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Greek Word Study - Revelation

It was a grim and grisly act, even for a barbarian. King Astyages (grandfather of Cyrus) was punishing his subject Harpagus for disobedience. He killed the man’s son, boiled his flesh, and fed it to the unwitting man at a banquet. Then the king presented him with a basket. When Harpagus uncovered it, he found the head, hands, and feet of his son.

This word “uncover” (apokalupto -- ah po kah LOOP toe) would later be the word “reveal” in the New Testament. Prior to the first century the word was rarely used in a religious or theological sense. It simply meant to take the cover off something. A second story from antiquity will add to our understanding.

One day Socrates was challenging Protagoras, another philosopher, to prove his belief that what is good and pleasant is the ultimate virtue. Annoyed by the man’s reluctance to take a firm position, Socrates said, “Come, my good Protagoras, uncover your mind. Do you share the view of most people, or do you have another?”

With these two typical uses in mind, let us consider the New Testament meaning of “uncover” or “reveal.” What did Paul mean when he said he was not handed the gospel by any man, nor was he taught it; rather, that he received it by “revelation”? (Gal 1:12) Just what is meant by the word “revelation”? I wonder if it would not clarify our thinking to put it this way: “revelation” is uncovering the mind of God.

The focus of the word “revelation” is on what is being uncovered. Thus, the revelation of the gospel is not about the means by which it was communicated to Paul, nor the means by which Paul received it. The focus is on the source from which it came. Paul’s gospel was truth—emanating from the uncovered mind of God.