THE OLD TESTAMENT: DIVINE REVELATION - Orthodox Catechism

THE OLD TESTAMENT: DIVINE REVELATION

The majority of peoples in the pre-Christian world followed various polytheistic beliefs and cults.

There was one chosen people, however, whom God entrusted with knowledge of Himself, of the creation of the world, and of the meaning of existence. The ancient Jews knew God not from books, not from the deliberations of wise men, but from their own age-old experience. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, and the many righteous men and women of Israel did not simply contemplate God and pray to Him — they saw Him with their own eyes, conversed with Him face to face, ‘walked’ before Him.

Each of God’s revelations in the Old Testament bear a personal nature. God is revealed to humanity not as an abstract force, but as a living Being, Who can speak, hear, see, think and help. God takes a vital and active part in the life of the Israelites. When Moses leads the people out of Egypt into the Promised Land, God Himself goes ahead of them in the form of a column of fire. God abides among the people, converses with them and lives in the house that they built for Him. When King Solomon completed the building of the Temple, he called upon God to live there. God, Who abides in darkness, Who is surrounded by great mystery, Whom heaven and earth, that is, the visible and invisible world, cannot contain, comes down to people and lives where they want Him to live, where they have set aside a place for Him.

This is the most striking thing about the religion of revelation: God remains under the veil of a mystery, remains unknown and yet at the same time He is so close to people that they can call Him ‘our God’ and ‘my God’. It is here that we encounter the gulf between Divine revelation and the achievements of human thought: the God of the philosophers remains abstract and lifeless, whereas the God of revelation is a living, close and personal God. Both ways lead us to understand that God is incomprehensible and that He is a mystery; yet philosophy abandons us at the foothills of the mountain, forbidding us to ascend further, whereas religion leads us up to the heights where God abides in darkness, it draws us into the cloud of unknowing where beyond all words and rational deductions it opens up before us the mystery of God.