Click to Change

Return to Top

Return to Top

Printer Icon


The Blue Letter Bible

Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

Choose a new font size and typeface

xciv. ἀποκάλυψις, ἐπιφάνεια, φανέρωσις.

Ἀποκάλυψις is only once found in the books of the O. T. canon, namely at 1 Sam. 20:30; and there in altogether a subordinate sense, as ==‘denudatio’; three times in the Apocrypha (Ecclus. 11:27; 22:22; 41:23); but as little in this as in the other does it obtain that grander meaning which it has acquired in the N. T. In this last it is predominantly, though not exclusively, a Pauline word; and, occurring altogether some nineteen times, being rendered sometimes ‘coming’ (1 Cor. 1:7), sometimes ‘manifestation’ (Rom. 8:19), sometimes ‘appearing’ (1 Pet. 1:7), and once ‘to lighten’ (εἰς ἀποκάλυψιν, Luke 2:32), has always that auguster sense of an unveiling by God of Himself to his creatures, to which we have given the more Latin term, revelation. The same auguster sense the verb ἀποκαλύπτειν in the N. T. commonly possesses; but not there for the first time, this sense having been anticipated in the great apocalyptic book of the Old Covenant (see Dan. 2:19, 22, 28). Nor does it always possess this, sometimes simply meaning ‘to uncover’ or ‘to lay bare’ (Luke 12:2; Prov. 20:19).

Ἀποκάλυψις, as St. Jerome would fain persuade us, is nowhere to be found outside of sacred Greek (Comm. in Gal. i. 12): ‘Verbum ἀποκαλύψεως proprie Scripturarum est; a nullo sapientum seculi apud Graecos usurpatum. Unde mihi videntur quemadmodum in aliis verbis, quae de Hebraeo in Graecum LXX Interpretes transtulerunt, ita et in hoc magnopere esse conati ut proprietatem peregrini sermonis exprimerent, nova novis rebus verba fingentes, et sonare, quum quid rectum et velatum ablato desuper operimento ostenditur et profertur in lucem.’ In thus claiming the word as proper and peculiar to the Scriptures, and not to be found in any writings of the wise of this world, St. Jerome is in error; although the total absence in his time of exhaustive Lexicons or Concordances of the great writers of antiquity may well excuse his mistake. Not to speak of ἀποκαλύπτειν, which is used several times by Plato (Protag. 352 d; Gorg. 460 a), ἀποκάλυψις itself is far from unfrequent in the later Greek of Plutarch (see Paul. aemil. 14; Cato Maj. 20, where it is == γύμνωσις; Quom. Am. ab Adul. 32; and elsewhere). Thus far indeed Jerome has right, namely, that the religious use of the word was altogether strange to the heathen world, while the corresponding ‘revelatio’ was absolutely unknown to classical Latin, having first come to the birth in the Latin of the Church. Elsewhere (Ep. cxxi. ad Algas.) he makes a somewhat similar mistake in respect of the verb καταβραβεύειν (Col. 2:18), which he claims as a Cilicism of St. Paul’s. It occurs in a document cited by Demosthenes, Mid. p. 544.

The word in its higher Christian sense has been explained by Arethras as ἡ τῶν κρυπτῶν μυστηρίων δήλωσις, καταυγαζομένου τοῦ ἡγεμονικοῦ τῆς ψυχῆς, εἴτε διὰ θείων ὀνειράτων, εἴτε καθ᾽ ὕπαρ, ἐκ θείας ἐλλάμψεως. Joined with ὀπτασία (2 Cor. 12:1), it is by Theophylact (see Suicer, s. v.) distinguished from it in this, that the ὀπτασία is no more than the thing shown or seen, the sight or vision, which might quite possibly be seen without being understood; while the ἀποκάλυψις includes not merely the thing shown and seen, but the interpretation or unveiling of the same. His words are as follows: ἡ ἀποκάλυψις πλέον τι ἔχει τῆς ὀπτασίας· ἡ μὲν γὰρ μόνον βλεπειν δίδωσιν· αὕτη δὲ καί τι βαθύτερον τοῦ ὁρωμένου ἀπογυμνοῖ. Thus Daniel’s vision of the four beasts was seen but not understood, until one that stood by made him know the interpretation of the things (Dan. 7:15, 16, 19, 23; cf. 8:15, 19; Zech. 1:18-21). On this distinction see more in Lücke’s Einleitung in die Offenbarung des Johannes, 2nd ed. p. 26. What holds good of the ὀπτασία will of course hold good of the ὅραμα (Matt. 17:9; Acts 7:31; 10:19), and of the ὅρασις (Acts 2:17) as well; between which and the ὀπτασία it would scarcely be possible to draw any distinction that would stand.

