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A revelation is the opening of something hitherto hidden. The term is used in a sensual, religious and legal sense.


From the Old High German adjective offan (“open”) the derivation offanbar (“clear, clearly visible, unambiguous”) was formed early on , plus the verb reveal with the meaning “openly show, reveal, announce” and the Middle High German noun reveal (“ Announcement, Confession ”).


In today's German, the meanings fan out, also in the sense of “confide in someone”.

  1. The main use of the word "revelation" is in the religious field. Here it denotes the disclosure of divine truths or a divine will. In principle, this is possible in verbal or non-verbal form, in front of individuals or many. While the entire people of Israel witnessed a mass revelation of God on Mount Sinai, Pauline theology , for example, is the result of an alleged individual revelation , as are those of Buddhas , Joseph Smith (prophet of Mormonism ), Muhammad (prophet of Islam ) and all other founders of religions .
  2. The term is also used in the sense of a more or less profound sensual experience of the divine in music , art or culinary dishes.
  3. The last book of the New Testament , the Revelation of John , is also called "Revelation" for short.
  4. In the legal system, a debtor who can no longer meet his payment obligations has to confirm with the " oath of disclosure" (from June 28, 1970 insurance in place of oath , since January 1, 2013 financial information of the debtor ) instead of oath that the presentation of his financial circumstances was correct and complete.


The term has gone through a complex development - especially in Christianity - the individual stages of which are still reflected in its use today. It developed from a purely profane use of the word (in the Tanach ) to the thought that God reveals something to people - himself or in the New Testament through the Incarnation of God the exalted Christ .

From then on, the term changed over the course of several hundred years to the theological term technicus , around which a sharp controversy was waged, especially in the Enlightenment . Here it was pointed out, among other things, that it is based on a subjective judgment whether something is assessed as divine revelation.

Since the 20th century, the word has become a key theological term in the sense of “God's self-communication”, which has a “system-building function” (von Stosch) and which is also used for religious-phenomenological comparisons.

Use of Terms in the Bible

Martin Luther used the German verb “reveal” to reproduce the Greek word apocalypsis (ἀποκάλυψις, “revelation, revelation”), from which the foreign words apocalypse and apocalyptic are derived. The word components of the corresponding verb apokalyptein ("reveal, bare, reveal, announce"), apo ("away") and kalyptein ("cover") mean something like "remove a cover". This verb in turn translates in the Septuagint the Hebrew root glh (גלה) from the Tanach (the Old Testament ).


Giorgio Vasari : Jacob's Dream, 1557–1558

The Tanakh is full of descriptions of the perception of God's work . Amazingly, the Hebrew verb galah (revelation) , which is common in itself, appears very rarely in this context; in the majority of its occurrences this word has no theological meaning at all. The spectrum of its use ranges from “to uncover, to bare” (namely from something forbidden, e.g. the shame 3 Mos 18-20  EU ) to “to go away” to “to lead into exile ” (meaning the Babylonian exile ). The processes associated with the glh root were therefore initially of a profane nature for people and also rather unpleasant. God is usually not the subject of this verb. The small number of passages in which God "exposes" something in relation to a person is an exception. On the one hand, they relate to the ear that is opened to God's speech - e.g. E.g. the ear of Samuel ( 1 Sam 9.15  EU ) or Isaiah ( Isa 22.14  EU , i.e. the only pre-exilic reference in a book of prophets). How the divine word is received , however , is not specified in detail ( 1 Sam 3:21  EU ). In even later layers of tradition, God is asked to uncover the eyes in order to be able to discover the miracles of the Torah (e.g. Ps 119.18  EU ); In the prophet Daniel this happens through nocturnal visions ( Dan 2,19  EU ). Third, it can be said - always from the distance of retrospect - that God revealed himself (e.g. 1 Mos 35.7  EU with reference back to the theophany 28.10ff. EU ). However, גלה is never mentioned in connection with the event itself. It is a metaphorical transference: "Just as a person shows himself to another, so God can show himself (reveal) to someone", which can be experienced. This can certainly happen through general human events on the path of life ( Hi 33.15  EU ). With the Essenes in Qumran , the verb galah was given a clear theological and at the same time "apocalyptic" meaning for the first time: Here it is the "revelation of the end times contained in the Torah and the prophets ", which must be made known through the study of the Scriptures and their interpretation.
The many situations in the Tanakh in which God makes himself perceptible in history are described using other verbs, e.g. B. "appear" ( Gen 17,1  EU ), "see" and "hear" ( Isa 6,1.8  EU ), "look" ( Dan 7,9  EU ), "answer" ( Ps 27,8  EU ) and other. The word of God, which is directed by his prophets , has a special meaning. To summarize all of this under the generic term “revelation of God”, however, was by no means obvious within the framework of Old Testament thought habits, but only takes place at a much later stage in the history of the concept.

New Testament

Even the New Testament writings do not yet have a theological concept of “revelation”, not even a uniform terminology. In addition to apocalyptein , there are synonyms such as Greek φανεροῦν ( phaneroun ) or φαίνεσθαι ( phainesthai ), which Luther also expressed as “reveal”. In the oldest scriptures, the letters of the earlier Pharisee Paul , the term refers to Jesus Christ on three different levels:

Hans Speckart: The Conversion of Saul on the Way to Damascus (between 1570 and 1577)

1. Paul describes in retrospect his earlier experience of the self-revelation of the risen Jesus Christ in a personal, overwhelming revelation experience Gal 1.12-16  EU . For him, this was related to the appearance of the risen Jesus before the disciples ( 1 Cor 15.3-8  EU , always with the formulation: He was "seen", Greek ὤφθη) and made him a persecutor of the crowd Jesus as apostle . Acts 9 : 1-19  EU tells in the words of the early church that in the course of the persecution of believers in Christ on the way to Damascus, an apparition of Christ happened in bright light and with a word message. In 2 Cor 4, 6  EU he reflects on the fundamental knowledge that the glory of God rests on the face of Jesus Christ, whom he had previously rejected. For him, this experience of calling could not be deduced and was independent of human action, unquestionable and an experience that changed his entire existence sustainably and profoundly: Paul could not withdraw himself from Christ, who had revealed himself to him, but now preached him with the commitment of his whole life .

Pietro de Cortana: Ananias heals the eyes of St. Paul, 1631

2. Paul's experience of revelation, however, did not bring him anything decisive new in terms of content, but rather confronted him with the preaching of Christ from early Christianity . If he had fought against it before, it now proved to be part of God's work of salvation on the basis of his experience. His experience of revelation does not lead him out of the community; on the contrary, the revelation of God proclaimed by others and now also by him in the Gospel creates fellowship in Jesus Christ. "In the Gospel, God is called the rescue to own powerful and willing to present people who are getting into believing the message of Christ" (Balz), and revealed to them the divine grace ( Rom 1,16f.  EU , 3,20ff EU ). The belief all the more so as the "word of the cross" on "offense" and "offense" (Greek. - therefore appear in Paul as a counterpart to the revelation skandalon may be) ( 1 Cor 1.18 to 25  EU and elsewhere) . God's power in such concealment contradicts the wisdom of man and can therefore only be revealed to him through God himself through the spirit of God ( 1 Cor 2 : 6-10  EU ).

The second coming of Christ. Stained glass window in St. Matthew's German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Charleston , USA

3. Apocalypsis for Paul is then the “revelation of Jesus Christ” in the future , when, in contrast to his earlier concealment in the Parousia , he will be revealed in messianic glory ( 1 Cor 1:EU ; cf. with it the “ Son of Man ” - Words like Lk 17.30  EU ). This revelation is understood as an act of God before the world, as a public event. It also includes the revelation of the believers, who, as they now share in the secrecy, will then share in this glory ( Rom 8,18f.  EU , 2 Cor 4,7-18  EU ), but also the revelation of anger ( cf. Rom 1.18  EU ) or the judgment of God ( Rom 2.5  EU , 1 Cor 3.13  EU ). The old Logion Mk 4.22  EU is to be understood in a similar way .

Paul also knows mystical revelations of an ecstatic, visionary kind ( 2 Cor 12 : 1, 7  EU ), which, however, do not claim the same value for him. Other divine revelations besides the Christ event - also specifically the Torah (cf. Gal 3 : 15-29 EU ) - mean  for him a preparation.
The term is further developed in the later New Testament writings. The following aspects also apply:

4. The so-called “revelation scheme ”, especially presented in the Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, understands the mission to the Gentiles initiated by Paul as a primal divine counsel, which has now become revealed through Christ in the dispensation that began through him ( Eph 2: 19-22  EU , 3,4-12 EU ; Col 1,26f.  EU ). In the pastoral letters , this dispensation begins with the revelation of Christ “in the flesh” ( 1 Tim 3:16  EU ; meaning the life of Jesus ); this is the only time that the entire Christ event is referred to as a "revelation".

5. This last aspect becomes a revelation concept in the Gospel of John : Jesus, the revelator of God, who was sent by the Father, publicly reveals the glory of God in his words and deeds, but is not recognized by men in them.

Michelangelo Buonarotti (1475–1567): The Last Judgment

6. The language of revelation solidifies in the late writings. The designation of the expected return of Christ as ἀποκάλυψις ( apocalypsis ), “unveiling” of Jesus Christ or his glory ( 1 Petr 1,7.13  EU , 1,7 EU ) is of great importance. This is carried out in the last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John , which depicts the expected judgment and salvation action of God with numerous pictures and the heading "ἀποκάλυψις ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ" (Eng. "Revelation of Jesus Christ" Rev 1,1  EU ) coined the German alternative term "Apocalypse". The meanings of the words Apocalypse and Revelation do not coincide in German, since the word “Revelation” does not from the outset combine those gloomy echoes of an end of the world and of a criminal court that are connoted in German with “Apocalypse”. The Greek word can mean both, whereby Rev 1,1  EU in the Pauline visionary sense means the God given “revelation” of what John saw in his visions and then wrote down. The poetic and symbolic character of this text also shows that revelation is much more than a sober announcement of a hitherto unknown information , because the concept of language, which in antiquity was always associated with sound , is per se linked to artistic expression. The sense of such ancient texts is therefore only revealed with sonorous intonation and appropriate prosodic performance .

Overall, "it appears (...) that the term ἀποκάλυψις does not yet have the specific meaning, or at least not everywhere, that later church dogmatics connects with the word" revelation "" (Oepke). Only in the further course of the history of theology does the term become the terminus technicus for the self-communication of God in general, which can denote many varieties such as visions , auditions , theophania , but also the message and doctrine of it, and is then - very late - in a broader sense for the early Christian proclamation in the biblical scriptures, with which "Revelation" was identified.

Revelation as a phenomenon

The term “revelation” is the uncovering of facts that are otherwise unknown or not (sufficiently) clarified. If it is a religious revelation, it is judged differently depending on the belief (see theism , atheism or agnosticism ).

In the case of revelation experiences, one can speak of the “diversity of religious experience” (W. James). For those who report about them, revelations are decisive experiences that can seize people and change their lives permanently. In many cases, revelation experiences are described as overwhelming, and their obligatory character is often emphasized. If one wants to differentiate between the sense organs with which a revelation is perceived, at least two types of revelations can be distinguished. Some revelations are - in whatever way - "seen" ( vision ), some are - in whatever way - "heard" ( audition ). In detail, revelations take place directly through the deity himself, through messengers, in dreams or through oracles .

From a biblical point of view (see also monotheism ) God is the sole author of revelations. The transmission takes place either directly through visions ( Isa 6,1-13  EU ) or auditions ( 1 Sam 3,4-14  EU ), partly also through angels ( Lk 1,26-38  EU ) or human mediators ( prophets ) as ambassadors ( 2 Sam 12.1-15  EU ). In Jesus Christ , revelation and revelation coincide ( Joh 1,14  EU ; Joh 10,30  EU ; Joh 14,8  EU ; Heb 1,1-4  EU ).

Atheism considers such revelations to be illusions or fraud.

Nicolas-Bernard Lepicie: Conversion of St. Paul, 1767

Agnosticism considers the question to be undecidable following the ancient skepticism and abstains in the matter of every judgment ( epoché ).

Those who experience revelations understand them as a communication, a self-showing of God. The so-called Blaise Pascal Memorial can be seen as a non-biblical document of such an experience . People who have had revelations sometimes report strong feelings, both anxiety and happiness. Every revelation makes a claim to knowledge and truth . Hence, it can change human behavior and also affect conscience .

The content of revelation can concern a wide variety of things, such as events in a person's life or the clarification of situations or the prediction of future events. Revelations can also provide answers to questions about the meaning of life or guidance on legal and moral questions and much more. A great many things can become the content of revelation. A religion that refers to revelation experiences in its doctrine ( dogma ) is called a revelation religion .

Founder religions generally regard the revelation content as complete and define a canon of holy scriptures . Changes to the practice of faith are made possible through the formation of traditions , which have a different influence depending on the religion. In such religions, further revelation is usually only possible in the form of personal, private communication and in the vast majority of cases is not considered to be generalizable.


Revelation, appearance, enlightenment, inspiration, miracle

The term disclosure may be used by others, e.g. T. related terms are delimited. This also includes the term appearance (epiphany), which is often used synonymously. In the New Testament of the Bible, the angel of the Lord appeared to the apostle Paul during a distress at sea and informed him that they would save their lives but lose the ship. The deity can also “appear” in the world of Greco-Roman antiquity, for example when Zeus the Europa appears as a bull without revealing his true form. Another related term is enlightenment . The difference between revelation and enlightenment is important with regard to religions that do not believe in a personal God. Insight through enlightenment plays a major role in Buddhism . Buddha received his teaching on the path of enlightenment, but not as revelation through a God thought of as a person. Especially in the satori of Zen Buddhism , the lightning flash of knowledge is of great importance (see also Kenshō ). The experiences of the mystics also differ from revelations in the narrower sense in that the Unio mystica is usually presented as a holistic experience in which there is no counterpart, while all revelation is thought of as an announcement between a giver and a recipient. The term inspiration is ambiguous; in religious parlance it means an inspiration from God. For Christians, the Bible is the word of God (which can refer to 2 Tim 3:16, 17  EU ). How this inspiration occurs is a matter of divergence (see below: “Oral revelation”). Miracles are understood as signs of God or as signs of his closeness, but without interpretation are not to be understood as the announcement of a divine originator.

Natural and supernatural revelation

The distinction between natural and supernatural revelation plays an important role in European intellectual history. Natural revelation means that with the means of the understanding every human being, including those who do not believe, is able to know God from the world he created. A direct self-communication of God is not necessary. The Natural Theology makes such knowledge efforts as its subject, attempting especially since the Scholastics also to proofs of God to arrive. In contrast to this, supernatural revelation means a form of revelation that is not intellectually accessible to everyone. According to the scholastic view, this concerns the mysteries of faith and can generally also be related to extraordinary self-testimonies of God that happened to selected people. Large sections of Protestantism in particular represented a reliance on supernatural revelation in order to infer religious truths and thus expanded or opposed natural theology.

Claim and criteria of the truth of revelations

The belief at biblical disclosures includes a two assumptions: firstly to a disclosure have been effected by God; on the other hand, if the revelation is understood as a statement, it should be true. The truth claim of those who appear as witnesses of revelations is already questionable within the belief in revelation itself. The problem is based on the experience character of revelations and is z. B. in the Pentateuch ( 5 Mos 18.21  EU ) in the question: "How can I notice which word the Lord has not spoken?" - This question has not yet found a generally convincing answer. Biblical texts value correct foreknowledge of the future as a criterion for the authenticity of revelation: “... if the prophet speaks in the name of the Lord and nothing comes of it and it does not occur, then it is a word that the Lord did not speak. The prophet spoke it out of presumption, so do not be afraid of him. ”( 5 Mos 18,22  EU ) A delimitation of happily guessed future events is not possible with this criterion. In places like this it is clear that spurious revelation is explained by the moral inadequacy of the prophet. The problem of false prophets is lamented in both the Old and New Testaments. Of course, other credible witnesses can be wrong.

Scholastic apologetics, which emerged especially from the 14th century, has often seen these problems. But since she refused insight into the mysterious truths of Revelation by means of natural reason, she brought out external criteria. There was no general consensus on how to determine and apply these criteria. With the Enlightenment in the 17th century, the development of historical awareness and a historical methodology that was also used for sources of revelation, and finally with changes in the concept of revelation in the 20th century, such a line of argument was increasingly abandoned, at least in Christian theology. For example, B. Johann Christoph Gottsched 1762 points out that the Christian theology based on the Bible is "not a synthetically proven science" with regard to this revelation basis, but merely a doctrine of faith that leaves the level of strict scientific argumentation due to a lack of consistent thought. This basic problem, which was revealed more than 250 years ago, has not yet been resolved at the beginning of the 21st century.

Thomas Paine drew attention to the following problem in 1794: “Suppose something was revealed to a certain person, but not to another person; then it is a revelation only to that person. As soon as it is passed on and passed on to a second, third and fourth person, it is no longer a revelation. It is revelation only for the first person, but hearsay for everyone else, and therefore they are not obliged to believe it. "

The interreligious comparison brings up another problem: Revelation religions contradict each other at least in some doctrines that are claimed to be revealed. Therefore, in the opinion of many religious philosophers, these teachings cannot always be based on true revelation.

Critical to religion and medical aspects

Revelation in the religious sense is often understood as the passively obtained gain of religious convictions through direct spiritual experience , such as B. Near-death experiences . Since this experience cannot be verified by other people, it cannot be verified by means of an experimental- scientific method. Scientifically, therefore, nothing can be said about the truthfulness of reports of revelation. Critics therefore classify revelations as error, appearance, illusion, if not as a delusional manifestation .

In principle, a perception of revelation could also have psychological causes. According to Karl Leonhard , fear-happiness psychoses show traits of the dreamlike, revelations can be experienced. Similar images are also possible in detention psychoses and in hysterical states of emergency, but here with clear psychogenic hallucinations . Epileptics sometimes experience ecstatic raptures: The sick see the sky openly, socialize with those who are absent, listen to spherical music, etc. Schizophrenics can also have perceptions similar to revelation . In connection with psychology and religious feeling, one also speaks of neurotheology .

The psychological literature hardly differentiates between pathological phenomena and spiritual experiences. Revelations are often viewed critically as a loss of control and reality . In psychiatry and in psychiatric tests, perceptions of revelation and magical thinking are queried as criteria for psychosis.

Some theologians therefore understand the truthfulness of revelations in such a way that, in contrast to scientific knowledge, a revelation as a religious developmental event always determines and impresses the whole person. Understood in this way, revelations have to be measured by their opening character, i.e. by the extent to which they structure the whole of human life in a meaningful way. This understanding is based on the everyday meaning of “revelation”.

Revelation and tolerance

Critics of religion see the Holy Scriptures largely as instructions for use for intolerance. Not only religion critics emphasize that the claim to absolute truth and infallibility can favor fanaticism and fundamentalism . The heated debates over creationism in the United States (rejection of the theory of evolution ) show that the belief in letters still exists.

The history of the revealed religions is largely a history of intolerance in that they lend themselves to political abuse once they gain dominance in a society. However, there have been exceptions since the early Middle Ages. Some works of the genre of religious dialogues should be mentioned here. For example, Lessing's ring parabola has a precursor in the 8th century. However, examples of religious intolerance are legion. The Syllabus errorum still condemned all religious freedom. Even in the controversy over modernism , the sole validity of their own faith was retained by the Roman magisterium. In Protestantism, Karl Barth in particular spoke out against tolerance: “No more dangerous, no more revolutionary sentence than this: that God is one, that no one is equal to him! ... If this sentence is pronounced in such a way that it can be heard and understood, then 450 Baal's paws always get upset with each other. Precisely what the modern age calls tolerance can no longer have any space. Next to God there are only his creatures or false gods and so next to the belief in him there are religions only as religions of superstition, erroneous belief and ultimately of unbelief. ”However, this criticism of religion was also directed at Christianity. On this basis, Barth “dares” the sentence: “The Christian religion is the true religion” “while listening to God's revelation”. In his teaching on lights he recognized that there are real revelations [KD IV / 3, 107] and words of great wisdom in other religions and the world. Jesus Christ always shines in them.

Even Emil Brunner represented a claim to exclusivity of his faith. It was only after historical experiences with religious wars, world wars and totalitarianism that tolerance became more important for representatives of both denominations. However, the 2nd Vatican Council did not recognize religious freedom until 1965 . The times have changed; that representatives of both denominations can commit themselves to a “ global ethic ” ( Hans Küng ) has become a matter of course. In the Protestant Church, too, Barth's theology was by no means without criticism. Already Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes his own position towards Barth and criticizes him fiercely: “Barth was the first theologian - and that remains his great merit - to begin criticizing religion, but he then replaced it with a positivist doctrine of revelation, where it then says: 'eat, bird, or die'; Whether it is a virgin birth, the Trinity or whatever, each is an equally important and necessary piece of the whole, which must be swallowed as a whole or not at all. That is not biblical. "

At the same time, however, there are increasing countercurrents in the revealed religions. The same documents of faith allow many interpretations - often interpretations that are represented and advocated with a claim to exclusivity.

The writings of Judaism, Islam and Christianity contain many passages which can also be understood in terms of tolerance in questions of confession. There are passages in the Koran that can be understood tolerantly. The 256th verse of the second sura (“The Cow”) demands: “There is no compulsion to believe.” And no less clearly admonishes the tenth sura in its 99th verse to all Muslims: “And if your Lord had willed, so would all on earth as a whole become believers. Do you want to force people to become believers? ”The Sharia , which emerged long after the Prophet's death, and the Islamic worldview associated with it, however, prevented these clear statements of the Koran from having effective political and legal consequences in terms of European human rights could develop. The sources of Buddhism also prove the tolerance requirement. For Buddha , the parable of the blind and the elephant can be seen as typical. Buddhist teachings often aim at the insight that teachings of faith have at most the character of expedients. Revelation religions, on the other hand, have often demanded unquestionable authority that demands absolute obedience - two essential sources of all intolerance. The idea that every person of a different faith also grasps a corner of the one truth is then excluded. Such ideas can also be found in biblical passages such as:

  • Acts 14,14-18  EU , Acts 17,16ff  EU (Paul's speech on Areopagus), Rom 1,19-32  EU (“... God has revealed it to them (all people) so that God's invisible being is his Eternal power and deity can be seen, if one perceives it, in the works, namely in the creation of the world ... ")
  • or Rom 2 : 12-16  EU ("... For if the Gentiles who do not have the law, but by nature do the work of the law, are the same, because they do not have the law, a law for themselves, as they prove The work of the law is written in their hearts, when their conscience testifies to them, and also the thoughts that accuse or excuse one another ... ”).

