“Then was fulfilled the word of Jeremiah the prophet saying, ‘And they took the thirty silver pieces, the payment paid for the one on whom the Sons of Israel had set such a payment, and they gave it for the field of a potter just as the Lord instructed me.’”
Oceans of ink have been spilled in wrestling with these words…not so much because the words themselves are overly difficult nor because this being a fulfillment of prophesy should surprise us, but because it seems, at least on the surface, that Matthew is citing a prophesy made in Zechariah, not in Jeremiah. And that becomes troublesome if you are going to hold to an inerrant view of the scriptures. So, did Matthew just make an honest mistake? Likely not, he is being inspired by the Holy Spirit who is God — not one to make a mistake. Is there some passage in Jeremiah that is being overlooked — some textual variant perhaps — that would rectify this difficulty? Not so much. We must remember that Matthew’s original audience was intimately familiar with the writings of the prophets and would have balked were an erroneous rendering to have been made. Matthew clearly intends this, but the question we are then left with is, why?
The passage in Zechariah that is pointed to is this:
“And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your eyes, give me my wages, if not then refrain from doing so.’ And they weighed out my wages: thirty pieces of silver. And Yahweh said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter!‘ — the splendid price which I was prized by them. So, I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the House of Yahweh.’
Certainly it is easy to see the connections: there are 30 pieces of silver, a Potter, and the “throwing” of the money in the direction of the potter who is in the temple. One might be tempted to stop there and draw the conclusion that Zechariah is really who Matthew had in mind when he cited this text, but doing so would miss some of the importance of how this citation is made. Interestingly, in the context of Zechariah, one might argue that the parallel is not so much with Judas dying in a Potter’s Field as it is with Judas returning the money to the priests. In fact, in Zechariah’s account, nothing is purchased, the money is simply returned.
Further, in the context of Zechariah 11, Zechariah the prophet has been commanded for a season to shepherd a flock that is doomed for slaughter. Remember, Zechariah is writing after the return of the people to Jerusalem, so he is speaking (in an immediate sense) of the fall of Judah to the Macedonians and then to the Romans — that which will anticipate the eventual coming of Jesus. At the end of that passage (verse 16), God says that he is about to raise up another shepherd who will not care for the people — this condemnation is arguably directed toward the priests of the people. So, Zechariah guards the sheep for a season, there is an account with breaking staffs, and then he quits his job and asks for his payment. They pay him well and God then commands Zechariah to throw the money to the potter in the temple. Again, this is a condemnation of the shepherds over God’s people: the priests.
You should be starting to notice some differences, though, that should be highlighted. We have already mentioned that there is no mention of purchasing a field in the Zechariah account, furthermore, there is a different term employed to refer to this potter. In the Hebrew, the term Zechariah used is rEoØwy (yo’er). When this term was translated into the Greek Septuagint, the word cwneuth/rion (choneuterion) was chosen. These words can be used to refer to a potter, but are also used of those who smelt metals. In fact, in the other two spots in the Old Testament (as well as in the one use of this term in the Jewish Apocrypha) it is translated as having to do with a smelter’s fire.
In Matthew’s account, he uses the term kerameu/ß (kerameus), which is always used of a potter and his clay both in the New Testament (see also Romans 9:21) and the Greek translation of rEoØwy (yo’er) in the Hebrew Old Testament (see Isaiah 41:25 and Jeremiah 18:6). If we follow the use of the term kerameu/ß (kerameus) to Jeremiah, as Matthew suggests, we find ourselves closer to unraveling our mystery.
In Jeremiah 18-19 we have an account that also ties in very closely with what Matthew is recording. The prophet is sent to the house of a potter — kerameu/ß (kerameus) is used — and told to observe the potter making a clay vessel. Part of the way through the process, the potter is unhappy with the developing design, so smashes the vessel down and starts from scratch. God instructs Jeremiah that like this vessel, God is going to smash down Jerusalem and rebuild because of the wickedness of the people. Later, Jeremiah is commanded to buy a flask from the Potter and smash it by the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom — the source of the word, “Gehenna” in the New Testament — to be renamed as “The Valley of Slaughter.”
One might be tempted to say, where does the Potter’s Field play into this account. Potters’ Fields historically were grounds that had such a high clay content that growing crops would be difficult, but as a source of clay for the potter, they were excellent. Furthermore, Jeremiah is told to relate that God is going to make the city of Jerusalem a place like a Valley of Slaughter — a place of death. And here, it seems, our connection with the potter’s field becoming a place for Judas’ death is made. While Jerusalem is thrown down in Jeremiah’s lifetime, it would be rebuilt. Judas’ death is a foreshadowing of another destruction of Israel that would take place during the lifetime of at least some of the Apostles…and this destruction in AD 70 would be permanent.
It is true that there is a modern city of Jerusalem that exists, but it is located just to the west of the original Jewish city, which now lies more or less in ruins and has a Muslim Mosque sitting on the temple mount (preventing another temple from being built — why? Jesus is the Greater temple, why settle for a lesser one?). Judas’ death and spilling of his blood is a fulfillment, then, of what Jeremiah promised. For Jerusalem’s apostasy in the death of Jesus Christ, they would be destroyed and the place would be left a horror for all to see. One need not read much of Josephus’ account of the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in AD 70 to see elements of this fulfillment taking place — even to the point of the adults eating the flesh of their children. The testimony is heart-wrenching, but the potter’s vessel (representing the people of Israel) was broken on that day and its pieces scattered. Just as the Jews would flee and be sent into exile in Jeremiah’s day, so too, believers were scattered to the far ends of the earth, but this time with the hope of the Gospel to accompany them. How easily we get attached to a location; God says, “Go!”
“Pilate said to them: ‘You take him and, according to your own laws, judge him.’ But the Jews said, ‘We are not permitted to execute anyone.’ This was to fulfill the word of Jesus which he had spoken indicating by what kind of death he was to be executed.’”
Recognizing that this was not a political matter, Pilate returns the verdict that the Jews should handle this matter on their own. Yet, under Roman rule, local courts were not permitted to practice capital punishment apart from the charge of blaspheming the temple. Execution (apart from this one exception) was something that the Romans kept to themselves. These Jewish leaders, thus desiring to put Jesus to death, recognized that they needed to have Pilate’s blessings and, as mentioned already, they desired to have someone to blame were the people to be upset at this execution. It is sad how often politics shows up in the realm of the church.
This is significant, though, John points out, not just because of the ones who will put Jesus to death, but in terms of the way in which Jesus would die. Typically, Mosaic law demands death by stoning (John 10:31-33); the Romans practiced crucifixion. Jesus had predicted his death by the hand of Gentiles (Matthew 20:19; Luke 18:32) but also that he would be lifted up like Moses did the bronze serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14; 12:32-33). In fact, the Apostle Paul goes as far as to connect Jesus’ execution with Deuteronomy 21:23 which speaks of one who is hung from a tree being cursed by God (Galatians 3:13) — a sign that Jesus bore the curse for us in his death (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Predictions of his own death may seem rather minor to us as we have heard and read these words over and over many times. But Jesus’ predictions of his death are just one more sign that he was actively in control over all aspects of his life and even of his coming death. There were no accidents nor were there any surprises — this is God’s economy, not man’s. As Isaiah wrote, ‘Yahweh delighted to crush him” (Isaiah 53:10). It is God’s design that is ultimately being worked out here, though by the hands of wicked and lawless men (Acts 2:23).
“And the High Priest stood up and said to him, ‘Don’t you have any answer for these men who are testifying against you?’ But Jesus said nothing. And the High Priest said to him, ‘I command you by the living God to tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!’”
“And the High Priest stood up in their midst and questioned Jesus, saying, ‘Can you not answer anything to those who accuse you?’ But he said nothing and would not answer them. Again the High Priest questioned him and said, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed.’”
It is sometimes wondered why Jesus did not offer more words in his defense — I am sure that most of us would be speaking at a mile a minute were we in such a situation. Plus, would this not have been an appropriate time to share the Gospel with them? Apart from the fact that these servants of Satan were not interested in hearing truth, we should remember that Jesus’ silence is also a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7, where the prophet speaks of the Suffering Servant going silently to his place of execution — like a lamb to the slaughter. Here, more than 700 years before Jesus’ birth and crucifixion, God, through the prophet, tells us the details of his Son’s own trial. That sheer fact alone ought to make us shudder.
Legally, Jesus should have had no need to answer — Jewish law requires more than one witness and if these witnesses couldn’t even get their stories straight, Jewish law insists that there is no case against the accused. Of course, there is nothing legal about this trial at least in human terms. It is a farce. And the King of Glory chose not to legitimize their scheme, though it would mean going to the cross (and on the cross facing the real trial, this time before an almighty God).
The real mockery, though, comes in the High Priest’s statement: “I command you by the name of the Living God…” Here is a wicked human trying to use the name of the Holy God to command the Holy God himself (Jesus!) to testify regarding a false witness. Command indeed. It is Christ who commands us, not we who command Christ. Yet, one must be careful, for is this not how we pray sometimes? Do we not expect God to do this or that because we wish him to? Do we not sometimes get upset with God for not answering our prayers in the way we desire? Loved ones, let us not fall into the trap that causes us to think that God exists for our ends — no, we exist for his glory! Let us never neglect that great truth.
Finally, it is clear from Caiaphas’ statement that he does understand that the Christ is the Son of God from prophesy (Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 9:6). Caiaphas’ problem is that he did not want to admit that it would be Jesus. Yet, Jesus is the Son of God — the Son of the Blessed one — the final title being a wonderful reminder that it is only in God himself that we will find blessing and God has made it clear that the blessings will only be through the Son. Woe to those who stand and mock him (Psalm 2:12).
“It was Caiaphas who plotted with the Jews that it would be useful that one man die for the group.”
The language of Caiaphas’ warning to the Sanhedron is one worthy of reflection. This little parenthesis is meant to point us to an earlier event that took place shortly before Jesus’ Triumphal Entry. John records the event in this way:
“But one from their number, Caiaphas, who was the High Priest in that given year, said to them, ‘You do not know anything, nor do you understand that it would be useful for you that one man die for the group and not have the whole of the people destroyed.’ This he did not say on his own, but being the High Priest in that given year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the people and not for the people only, but also in order that the Children of God that are dispersed might be gathered together as one.”
Before we move further, there are some terms that we must understand if we are going to grasp John’s explanation. First of all, this is a plot. Some of our English translations render John 18:14 as if Caiaphas is giving advice or spiritual counsel. What they are doing is plotting and scheming to see Jesus dead because Jesus has upset their powerbase.
The second thing that we must clarify up front is “to whom” will this arrest and execution be “useful” or “expedient.” While John points out that these words of Caiaphas are prophetic, it is important to first understand Caiaphas’ motives for speaking such words. Thus, the “to whom” in Caiaphas’ mind, must clearly be referring to the power of the ruling party in the Sanhedron. Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law, showed himself to be a master manipulator of power for personal gain, there is no question that Annas has been coaching his son-in-law in these matters.
Thus, if we know for whom it is “useful” we must also ask for which group is Caiaphas thinking Jesus must die. In God’s economy, we know the answer is that Jesus died for the elect, but in what context is Caiaphas speaking when he utters these words? Some of our English translations imply that the group in question is that of the nation of Israel based on John’s use of the term e¡qnoß (ethnos) in verse 51 above. While e¡qnoß (ethnos) can be interpreted as “nation,” it can more simply refer to a group of people united by any given common tie — hence the derivation of our modern term, “ethnic,” from this Greek word. It is also clear from Caiaphas’ actions that he cares little for the people of Israel apart from his ability to use them for his own personal gain. Similarly, at this point in history, Israel cannot be said to be a nation, but is a Roman province, a status that Caiaphas clearly has no interest in changing due to the fact that an outright revolution would clearly bring Caiaphas’ downfall (the effects of revolt would be demonstrated 40 years later when the Romans would march on Jerusalem in 70 AD).
