I. Revelation A. The Basic concept

  1. The 'making known' of something that was hidden ( Rom 16.25 f)
    "Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him --
  2. Not the same as 'discovery'
    • He is the active one in this process
    • We do 'seek' though...
    • "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebr. 11:6)

  3. A personal disclosure (after the metaphor of speech- Heb 1.1 f)
    • "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

  4. Includes the notion of 'manifestation' (I Jn 4.9; Titus 1.3; 2 Tim 1.10)
    • "This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (1 John 4:9 )
    • "and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior (Titus 1:3)
    • "who has saved us and called us to a holy life --not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim. 1:9,10)

  5. Does not necessarily imply 'un-know-ability' or 'un-discover-ability'
    • "and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (Eph. 3:9)
    • "His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (Eph. 3:10)
    • "No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1Cor. 2:7)

  6. Implies authorial intent and disclosure ability
    • Authorial Intent - He/She/It/They are intending some meaning or cognitive content
    • Disclosure ability - He/She/It/They possess the ability and willingness to disclose some information about the situation
    • Performative Intent - there is some reason for the communication; some urgency; some motive...there is a desired GOAL

  7. Progressive in History
    • In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebr. 1:1)
    • Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things. (1Pet. 1:10)
    • Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him -- (Rom 15.25f)

B. The Human setting in which it would occur

  1. An ethically ambiguous world--the data is mixed--at first glance
    • Natural world: sunsets and hurricanes
    • Animal world: beauty and savagery
    • Humans: nobility and treachery

  2. An epistemologically "needy" world
    • We have too many 'ways to proceed' to construct a 'theology'
      • 'Numinous' experience-religious experience is notoriously difficult to interpret and/or 'milk' for cognitive content (Interpreting Religious Experience by Peter Donovan, Seabury, 1979)
      • 'Reason' - produces strange results and even conflicting conclusions in theological descriptions of the 'Perfect' Being:
        "Can we, indeed, go further and say that the notion of God as the perfect being gives us all the guidance we need in setting forth the divine attributes, so that our whole conception of God can be, as it were, woven in its entirety from this single thread?

        "Probably not, for several reasons. For one thing, although the idea of God as the perfect being has strong intuitive appeal, it is by no means the case that different theologians, even from the same religious tradition, will always agree on which conception of God's attributes has the effect of portraying God as 'more perfect" that another. For example: It seemed clear to Anselm as to Augustine (354-430) and most other ancient and medieval theologians, that in order to be perfect God must be impassable--that is, God must be incapable of emotion, and in particular incapable of feeling any sorrow or suffering as a result of the afflictions of his creatures. Since suffering is negative, a harm to the being that undergoes it, a perfect being must be incapableof suffering. Many more recent theologians, on the other hand, rebel against the notion of an "impassable" God, insisting that God's perfection, and in particular his attributes of love and sympathy, positively require that he be capable of suffering along with his creatures. Clearly, we have here a major disagreement...
      • Conflicting authorities (science vs. religion; one religion vs. another!)

    • Philosophy has so often given up:
      • Kant: Denied that theoretical reasoning could furnish arguments for the existence of God (but claimed that God had to be 'postulated' in order to make sense of moral experience)
      • Hume: "If we take in our hand any volume of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion" (Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)
      • Ayer: "all utterances about the nature of God are non-sensical" (Language, Truth, and Logic)
      • Socrates: "All the wisdom of this world is but a tiny raft upon which we must set sail when we leave this earth. If only there was a firmer foundation upon which to sail, perhaps some divine word."

    • Illustration of intelligent life in other galaxies--we are incapable of 'searching them out' and are TOTALLY dependent on them to 'reveal themselves' to us IF any semi-certain knowledge is to occur.

