II. Broad Means of Revelation
A. Through nature
Rom. 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the
godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made
it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities
--his eternal power and divine nature --have been clearly seen, being understood
from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they
knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but
their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Ps. 19:1ff The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the
work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night
they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice
is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the
ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which
is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing
to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit
to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Acts 14:17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown
kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he
provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."
B. Through providence - God's action in history
patterns (like a friend)
providence as context for scripture -- sometimes we will find that we can
understand texts because of what God is trying to do in our life at that
The Book of Ester -- doesn't use the word 'God' but He is so obvious in
the patterns and 'coincidences'!
C. Through miracles - the glory of God is generally considered to be
the bundle' of His attributes and character
John 2:11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana
in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith
John 10:25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The
miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me,
D. Through direct communications
Moses : ( Exod. 33:11 ) "The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as
a man speaks with his friend."
Acts 22:17 "When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying at the temple,
I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. 'Quick!' he said to me.
'Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony
E. Through Christ--his life, work, words, example, Spirit (John 14-17)
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among
us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from
the Father, full of grace and truth.
F. Through special manifestations, or theophanies (e.g. Burning Bush, Shekinah
G. Through the Bible--The Christian claims that the communication from
the Other Side came principally through a collection of documents known
as the Bible.
III. The Christian Revelation in History - How Close were our Expectations?
A. The genesis - God's initiatives and responses in history
He created initiatives (creation, the exodus, the Messiah, Pentecost)
He responded to the situations that arose (the prophets!, the Book of Revelation)
B. The recording of selected and paradigmatic cases, with the goal
of our instruction/warning
I Cor 10.11 : These things happened to them as examples and were written
down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.
2 Tim 3.16 : All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,
rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
John 21.25 : Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them
were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room
for the books that would be written.
Rom. 15:4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach
us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we
might have hope.
Some were NOT selected to be preserved--cf. the Book of Jashar : ( Josh.
10:13 ) So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged
itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar;. The sun
stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.
C. The recognition of this 'origin' by the believing community -
the question of the canon....
Was this communication sufficiently 'authenticated'
by its characteristics, so that a large group of people RECOGNIZED it as
a communication from God? were they aware of its "Other Worldly" origin?
2 Th 2.2 : not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy,
report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of
the Lord has already come.
I Jn 2.20, 27 : But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of
you know the truth...As for you, the anointing you received from him remains
in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches
you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit --just
as it has taught you, remain in him.
2Kings 22:8ff : Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary,
"I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD." He gave it
to Shaphan, who read it. Then Shaphan the secretary went to the king and
reported to him: "Your officials have paid out the money that was in the
temple of the LORD and have entrusted it to the workers and supervisors
at the temple." Then Shaphan the secretary informed the king, "Hilkiah
the priest has given me a book." And Shaphan read from it in the presence
of the king. When the king heard the words of the Book of the Law, he tore
his robes. He gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam son of Shaphan,
Acbor son of Micaiah, Shaphan the secretary and Asaiah the king's attendant:
"Go and inquire of the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah
about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the LORD's
anger that burns against us because our fathers have not obeyed the words
of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written
there concerning us."
2 Peter 3.15 : Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just
as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.
He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters.
His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant
and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their
I Tim 5.18 : For the Scripture says, "Do not muzzle the ox while it is
treading out the grain," and "The worker deserves his wages." (Luke 10)
Example: The finalizing of the canon of the NT...
At the start of this process, the main rule of approved evidence for
theological formulations and bases for ethical arguments was the OT canon.
This was quickly expanded to include the words of Jesus (cf. how Paul cites
Jesus whenever possible as authority-- I Cor 11.23 ff, I Cor 7.10f f).
Later the apostolic messages (oral and written) were recognized in the
community as having special authority (over other 'good' but 'normal' teaching).
