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Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation

The Mediation of the Gospel through Church and Scripture

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How do human beings today receive divine revelation? Where and in what ways is it mediated so that all generations can hear the fullness of the gospel? In this volume, distinguished theologian Matthew Levering shows that divine revelation has been truthfully mediated through the church, the gospel, and Scripture so that we can receive it in its fullness today. Levering engages past and present approaches to revelation across a variety of traditions, offering a comprehensive, historical study of all the key figures and perspectives. His thorough analysis results in an alternative approach to prevailing views of the doctrine and points to its significance for the entire church.

1. Church
2. Liturgy
3. Priesthood
4. Gospel
5. Tradition
6. Development
7. Inspiration
8. Philosophy


"Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation possesses all of the qualities that readers have come to expect from the work of one of the liveliest contemporary theologians: wide historical learning, theological discrimination, clarity of thought, and spiritual vigor."

John Webster, professor of divinity, St. Mary's College, University of St. Andrews

"Revelation first arrives as our liturgical response to it. By articulating so well this paradox, Matthew Levering undercuts sterile arguments as to the respective weight to be given to revelation or tradition, pure doctrine or cultural mediation in Christian theology. The 'liturgical turn' suggests rather that tradition and mediation were strangely there from the very outset. Since God is not just another creature speaking to us but the transcendent Creator of all things and all utterances, he can only be heard through our invocation and replies, if we take these as participations in the Trinitarian Word that belongs to God himself and the Trinitarian Spirit of his own eternal self-interpretation. Levering both articulates and performs in writing this liturgical reality."

John Milbank, research professor in religion, politics, and ethics and Director of the Centre of Theology, University of Nottingham

"Matthew Levering's latest book is an extended argument against the thesis of the 'ecclesiastical fall,' according to which the pristine revelation offered in Jesus Christ has been distorted by an all-too-human church incapable of bearing it. His trenchant observation is that such a thesis amounts to a rejection of the missions of both the Son and the Holy Spirit. Anyone interested in the issues of revelation, inspiration, ecclesiology, biblical hermeneutics, and Trinitarian theology ought to read this searching, thoroughly researched, and beautifully written study."

Fr. Robert Barron, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; author of Catholicism and The Priority of Christ

"Taking his starting point in the missions of the Son and the Spirit, Levering presents a powerful and consistent case for the faithfulness of the mediation of divine revelation in Scripture and the church. It is a testimony to Levering's theological depth and gentle spirit that he manages to combine his staunch opposition to any and all ecclesial fall narratives with an irenic treatment of the many evangelical theologians with whom he interacts, and whose views on revelation positively enter into his own understanding of God's faithfulness in divine revelation."

Hans Boersma, St. Benedict Servants of Christ Chair in Ascetical Theology, Nashotah House

"How does the Word of God come to us? What communicates divine revelation? With his usual command of the sources, balanced judgment, and lucid style, Matthew Levering explains the rich and multifaceted way in which God reveals himself to us in Scripture as sustained and interpreted by the church--and through the church as illumined and inspired by Scripture."

R. R. Reno, Editor, First Things

"In recent theology, the doctrine of revelation has become a battleground between personalism and propositionalism, inner experience and ecclesial transmission, Eastern and Western accents. In this remarkable volume, one of our greatest Catholic thinkers breaks new ground on the mediation of revelation seen through the lens of the divine missions, drawing out forgotten wisdom from the Scriptures to settle the debates. Levering's tour de force will rival Latourelle, Dulles, and O'Collins in its scope, audacity, and impact."

Peter Casarella, Duke Divinity School

"In his Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation Matthew Levering offers a stunning tour d'horizon of the intense and varied discussion on the mediation of revelation through Church and Scripture before and subsequent to Vatican II. Levering enters fearlessly into some of the most disputed issues in modern exegesis and theology and confronts some of the toughest challenges mounted by critics inside and outside the Church. Levering's new book astutely formulates the present state of the question and charts a constructive way forward for Catholic theology in its perennial task of understanding and defending the ecclesial, liturgical, and doctrinal mediation of revelation. A 'must read' for anyone who wants to understand what is theologically at stake and under dispute when one engages the doctrine of revelation today."

Reinhard Hütter, The Catholic University of America; author of Dust Bound for Heaven: Explorations in the Theology of Thomas Aquinas

"Matthew Levering has struck gold with his latest book. For over thirty years, Avery Dulles's Models of Revelation has been the benchmark. Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation builds on and surpasses Dulles's work, and should replace it as a standard text for students and seminarians. In clear prose and careful argumentation, Levering offers readers an overview of the status quaestionis, deftly distinguishing between dead ends and living truth. Students and scholars interested in the relevant questions surrounding the doctrine of revelation now have a reliable source that--with a steady hand through bumpy terrain--exercises a retrieval of the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and of the broad catholic tradition. I cannot recommend this book highly enough."

Grant Kaplan, professor of theology, Saint Louis University; author of Answering the Enlightenment: The Catholic Recovery of Historical Revelation

"Typical Levering: he surveys the theological landscape before taking us to a higher peak of consideration. And what he shows us, in his characteristically gracious but incisive way, is that the Church--its tradition, its liturgy, and its hierarchy--has always been and continues to be the mediator and proper context of divine revelation."

John Betz, University of Notre Dame

The Author

  1. Matthew Levering

    Matthew Levering

    Matthew Levering (PhD, Boston College) is the James N. Jr. and Mary D. Perry Chair of Theology at Mundelein Seminary, University of Saint Mary of the Lake, in Mundelein, Illinois. He previously taught at the University of Dayton. Levering is the author of...

    Continue reading about Matthew Levering


"This book is a first-rate treatment of the basic theme of divine revelation, what it means, and how it has come down to us today. . . . This is a remarkable piece of work. . . . It casts a wide net to include scholars/clergy from a variety of theological persuasions, and discusses at length samples of writings from these various viewpoints. . . . Levering has given us a wide-ranging and profound discussion of the theme of divine revelation. Read, study, ponder it to your intellectual and spiritual benefit. It not alone gives a helpful survey of various Christian positions--Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant (both liberal and evangelical)--but probes the mind and theological sensitivities of the reader."

Walter M. Dunnett,

Word & World

"Levering traces the multiple modes of mediation in chapters treating Church, liturgy, priesthood, Gospel, tradition, development, inspiration, and philosophy. In each instance the presentation is enlivened and rendered dramatic by his respectful dialogue with contrary views. Respectful dialogue, however, by no means excludes trenchant argumentation and disagreement. Many of the chapters, in effect, present an extensive videtur quod non that provides, often at considerable length, a contrast position to his own. In the process one is introduced to a wide sampling of contemporary theological views, both Protestant and Catholic. The forty-five-page bibliography at the end of the volume provides striking testimony to the astonishing breadth of Levering's reading. . . . By his uncompromising espousal and exposition of a Christological hermeneutic, which reads, as does Vatican II, both Scripture and history in the light of Christ, Levering's welcome and much-needed book makes a salutary contribution to diagnosing theology's present ills and providing resources for their cure."

Robert P. Imbelli,

First Things

"This work is a synthetic, profoundly engaging, and subtly nuanced reflection on many theological claims in Dei Verbum regarding God's self-revelation. . . . Each chapter teases out the implications and intentions of a specific theological judgment as it pertains to divine revelation. This is done often in critical conversation with, and in appreciation of, the patristic writers such as Augustine and Origen, with the scholastic Thomas Aquinas, and with contemporary theologians and biblical scholars. More importantly, the work makes use of interpretative cues found in Scripture. The book puts forth and defends the thesis that divine revelation has human mediation, which inherently involves ecclesial, liturgical, and scriptural dimensions. . . . [A] wide-ranging book."

Francis M. Macatangay,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly

"Levering writes an accessible, interesting, and engaging book on the Catholic notion of revelation. . . . Each chapter unfolds [Levering's] broader argument by placing the reader into both historical and contemporary conversation with important thinkers on each matter. . . . He builds his own positive positions through forthright theological dialogue and faithful exposition of all thinkers he encounters. Through this book, one enters into an entire history and tradition of the interpretation of tradition as related to divine revelation. . . . [The book] beautifully completes and achieves what it claims it will achieve. . . . [A] faithful, traditional, but creatively excellent development of a Catholic notion of revelation."