By today's standards, these posts did not have the impact they deserved.

Revelation ideas in the religions

According to theological understanding, the origin of revelation is a “supernatural” or transcendent reason. The recipient of a revelation is often referred to as a prophet or messenger of God.

Original revelation

According to Christian doctrine, the original revelation was given to the first people before and after the first sin. According to Christian doctrine, the content of these first communications from God were the basic truths of natural religion and morality, such as the existence and the act of creation of a divine personal being, the immortality of the human soul, the retribution of good and evil; on the other hand, truths of a purely supernatural kind, such as man's calling to direct communion with God. In terms of religious history, this original revelation is to be confirmed by the fact that even today the primitive tribes and the older civilized peoples are and were permeated by a relatively high concept of God that cannot be adequately explained from man's causal thinking alone, but a direct one Address must come from God.


Numerous revelations to prophets are reported in the Hebrew Bible , starting with Noah and Abraham , continuing through Moses , Elijah , Jeremiah and Isaiah to Daniel . For all of them the claim is made to have received divine messages. Female prophets are also documented as conveyors of God's news.

Revelations have also come down to us from later centuries (e.g. the book of Zerubbabel ).


The subject of Revelation has been an extensive treatise on dogmatic theology and fundamental theology since the 16th century. Depending on the theological framework theory, differently weighted texts of the tradition were and will be used and a differently accentuated systematic position developed. The central position of the concept of revelation is largely undisputed, especially since the Second Vatican Council.

Classical Catholic theology knows three basic sources of revelation: Scripture, tradition and nature. However, scholastic theology in particular has drawn a distinction between what is “from nature” and what is genuinely only accessible “from revelation” or grace. In the first area there were above all topics of the philosophical knowledge of God or more precisely of the so-called natural theology . Some theologians find the talk of the revelation of creation more appropriate: while “nature” is often used as an antithesis to “grace”, “creation” includes elements of grace.

The relationship between these two revelations was brought to the following formula in the late scholastic philosophy of the Counter-Reformation : "Grace completes nature, but it does not abolish it" (Latin: Gratia perficit naturam, non tollit). This avoided the two possible extreme positions: on the one hand the very strong concept of grace of the reformers ("through grace alone", "through writing alone", "through faith alone" - Latin: sola gratia, sola scriptura, sola fide), but on the other hand also the slipping away from scripture into the veneration of the natural in panentheism (the natural is deified). The analysis of the sources of knowledge in the teaching of the loci theologici becomes more complex .

This already shows how the meaning of the concept of revelation changes with the change in theology as a whole. These changes are often divided into three phases: an epiphanic concept of revelation (reports of the appearances of God) appears in early forms, an instruction-theoretical concept of revelation since late scholasticism, nominalistic school theology or Enlightenment (God reveals sentences), a communication-theoretical concept of revelation at the latest with the instruction "Dei Verbum “Of the 2nd Vatican Council (revelation is always self-revelation, the turning of a personal God to a personal counterpart). Revelation as “God's self-communication” is then mostly developed in the sense of a communicative community (communio, participatio) with God.

In practical terms, the doctrine of the two ways of revelation (Bible and nature or reason) may protect against ideologization. Because: On the one hand, God shows himself to man in two different ways, and on the other hand it is assumed that he does not show himself to man in these two ways, man faces the challenge of his own world and creation experience with those cognitions that he takes from the Bible. Or to put it another way: On the one hand, the Christian is challenged to interpret the Bible anew against the background of his world experience and, conversely, to interpret his world experience anew with the help of biblical representations. Out of this permanently lived tension, he creates - in the context of the church and with the help of tradition and the teaching office (as the theology of both major Christian denominations conceives) - his self-responsible life before God.


Revelation in Islam is defined as a communication from God to the prophet through the Archangel Gabriel . However, it does not shut itself off from the more broadly defined concept of revelation, which is similar to Christianity and which describes the knowledge of God through observing his creation. According to Muslim belief, the Koran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in the form of a literal revelation over a period of 23 years . His contemporaries report that they initially came to the Prophet at long intervals and in fragments, but then more quickly and extensively, and in the last years of his life they swelled into an uninterrupted stream.

