Progressive Revelation is the Christian doctrine that God reveals himself and his plan progressively over the course of the entire Christian Bible. There is a famous Christian quote that sums this idea up well. The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed, while the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed. Today, we’re going to put that claim to the test of Deuteronomy 13. Did God plan to reveal His triune nature in the future, or was His revelation on Mt. Sinai to the nation of Israel a full revelation for all time?
Here we arrive at the point of contention. I read a couple of sermons preparing for this article. The standard Christian defense centers around the phrase “other gods”. Moreover, confusing the issue is a “lower case vs uppercase” argument. However, both of these approaches are invalid.
There are no capital letters in Hebrew. The word used for both “other gods” and “God” is the same word. Hence, this is a distinction unique to an English translation.
Moreover, this line of argumentation is a shell game. Notice, the command isn’t simply not to follow other gods. Rather, it goes on to define these other gods as gods “that you have not known”. Therefore, the restriction isn’t based on who God is. Instead, it is based on what the Israelites know.
In John 1:1 we read that “the word was with God, and the word was God.” God with God. Christians would later deduce that if there are 2 Gods, yet there is only 1 God, this must mean that these 2 Gods are somehow 1 God. This conundrum would eventually lead to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, which would become the official position of the church 300 years after the death of Jesus.
This development, however, is radically inconsistent with the demands of Deuteronomy 13. God did not reveal himself on Sinai as being in some sort of partnership or complex unity. Earlier in Deuteronomy 6 we find the Shema.
From a trinitarian viewpoint, this is read as saying there is one God in exclusion to all others. However, the Hebrew reads “(tetragrammatron) echad.” We see the same structure at the end of day 1 in Genesis 1. Translated as “day one” or “the first day” in English, the Hebrew reads “yom echad”. Clearly here, it doesn’t mean that there is only one day to the exclusion of all others since it exists in a list with others.
What does it mean to know God?
From a New Testament standpoint, this is a striking statement. Does God think that they know Him? How can they, if the second person of the trinity won’t be revealed for another 1,200 years. Compare these verses from Exodus, and contrast with these New Testament examples.
- Exodus 6:7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
- Exodus 7:5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.
- Exodus 7:17 Thus says the Lord, by this shall you know that I am the Lord: behold, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water that is in the Nile, and it shall turn into blood.
- Exodus 10:2 and that you may tell in the hearing of your son and your grandson how I have dealt harshly with the Egyptians and what signs I have done among them, that you may know that I am the Lord.
- Acts 16:31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”
- John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life.
- John 14:1 Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.
- John 20:31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
A pregnancy is a progressive revelation. First, a woman misses her period. Typically, she will take a test to confirm. Weight gain will follow, then movement from the baby. Finally, she gives birth fully revealing the pregnancy. Imagine an expectant mother “knowing” she’s pregnant when she is 4 days late for her period, but “believing” she was pregnant after the baby is born. Is this consistent with the nature of progressive revelation?
Deuteronomy 13 as a BOLO.
Since HaShem had already commanded His chosen people to abandon all other gods, it would be a mistake to ignore the details of this passage. Since this god they are being warned about is one they “do not know” we can conclude the following. Possibly, this is a god that does not yet exist. Alternatively, it could be a god that presently exists, but has not yet been revealed to them. However, I want you to notice the other specifics.
- This god will be introduced by a prophet from amongst the Jewish people. Like John the Baptist, perhaps?
- He will be accompanied by visions. The Angel of the Lord revealed Mary’s divine pregnancy to Joseph.
- The prophet gives them a sign. The star that guided the wise men?
- And a wonder. A virgin birth?
- He will try to get you to stop following the commandments. No more law, this new god offers a new way.
- He will gain Jewish converts, see verse 6. Disciples and Apostles?
- They are to travel the land seeking out these converts, and stone them to death. As Saul was doing before he became a dreamer of dreams on the road to Damascus, and began telling people to forsake the commandments and follow another god.
Perhaps you disagree with my interpretation.
To be fair, this is indeed my interpretation of these passages. However, to be fair I did not use any of the tricks of the trade that New Testament authors have taught us. Matthew quotes Hosea 11:1, but he leaves off “When Israel was a child I loved him” so that he can say the second part “and out of Egypt I called my son” applies to Jesus. I did not manipulate the text to give you partial quotes that leave out the true meaning of the verse.
Similarly, Matthew uses a mistranslation of Isaiah 7:14 changing “a young woman has conceived” to “a virgin will conceive.” Moreover, at the end of the verse he changes “and she will call his name” to “and they will call his name” to avoid the obvious problem of Mary not naming the child Emmanuel. Here, I used the English Standard Version of Deuteronomy 13, a very Christian translation to make my case.
In Luke 4 the author adds a line to Isaiah 61, adding in “restoring sight to the blind” to make Isaiah’s poem sound like it is talking about Jesus. I added no such lines. In Hebrews 8, the author quotes Jeremiah 31. However, he changes “though I was a husband to them” to “so I showed no concern for them.’ Obviously, he was dealing with some discomfort over God divorcing his wife, so he quietly annulled the marriage of his own volition. I made no such changes to the text.
This raises the question…
Why is it that the New Testament authors need to massage the text to make it sound like it is talking about Jesus? This is prophecy. Shouldn’t it fit naturally? Moreover, why can I make such a clear and easy comparison between Deuteronomy 13 and the introduction of Christianity using a passage warning against following false gods? Ladies and Gentlemen, prophecies about Jesus should fit the narrative without being changed. Prophecies against false gods should have to be manipulated to be used against Christianity if it is truly of God.
Here is what I would ask you to do. Read Deuteronomy 13 for yourself, asking the following question. Does this sound like a passage preparing God’s chosen people for a progressive revelation of himself and his plan for them? Or does it sound like a God saying you know me, and you know my plan? Love me. Cling to me. Don’t let anyone lead you away from following in these commandments that I’ve given to you today. If you came to agree with me that it sounds much more like the latter than the former, there’s only one question left for you to answer. Why?