In the disorganized state of the early church and under the intense persecution
by Jews and Romans, much of these gospel accounts and apostolic material
were distributed without 'controls'...with the result that as early as
130 AD we have a church bishop (Papias of Hierapolis) having to sift between
the authentic and the inauthentic message-traditions...The way he (and
others) decided what was authoritative was whether it could be traced to
the Lord or to the apostles...Then, as a crop of 'private traditions' arose,
that could not demonstrate this chain-of-authority or demonstrate their
basic coherence with known authoritative statements, the underground church--without
the benefit of organization and communications between the various groups--began
to publish lists of known-authentic works. Other works were NOT banned
from the community (and especially, good devotional material was welcomed),
but these works were not allowed to be read during the 'scripture reading'
part of the worship services. And the deposing of a bishop by Tertullian
for writing a forgery and ascribing it to Paul (even out of 'love for Paul'),
shows that pseudepigraphic writings--even for noble and pure motives--were
NOT accepted by the church and carefully guarded against...The criteria
of truth and demonstrable authenticity was too high.
As these individual communities began comparing their lists, they
found substantial overlap in them. In other words, the authentic character
of the revelation somehow impressed itself upon the communities-even in
isolation from other--with the result that the combined community could
cite these works with the 'it is written' formula...The disputes over what
books were 'in' and which were 'out' had the public scholarly dimensions
I mentioned...but the individual decisions were made by groups of individuals
who 'responded' somehow to the self-manifested authority of the revelatory
All of this occurred within 50-100 years of the production of the writings...and
the probability of getting this level of consensus from disconnected groups,
with diverse cultural backgrounds (Jewish, Hellenistic), and without any
formal or ecclesiastical 'teeth' is minute...and to me, within this worldview
context, suggests some level of divine 'control' from within the believing
the OT Canon itself, and as a paradigm for NT canonicity
Canonicity precedes Canonization - the texts were recognized EARLY/from
Inception as authoritative, they did not 'acquire' authority over time.
the nature of the Covenant form (see the table).
The OT covenant was given in the treaty forms of its day (e.g. Hittite
suzerain)--treaty forms which passed out of existence a century later and
were not re-discovered until this century! The fact that all three statings
of the Mosaic covenant were in this 'lost' treaty form are very strong
arguments for the early dating of these writings. (For example, some scholars
argue that Ezra wrote these documents, but he would not have had access
to these then-lost treaty forms with which to reconstruct these passages.!)
Deut. 31:9 So Moses wrote down this law and gave it to the priests, the
sons of Levi, who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and to all
the elders of Israel. Then Moses commanded them: "At the end of every seven
years, in the year for canceling debts, during the Feast of Tabernacles,
when all Israel comes to appear before the LORD your God at the place he
will choose, you shall read this law before them in their hearing. Assemble
the people --men, women and children, and the aliens living in your towns
--so they can listen and learn to fear the LORD your God and follow carefully
all the words of this law.
Josh. 24:25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there
at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these
things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set
it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.
1Sam. 10:25 Samuel explained to the people the regulations of the kingship.
He wrote them down on a scroll and deposited it before the LORD. Then Samuel
dismissed the people, each to his own home.
Future King was to make his own copy! - Deut. 17:18 When he takes the throne
of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law,
taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. It is to be with him,
and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere
the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these
The Pentateuch must have been in approximately its final form by the reign
According to Jewish history, when Ezra returned to the land of Israel
at the end of the Babylonian Captivity, one of his projects was to produce
a 'square script' version of the Hebrew manuscripts (which were currently
in difficult-to-read angular forms). This was to stop the Jews from using
the readily-available Samaritan Pent, which was already in the readable
square scripts. The Samaritans, of course, only recognized the first five
books of the OT as authoritative--it was the central point of their belief
This situation (an existent collection of the Pentateuch) at Ezra's
time, points to a very early production of the Pentateuch. The fact that
the Samaritans (the remnants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel) would NOT
HAVE borrowed the Pentateuch from the Southern kingdom (for political reasons)
during its independent existence, argues that their basic source document
MUST HAVE BEEN completed at least by the reign of Solomon (the last king
before the division of the nation), and possibly considerably before that.
They were consistently regarded as such, throughout their history.
The ANE had an orientation to canonical sacred writings, and recorded,
under fear, much more accurately than in royal archives (e.g. Akkadian
priestly details). In other words, the cultural environment of the day
DISCRIMINATED between texts that were SACRED and those that were not. (Some
awareness was present, even though it was probably mis-guided often.)
Josiah's revival - 2 Kings 22, 23
Ezra 7:23 Whatever the God of heaven has prescribed, let it be done with
diligence for the temple of the God of heaven. Why should there be wrath
against the realm of the king and of his sons? You are also to know that
you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests,
Levites, singers, gatekeepers, temple servants or other workers at this
house of God. And you, Ezra, in accordance with the wisdom of your God,
which you possess, appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice
to all the people of Trans-euphrates --all who know the laws of your God.