Thus, the answer seems to be that Caiaphas is still thinking about himself and about those in power. The presence of Jesus only shook up the status quo, interrupted their monetary gains (think of Jesus’ actions with the sellers in the temple courts), and risked the oppression of the Romans. From Caiaphas’ perspective, Jesus must die to preserve Caiaphas’ power and the power of those who were in the ruling class — these are the “people” — the e¡qnoß (ethnos) — of whom Caiaphas is speaking. Again, John points out clearly that Caiaphas is speaking prophetically here, much as the pagan, Balaam, spoke prophetically generations earlier. While Caiaphas’ heart was focused on one thing, God used him to speak truth. It was “useful” that one man should die for the people — and Jesus was the only such man that could do so, being both God and man. For in Jesus’ death, he would pay the penalty of sin for His people — believers throughout the generations — those that God had elected before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) and then drawn to Jesus (John 6:44). In God’s eternal plan, this is the group for whom Jesus was dying — a group that Peter would refer to as a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:9-10) — a nation of which, by God’s grace, I have been called to be a member. And you have been made a member of that nation as well so long as you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Caiaphas spoke prophetic words — but words that pronounced his own ultimate defeat at the hands of sin and death. May these words stick with us and remind us not only of God’s sovereignty over even the wicked of this world, but over our lives as well. May these words remind us that it is only in Jesus’ death and resurrection that we can find hope and life for the dark days in which we live and for eternity thereafter.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
“And they blessed Rebekah, and said to her, ‘Our sister, you shall become like countless thousands and may your seed inhabit the gates of those who hate him.’”
“I will surely bless you and your seed will surely be great as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the lip of the sea. And your seed will take possession of the gates of his enemies.”
“Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed — it does not say, ‘To the seeds…’ as if to many, but as if to one. ‘And to your seed,’ which is Christ.”
It is hard not to make a connection between this blessing and to the Messianic promises that are to come. It could be legitimately pointed out that the term oår‰z (zera), or “seed,” is a collective singular (a singular term that refers to a group or a set of like things or persons) and thus nothing of great significance should be made of the language here. At the same time, given the covenantal significance of this event, a second look should be taken at what is being pronounced for even Nahor’s line understands that Abraham and his line has been singled out by God for a special purpose and, just as God did through the lips of Balaam, God sometimes speaks great truths through the lips even of non-believers.
It will be through Rebekah that the promised seed of Abraham will continue to descend that will ultimately culminate in the Great and true Seed: Jesus Christ. Note too, the similarity of this language to the language that God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 22. In part, of course, this will be fulfilled as the nation of Israel grows and then conquers Canaan. In full, this promise will find its completion in Jesus Christ — for it is in the church that True Israel will find its fullness, that the children of Abraham will be numbered like the sands of the sea, and that the gates of hell will find their demise (Matthew 16:18). Surely this promise, whether the family of Rebekah recognized it in full or not, is a promise that speaks of the coming of the Messiah through the line of Rebekah and Isaac.
How wonderful is the scope and plan of God. How puny our plans quickly become when placed alongside of God’s design. Isn’t if fascinating that we get so caught up in the moment — our successes and failures — our plans — our particular church’s rises and falls in attendance or fiscal numbers when God’s sovereign plan covers the scope of millennia. And why do we worry and fret? Why do we lose sleep over things that are meaningless in the scope of eternity? Friends, God is sovereign and he is the ruler of all of his creation. And he has a plan and a design for his church and kingdom of which he has graciously made us a part. Rejoice! Revel in that truth! And when faced with difficulties and opposition, trust in the wisdom and grace of God. Though men are not; God is good … and he is good all of the time — even in the midst of our trials and difficulties. What is it that God would lead you into doing and what is holding you back?
“And Abraham said, ‘God will himself see to the Lamb for the whole burnt offering my son.’ And the two went on together.”
Often when we read this passage we see this statement of Abraham’s as a means of placating his son and keeping him somewhat in the dark and in doing so, we miss the profound prophetic nature of what Abraham is uttering in faith. First of all, Isaac, as we have mentioned, is no longer a child but a young man and he is no fool. He knows that the elements for the sacrifice are there except for the sacrifice itself yet is continuing with his father in faith. He also must certainly see the emotional weight on the shoulders of his father as they approach the hill of sacrifice and while understanding that God can miraculously provide a lamb for the sacrifice, something ominous is soon to take place. Again, he continues with his father in faith.
Rather than seeing Abraham’s statement as elusive, instead we should see it as profoundly prophetic in nature. Now, one may object and say that Abraham got the spirit of the statement right but that the prophesy itself was wrong. Yes, God did provide an offering, but it was a ram and not a lamb as Abraham predicted. The two words are profoundly different in Hebrew, so there is no mistaking one for the other or some sort of scribal error as the liberal scholars might suggest. Abraham said that God would provide a lamb and in this specific instance, God provided a ram.
But is it this specific instance that Abraham has in mind? We have already reflected on the faith of this man in trusting God to raise his son from the dead even if Abraham had to go through with the sacrifice and we have already reflected on the fact that this event is meant to foreshadow the sacrificial death of God’s own son, Jesus — Jesus who was referred to as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29). And herein we begin to make the connection as to what God is doing through Abraham’s statement. Abraham himself is prophesying not the presence of the ram that will substitute itself for Isaac, but the presence of the Lamb of God — God’s own son — who will substitute himself for each of us if we are trusting in Him as our Lord and savior. Jesus is the Lamb that was slain for our sins…your sins and mine…may you follow him with your whole heart and may every moment of our life be committed to the pursuit of his glory. Abraham understood (at least on a basic level) that his entire activity over those few days was one where he was to trust God implicitly but that God also would use that action to foreshadow someone greater — The Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.
To understand the prophet Zechariah, one must have an understanding of the historical context in which that prophet was writing. In 539 BC, King Cyrus of Persia overthrew the Babylonian Empire and a year later, sent a group of about 50,000 exiles home to Jerusalem with wealth, supplies, and a mandate. The mandate was that they rebuilt the temple of God so that they could worship.
These exiles returned to find Jerusalem in ruins and the land overrun by pagans. While they began work on the temple, they soon decided to put their own houses in order before putting the house of God in order. In about 515 BC, God sent two prophets to light a fire under these exiles to put them back to work. The first was Haggai, whose message was given to chastise the people and to get them back to work. The second was Zachariah, whose message looked toward a future kingdom and Messiah, reminding the people that God is faithful and that He is still at work, bringing about his promises.
In the beginning of Zechariah, then are a series of visions. These visions form the context of this series of devotions. The visions are highly messianic and apocalyptic at the same time. There is a good bit of the book of Revelation that draws upon these images that we are given here in Zechariah.
In the short term, they would finish the temple as a result of the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, though the temple would be a poor copy of Solomon’s, which had been destroyed. Later, God would send another servant, this time a leader of men and not a prophet, to lead the people in rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. This man would be named Nehemiah. You can read the historical accounts of these events in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Forms of Special Revelation:
We have been speaking of and citing some of the weaknesses of General Revelation and our need for something more. Yet, let us point out that General Revelation was never designed to teach us our obligation towards God and our proper relationship to him as our creator. Indeed, it was never designed to even guide us in morality even if the fall were not to have taken place. How do we know this? It is because God engaged in Special Revelation prior to the fall of mankind. God gave Adam the law in the garden and regularly communicated with him in terms of instructing him in his role as regent over the creation. We are also told that God was prone to walk through the garden (by implication, to speak with Adam and Eve). Thus, communication beyond what could be learned from nature was part of God’s pre-fall relationship with his creatures. Now, one could argue that all revelation from God is Special Revelation. Was not God the author of the genetic code by which organic creatures function? Was God not the author of the laws of science by which the physical bodies of the universe operate? Certainly the limitation of understanding science lies within us, not within God’s revelation of it in creation. And certainly, in our fallen state, we sometimes mis-interpret the Special Revelation that is given to us. Thus, the important thing to note is that the purpose of General and Special Revelation is different. General reveals broadly and to all; Special reveals narrowly (dealing especially with God and our relationship with and obligation towards him) and only to whom it is delivered. How many people have read the scriptures only to come away with heretical teachings? Thus, not only is it delivered to few, its proper interpretation requires insight from the Holy Spirit, who effectively guides Special Revelation’s delivery.
