Some Remarks on Progressive Revelation

 

 

The idea of Progressive Revelation is the idea that later revelation is added to earlier revelation. This implies that the content of that later revelation is not already completely found in the earlier revelation, for otherwise this later revelation would be entirely superfluous. So later revelation does always add something new to the already existing revelatory content.

 

To give an example, in the Torah it is never stated that a Messiah must come and preach repentance. Moreover, there is no Messiah (“Anointed One”) in the Torah except the Anointed Priest, i.e. the High Priest of Israel. So it seems that Yeshua’s ministry — although not in conflict with the Torah — is by no means authorized by the Torah.

 

In a later stage of history, when kings were installed in Israel, these kings were considered to be within the category of “Mashiach” or “Anointed”. Take for example when the prophet Samuel annointed David. Neither the epithet “anointed” nor the anointing ritual is found in the Torah with respect to kings. Samuel certainly anointed Saul and David by the commandment of HaShem (1 Sam. 10:1; 16:1, 13), but there is no such commandment found in the Torah. It was an innovation and a new revelation of HaShem that the kings of Israel should be anointed with oil. Stronger, the Torah seems to prohibit the anointing of any other person besides the High Priest:

 

Ex. 30:31-32

And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, This shall be an holy anointing oil unto me throuighout your generations. Upon man’s flesh shall it not be poured, neither shall ye make any other like it, after the composition of it: it is holy, and it shall be holy unto you.

 

In Rambam’s Sefer Ha-Mitzvoth it is explicitly said that Israel’s kings were anointed with this holy oil of anointment: Neg. comm. 84. It may of course be questioned whether the opinion of the Rambam is correct, but the whole thing clearly shows that neither the ancient Judaism of biblical times, nor the later Judaism of the talmudic and medieval Sages, had any difficulty with the concept of progressive revelation. The instruction to anoint kings is never stated in the Torah. Likewise, the Torah doesn’t contain precepts for the appointment of prophets.

 

But by whom then was Yeshua authorized to take the office of a prophet? Where is it written in the Torah that Yeshua is a prophet and may act as one? That the office is given by HaShem to the individual presupposes that it cannot be simply deduced from the Torah who is to be a prophet. Also it cannot be deduced from the Torah what the prophet is going to say. Only that the prophet may not contradict the Torah and other preceding prophetic revelations is of course to be assumed. There is no way to determine for instance that Isaiah is a prophet by means of the Torah. Much additional information is needed for that. So I don’t see how the authority of Messiah or a prophet can be directly derived from the Torah. In the Torah neither an outline is given of the ministry of a Messiah, nor is it made known who should be a or the Messiah. We can’t know by means of the Torah that a Messiah should come, nor that Yeshua was to be that Messiah.

 

There is of course a very basic plumbline for testing a prophet. It is his observance to the Torah (Dt. 13:1-5). If someone claims to see visions, or claims to have the gift of prophecy, but his daily life doesn’t conform to the Torah, then of course the claim cannot be true. This test however is only negative in character. Torah observance is of course a necessary precondition to be a prophet. But only a necessary condition indeed, not a sufficient condition. For all Israelites are to observe Torah. Yet it is clear that not all Israelites are prophets. Each true prophetic calling is based on a new revelatory act of HaShem. It cannot be known beforehand whether a so called prophet is truly called by HaShem. This can only become clear in the course of time. One of the criteria for a prophetic message is certainly that it cannot contradict the Torah. But, as we saw from the anointing ritual of kings, new things can be revealed that were not known before. This is even to be presupposed when a prophecy is written down and received as a holy book. What sense does it make to accept a new book as beloning to Scripture, except if some new revelational content is in it?

 

But, may be asked, don’t the Apostolic Scriptures and later Christianity at least claim to be able to prove that Yeshua is the Messiah from the later writings of the Tanach?

 

The way this question is to be answered is strongly connected with our viewpoints on the historical development or -progress of divine revelation. Later parts of that revelation cannot be reduced to the earlier ones. Without being in any sense superseded by later revelation, earlier revelation is enriched and completed by it.

 

What can be proved from the Tanach — within the context of certain assumptions — that Messiah should come in the first century, namely about the 69th Week of Years of Daniel’s prophecy (Dan. 9:25). But this prophecy, although it determines a time, doesn’t determine exactly which individual person was to be the Messiah. This was not revealed before the angel Gabriel appeared to Miryam to announce the birth of Messiah. And the contents of this prophecy is not found in the Torah, nor in the other prophets. It was a new revelation. From my viewpoint there is not a problem here, but from the viewpoint that everything is already contained in the Torah this is disastruous. This however is a very strong indication that the position that later revelations must already be contained in the Torah in actual form is a false position. The historic process revelation is a progressive unfolding of truth. Later revelations can never be deduced from earlier ones, yet they never overthrow or contradict the earlier ones.

Advertisements

0 Responses to “Some Remarks on Progressive Revelation”



  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s





%d bloggers like this: