Why did God choose to reveal Himself through a sacred text? Were there no other ways? Does God still inspire scriptures today?
Revelation represents God’s Self-disclosure. This happened by mediation, because of the effects of sin; the breaking of the bond between God and mankind made it risky for people to discover God’s Self. Access to the superlative glory of God, to elements of the divine realm produced either shock or an existential risk for the direct witnesses. For this reason, God has always adapted His communication to the human condition, and the absolute of this communication is the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
From a formal point of view, we note that what we today call the “Holy Scriptures” represents the recording of messages from God, but also the reproduction of the history of mankind with God, with the help of 40 authors from different territories and contexts, who were inspired to write them over the span of about 2,500 years.
These writings were to have the role of witness, mediator, and updater of the divine vision for every generation that wanted to know God’s intentions for people, looking into the past at the history and progress of the salvation of mankind, and prophetically anticipating the future according to the divine plan.
Although the transmission of these pieces of history was initially done orally, writing provided a landmark less vulnerable to change for the dissemination of a historical report. According to Austrian anthropologist Wilhelm Schmidt‘s documentation of several oral cultures, the loss of primitive monotheism awareness gives testimony to the necessity of written revelation.
Within these cultures, the concept of a benevolent deity above the heavens, who created and governs the world, was possible to recover but the cult of this deity was rather a memory that the elders of those peoples testified about. The non-cultivation of this awareness produced religious alterations by degradation, leading to animism and polytheism, a phenomenon that can also be found in the history of the Jewish people, in the periods when they ignored the Revelation.
Although the Word remains the same, each generation that encounters the Revelation from its own perspective does so for the first time. In this sense, the Revelation re-contextualises mankind in the divine plan, offering the individual the overall historical picture and reaffirming his or her meaning in the dramatic unfolding of salvation.
The Jewish people were chosen to preserve and faithfully transmit this revelation of God to the world. In parallel, God continues to reveal Himself to mankind, and these additional revelations will be verified by pre-existing Revelation as to the content and inner coherence of the affirmed messages and their divine inspiration.
Since the writings of the Old Testament foretold Jesus Christ, and the New Testament testifies about Him, the written revelation became sufficient for the salvation of humans, and the canon was declared complete.
Subsequent written or oral revelations have the role of directing people to this revelation of the Bible, since everything needed for salvation is revealed in it. The extra-biblical revelations that the Karen people, from Burma, and the Davis Indians, from British Guiana, had before their conversion to Christianity, confirm the chronological order and the historical but always current meaning of the revelation, as well as the centrality of the biblical writings.
Laurentiu Nistor is a pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and a doctoral student in theology.