Concerning revelation in the Ancient Near East, John H. Walton states, “With no revelation . . . there was no way to know what pleased and what angered . . . This is the plight of those who live in a world without revelation. In the end, for all of their conscientious ritual, they did not know what deity wanted.” The importance of God’s revelation to His people cannot be understated, and provides a means for knowing God’s will and desire for them. It is helpful to first know what revelation is and how it relates to God. According to Paul Enns, revelation is “that act of God whereby He discloses Himself or communicates truth to the mind, whereby He makes manifest to His creatures that which could not be known in any other way.”
Underneath this broad definition of revelation as it relates to God are two specific kinds of revelation: general and special. Enns defines general revelation as “God revealing certain truths and aspects about His nature to all humanity.” Most people know and understand this type of revelation as science and such related fields. For example, God reveals a glimpse of Himself through the complexity of the human body, or the vastness of the universe. On the other hand, Enns defines special revelation as “restricted to Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.” Due to the fall of man, God necessitated this method of revealing His plan of redemption to mankind through His Son.
One aspect of Walton’s description of a world without revelation is the lack of acknowledgement or knowledge of this plan of redemption. Without God’s special revelation through the Scriptures, one cannot know how to be redeemed, thus creating a sense of hopelessness and despair. Even in the Old Testament, especially with the prophets, God’s direct revelation to His people through them provided a method of communicating His will, and was given its due authority with the phrase ‘Thus says the Lord.’
Another aspect intricately linked with revelation, especially special revelation, is the term ‘inspiration.’ When applied to the special revelation of the Scriptures, inspiration describes God’s process of using human authors to communicate His revelation to His people. Enns contrasts the two by saying that “revelation refers to the material whereas inspiration refers to the method.” Heavily involved in both is the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enabled the direct revelation of God through the prophets, aided in God’s general revelation through nature and science, and provided the inspiration behind God’s special revelation through the Scriptures.
1. John H. Walton, Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 145.
2. Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2008), 157.
3. Ibid., 158.
4. Ibid., 160.
5. Ibid., 268.