  3. A Significance-Starved World
    • We 'sense' that there is more to life than 'just this'
    • All religions and para-religions seek to answer the question 'why?'
    • The existentialist conclusion-- Sarte, Existentialism and Human Emotions, pp 21-22,49
      "About 1880, some French teachers tried to set up a secular ethics which went something like this: God is a useless and costly hypothesis; we are discarding it; but, meanwhile, in order for here to be an ethics, a society, a civilization, it is essential that certain values be taken seriously and that they be considered as having an a priori existence. It must be obligatory, a priori, to be honest, not to lie, not to beat your wife, to have children, etc., etc. So we're going to try a little device which will make it possible to show that values exist all the same, inscribed in a heaven of ideas, though otherwise God does not exist. In other words nothing will be changed if God does not exist. We shall find ourselves with the same norms of honesty, progress, and humanism, and we shall have made of God an outdated hypothesis which will peacefully die off by itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, thinks it very distressing that God does not exist, because all possibility of finding values in a heaven of ideas disappears along with Him; there can no longer be an a priori Good, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. Nowhere is it written that the Good exists, that we must be honest, that we must not lie; because the fact is we are on a plane where there are only men."

      "...but if I've discarded God the Father, there has to be someone to invent values. You've got to take things as they are. Moreover, to say that we invent values means nothing else but this: life has no meaning a priori."
    • "The meager satisfaction that man can extract from reality leaves him starving." (Sigmund Freud )

C. The possible "Other side" setting from which it would occur

(Note: we must be REALLY CAREFUL here. It is too easy to smuggle in 'pet worldviews' in trying to 'guess' the other side possibilities. We must take a minimalist approach to this... We can only draw scenarios around the basics of what we are exploring here-- communication acts and persons/"meaners"...'personal' and 'consciousness' images are reasonable, since they are pre-suppositions of communicative acts (But...the Communicators in this case COULD BE 'supra-personal' but they must AT LEAST BE 'personal like us' to support the category of cognitive/semantic acts.)

  1. The possibility of multiple 'personalities' out there
    • A polytheistic situation COULD produce multiple 'revelations'
    • Example: ancient Greek mythology
    • We would need to be able to decide between them(?)

  2. The possibility of malignant personalities out there (e.g. evil 'angels' or Satan)
    • Could inject contrary data into the 'system'
    • Could attempt to "neutralize" revelation from the 'other one'
    • Would certainly make the job more difficult
    • Could appear intelligent, perhaps even 'superior'

      • "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. ( 2Cor. 11:13)
      • "First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." (2Pet. 3:3)

    • Examples of spiritual 'input' from questionable 'spiritual beings'
      • Hardline witchcraft
      • Astral projection/traveling
      • New Age "Guides"
      • Book of Mormon

    • Would be most harmful in non-objective media (e.g. feelings)
      These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. (Jude 19)

D. If it occurred, what would be the implications as to its purpose and relevance?

  1. It's purpose would be to warn us of danger/instruct us to alternatives
  2. It's relevance might be absolutely critical (may be no other way to get this information)
  3. And, if the delivery of this revelation was 'expensive' (e.g. all the prophets were killed by the authorities!), this might argue for its cruciality even more strongly.
  4. If it appeared, one implication would be that relativism (i.e. "I doesn't matter WHAT you believe") would be precluded... for why would the Other Side 'bother' to do the revealing?
  5. Conclusion: this communication should not be considered a 'curiosity' or 'ancient document' only--it should be studied as if a 'life or death' message were included!

E. If it occurred, what might it 'look like'?

  1. If point D obtained...What characteristics might this communication manifest in our history? What 'clothes' would it wear? What voice would it use? How would it get our attention and convince us of its origin and content?! (A critical issue in a religiously pluralistic world.)

  2. Authoritative and even exclusive (in tone and content)
    • Authoritative - coming from a Source who actually Knew the Stuff, it would probably not sound 'tentative'!... it would probably assume a magisterial tone.
    • Exclusive - if it were trying to communicate important truth, in the context of competing and/or contrary 'revelations' it would probably make some EXCLUSIVE claims...claims to be the 'THE truth' and the 'ONLY critical truth'.