We can categorize Special Revelation in the following way:
- Manifestations of God: God manifests himself to his people to guide them, encourage them, and teach them. And, God has done this in a variety of ways.
- Theophanies: Where God physically presents himself to the prophet while the prophet is awake and aware of such taking place. For example, God descended upon Mount Sinai when the law was given, He appeared to Job in a whirlwind, and He spoke to Elijah on Mount Sinai to mention just a few.
- Visions: This is where God manifests himself in a vision (not physically) to a prophet who is awake and aware of what is taking place. God came to Abram in a vision, to Samuel, and to the prophet Isaiah again to name just a few.
- Dreams: This is where God manifests himself visually (not physically) to a prophet who is asleep. God communicated this way to Jacob, to Joseph the son of Jacob, and to Joseph, the earthly adoptive father of Jesus again to name just a few.
- In his Son: Jesus is the ultimate manifestation of God given not just to the prophets, but to all people. He is also the perfect image of the invisible God and the object of all Special Revelation. All of scripture, not just the Gospels, points to Jesus.
- Prophesy: God also speaks to and through his prophets. The role of the prophet, as we have already discussed, is to faithfully be the mouth of God to his people. The role of prophesy is two-fold: it is to foretell and to forthtell. While some prophesy does speak of things that will take place in the future (foretell), the bulk of prophesy is to speak forth God’s word to the people of God, for rebuke and encouragement (forthtell). With this before us, God speaks prophetically in a variety of ways.
- Direct Verbal Prophesy: God speaks directly to his prophets and then the prophets relate it either orally or in writing to God’s people. This is the “thus says the Lord” clause in scripture.
- Indirect Prophesy: God also spoke to his people through indirect means. God gave the High Priest the Urim and Thummim, by drawing lots, and signs.
- Typology: As God is the God of history, it is not surprising that God would order events in similar ways as a means of demonstrating his hand at work. Typology is the study of these repetitions through persons, events, or institutions that are repeated with intensification in the events that follow—usually pointing toward Christ. For example, the institution of the priesthood, particularly that of the High Priest was designed to prefigure Christ’s priesthood. Moses, as a mediator for his people, prefigures Christ’s mediatorial work. There are many more such events that God has arranged in such a way as that they point to what is to come.
- Miracles: While miracles are not sufficient in and of themselves to generate faith, but they are given to confirm and strengthen the faith that is already present. They were given as signs that the prophets were genuine and given as signs that Jesus really is the Son of God.
In a sense, scripture is the ultimate Special Revelation of God as it is the record of the forms of Special Revelation we have already spoken of that is preserved in writing for God’s people through history. Scripture is the ultimate manifestation of God’s special Revelation to his people, revealing Christ and uniting in Christ all of these separate forms of Special Revelation. Thus, with the close of scripture, the necessity of such authoritative revelation from God has ceased. Scripture reveals Christ in his fullness for God’s people and thus, the completed canon of scripture is given to us as the capstone upon which our faith is held together. It is, according to the Apostle Peter when comparing the scriptures to his own experience of walking with Christ and witnessing (as well as performing) miracles, something that is “more sure.” Thus, we have General Revelation and Special Revelation, and all of the many forms of Special Revelation find their climax in the Scriptures—the written word of God.
This is a view that is hotly debated by the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements in the church, and this is not the place to go into an extensive discussion of the relevant issues. In short, the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements would look to what they refer to as gifts of the Holy Spirit (Prophesy and Tongues) from the New Testament as normative for the church in all ages. In response, the question must be asked, “Is the canon of scripture closed?” Certainly that is the Bible’s own testimony about itself, as we have discussed. If there is continuing authoritative prophesy, for example, thus God speaking verbatim (thus says the Lord) through an agent to his people, are you not adding to scripture? There are many good books which argue on both sides of the debate, but the most important aspect of this discussion is what scripture says of itself. Scripture’s testimony, as we have discussed, is that it is complete and sufficient for matters of faith and matters of life. If it is complete and sufficient, why is there need for further supernatural revelation to be given?