Eric E. Hall,

Theologische Literaturzeitung

"Levering breathes life into the body of topics that emerge from the doctrine of revelation. . . . This book is a tutorial in theological wisdom. Levering displays a knowledge of non-Catholic sources, which gives the work an important ecumenical significance. However, the sources and positions that guide his thought are rooted in Catholic magisterial teaching and the Fathers and Doctors of the Catholic theological tradition. Now, more than fifty years after the closing of Vatican II, many of the conversations occasioned by the teaching of Dei Verbum have become stagnant. Levering's work brings them alive and nudges them forward with renewed momentum. Levering reminds Catholic theologians that they can provide--with confidence--substantive and coherent responses to the challenges that face the Church."

Roger W. Nutt,

The Thomist

"This significant work by Matthew Levering . . . goes a long way toward elaborating a mature Catholic theology of revelation. Anchoring his reflections deeply in the church's tradition and the teaching of Vatican II while engaging in respectful dialogue with contemporary scholarship of varying viewpoints, Levering provides an erudite and lucid exposition of how the Scriptures are an expression of God's self-revelation, a revelation essentially related to the mission of Jesus, the church, and the church's liturgy."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"[Levering's] application of careful research and in-depth analysis make this a volume that will benefit academics from different theological perspectives for years to come. . . . It is the best explanation of a Roman Catholic understanding of the doctrine of revelation I have encountered. I would recommend it to those seeking to meaningfully engage in inter-denominational dialogue on this topic at either the pastoral or academic level."

Andrew J. Spencer,

Southern Baptist Journal of Theology

"Levering offers what his readers have grown to expect from him: a work of staggering breadth and erudition that draws widely from historical sources and contemporary scholarship. . . . Levering's work is a magisterial treatment that deserves serious engagement and wide readership. . . . Particularly in evangelical circles, the connection between revelation and the covenant community has often been marginalized by an overemphasis on individual reception and personal spiritual experiences. Levering's work offers a much needed correction in this regard. Protestants in general and evangelicals in particular need not be convinced of every argument in order to benefit from the work of one of contemporary Catholicism's finest minds."

Joel Thomas Chopp,

Asbury Journal

"Levering proves to be an authority on core Christian doctrine having published widely on the law, temple, afterlife, hermeneutics, the body, and God. Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation reflects his breadth and depth as a scholar. While a committed Roman Catholic, Levering is not limited to traditional and contemporary Roman conceptions of revelation, but he carefully explores the broader contemporary Christian literature. . . . Serious engagement with the doctrine of revelation ought to include Levering's Engaging the Doctrine of Revelation. . . . Levering can help Protestants clarify what it is that we believe and hold essential to the doctrine of revelation."

Joshua Farris,

Southwestern Journal of Theology

"This book is an engaging look at the doctrine of revelation and, perhaps more importantly, an examination of what some of the implications of the doctrine have for the life of the Church. . . . Levering is a thoughtful and engaging writer who guides the reader through a variety of scholarly opinions on the doctrine of revelation. One fascinating element of the book . . . is Levering's development of a conversation between Catholic understandings of revelation in dialogue with other Christian voices. . . . This book is definitely focused towards scholarly readers and with the exception of a very well-informed lay reader, only seminarians and the professional clergy will likely be able to read and use this book effectively. That being said, for those within these groups, this book is highly recommended since it covers the topic well and broadly."

Timothy Senapatiratne,

Catholic Library World

"This book provides an excellent introduction to current discussions about revelation and would be an ideal text for a graduate course in foundational theology. Levering's depth of knowledge on a wide range of topics, his fairness in representing opposing arguments, and his clarity in articulating his own position make this book fruitful reading for anyone who wishes to engage the doctrine of revelation."

Kevin Storer,


"Levering offers much to contend with. His account is wonderful in its clarity and in its breadth of engagement with contemporary positions and proposals. His own account deserves a wide hearing and will be something of a benchmark I'm sure for Catholic account of the role of Church and Scripture in God's self-witness to the world."

Johnny Walker,

Freedom in Orthodoxy blog