  3. In a widecast medium for general distribution:
    • Various media have tradeoffs of Precision (P) vs. Lexicon (L) vs. Vividness (V)
      • Feeling/emotions (P=LOW, L=SMALLEST?, V=HIGH)
      • Music (P=LOW, L=SMALL, V=HIGH)
      • Abstract art (P=LOW, L=SMALL, V=MEDIUM)
      • Realist' art (P=LOW-MEDIUM, L=SMALL, V=MEDIUM)
      • Performance art (P=LOW-MEDIUM, L=SMALL-MEDIUM, V=MEDIUM)
      • Natural language (P=MEDIUM, L=WIDE, V=MEDIUM)
      • Specialized languages (e.g. philosophy, theology) (P=HIGH, L=SMALL, V=LOW)
      • Scientific formulae (P=HIGH, L=SMALL, V=LOW)
      • Mathematical formulae (P=HIGHER, L=SMALLER, V=LOWER)
      • Calculi or logical systems (P=HIGHEST, L=SMALLEST, V=LOWEST)
    • A public language, shared by a large self-perpetuating community
    • A codifiable language, structured and with rules, and therefor translatable into other public languages.
    • A historically-anchored language (so we would have access to it and how it functioned)...
    • If it were originally a fringe language that perished off the face of the earth, then it would have to have been already translated into another language fitting the above criteria.

  4. Recorded in some kind of durable fashion, to survive the ravages of time and climate--until transferred to a new media, cyclically.

  5. Case-oriented as opposed to generics-only (for meaning determination)--e.g. I Cor 5

  6. With special 'super-natural' properties to get our attention and to do initial 'authentication' of itself to us (later authentication might come from other sources)
    • Maybe some "impossible" passages (e.g. fulfilled prophecy)
      "Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. (Isaiah. 41:22)
    • Preservation through history -- it would need some 'special' help for this and maybe even impress us with its durability (in the face of persecutions, intellectual disparagement, etc.)

    • Do we even HAVE the original new testament? Ancient literature is notoriously bad about 'losing the originals'. All such literture requires gathering of copies, quotes, inscriptions, etc and then using textual criticism methods to propose an original form--at varying levels of confidence. Most cases of this yield high levels of confidence, and confidence is proportional to number of documents, dating of documents, historical situations, etc.

      In the case of the NT, we are in what is arguably the best situation in ancient history.

      In comparison with mainstay ancient works,

      "The data that emerge in the comparative argument is impressive for the New Testament’s textual basis. No matter how the numbers are updated or changed for classics, the New Testament still has more attestation, better attestation, and better early attestation. Indeed, noted classicist Giorgio Pasquali has said as much of the New Testament: “No other Greek text is handed down so richly and credibly.” [Giorgio Pasquali, Storia della tradizione e critica del testo, 2nd ed. (Florence: Le Monnier, 1952), 8.] This cannot itself prove that we have exactly what the New Testament authors wrote down, but it does show that the New Testament scholar has better material to work with than scholars of standard classical works." [Hixson, Elijah; Gurry, Peter J.; Wallace, Daniel B.. Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism (p. 86). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.]
      For example, the NT was completely written by the end of the 1st century AD (i.e. 100 AD).

      The Institute for New Testament Textual Research (INTF) is the standared 'keeper of record' for NT witnesses. Their dating estimates are used as the 'standard', and --combined with Nestle-Aland(28)-- we have confidence in these witnesses:

      • P52 -- 100-200 AD.
      • P66 -- 200-225 AD.
      • P75 -- 200 - 225 AD.

      These are partial copies, but they survived -- and bear witness to content even closer to the events. So, by the tightest criteria scholars can muster (without eliminating all the other classical works), the NT we have is a trustworthy copy of the original.