And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the
law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death,
banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.
D. Since they were understood to have been 'from God', the preservation
and transmission of these documents and associated "understandings" was
carried out carefully and successfully.
copies and copies, mss. and mss.!--for example: The NT
Table of Papyri
P# Contents P-date Written
p46 All Pauline epistles ex. Pastorals(CBPII) 85-150 ad 45-60ad
p52 John 18.31-33, 37-38 94-127 80-85
p87 A few verses from Philemon 150 50-60
p77 A few verses from Matthew 23 150 pre-70
p45 Parts of all 4 Gospels+Acts (CBPI) 150 60-85
p32 Titus 1.11-15 2.3-8 175 60-65
p75 Most of Luke/John (Bodomer 14/15) 150-200 60-85
The issue of fidelity--how faithfully were they transmitted? (the question
of textual corruption)--balancing the tendency to preserve and to revise...
The Old Testament
Before 400 bc
all our data comes from Bible and ANE praxis
the tendency to preserve the text was fierce!
Other writings that DIDN't make it!
Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num. 21.14)
Book of Jashar (Jos 10.13)
Book of the Annals of Solomon (I Kgs 11.41)
Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah (1Kgs 14.29)
Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel (1 Kgs 14.19)
Records of the Chronicles of King David (I Chrn 27.240
Records of Samuel the Seer (I Chrn 29.29)
Records of Nathan the Prophet (I Chrn 29.29)
Records of Gad the Seer (I Chrn 29.29)
Prophecy of Ahijan the Shilonite (2 Chrn 9.29)
Visions of Iddo the Seer (2 Chrn 9.29)
Records of Shemaiah the Prophet (2 Chron 12.15)
Book of the Kings of Judah and Israel (2 Chron 16.11)
Annals of Jehu the Son of Hanani (2 Chrn 20.34)
Annotations on the Book of Kings (2Chrn 24.27)
Events of Uzziah's reign by Isaiah the Prophet (2 Chrn 26)
Annals of the Kings of Israel (2 Chron 33)
Records of the Seers (2 Chron 33.19)
Directions of David and Solomon (2 Chrn 35.4)
In spite of opposition (Mt 23.35, Jer 36 )
Matt. 23:34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men
and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog
in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come
all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of
righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered
between the temple and the altar.
The psychology of canonicity in ANE
"In addition, both the Bible itself (cf. Deut 31.9f f Josh
24.25,26 ; I Sam 10.25) and the literature of the ancient Near East show
that at the time of its earliest composition a psychology of canonicity
existed. This psychology must have fostered a concern for the care and
accuracy in the transmission of the sacred writings. For example, a treaty
of the Hittite international suzerainty treaties parallel to Yahweh's covenant
with Israel at Sinai contains this explicit threat: "Whoever changes but
one word of this tablet, may the weather god...and the thousand gods of
this tablet root that man's descendants out of the land of Hatti." Likewise
one of the Sefire Steles (c. 750 bc) reads, "Whoever...says, 'I will efface
some of its words,'...may the gods throw over that man and his house and
all in it." Again, at the conclusion of the famous Code of Hammurabi imprecations
are hurled against those who would try to alter the Law. " (Bruce Waltke,
"The Textual Criticism of the OT" in the Expositor's Bible Commentary,
vol I, page 212)
the detailed scribal practices of the ANE (Pyramid texts, Coffin texts,
Book of the Dead) indicate a strong tendency to preserve a text because
of its sacredness
One striking example of this is the preservation of the clay tablet
forms of the material in Gen 1-37! The layout of the literary structure
conforms to known patterns of ANE legal tablet documents. These documents
had a title, body of text, and ending colophon (pointing to owner and/or
author). These documents were used in legal and civic matters, such as
family histories, genelogy, and land disputes. These documents, made of
clay, were of necessity small and therefore brief and often terse.
These tablets in Genesis are marked off by the use of the Hebrew word
toledoth, which is often mis-tranlated as 'generations' rather than
as 'history'. (The normal Hebrew word for 'generations' was dor.)
This work marks the END of a tablet and not the BEGINing, as some translations
indicate. In this capacity, toledothmarks out eleven tablet-structures
in Early Genesis:
We do not know who edited these documents into one work, but since another
such tablet can be recovered from Numbers 1.1-3.1, it seems reasonable
to suppose that this activity was by and large done by Moses.
Gen 1.1-2.4 (the origins of the cosmos)
Gen 2.5-5.2 (the origins of mankind)
Gen 5.3-6.9a (the histories belonging to and/or written by Noah)
Gen 6.9b-10.1 (the histories belonging to and/or written by the sons belonging
to and/or written by Noah)
Gen 10.2-11.10a (the histories belonging to and/or written by Shem)
Gen 11.10b-11.27a (the histories belonging to and/or written by Terah)
Gen 11.27b-25.12 (the histories belonging to and/or written by Ishmael)
Gen 25.13-25.19a (the histories belonging to and/or written by Isaac)
Gen 25.19b-36.1 (the histories belonging to and/or written by Esau)
Gen 36.2-36.9 (the histories belonging to and/or written by Esau)
Gen 36.10-37.2 (the histories belonging to and/or written by Jacob)
The data of Genesis bears witness to the extreme antiquity of the work
(and the corresponding fidelity of transmission, extending even to literary
forms that "passed off the stage of history until the present". Some of
the evidences of this antiquity are:
The Tendency to Revise: during this period it was largely due to the need
to update grammatical forms (we are able to reconstruct old forms by comparative
Semitic grammar) and creation of teaching versions (from the synoptic portions
of the OT). There is also witness of 'standard' kinds of scribal error.
(but remember, with 'triangulation' we can get through these)
400bc to 70 ad
large number of Babylonian words that occur in the earlier part of the
topographical references and the glosses needed to bring those up to date
for the reader (14.2,3,7,8,15,17; 16:14;23.2;35.19);
primitive geographical expressions such as the 'south country' (Gen 20.1;
24.62) and the 'east country' (25.6), used in the days of Abraham, but
not being used again as these areas developed boundaries and well-known
70 ad to 1000 ad
documentation of all variants and readings
change from angular letters to square letters
some revision by liberal scribes, give rises to 3+ text types (LXX, Samaritan,
MS) and found in DSS; all floating around in the NT citations etc.
Text frozen by 70 ad--Masoretic (found at Masada)
conservation of the text is the main concern
even to very archaic forms (forms not found in later Heb. are now attested
in Ugaritic texts of 1400bc!)
put in all the supporting marks
The New Testament
Less controlled than the OT, but more mss offset this
Marks of correctors still used, and public reading helps
Jewish scripture ethics plus Hellenistic literature-ethics
Nomina Sacra - abbreviations in earliest mss., shows great control, organization,
The first use of codex vs. scroll
Some copies look like made by professionals (handwriting styles by century)
Alexandrian scriptoral praxis
The base 'message-text' seems to have been preserved at an almost obsessive
level. I have already given you the data on the NT mss, in which the number
of MSS exceeds 24,000. In that case the abundance of mss is 'strange'.
In the case of the OT, the situation is the reverse. The OT had a very,
very tightly controlled transmission, and every defective copy was burned/destroyed...in
that case, the few early OT MSS point to a special handling by the literate
class of their sacred book...
The OT was basically finished around 400 BC., but the earliest full
copies (of all the books together) we have are from around 900 AD....we
have fragments earlier, and can historically reconstruct the text back
to around 100 AD. (beginning of the Talmudist period)...in this regards,
the mss tradition is comparable to other classical literature...but the
means of transmission of that text is so bizarre as to suggest that its
reliability is very, very high...
For example, in the Talmudist period (100-500 ad) a great deal of time
was spent in cataloging Hebrew civil and canonical law...they had a very,
very intricate system for the transcription of synagogue scrolls...some
of the rules were:
synagogue scroll must be written on the skins of clean animals
the skins must be prepared by a Jew
these must be fastened together with strings taken from clean animals
every skin must contain a certain number of columns, equal throughout the
the length of each column must not extend over less than 48 or more than
60 lines and the breadth must consist of 30 letters
the whole copy must be first-lined, and if three words are written without
a line, it is worthless
the ink should be black, neither red, green, nor any other color, and be
prepared according to a definite recipe
an authentic copy must be the exemplar, from which the transcriber out
not to deviate in the least
no word or letter must be written from memory; the scribe must look at
the codex before him
between every consonant the space of a hair or thread must intervene
between every new section, the breadth of nine consonants
between every book, three lines
the first book of Moses must terminate exactly with a line
the copyist must sit in full Jewish dress
wash his whole body
should a king address him while writing the name of God, he must not notice.
