Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bible Basics, Day 2: Revelation and the Word of God

Christ the Word

The Revelation of God

I.  What is Revelation?

   "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son."  (Hebrews 1:1-2) Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one. St. John of the Cross, among others, commented strikingly on Hebrews 1:1-2:

In giving us his Son, his only Word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything to us at once in this sole Word - and he has no more to say. . . because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has now spoken all at once by giving us the All Who is His Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behavior but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely upon Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty.-CCC 65

     So begins the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) on  Christ Jesus.  And this is where we will begin, too.  Let's look more closely at those words from Hebrews quoted above:

"In many and various ways God spoke..."

Wow!  God spoke to us!  Really, if you think about it for a minute, why should God Almighty desire to speak with us?  He has no need of us, certainly.  He's not lonely, or bored, or looking for love.  He is complete in Himself.  He is totally and utterly self-sufficient.  So why speak to us?  The Catechism says,

By natural reason man can know God with certainty, on the basis of his works. But there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. --CCC 50

It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.--CCC 51 (emphasis added)

God was pleased to speak to us, so that we might "become sharers in the divine nature."  God desires an intimate relationship with each of us, and to accomplish this He has chosen to communicate Himself to man.  We call this process "revelation"Divine Revelation is everything God does and says that imparts to mankind knowledge about his salvation and about God Himself.  Man can know much about God through reason, but it would be far too difficult for most of us to reason our way to God.  We don't have the intelligence, the time, or such perfect thinking abilities that we would never make a mistake. Additionally, there are aspects of God which are so mystifying and beyond our comprehension that we could never reason them out. (And this makes perfect sense...if we could comprehend everything about God, we would be as great or greater than God Himself.) The idea that God is three Persons in one divine God is one such mystery. So God revealed Himself to us.  Instead of us having to figure it all out, or being left completely without certain knowledge, He simply told us what we needed to know about Him.  (Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas Aquinas, Bk 1, ch. 3 and 4)

II. What, or WHO,  is "the Word of God"?
Hebrews goes on to explain how God revealed Himself to us:

"In many and varied ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by a Son."

So, when God desired to communicate His loving plan to make us "sharers in the divine nature", He began to speak to mankind first by all of His words to the prophets in the Old Testament.  This includes also all of His actions, from the very Creation of the world to the miracles of the Exodus to the specific information He gave to the prophets.  Then, "in these last days", He revealed Himself  as completely as possible by means of His Son, who is also "the Father's one, perfect and unsurpassable Word."--CCC 65  God is so powerful that His Word has its own identity...the person of Jesus Christ.  This identification of Jesus with the Word of God is especially clear in the opening verses of the Gospel of John, which stated:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4In him was life,a and the life was the light of men. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it....14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15(John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18No one has ever seen God; the only God,d who is at the Father’s side,e he has made him known.

So, we have seen that the 

The Revelation of God = The Word of God = Jesus Christ
John makes it clear that when we think of the "Word of God", we should think of Jesus Christ Himself.  Pope Benedict recently made this point in the document  Verbum Domini:

 And it is the Church’s gift and unescapable duty to communicate that joy, born of an encounter with the person of Christ, the Word of God in our midst. In a world which often feels that God is superfluous or extraneous, we confess with Peter that he alone has “the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68). There is no greater priority than this: to enable the people of our time once more to encounter God, the God who speaks to us and shares his love so that we might have life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). (emphasis addded)

III.  The Word of God is the Source

     So, God sent the Son, Jesus, to reveal His plan of salvation.  Then, Jesus  "in whom the entire Revelation of the most high God is summed up, commanded the apostles to preach the Gospel, which had been promised beforehand by the prophets, and which he fulfilled in his own person and promulgated with his own lips. In preaching the Gospel, they were to communicate the gifts of God to all men. This Gospel was to be the source of all saving truth and moral discipline."-CCC 75

So, Jesus entrusted to the apostles everything He said and did so that they could pass it on to us. We call this final and complete revelation of God's plan "the Gospel", or the good news about God and our salvation. And this "Good News" is nothing less than Christ Himself!

Our English word "gospel" comes from an older English word "gods-spell" which means "good news".  This is the Old English for the Greek "euangelion" (meaning eu-"good" + angelion-"message").  The word "evangelist" comes from this Greek word, too, through the Latin version "evangelium".

Are you scratching your head and wondering why we haven't talked about the BIBLE yet, since this is, after all, a BIBLE study????  We will get there... I promise!  First, we need to understand where the Bible fits in the whole plan of salvation, so in our next lesson we will talk about how the Bible relates to the whole revelation of God, and to the Word of God Himself, Jesus Christ.

Your Assignment

1.  In what ways did the Apostles hand on the Gospel?
2.  How can we know that the Gospel we have today is the true revelation of God?
3.  Read John 1:1-18 and meditate on it.  The depth of God's love caused Him to send Jesus so that each of us could receive "grace upon grace."  This is a great passage to memorize.

Main idea:  God reveals everything necessary for our salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word of God.

Next lesson: The Transmission of Revelation 

And a special song you might enjoy :


  1. I love this song and it stays in your head all day long!

  2. Songs are such a great way to meditate on the beauty of our Lord, aren't they?

  3. This is great, Caroline! Thanks for all of your work.