While we have never witnessed God face-to-face, numerous OT saints and NT believers experienced what theologians call theophanies – physical manifestations of the Second Person of the Trinity in an obscured form that hinted at His true splendor.
Many times these manifestations took human forms; the Bible refers to God’s face, hand, and arm as evidence of this phenomenon.
Table of Contents
What is Anthropomorphism?
Anthropomorphism refers to attributing human traits or behavior to non-human entities such as animals or inanimate objects, often as literary devices in stories or films, with the intent to increase depth or make the story or movie more entertaining. Anthropomorphism may also be used in everyday life to explain natural occurrences or human behaviors – sometimes with positive outcomes; there can also be cases when it can become harmful.
Anthropomorphic characters have long been a mainstay in stories and movies. From talking animals to furniture that comes alive and acts like people, anthropomorphism can take the form of almost anything; people commonly associate this concept with animals but it can apply to almost anything imaginable: from cars and Toy Story characters being vehicles to marine life creatures in Madagascar by DreamWorks!
Anthropomorphism should not be confused with humanization; rather, it simply refers to seeing traits or characteristics in animals or humans that we find relatable – for instance if we observe our cat enjoying celebrating its birthday! Anthropomorphism comes from Greek roots: “anthropos” meaning human and “morphe” or form. While initially used for depicting gods with human features, today this practice has spread into all aspects of culture and society.
An additional aspect of anthropomorphism is its range. Beyond simply attributing human characteristics to animals or objects, anthropomorphism also assumes these have emotions similar to our own; for instance, when hearing that a dog is sad or happy we assume this means it feels as we would.
There are examples of this in the Bible as well. Jesus is often depicted as having arms and ears, walking among us in Eden Garden – images which serve to make clear He is personal God.
Does God have a face?
Questioning whether God has a face can be an intriguing thought experiment. Many believe that because humans were made in his image, then surely God must also possess physical flesh. However, according to Scripture – He is Spirit not flesh – which means He doesn’t share our physical bodies like we do.
God often appears to people in what’s known as a theophany in the Old Testament, often taking form as a burning bush (Exodus 3:2) or appearing with clouds and fire to Israelites on Mount Horeb (Exodus 33:22) or appearing as dreams; often with an angel of the Lord appearing humanlike; many interpret these visions as signs that Jesus will soon enter our world as He did through these appearances before becoming flesh and blood himself.
These theophanys reveal some of God’s glory and presence, yet not His full face. Only Moses in all the Bible was permitted to witness God face-to-face: this event occurred after several events occurred together; most notably when He placed him in a rock cleft and covered him with His hand until He passed by him.
Abraham, Jacob, Gideon and Solomon all experienced glimpses of God during their lifetimes in various forms; although these experiences provided wonderful glimpses into His presence. But these encounters only showed Him at certain moments – which is likely because He allows only those most dedicated to righteousness to experience Him fully.
Humans cannot fully grasp a spirit-only being like God; therefore, Scripture uses humanistic language and metaphors to make Him more approachable for readers. Such references include His hands, feet, eyes, ears and mouth to convey important truths about Him. When Jesus returns, however, humanity will have the incredible opportunity of witnessing and experiencing God in all His glory as He dwells among us on Earth (Revelation 22:4)! What an eventful time ahead!
Why is Anthropomorphism important?
Although often associated with children’s literature and media, anthropomorphism can be found across a range of literature and media forms. Its purpose is to make stories more interesting or appealing to an audience, as well as create connections. For instance, when writing about an angry storm that “snapped at buildings” or “whirled lightning around,” it can make readers feel more involved with what was taking place than ever before.
Anthropomorphism derives its name from two Greek words anthropo (human) and morphe (form). It refers to ascribing human characteristics or qualities to animals, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena – either literally or metaphorically – so when someone says their cat is celebrating his birthday they’re engaging in anthropomorphism; metaphorical forms are more prevalent and involve attributing human characteristics or qualities to non-human objects or events.
Human anthropomorphism serves a number of functions. It helps us relate to and comprehend complex issues, while making stories more enjoyable and easy to read – for instance in Art Spiegelman’s Maus, where characters look similar to Jewish people while using language with similar traits is used to keep readers entertained and engaged with the story.
Anthropomorphism in religion can also help people better comprehend God. The Bible contains numerous examples of anthropomorphism in reference to Him – such as hands and eyes for instance – with prophets such as Isaiah even speaking of Him having nose and mouth! But it must be remembered that He does not possess physical bodies so these references should not be taken too literally.
While anthropomorphism has many advantages, it must be used with care when attributing human qualities to non-human things. For instance, attributing human qualities like dancing to trees would be incorrect because trees do not possess this capability. Furthermore, using anthropomorphism to mock other cultures or groups of people may prove harmful in many cases.
Is it possible to see God’s face?
Man cannot see God directly. According to Scripture, He is a spirit and does not possess faces like human beings do. In history there have been few instances when His physical manifestation has appeared for mortal eyes to witness; when this has happened it has always been hidden for fear it might be too holy or overwhelming for human witnessing; when this does occur it would typically appear as light, brilliance or fire – these descriptions being found within biblical texts that speak about its attributes as describing His face.
In the Old Testament, God is referenced numerous times. Most often this occurs through Moses or visions from prophets; however, He makes it clear that it is impossible for a sinner to witness His face (Isaiah 59:2). Additionally, New Testament writings warn against attempts at seeing Him directly as those doing so will be consumed by fire.
Many scholars consider the face of God to be a representation of his holiness and glory, often depicted in religious art with an aura emanating from within it, representing His divine purity and righteousness that He bestows upon those faithful to Him.
Since Christianity’s early history, numerous theologians have debated whether or not God can be seen directly. Pseudo-Dionysius of the 13th century popularized this idea of an indefinable and transcendent God who defies all knowledge through “Divine Ineffability.” More recently, Meister Eckhart furthered this belief of His ineffability.
Some individuals have claimed to have seen God in Christ through visions; these visions showed faces that were both human and divine mixed together in an indistinct fashion, leading them to conclude that seeing the face of God does not equate to physical encounters but instead refers to spiritual experiences which help us gain more understanding about who He truly is.