In this context, some Islamic scholars make a distinction between “individual” and “constitutional” revelation. The latter is carried on a prophet with the aim of conveying the message it contains to a large circle of people, while the former has less scope in terms of content and rather acts as a proof of God's love for his servant in order to provide insight into hidden spiritual realities. Whether and to what extent the “Gate of Revelation” is still open today is a hotly debated issue in the Islamic world. Opinions range from a consistent rejection on the part of Orthodoxy to a lively discussion and the ability to experience this, which is considered innate in human nature ( Sufis , but also Ahmadiyya ).

Asian religions

In the Asian religions, the concept of revelation or divine inspiration plays a much smaller role than in the three book religions. But the “revelation of the divine” is also important in Hinduism . Well-known example is the revelation of Krishna in the tenth and eleventh chants of the Bhagavad Gita and the revelation of the goddess in the Devi Bhagavatam (7th book, chapter 34), one of the most important books of Shaktism . In Hinduism, revelations are explained with the special spiritual powers of the enlightened Masters and Avatars (Krishna). They can supposedly appear to other people in dreams in a supernatural way via a higher dimension of consciousness or convey information in waking visions.

Indirect revelation through knowing the world

Creation as a revelation

Many religions, including Buddhism (in part), Christianity , Hinduism and the various forms of Lamaism , interpret the world based on a creation myth. It is assumed that a god (or several gods) either created the world directly or at least shaped an already existing, disordered mass in such a way that a cosmos , a world ordered according to laws, has emerged from it. Against this background, the world is understood as the product of divine will. In it, therefore, the characteristics of its creator are revealed.


In monotheism , the term revelation is used for an act of God that reveals something about himself to man, is supposed to lead to a gain in knowledge, expresses his will or reveals himself (in the sense of: overcomes his hiddenness).

Different concepts of revelation appear in the historical development of religions. Revelations (in the plural) are therefore interpreted in a variety of ways. Christian theology has represented in various forms that miracles and works serve as evidence of God's work on earth.

Oral revelation

Many religions teach in different ways that God can communicate directly with people in order to input the text of a revelation directly to them, quasi to dictate, the so-called verbal inspiration . After real inspiration , the person writes the Bible text, which is subsequently "approved" by God. According to the personal inspiration , the Bible has two causes: God and man. The new revelation is cited as an example of verbal inspiration .

See also


Lexicon article

History of theology

Systematic theology / fundamental theology

  • Michael Bongardt : Introduction to the Theology of Revelation. Darmstadt 2005.
  • Emil Brunner : Revelation and Reason , The Doctrine of the Christian Knowledge of Faith . 1941 (2007²).
  • Romano Guardini : The Revelation. Their essence and their forms. Werkbund, Würzburg 1940.
  • Eilert Herms : Revelation and Faith. For the formation of the Christian life. Mohr, Tübingen 1992.
  • Gregor Maria Hoff : Revelations from God? A history of theological problems. Pustet, Regensburg 2007.
  • Walter Kern , Hermann Josef Pottmeyer , Max Seckler (Ed.): Handbook of Fundamental Theology. Volume 2: Treatise on Revelation. Tübingen, Basel 2000.
  • Klaus von Stosch : Revelation. Basic knowledge of theology. UTB, Stuttgart 2010.
  • Sebastian Tromp : De revelatione christiana. Univ. Gregoriana, Rome 1937.
  • Hansjürgen Verweyen : Ontological prerequisites for the act of faith. On the transcendental question of the possibility of revelation. Patmos, Düsseldorf 1969 ( online ).
  • Hans Waldenfels : Revelation. The Second Vatican Council on the background of modern theology. Hueber, Munich 1969.

Philosophy of religion

  • Avery Dulles : Models of Revelation. Dublin 1983.
  • Franz von Kutschera : Reason and Faith. 2.1. Epiphany. Berlin 1991, p. 86ff.
  • Franz von Kutschera: The big questions. Philosophical-theological thoughts. Berlin 2000
  • Klaus Müller : Dogma and Form of Thought. Controversial issues in the foundation of the concept of revelation and the idea of ​​God. Pustet, Regensburg 2005.
  • Paul Ricœur : La révélation. Fac. Univ. Saint-Louis, Brussels 1984.
  • Richard Swinburne : Revelation. From Metaphor to Analogy. Oxford 1992.