Ἐπιφάνεια, which Tertullian renders ‘apparentia’ (Adv. Marc. i. 19), occurs only twice in the Septuagint (2 Sam. 7:23, μεγαλωσύνη καὶ ἐπιφάνεια [cf. δόξα καὶ ἐπιφάνεια, Plutarch, De Tranq. Anim. 11]; Amos 5:22): but often in the Second Maccabees; being always there used of God’s supernatural apparitions in aid of his people; thus 2:21 (ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἐπιφάνειαι); 3:24; 5:4; 12:22; 15:27. Already in heathen use this grand word was constantly employed to set forth these gracious appearances of the higher Powers in aid of men; so Dionysius Hal. (ii. 68), and Plutarch (Ne Suav. Viv. Posse, 22; Them. 30); ἐπιφαίνειν, too, in the same way (De Def. Orac. 30); though sometimes obtaining a much humbler use (Anim. an Corp. Aff. 2; Polybius, ii. 29. 7). The word is found only six times in the N. T., always in the writings of St. Paul. On five occasions our Translators have rendered it ‘appearing’; on the sixth, however (2 Thess. 2:8), they seem to have shrunk from what looked to them as a tautology, ‘appearance of his coming,’ as in the earlier Protestant Versions it stood; and have rendered ἐπιφάνεια τῆ παρουσίας, ‘the brightness of his coming,’ giving to the word a meaning not properly its own. It expresses on one occasion (2 Tim. 1:10, and so ἐπιφαίνειν, Tit. 2:11; 3:4) our Lord’s first Epiphany, his εἰς ἀνθρώπους ἔνσαρκος ἐπιφάνεια: but on all the other his second appearing in glory, the ἐπιφάνεια τῆς παρουσίας αὐτοῦ (2 Thess. 2:8), τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ (Tit. 2:13; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 4:1, 8; cf. Acts 2:20).

If we bring these two into comparison, ἀποκάλυψις is the more comprehensive, and, grand as is the other, the grander word. It sets forth nothing less than that progressive and immediate unveiling of Himself to his Church on the part of the otherwise unknown and unknowable God, which has run through all ages; the body to which this revelation is vouchsated being thereby designated or indeed constituted as his Church, the object of his more immediate care, and the ordained diffuser of this knowledge of Him to the rest of mankind. The world may know something of Him, of his eternal power and Godhead, from the things which are seen; which things except for the darkening of men’s hearts through sin would have told of Him much more clearly (Rom. 1:20); but there is no ἀποκάλυψις save to the Church. We may say of the ἐπιφάνειαι that they are contained in the ἀποκάλυψις, being separate points or moments therein. If God is to be immediately known to men, He must in some shape or other appear to them, to those among them whom He has chosen for this honour. Epiphanies must be Theophanies as well; and as such the Church has claimed not merely such communications made to men as are recorded at Gen. 18:1; 28:13; but all in which the Angel of the Lord or of the Covenant appears; such as Gen. 16:7; Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 2:1; 6:11; 13:3. All these it has regarded as preludings, on the part of the Son, of his Incarnation; itself the most glorious Epiphany that as yet has been, even as his second coming is an Epiphany more glorious still which is yet in the future.

Φανέρωσις is only twice used in the N. T. (1 Cor. 12:7; 2 Cor. 4:2). Reaching far on both these occasions, it does not reach to the very highest of all; it does not set forth, as do the words we have just been treating, either the first or the second appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ; although that it could have borne even this burden is sufficiently plain from the fact that the verb φανεροῦσθαι is continually employed of both; thus of the first coming at 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 9:26; 1 John 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:20; and of the second at Col. 3:4; 1 Pet. 5:4; 1 John 3:2; and for other august uses of it see John 2:11; 21:1; and φανέρωσις itself is not seldom so employed by the Fathers. Thus Athanasius (quoted by Suicer, s. v.) calls the Incarnation ἡ ἐν σώματι φανέρωσις τοῦ πατρικοῦ Λόγου. It is hard to trace any reason why φανέρωσις should not have been claimed to set forth the same glorious facts which these other words, to which in meaning it is so nearly allied, have done; but whether by accident or of intention this honour has not been vouchsafed it. Ἔλευσις, a far tamer word than any of the others here, is used once in Acts (7:52) for the setting forth of the Lord’s coming.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G2015,G5321,G602.]

Return to the Table of Contents

BLB Searches
Search the Bible

Advanced Options

Other Searches

Multi-Verse Retrieval

Let's Connect
Daily Devotionals

Blue Letter Bible offers several daily devotional readings in order to help you refocus on Christ and the Gospel of His peace and righteousness.

Daily Bible Reading Plans

Recognizing the value of consistent reflection upon the Word of God in order to refocus one's mind and heart upon Christ and His Gospel of peace, we provide several reading plans designed to cover the entire Bible in a year.

One-Year Plans

Two-Year Plan


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.