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Revelation

Every morn­ing at its Matins Ser­vice the Ortho­dox Church pro­claims: “God is the Lord and has revealed Him­self unto us; blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” (Ps 118:26–27). The first foun­da­tion of Chris­t­ian doc­trine is found in this bib­li­cal line: God has revealed Him­self to us.

God has shown Him­self to His crea­tures. He has not dis­closed His very inner­most being, for this inner­most essence of God can­not be grasped by crea­tures. But God has tru­ly shown what men can see and under­stand of His divine nature and will.

The full­ness and per­fec­tion of God’s self-rev­e­la­tion is found in His Son Jesus Christ, the ful­fill­ment of the grad­ual and par­tial rev­e­la­tion of God in the Old Tes­ta­ment. Jesus is the one tru­ly “blessed… who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The first title giv­en to Jesus by the peo­ple is that of Rab­bi, which lit­er­al­ly means teacher, in the Eng­lish New Tes­ta­ment the word Mas­ter also issued in rela­tion to Jesus in the sense of one who teach­es, such as in school­mas­ter or hold­er of a master’s degree. Jesus’ fol­low­ers are also called dis­ci­ples, which lit­er­al­ly means stu­dents or pupils.

Jesus came to men first of all as the Teacher sent from God. He teach­es the will of God and makes God known to men. He reveals fully—as ful­ly as men can grasp—the mys­ter­ies of the King­dom of God.

The com­ing of Jesus as teacher is one aspect of his being Christ the Mes­si­ah. The word Christ in Greek is the word for the Hebrew Mes­si­ah which means the Anoint­ed of God. For when the mes­si­ah would come, it was fore­told, men would be “taught by God” (Is 54:13, Jn 6:45).

Jesus comes to men as the divine teacher. He claimed on many occa­sions that his words were those of God. He spoke as “one hav­ing author­i­ty” not like the nor­mal Jew­ish teach­ers (Mt 7:29). And he accused those who reject­ed his teach­ings as reject­ing God Him­self.

He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees Him who sent me. I have come as light into the world… for I have not spo­ken on my own author­i­ty; the Father who sent me has him­self giv­en me com­mand­ment what to speak. What I say, there­fore, I say as the Father has bid­den me. (Jn 12:44–50)

Jesus taught men not only by his words, but also by his actions; and indeed by his very own per­son. He referred to him­self as the Truth (John 14:6) and as the Light (Jn 8:12). He showed him­self not mere­ly to be speak­ing God’s words, but to be him­self the Liv­ing Word of God in human flesh, the Logos who is eter­nal and uncre­at­ed, but who has become man as Jesus of Nazareth in order to make God known to the world.

In the begin­ning was the Word [Logos] and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the begin­ning with God; all things were made through him, and with­out him was not any thing made that was made.

In him was life and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the dark­ness, and the dark­ness has not over­come it.

The true light that enlight­ens every man was com­ing into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glo­ry, glo­ry as of the only-begot­ten Son from the Father.

And from his full­ness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God; the only-begot­ten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.

(See Jn 1:1–18. The East­er Litur­gy Gospel Read­ing in the Ortho­dox Church)

Jesus, the divine Word of God in human flesh, comes to teach men by his pres­ence, his words and his deeds. His dis­ci­ples are sent into the world to pro­claim Him and His Gospel, which means lit­er­al­ly the “glad tid­ings” or the “good news” of the King­dom of God. Those whom Jesus sends are called the apos­tles, which means lit­er­al­ly “those who are sent.” The apos­tles are direct­ly inspired by God’s Holy Spir­it, the Spir­it of Truth (Jn 15:26), to “make dis­ci­ples of all nations” teach­ing them what Christ has com­mand­ed (Mt 28:19).

The ear­ly Church, we are told, “devot­ed them­selves to the apos­tles’ doc­trine” (Acts 2:42). Doc­trine as a word sim­ply means teach­ing or instruc­tion. The apos­tles’ doc­trine is the doc­trine of Jesus and becomes the doc­trine of the Chris­t­ian Church. It is received by the dis­ci­ples of every age and gen­er­a­tion as the very doc­trine of God. It is pro­claimed every­where and always as the doc­trine of eter­nal life through which all men and the whole world are enlight­ened and saved.

At this point it must be men­tioned that although God’s self-rev­e­la­tion in his­to­ry through the cho­sen peo­ple of Israel—the rev­e­la­tion which cul­mi­nates in the com­ing of Christ the Messiah—is of pri­ma­ry impor­tance, it is also the doc­trine of the Chris­t­ian Church that all gen­uine striv­ings of men after the truth are ful­filled in Christ. Every gen­uine insight into the mean­ing of life finds its per­fec­tion in the Chris­t­ian Gospel. Thus, the holy fathers of the Church taught that the yearn­ings of pagan reli­gions and the wis­dom of many philoso­phers are also capa­ble of serv­ing to pre­pare men for the doc­trines of Jesus and are indeed valid and gen­uine ways to the one Truth of God.

In this way Chris­tians con­sid­ered cer­tain Greek philoso­phers to have been enlight­ened by God to serve the cause of Truth and to lead men to full­ness of life in God since the Word and Wis­dom of God is revealed to all men and is found in all men who in the puri­ty of their minds and hearts have been inspired by the Divine Light which enlight­ens every man who comes into this world. This Divine Light is the word of God, Jesus of Nazareth in human flesh, the per­fec­tion and full­ness of God’s self-rev­e­la­tion to the world.

