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Revelation refers to an uncovering or disclosure via communication from the divine something that has been previously wholly or partially hidden or unknown. In monotheistic religions, revelation is the process, or act of making divine truth known. Revelation can be that which God makes known about himself, his will, and/or something else to mankind using any number of various methods and means.
The recipient of revelation is commonly referred to as a prophet, and sometimes is termed a messenger.
There are a number of ways that religious thinkers have traditionally approached this topic; many widely differing views have been proposed. Generally speaking, one can find all of the following viewpoints in varying segments of Judaism and Christianity.
When communications occur between the recently deceased and their progeny or their descended family then you have a visitation. Could this reveal the will of God? Possibly, insomuch as the will of God is foreordained. This mechanism acts through the dissolvement of the flesh of the departed, though I fear I stray upon the occult method. However a visitation of a divine form should put paid to the requirement that God should somehow act only through the flesh.
[I will edit this further later]
Some people hold that God can communicate with humans in a way that gives direct, propositional content: This is termed verbal revelation. Orthodox Judaism and traditional Christianity hold that the first five books of Moses were communicated by God in such a fashion. Most proponents of verbal inspiration in the Christian tradition do not subscribe to a dictation theory in which the writer simply records the words of God. Rather, they argue that inspiration is an organic process wherein God superintends the writing such that the document communicates what God wants to reveal using the writer's style and circumstances.
One school of thought holds that revelation is non-verbal and non-literal, yet it may have propositional content. People were divinely inspired by God with a message, but not in a verbal-like fashion.
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel has written that "To convey what the prophets experienced, the Bible could either use terms of descriptions or terms of indication. Any description of the act of revelation in empirical categories would have produced a caricature. That is why all the Bible does is to state that revelation happened; How it happened is something they could only convey in words that are evocative and suggestive." 
Through historical development of faith
Some believe that God is non-anthropomorphic, and thus believe the above listed forms of revelation are impossible. Hence they believe God's will is revealed through the interaction of man and God throughout history.
For instance, Rabbi Louis Jacobs proposes that by viewing how the Jewish people have understood God's will throughout history, we see how God has actually influenced the development of Jewish law; it is this process that we should recognize as revelation.
- One part of the Talmud declares rabbinic interpretation superior to biblical prophecy: "Rabbi Abdimi of Haifa said: Since the day when the Temple was destroyed, the prophetic gift was taken away from the prophets and given to the Sages. Is a Sage not also a prophet?" The question is rhetorical, the answer clearly is "yes". The Talmud goes on to say: "What Rabbi Abdimi meant to say was this: although it has been taken from the prophets, prophecy has not been taken from the Sages. Amemar said: A Sage is even superior to a prophet, as it says "And a prophet has the heart of wisdom" (Psalms 90:21) Who is usually compared with whom? Is not the smaller compared with the greater?" (Talmud Bavli, Bava Batra 12A)
Revelation as described in The Urantia Book is connected with earned knowledge through humankind's evolutionary growth. In the Urantia papers can be found an explanation of several types of revelation both as group revelation and as individual revelation. Other revelations are epochal and yet others are incidental.
- "The Gift of Revelation"
- "Revelation is evolutionary but always progressive. Down through the ages of a world's history, the revelations of religion are ever-expanding and successively more enlightening. It is the mission of revelation to sort and censor the successive religions of evolution. But if revelation is to exalt and upstep the religions of evolution, then must such divine visitations portray teachings which are not too far removed from the thought and reactions of the age in which they are presented. Thus must and does revelation always keep in touch with evolution. Always must the religion of revelation be limited by man's capacity of receptivity." (Urantia, 1007)
- "Revelation is a technique whereby ages upon ages of time are saved in the necessary work of sorting and sifting the errors of evolution from the truths of spirit acquirement." (Urantia, 1110)
Overall, revelation as described in The Urantia Book is something that is given to mankind by divine personality when mankind is unable to discover that truth on his own by mankinds usual and normal means of discovering truths and facts.
Latter Day Saint concept of Revelation
The Latter Day Saint concept of revelation includes the belief that revelation from God is available to all those who seek it—provided they submit to the will of God—as opposed to being imparted to certain special individuals (independent of their own actions or desires).
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and some other Latter Day Saint demonimations claim to be led by revelation from God to a living prophet, who receives God’s word just as Abraham, Moses, Peter, and other ancient prophets and apostles did. It also believes everyone is entitled to personal revelation with respect to his or her stewardship. Thus, prophets may receive revelation for the masses, parents can receive inspiration from God in raising their families, individuals can receive divine inspiration to help them meet personal challenges, church officers may receive revelation for those to whom they serve, etc. The important consequence of this is that each man may receive confirmation that particular doctrines taught by a prophet are true, as well as gain divine insight in using those truths for their own benefit. In the Church, personal revelation is expected and encouraged, and many converts believe that personal revelation from God was instrumental in their conversion.
Joseph F. Smith, the sixth prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, summarized this church's belief concerning revelation by saying, "We believe... in the principle of direct revelation from God to man." (Smith, 362) He also more specifically detailed the importance of the principle of modern-day revelation to the church he then led:
- "The gospel cannot be administered, nor the Church of God continue to exist, without it. Christ is the head of his Church and not man, and the connection can only be maintained upon the principle of direct and continued revelation. It… is a living, vital principle to be enjoyed on certain conditions only, namely – through absolute faith in God and obedience to his laws and commandments. The moment this principle is cut off, that moment the Church is adrift, being severed from its ever-living head. In this condition it cannot continue, but must cease to be the Church of God and, like the ship at sea without captain, compass or rudder, is afloat at the mercy of the storms and the waves of ever contending human passions, and worldly interests, pride and folly..." (Smith, 362)
James E. Talmage, a noted LDS scholar, attempted to connect this belief with the nature of God and also emphasized the importance of the principle of continuing revelation to his faith:
- "It is at once unreasonable, and directly contrary to our conception of the unchangeable justice of God, to believe that He will bless the Church in one dispensation with present living revelation of His will and in another leave [His] Church... to live as best it may according to the laws of a bygone age."
Latter Day Saints believe that God answers prayers. Communicating with God is seen by many Latter Day Saints as an important part of deveoping faith and coming to know God, resulting in Eternal life.
The Latter Day Saint view of revelation is seen as controversial and even heretical by some Christians.
In the 20th century, religious existentialists proposed that revelation held no content in of itself; rather, they hold that God inspired people with His presence by coming into contact with them. In this view the Bible is a human response that records how we responded to God.
Revelation or information from a supernatural source is of much lesser importance in some other religious traditions. It is not of great importance in the Asian religions Taoism, and Confucianism but similarities have been noted between the Abrahamic view of revelation and the Buddhist principle of Enlightenment.
Notes and references
- ^ Heschel, Abraham Joshua (1987). God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, ason Aronson Inc.. 0876689551.
- ^ Paper 92 - The Later Evolution of Religion. Urantia Foundation. URL accessed on February 1, 2006.
- ^ Continuing Revelation. Mormon.org. URL accessed on August 5, 2005.
- ^ Smith, Joseph F.. "41: Continuing Revelation for the Benefit of the Church" Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 362, Salt Lake City, UT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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