Oxford English Dictionary. 1.a. The disclosure or communication of
knowledge, instructions, etc., by divine or supernatural means.
compare etymology of "apocalypse": "to uncover, disclose." (OED)
Contrast empiricism and humanism. See also
Classical Humanism and Judeo-Christian
Revelation: Two Primary Sources of Western Civilization.
Instructor's notes: Revelation of God's wisdom or will through
the minds, voices, or pens of prophets and messiahs is frequently recorded in
written scripture, from which it may be interpreted by translators into other
languages and scripts, where readers, preachers, parents, and teachers further
interpret, paraphrase, or elaborate the original word of God.
This generation-to-generation, voice-to-voice transmission may change revelation
to tradition, which in the popular consciousness blends one revelation with
another, so that various books of the Bible become one story, which may also
absorb influences from popular culture or other religious traditions (e.g., the
"fruit" from the Tree of Knowledge becomes an apple; "death on a pale horse"
becomes the grim reaper on a Harley, etc.).
Such changes may either be "corrupting" or testify to a "living" text and faith,
but any original revelation inevitably transfroms into tradition or
"transmission of beliefs, statements, customs, etc., from generation to
generation," a distinction emphasized by American Founder Thomas Paine
in The Age of Reason (1794).
As it is
necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will . . . offer some other observations on the word revelation.
Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately
from God to man.
No one will
deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he
pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed
to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to
that person only. When he
[the first person] tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a
third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons.
It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and
consequently they are not obliged to believe it.
It is a
contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us
at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily
limited to the first communication—after this, it is only an account of
something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he
may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe
it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only
his word for it that it was made to him.
told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments
from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had
no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other
authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no
internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts,
such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce
himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention.
compare reveal: in literature and show business, the exposure
of a previously hidden key element of the plot or the performance.