    • Vindication through history--it would keep 'witnessing' to its veracity by demonstrating NEW evidence of its trustworthiness in successive generations:

      We see the unfolding data of archeology vindicating the text's claims to 'strangeness' and/or reliability... there are so many examples of historical references that were 'mythical' or 'fabrications' or 'errors' that have been validated by subsequent archeology... just a small set of examples:
       disputed fact				confirming discovery
      -------------------------      		--------------------
      writing at time of Moses		(too many to name!)
      multiple Pentateuch traditions,		Qumran
        pointing to early orig.
      Early Domestication of Camels		Byblos artifacts/Sumerian texts
      Abraham's selection of heir		Tablets at Nuzi
      Transfer of Esau's birthright		Tablets at Nuzi
      Israel early in Palestine		Stele of Meneptah
      Unity of Deuteronomy			Hittite tablets from Boghazkoy
      Early develop. of legal codes		multiple ANE sources
    • 'Advanced' critique of the 'sponsoring' culture ( Is 1.10-20 ) - even though it would be 'forced' to use (or develop for usage and THEN use) SOME historical culture, we would not expect it to acquiesce to the errors WITHIN that culture. As such, we would expect the communication to 'critique' the sponsoring culture.
      "Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah! "The multitude of your sacrifices -- what are they to me?" says the LORD. I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations -- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; ... wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. (Isaiah)

  7. Accompanied by special, authenticating events -- to get us to 'look' and to get us to 'investigate'...

    • "How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebr. 2:3f)
    • "The things that mark an apostle --signs, wonders and miracles --were done among you with great perseverance. (2Cor. 12:12)
    • "So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. (Acts 14:3)

  8. Special and confrontational focus on 'religious' issues (Is 1.10-20)--(see above)... and, the more URGENT the content of the message (e.g. life and death, eternal issues, character destruction), the more 'confrontational' it would appear!

  9. Provoking strong responses - IF WE WERE IN TROUBLE ENOUGH to warrant this special communication, we would probably either LOVE this or HATE this message... There might be some apathetic response (due to numbing by the culture?), but as the message would get "closer" to someone, personal responses might become violent...

    • Killing the messengers!
      "Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him -- (Acts 7:52)
    • Trying to eradicate the message!
      On Feb. 23, 303 AD., at Nicomedia, the Roman Emperor Diocletian issued an edict enjoining the demolition of Christian churches and the burning of all Christian books in the empire. Half a million Christians were killed in the process. (There were 9 previous official persecutions of Christians in the empire, but this was the first one that prescribed destruction of the sacred texts.) That ANY texts survived is barely believable...that we have SO MANY surviving mss. borders on the incredible!

  10. Out in the open, on the very 'stage' of history (Acts 26:25f)
    "I am not insane, most excellent Festus," Paul replied. "What I am saying is true and reasonable. The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner. (Acts 26:25)

EXCURSUS: How we "process" communication of all kinds

  1. The issue under discussion is NOT what we do with the content AFTER processing it, but what factors play in our 'getting' the message into our heads. (One can readily anticipate that the will plays a LARGE part in whether we accept the content of some communication, but it also plays an important part in actually 'getting the message in'

  2. One major ground-point: our FIRST experiences of putting together messages is in a Personal context (Mom!)... when a baby looks out at these things called 'faces' in those first few days, they immediately organize the data around persons... this notion of person is built-in and forms the learning paradigm for the rest of life...

    We are 'built' for communication, esp. with people. Consider this data from TCELThe Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language (p. 238):
    "Very young babies present an extraordinary range of auditory abilities. There have been several experiments in which different sounds are played to babies, and their responses monitored. For example, day-old babies have been played their mother's voice speaking normally, the same voice speaking abnormally (in a monotone), and a stranger's voice: only the first caused them to attend. Other studies have shown how babies turn their heads towards the source of a sound within the first few days of life, and prefer human voices to non-human sounds as early as 2 weeks.
    We bring this personal context to seemingly everything we do--we personify everything from Mother Nature to Lady Justice to Father Time to 'those stubborn bosons!'...If we see a chaotic stretch of debris, we assume vandals or passersby or maybe natural forces (like hurricane Camille!)

  3. Bottom-up vs. Top-down perception:

  4. "Attention" - we filter out others in favor of one 'thread' of signal, such as paying attention to only one dinner party conversation... We ignore the other data (unless it reaches emergency status, of course)

  5. Context

  6. We interact with text and context in a dialogical model

  7. One key type of pattern is that of 'personal'

  8. Using the personal context for interpretation

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