Religious Studies

Judaism: revelation

In religion revelation is central to understanding G-d and sprituality. It's a way of revealing the 'truth' of that religion.

General and special revelation

There are two types of revelation:

  • General revelation is indirect, and available to everyone. Some truths about G-d can be revealed through reason, conscience, the natural world, or moral sense.
  • Special revelation is direct revelation to an individual or a group. This sort of revelation includes dreams, visions, experience and prophecy.

Types of revelation in Judaism

Jews believe that G-d communicates with humans in all of these ways, and especially through scripture (special revelation).

The Jewish scriptures, called the Tenakh, consists of 24 books. Sometimes the Tenakh is called the Torah, or the Jewish Bible.

The first five books of the Tenakh (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) are particularly important. They are also called the Torah or the Five Books of Moses.

Jewish scripture

Genesis, the first book of the Jewish scriptures (the Tenakh), begins with an account of G-d creating the world:

In the beginning of G-d’s creating the heavens and the earth - when the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters - G-d said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light.

Genesis 1:1-2

G-d's name

G-d speaks to Moses through a burning bush and Moses asks G-d’s name:

Hashem answered Moses, 'I Shall Be As I Shall Be.'

Exodus 3:14

This is the first time that G-d’s name is given but it is not very clear.

In the Jewish scriptures G-d’s name is spelt with four consonants: YHWH. Jewish teaching says that the name is so holy that only the High Priest knew how to pronounce it. When they see these four letters Jews usually say the name Adonai which means 'Lord'. In some parts of the Jewish scriptures the word Hashem is used to avoid writing or saying the name of G-d.

The Jewish Scriptures say that Moses spoke to G-d:

As Moses would arrive at the Tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the Tent, and He would speak with Moses… Hashem would speak to Moses face to face, as a man would speak with his fellow.

Exodus 33:9, 11

Although G-d does appear in the scriptures it is only in the Garden of Eden where G-d seems to appear in human form.

So G-d created Man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 1:27

They heard the sound of Hashem G-d manifesting itself in the garden toward the evening.

Genesis 3:8

Sometimes G-d is a pillar of cloud or flame, and sometimes just a voice. Sometimes he appears as a powerful king.

…I saw the Lord sitting upon a high and lofty throne, and its legs filled the Temple. Seraphim were standing above, at His service. Each one had six wings… And one would call to another…

Isaiah 6:1-2

Beliefs about G-d intervening in the world

Many miracles [Miracle: A fortuitous event believed to have been caused by divine intervention. ] are described in the Tenakh [Tenakh: The collected 24 books of the Jewish Bible. There are three sections: Torah, Nevi'im and Ketuvim (Te;Na;Kh). ]. For example:

  • the account of Aaron and his stick which turned into a snake (Exodus 7:8-10)
  • the plagues of Egypt (Exodus 7: 14-11:10);
  • the parting of the Sea of Reeds (Exodus 14)
  • the manna and quails the Israelites were given for food by G-d in the desert (Exodus 16)
  • Elisha helps a poor widow (2 Kings 4: 1-7)

The Tenakh does not explain the details of how these miracles happen, but it does attribute them to G-d.

Some Jews accept these accounts literally. Others will regard the accounts as allegory, or using figures of speech, believing that the ‘miracle’ was not intended to be taken literally.

However these stories are regarded, they are accepted as accounts of times when G-d taught the people, and looked after them.

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