Literary studies

  • Andreas Mauz : Revelation narratives, sanctifying texts. On the poetological reconstruction of a mode of esoteric-religious language , in: Uwe Gerber; Rüdiger Hoberg (ed.), Language and Religion. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2009, pp. 259–279.
  • Andreas Mauz: Words of Power. Studies on the poetics of the 'holy text' , Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2016 (Hermeneutic Studies on Theology, Vol. 70).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. “If you ask: What was it like when the people stood at Sinai and heard the voice of God? - then the answer must be: Like no other event in human history. There are countless legends , myths , reports - but nowhere else is there any news that an entire people witnessed an event like that of Sinai. ”From: Abraham Joshua Heschel : God seeks man. A Philosophy of Judaism ; in: Zehuda Aschkenasy, Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich and Heinz Kremers (eds.): Information Judentum , Volume 2; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 1992; P. 146.
  2. According to Paul Tillich's theology , nothing is excluded from revelation in principle (Paul Tillich: Systematik Theologie , 1st vol., Stuttgart 1956, pp. 142 f.).
  3. On the history of the concept, cf. Klaus von Stosch: Revelation, Paderborn 2010, p. 7; C. Westermann / R. Albertz: Art. גלה to reveal glh, in: THAT 1, Gütersloh 5 1994, Sp. 426; Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament In: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 134f .; Eilert Herms: Art. Revelation V: History of Theology and Dogmatics. In: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 146f.
  4. C. Westermann / R. Albertz: Art. גלה discover glh, in: THAT 1, Gütersloh 5 1994, Col. 418-421
  5. Horst-Dietrich Preuß: Art. "Revelation II: Old Testament", in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, pp. 117–128, here: 119f.
  6. ^ C. Westermann / R. Albertz: Art. גלה glh reveal, in: THAT 1, Gütersloh 5 1994, Col. 421-426, quotation 423
  7. C. Westermann / R. Albertz: Art. גלה to reveal glh, in: THAT 1, Gütersloh 5 1994, Sp. 426; Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 137f.
  8. Otto Kaiser: Art. Revelation III: Old Testament , in: RGG4, Volume 6: NQ, Tübingen 2003, Sp. 467f.
  9. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 134 f.
  10. See also Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament. In: TRE 25. Berlin 1995, pp. 133-141.
  11. cf. on this point Peter Stuhlmacher: Biblical Theology of the New Testament Volume 1: Foundation. Von Jesus zu Paulus, Göttingen 1992, p. 244. According to his words, these reports complement the statements made by Paul himself in his letters, but they also differ from them. They give an impression of how the early church was told about Paul's calling .
  12. Peter Stuhlmacher: Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Volume I: From Jesus to Paulus, Göttingen 1992 p. 247
  13. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 139, italics in the original
  14. A.Oepke: Art. Καλύπτω etc., in: ThWNT 3, Stuttgart 1938, pp. 558-597; here 582f., 586ff .; Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 140
  15. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 142
  16. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, pp. 140f.
  17. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, p. 141
  18. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, pp. 142–144
  19. Horst Balz: Art. Revelation IV: New Testament , in: TRE 25, Berlin 1995, pp. 144–145
  20. A.Oepke: Art. Καλύπτω etc., in: ThWNT 3, Stuttgart 1938, p. 589
  21. Johann Christoph Gottsched: First Reasons of Entire World Wisdom (last edition), 2 vol., Leipzig 1762, reprint: Christian Wolff, Gesammelte Werke, ed. by Jean Ecole [ua], III. Dept .: Materials and Documents Vol. 20.2., Hildesheim 1983, p. 512.
  22. Thomas Paine: The Age of Reason Part 1, 1794.
  23. See also http://www.ezw-berlin.de/html/3_3057.php
  24. This criticism can be found e.g. B. in the case of the theologian Paul Tillich : “in Protestant biblicism [...] the theological truth of yesterday is defended as an unchangeable message against the theological truth of today and tomorrow. Fundamentalism fails before contact with the present, not because it is attached to the timeless truth, but because it is attached to the truth of yesterday. He turns something temporal and temporary into something timeless and eternal. He has demonic traits in this regard. Because it violates the honesty of the search for the truth, causes a division of consciousness and conscience in his thinking confessors and turns them into fanatics, because they have to constantly suppress elements of the truth of which they are vaguely aware. "(Manfred Baumotte, ed .: Tillich selection, Vol. 1, Das Neue Sein, Gütersloh 1980, pp. 120f.); also in this book: "The belief of certain Protestants that they can create a direct and existential relationship to the Bible by skipping two thousand years of Christian tradition is naive self-deception." (Baumotte 1980, p. 155f.)
  25. ^ Karl Barth: Kirchliche Dogmatik II / l, Zurich 1946, p. 500.
  26. ^ Karl Barth: The Church Dogmatics. Study edition, 30 volumes and index volume. Theological Verlag, Zurich 1993, ISBN 3-290-11634-4 , I / 2, p. 357
  27. ^ Christiane Tietz: Karl Barth . Munich 2018, p. 388f.
  28. ^ Dietrich Bonhoeffer Werke (DBW) 8, Gütersloh 1998, ISBN 3-579-01878-7 , pp. 415-416.