The biblical scholar Bart Ehrman has great points to make, and discussed them with Sam Harris. As I remember the gist of it, in the old testament era, the prophets made predictions and other statements, if the predictions came true, the prophet got accepted as real and their prophecies and other statements largely became cannon. For the new testament, pentacost was the key bit of theology to support the steering of the church by the apostles.
It is hard for us to understand the biblical-era view of the world, sense of cause and effect, and animism of the world. A good example of the power of revelation is I think found in understanding Moses and the plagues of Egypt - each plague showing the greater power of Yahweh over a particular god of the Egyptian pantheon. You have phenomena demanding an explanation (plagues), and neccessarily interpreted as some kind of judgement. A prophet suceeds in creating a narrative, weaving in their predictions with these (free us or else), and using them to point in a direction that gives them power or authority. Another example of this kind of narrative domination was the capture of the ark of the covenant.
Christianity and Islam as I understand it say the book is closed on revelation (until a second coming at least, for Christianity). For Judaism, I have heard there is a framework of interpretation that there were different eras of human development like there are of a human. In the early days God spoke directly to prophets, like infancy. Then indirectly to prophets, like childhood. And now we are in a mature era, it must be through us, we are responsible, and the time of close supervision has gone. Something like that.
The process of reform within a religion is key to understanding it, and I think should be taught as foundational elements when learning about it. Church councils, schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and rabbinic argumentation. The precise doctrinal details of these in a given sect have major, long term implications not just for where the sect will go, but where it can go.
Now, it's easy to look at religions and laugh. Many do dismiss all this. But, it is crucial to societies' survival and health, that we find ways for one generation to leave living messages, meaningful snapshots of their dilemmas and struggles, that future generations can imaginatively enter in to. Without roots in the past, we become atomised, dislocated, and societies unravel.
"Man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free him from all social pressure is to abandon him to himself and demoralize him." "Religion is broader than the idea of gods and spirits and must not be defined exclusively in those terms." "Sacred things are simply collective ideals that have fixed themselves on material objects." "If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion." - Durkheim
Durkheim points out that our concept of the definition of the word religion is very modern, and mainly founded in a discourse of demarcating science. In terms of their social role, religions have always been about social cohesion - as discussed here. Durkheim discusses how this is achieved through sacredness, the setting apart of things, by what we make taboo or put beyond question. It is easy to say, nothing should be. But consider ideals like free speech, or habeus corpus. We make various caveats on these, but it is a hard-won battle-wearied nous which tells us, however convenient it might be to abandon them in a given moment, in the long run the costs will be too high. Making ideas like these sacred, generates a kind of social immune response to violating them. Perhaps without this kind of behaviour, we do not have any society, nothing that unifies a group.
I don't defend divine revelation in the modern era. But know it's based on ancient circuits. Any unprecidently huge disaster will be interpreted as a kind of judgement, the ethics around it scrutinised, and some kind of moral explanation demanded. We engage with the world this way, as we engage with other people, imagining them into beings behind external phenomena. The 'winning' narrative may not be dispassionate cause and effect. And inevitably, science struggles with unrepeatable events and limited evidence from people who already made up their minds. Scientific method itself has to be kept alive as a narrative, and used creatively to explain things relationally, not just a set of mechanical tools. If it cannot maintain narrative domination, a different kind of story will be told. We should learn from the past to understand this, not simply sweep away religious history and ideas as old hat.