Question 236:

Can people who are not prophets receive revelations? According to Christian theology the four gospels were written only by people who had not been prophets.



The person asking this question should carefully read the text introducing the first Theme indicated on the left side on the first page of this website: “Scripture – Word of God”. Islamic teaching differentiates between two kinds of prophets: There is the one sent by God to warn and admonish, simply called prophet (nabi) and there are envoys (rasul, pl. rusul) of God who communicated a divine message which goes beyond merely warning and admonishing and which was made known in ‘book’ form. The Muslim believer considers the true gospel (injil) to be the (lost) book which was revealed to the prophet ‘Isa by the Archangel Gabriel. Its main points agree with the revelation God has given to all true prophets from Adam onward. Based on this fundamental Islamic conviction the question arises for Muslims: how can a teaching like Christianity be true since it teaches that there are four gospels and that each of those gospels has a different human author? How can people, who are not prophets in the sense Islamis faith gives to this term, receive authentic revelation and that in the form of a book?

To explain this, we shall briefly summarise the Catholic understanding of revelation and the inspiration of Holy Scriptures: With their ability to reason, people can recognise that God exists, but not what this God is truly like. However, because God wants to be recognised, he has revealed himself. God did not have to reveal himself to us. He did it for love. In a similar way in which in a relationship of human love we can only know the beloved person truly, if he or she opens himself or herself to our heart, we only know anything about Gods innermost thoughts because the eternal and mysterious God opened himself to us for love. From creation onward to the Fathers and the prophets up to his final revelation in his Son, Jesus Christ, God again and again spoke to mankind. In Jesus he poured out his heart and revealed his innermost being to us. In the Old Testament [i.e. in the Holy Scriptures of the Jewish people, the chosen people] God reveals himself as the God who created the world for love and who remains faithful to his people even if they turn away from him in sin. (YOUCAT: Jugendkatechismus der Katholischen Kirche. Aschaffenburg: Pattloch, 2011, n. 7-8)

“All down the ages God has spoken to the heart of man in order to reveal himself to him and gradually lead him to the truth. Out of all the peoples on earth he chose and formed one small nation, the people of Israel, in order to establish a covenant with them. Through this people all the people on earth would learn that God exists and that he has a plan for mankind. The history of this divine covenant with Israel is contained in the books of the Old Testament which form the first part of the Bible. In this was God prepared us ‘to welcome by stages the supernatural Revaltion that is to culminate I the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ’.” (“I believe. A Little Catholic Catechism”. Königstein: ACN, 2008, p. 11; see also: “Catechism of the Catholic Church”, nos. 51 - 73)

According to biblical language the word Covenant refers to the contract the transcendent God concluded with Noah, Abraham and then with the whole people on the mountain of Sinai. For Israel the Covenant is God’s promise of their chosen status: “I shall be your God and you shall be my people”. The Ten Commandments are the contractual conditions of this Covenant. In remembrance Israel celebrates the Covenant every year. Because the Covenant was concluded by trustworthy God, people can rely on it. Even in the worst despair pious people do not lose hope. They wait for a new Covenant which God will offer his people. The one through which God fulfils this hope and revealed himself is Jesus, the Messiah, Christ. (see ibid., p. 14)

In the various stages of the history of the first people of the Covenant God calls prophets who are principally his trusted friends. As the people of God tend to forget their Lord and no longer trust him, God sent his prophets to remind them of his love, his faithfulness and his demands. Elijah, Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel are among the men of whose deeds and teachings the bible tells us. (see ibid p. 12f))

The core message of Holy Scriptures of the first Covenant (also called: the Old Covenant): It shall also be the core message of the people of the second Covenant, also called the New Covenant, of Christians and potentially of all people:

* knowing that God is there for each one of us, that he knows us and loves us; therefore we can place our trust in him.

* knowing that God is there for me, that he knows and loves me personally..

* loving God with all of my heart, with all my soul and with all my strength.

* listening to his word, doing his will, saying yes to his loving plan for me. (cf. ibid. p. 13)

Of course, only in Jesus Christ, his Son, does God show the full depth of his merciful love. Through Jesus Christ the invisible God becomes visible. He becomes a human being like we are. This shows us how far Gods love extends: He bears all our load. He travels all paths with us. He is in our desolation, our suffering, our fear of death. He is where we can no longer continue, in order to open the door into life. With Jesus Christ God Himself has come into the world. He is Gods final word. By listening to him all people can know at all times who God is and what is necessary for their salvation. With the gospel of Jesus Christ the revelation of God is complete. So that we may understand it the Holy Spirit guides us deeper into the truth, […](YOUCAT, n. 9-10)

Christians find true faith in Holy Scripture and in the traditions of the Church. […] (YOUCAT, n. 12)

The community of believers cannot err in their faith because Jesus promised his disciples that he would send them the spirit of truth and that they would receive truth (Jn. 14:17). (see ibid. n. 13)

“It follows that the books of Scripture must be acknowledged as teaching solidly, faithfully and without error that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation. Therefore "all Scripture is divinely inspired.” (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 11). Scripture neither fell from the sky nor did God dictate it to human scribes. Rather, In composing the sacred books, God chose men and while employed by Him they made use of their powers and abilities, so that with Him acting in them and through them, they, as true authors, consigned to writing everything and only those things which He wanted. (Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum 11)” (ibid., n. 14).

“But how can Holy Scripture be Truth if not everything contained therein is correct? The Bible is not interested in teaching historic precision or scientific knowledge. The authors of the Bible were also children of their own time. They shared the cultural ideas of their environment and were occasionally steeped in error. But everything people need to know about God and the way of his salvation can be found in Holy Scriptures with unerring certainty” (ibid., n. 15).

“In the New Testament God’s revelation is completed. The four gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the core of the Bible and the most precious treasure of the Church. In them God’s Son reveals who he is and how he encounters us. In the Acts of the Apostles we hear about the beginnings of the Church and of the working of the Holy Spirit. The letters of the Apostles place the life of the believers in all its complexity into the light of Christ. In the Book of Revelation (als: the Apocalypse) we are taken in faith to the end of times.” (ibid., n. 18)

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