Religion Essay Example: Difference Between Revelation, Inspiration, and Illumination

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Vanderbilt University
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The differences between revelation, inspiration, and illumination may be technical but one that is very important. Believers need to understand how God shows himself and how he communicates the knowledge to the human hearts.

The term revelation means disclosure or uncovering of what was previously unknown. It is the process by which God makes known things to people. It is, therefore, the act of revealing or disclosing something that was unknown before. For example, God revealed himself to Abram in Genesis 12. God revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush Exodus 3.

Revelation happens in two main ways the natural revelation and special revelation. The natural revelation speaks about nature. God revealed himself through nature that is what he created. Natural revelation is also called general revelation. It is an innate knowledge of God. Thus, God has revealed Himself in both his creation and within the hearts of human beings. Special Revelation is beyond nature. It is the written revelation of God the Bible and to the person Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, it came to men in different ways for example dreams (Bloesch, 2006).


Inspiration is the means by which God through the Holy Spirit caused the scriptures to be written by human beings. In 2Tim 3:16 we read that "all scripture is given by inspiration of God..." Thus the scripture expresses God's thoughts. It is the means by which revelation is written down. The human writers were moved by God to write his words. (Hebrews 1:1, 2 Peter 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit influence upon the writers gave divine truthfulness to the words written. Thus He constituted the scriptures as an infallible and sufficient rule of faith and practice for all humanity.

There are several theories about the inspiration of the Bible. The Natural theory holds that the Bible writers were inspired only in the sense that a poet or writer is inspired naturally. The Dictionary theory or mechanical theory holds that God dictated the words to the Bible writers. The writers had no input of their own. Partial inspiration theory holds that the Bible contains the word of God, but you have to sort through myth and legend to get to the truth. The plenary-verbal theory of inspiration theologians teaches that all (plenary) of the words (verbal) of the bible are inspired by God. Thus the word of God is said to be inerrant that is free from error or contradiction (Bloesch, 2006).


The final part is illumination. It is the means by which God causes the written word, inspired teachings of his word to be understood by the human heart. It is the method by which the Holy Spirit sheds divine light upon all men as they read the word of God. Through God's word, the Holy Spirit reveals the things of God to believers. Illumination thus is the work of the Holy Spirit, He convinces of the truthfulness of the scripture, enables understanding and obedience to the word. The correct interpretation of the bible is possible by illuminating work of the Holy Spirit in the mind and heart of the believer. The Holy Spirit applies to the lives of believers the truth already contained in the revelation (Miller, 1960). .


Bloesch, D. G. (2006). Holy Scripture: Revelation, inspiration & interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Miller, H. S. (1960). General Biblical introduction: From God to us. Houghton, NY: Word-Bearer Pr.

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