these would serve as foundation to more detailed expressions of belief that would serve each of the Protestant groups that gradually emerged from these beginning leaders. But in this system, these creeds would not be considered divine revelation. They would have defined levels of authority inside each church group, but, at least in theory, would always stand at a level of authority below that of the written scriptures.
The Radical Reformers, especially the Anabaptists, would go a different direction completely. For this stream of Christian understanding the principle of sola scriptura meant that the scriptures alone were the sole foundation for Christian belief. This they held in common with the other reformers. Where they parted company with Luther and the others was primarily in the adamant refusal to adopt any kind of doctrinal statement defining what any believer must belief the Bible teaches. Instead, their confidence lay in God's ability to guide the true believer in an earnest quest for understanding the scriptures through the leadership of the Holy Spirit -- this often labeled as the illumination of the Holy Spirit. With a group of such believers genuinely seeking to understand Christianity this way from the written scriptures, they believed the group would come to enough common grounds in their beliefs that they could function as an autonomous congregation in unity and love. The role of the concept of the priesthood of the believer in this was foundational.
Only much later did the Baptist descendants from these roots come to the place where 'confessions of faith' would be issued stating what beliefs various Baptist groups generally held in common. But these confessions of faith uniformly contained a preamble clearly declaring that such confessions of faith were never to be given any authority over either individuals or congregations. They were intended as informational to help non-Baptists more clearly understand what Baptists generally believed. This has been the dominant stance of virtually all Baptist groups for the past three hundred plus years, until recent times with Southern Baptists. The current leadership of this group is determined to redirect Southern Baptists into a pattern similar to the creedal stances of more mainline Protestant denominations. Consequently formal affirmation of the current doctrinal statement of Southern Baptists, the Baptist Faith and Message, has become prerequisite for employment in all of the agencies of the national organization of Southern Baptists. Increasingly, state organizations and association organizations (usually governmental counties inside a state) are adopting the same stance. A few churches have formally taken similar stances so that church staff, deacons, and Sunday School teachers are required to lead and teach within the parameters of the Baptist Faith and Message statement. Although the status of divine revelation is not officially granted to this doctrinal statement, in practice it ends up standing in a higher authority than the scriptures themselves, since any deviation from it is considered heresy and therefore a false interpretation of the scriptures. With it as the prerequisite to both employment and continuation of employment in the various Baptist organizations, its authority has assumed enormous levels in current Southern Baptist practice. To be certain, Southern Baptists are the only group affiliated with the Baptist World Alliance to adopt such a stance. The other hundred plus national Baptists groups world wide in the BWA have remained in the more historic non-creedal stance that Baptists have maintained since their beginnings in the late 1600s. Only the Bible reflects divine revelation and thus ultimate authority for faith and practice determination. The Holy Spirit is capable of guiding the sincere believer into an adequate understanding of what the Bible teaches so that he/she can live a faithful, devout Christian life.
The implications of this idea of divine revelation, especially as it pertains to the written scriptures, will be explored in detail in the subsequent topics of unit one.
11OiJ ajpovstoloi hJmi'n eujhggelivsqhsan ajpo; tou' kurivou jIhsou' Cristou', jIhsou'" Cristo;" ajpo; tou' qeou' ejxepevmfqh. 2 oJ Cristo;" ou\n ajpo; tou' qeou' kai; oiJ ajpovstoloi ajpo; tou' Cristou'. ejgevnonto ou\n ajmfovtera eujtaktw" ejk qelhvmato" qeou'. 3 paraggeliva" ou\n labovnte" kai; plhroforhqevnte" dia; th'" ajnastavsew" tou' kurivou hJmw'n jIhsou' Cristou' kai; pistwqevnte" ejn tw'/ lovgw/ tou' qeou', meta; plhroforiva" pneuvmato" aJgivou ejxh'lqon eujaggelizovmenoi, th;n basileivan tou' qeou' mevllein e[rcesqai. 4 kata; cwvra" ou\n kai; povlei" khruvssonte" kaqivstanon ta;" ajparca;" aujtw'n, dokimavsante" tw'/ pneuvmati, eij" ejpiskovpou" kai; diakovnou" tw'n mellovntwn pisteuvein. 5 kai; tou'to ouj kainw'". ejk ga;r dh; pollw'n crovnwn ejgevgrapto peri; ejpiskovpwn kai; diakovnwn, ou&tw" gavr pou levgei hJ grafhv. Katasthvsw tou;" ejpiskovpou" aujtw'n ejn dikaiosuvnh/ kai; tou;" diakovnou" aujtw'n ejn pivstei.
Check Bray's bibliography in appropriate chapter of the textbook.
Check the appropriate Bibliography section