It can­not be over­stressed that divine rev­e­la­tion in the Old Tes­ta­ment, in the Church of the New Tes­ta­ment, in the lives of the saints, in the wis­dom of the fathers, in the beau­ty of cre­ation… and most ful­ly and per­fect­ly in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the rev­e­la­tion of God Him­self. God has spo­ken. God has act­ed. God has man­i­fest­ed Him­self and con­tin­ues to man­i­fest Him­self in the lives of His peo­ple.

If we want to hear God’s voice and see God’s actions of self-rev­e­la­tion in the world, we must puri­fy our minds and hearts from every­thing that is wicked and false. We must strive to love the truth, to love one anoth­er, and to love every­thing in God’s good cre­ation. Accord­ing to the Ortho­dox faith, purifi­ca­tion from false­hood and sin is the way to the knowl­edge of God. If we open our­selves to divine grace and puri­fy our­selves from all evils, then it is cer­tain that we will be able to inter­pret the scrip­tures prop­er­ly and come into liv­ing com­mu­nion with the true and liv­ing God who has revealed Him­self and con­tin­ues to reveal Him­self to those who love Him.

Volume 1: Doctrine — Selected Bibliography

Arse­niev, Nicholas, Rev­e­la­tion of Life Eter­nal, St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1962.

Bar­rois, Georges A., The Face of Christ in the Old Tes­ta­ment, St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1974.

Bul­gakov, Sergius, The Ortho­dox Church, Lon­don, Cen­te­nary, 1935. Also avail­able in paper­back from the Amer­i­can Review of East­ern Ortho­doxy, New York, n.d.

Cabasi­las, Nicholas, The Life in Christ, St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1974.

Lossky, Vladimir, The Mys­ti­cal The­ol­o­gy of the East­ern Church, Lon­don, James Clarke, 1957.

The Vision of God, Lon­don, Faith Press, 1963.

In the Image and Like­ness of God, St. Vladimir’s Press, 1974.

Meyen­dorff, John, The Ortho­dox Church, New York, Pan­theon Books, 1962.

Ortho­doxy and Catholic­i­ty, New York, Sheed and Ward, 1966.

Christ in East­ern Chris­t­ian Thought, St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1975.

Pelikan, Jaroslav, The Spir­it of East­ern Chris­ten­dom (600−1700), Chica­go, The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Press, 1974.

Schme­mann, Alexan­der, For the Life of the World (Sacra­ments and Ortho­doxy), St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1974.

Of Water and the Spir­it, St. Vladimir’s Sem­i­nary Press, 1974.

Ware, Tim­o­thy, The Ortho­dox Church, New York, Pel­i­can, 1963.

SELECTED ARTICLES FROM SAINT VLADIMIR’S THEOLOGICAL QUARTERLY

Afanasiev, Nicholas, “The Canons of the Church: Change­able or Unchange­able”, SVQ, XI,2,1967.

Athenago­ras, Met­ro­pol­i­tan (Kokki­nakis), “Tra­di­tion and Tra­di­tions”, SVQ, VII,3,1963.

Basil, Arch­bish­op (Krivosheine), “Is a New Ortho­dox ‘Con­fes­sion of Faith’ Nec­es­sary?”, SVQ, XI,2,1967.

Bar­rois, George, “The Antin­o­my of Tra­di­tion”, SVQ, XIII,4,1969.

Bobrin­skovy, Boris, “Ascen­sion and Litur­gy”, SVQ, 111,4,1959.

Bogole­pov, Alexan­der, “Which Coun­cils are Rec­og­nized as Ecu­meni­cal?”, SVQ, VII,2,1963.

Clement, Olivi­er, “Sci­ence and Faith”, SVQ, X,3,1966.

Florovsky, Georges, “On the Tree of the Cross”, SVQ, OS1, 1953.

And Ascend­ed into Heav­en….”, SVQ, OS2,1954.

Hop­ko, Thomas, “The Bible in the Ortho­dox Church”, SVQ, XIV,1–2,1970.

Kesich, Veselin, “Crit­i­cism, the Gospel and the Church”, SVQ, X,3,1966.

Research and Prej­u­dice”, SVQ, XIV,1–2,1970.

Kni­az­eff, Alex­ei, “The Great Sign of the Heav­en­ly King­dom and Its Advent in Pow­er” (On the Theotokos), SVQ, XII,1–2,1969.

Koulomzin, Nicholas, “Images of the Church in Saint Paul’s Epis­tles”, SVQ, XIV,1–2,1970.

Meyen­dorff, John, “His­tor­i­cal Rel­a­tivism and Author­i­ty in Chris­t­ian Dog­ma”, SVQ, X1,2,1967.

The Ortho­dox Con­cept of the Church”, SVQ, VI, 2,1962.

Tra­di­tion and Tra­di­tions”, SVQ, VI,3,1962.

Doc­trine of Grace in St. Gre­go­ry Pala­mas”, SVQ, S2,1954.

Romanides, John, “Orig­i­nal Sin Accord­ing to St. Paul”, SVQ, OS4,1–2,1955–56.

Schme­mann, Alexan­der, “Eccle­si­o­log­i­cal Notes”, SVQ, X1,1,1967.

Ver­hovskoy, Serge, “The High­est Author­i­ty in the Church”, SVQ, IV,2–3,1960.

Pro­ces­sion of the Holy Spir­it accord­ing to the Ortho­dox Doc­trine of the Holy Trin­i­ty”, SVQ, OS2,1953.

Some The­o­log­i­cal Reflec­tions on Chal­cedon”, SVQ, 11,1,1958.