Progressive Revelation – Extreme Edition

As I have been reading a lot of Jon Levenson one issue that he non-chalantly brings up continually is the progressive nature of revelation. For many in the Westminster camp, this is great, until you really understand what he is trying to say.

In the Vosian view of progressive revelation, as many have taken him, there is an unfolding of revelation where the revelation revealed later in history builds upon and never contradicts or is in tension with previous revelation. This is the view of most Systematicians. Is this because Systematics as is usually defined precludes any notion of true historical dynamic? Does Systematics necessarily flatten history? That’s a post for another day I guess…

As it has been explained to me, Vos’ view, as interpreted by some faculty, describes the Hebrew Bible as a fully furnished room with no lights on. Everything is there, but it doesn’t get revealed to us all at once. Certain pieces of furniture are left in the dark while others are ‘progressively’ being lit up so that we can see them. After reading Levenson, I realize that this position precludes any notion of true theological development.

One of the basic premises of Levenson’s Sinai & Zion is that the Zion tradition inherits the Sinai tradition. Sometimes these traditions are in-step and sometimes they flatly contradict each other.

Within Levenson’s Creation & the Persistance of Evil Israel develops historically from a nation of henotheism to a nation of monotheism, as evidenced from within the text itself.

Within Levenson’s Resurrection & the Restoration of Israel Daniel 12:1-3 betrays a more developed notion of individual resurrection than the rest of the Hebrew Bible.

Now I haven’t yet completely thought through the implications of this way of thinking, but Levenson’s arguments on these issues are quite persuasive. It does in fact seem to me that early in Israel’s history as we have it in the text they would have affirmed the existence of other gods. This is actually quite obvious if we would start to realize that we’ve been taught to gloss over these pericopes and assume that when the text says, “You shall have no other gods before me,” we should read, “Of course, there are no other gods, they are only idols, so obviously you should have no idols before me.”

My point though is not to argue these points, I might do that in another post, my only point is that I think Vos is right. And I haven’t read enough of Vos to see how far he takes his idea of progressive revelation, but from what I hear, I think I am becoming more Vosian than Vos…


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