any slip-ups were immediately burned or destroyed
As bizarre as these may seem, they certainly convey an attention (yay,
preoccupation) with detail, that would go a long way to preserving the
textual-form of the message (not meaning, just form)
By the time you get to the Massoretic Period (ad 500-900), the discipline
and safeguards are full-blown...they attempted over this period to bring
together the various mss, create a catalog of variant readings, add vocalization,
etc...they added a huge overhead of checksums to the process...
the verses of each book
the letters of each book
the number of occurrences of each letter of the alphabet, in each book
the middle word and middle letter of each book, of t he Pentateuch, and
of the bible
Up until 1947, how 'good' this transmission process would have been
was open to question...but in November of 1947, the discovery of the Qumran
scrolls (aka "Dead Sea Scrolls") gave us an interesting checkpoint...the
discovery was of 40,000 fragments from which some 500 books were reconstructed...we
recovered the great Isaiah scroll (24 feet in length) which was dated at
100 BC. by W.F. Albright, the leading American biblical archeologist, of
Johns Hopkins Univ.
The question was quickly raised: how did this mss, that was a full millennium
earlier than the best Massoretic text of Isaiah we had at the time, compare
with it? Let me quote from Geisler and Nix, General Introduction to
the Bible, 1968.
"Of the 166 words in Isaiah 53, there are only 17 letters in
question. Ten of these letters are simply a matter of spelling, which does
not affect the sense. Four more letters are minor stylistic changes, such
as conjunctions. The remaining three letters comprise the word 'light'
which is added in verse 11, and does not affect the meaning greatly. Furthermore,
this word is supported by LXX and IQ Is. Thus, in one chapter of 166 words,
there is only one word (3 letters) in question after a thousand years of
transmission--and this word does not significantly change the meaning of
and then Gleason Archer, Survey of the Old Testament, 1964:
"[the Isaiah copies] proved to be word for word identical with
our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The 5 percent
variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations
in spelling [by the Qumranists]"
So the transmission methods, although apparently a bit overkill(!), seemed
to preserve the text from the close of the OT period...
Last piece under this point...I find it interesting that the whole attitude
of fidelity to the original by the copyists extended even to transliteration
of foreign names into/out of Hebrew, and that this was recognized as early
as 30 years ago:
"In 144 cases of transliteration from Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian
and Moabite into Hebrew and 40 cases of the opposite, or 184 in all, the
evidence shows that for 2300 to 3900 years the text of the proper names
in the Hebrew bible has been transmitted with the most minute accuracy.
That the original scribes should have written them with such close conformity
to correct philological principles is a wonderful proof of their thorough
care and scholarship; further, that the Hebrew text should have been transmitted
by copyists through so many centuries is a phenomenon unequaled in the
history of literature" (Robert D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation
of the Old Testament, 1959)
There are other data points on the OT stuff (e.g. NT quotations, targums,
mishnah) but this is probably too much detail already. (The issue of how
the texts came together BEFORE the end of the OT is a subject WAY beyond
the scope of this ).
The point was: the base of the text seems to have been preserved adequately
as a vehicle for God's message.
E. Translation of this deposit into other languages
Neh 8.8 : They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and
giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read.
LXX (260bc) - 70 scholars in 70 days!
Although it certainly appears that God uses the Bible in the vast majority
of cases today (actually only parts of it--by the end of 1992, their were
portions of the bible translated into 1,978 different languages, only 322
of which had complete bibles), we have enough evidence to know that He
has used 'strange means' to reveal Himself to people throughout the world
and throughout history: visions, dreams, missionaries, 'misunderstood'
local myths, travel. etc.
One other point on the languages...there are 2,110 languages in the world
that have more than 100 speakers--according to the Classification and Index
of the World's Languages, by Voegelin and Voegelin, as cited in The
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, ed. David Crystal...so the vast
majority of the world has 'linguistic' access to the message, but 'logistic'
access is another matter-there are still portions of the world that still
'ban the bible' in official and/or unofficial ways.
The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christianthinktank.com]