The Revelation of God, East and West: Contrasting Special Revelation in Western Modernity with the Ancient Christian East

Nathan A. Jacobs, University of Kentucky

Published in Open Theology, v. 3, issue 1, p. 565-589.

© 2017 Nathan A. Jacobs, published by De Gruyter Open.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0


The questions of whether God reveals himself; if so, how we can know a purported revelation is authentic; and how such revelations relate to the insights of reason are discussed by John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, René Descartes, G. W. Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant, to name a few. Yet, what these philosophers say with such consistency about revelation stands in stark contrast with the claims of the Christian East, which are equally consistent from the second century through the fourteenth century. In this essay, I will compare the modern discussion of special revelation from Thomas Hobbes through Johann Fichte with the Eastern Christian discussion from Irenaeus through Gregory Palamas. As we will see, there are noteworthy differences between the two trajectories, differences I will suggest merit careful consideration from philosophers of religion.