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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: The Personal Attributes of God

Don Stewart :: Why Do Certain Passages Seem to Teach That God Has a Body?

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Why Do Certain Passages Seem to Teach That God Has a Body? (Anthropomorphisms)

The Personal Attributes of God – Question 17

The Bible says that God is “spirit.” Jesus said that a spirit does not have a physical form. Thus, God does not have any type of body.

Yet, there are passages in the Bible that seem to indicate that God does possess a body. They include the following descriptions of Him.

1. Eyes

The Bible says that God has eyes. In Chronicles, we read of eyes going back and forth throughout the world.

“For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chronicles 16:9a NASB).

God’s eyes are said to be everywhere.

2. Arms

Scripture speaks of the arms of God. Moses wrote about how the Lord brought the people out of Egypt with an “outstretched arm.”

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15 NIV)

His outstretched arm is there to save His people.

3. Hands

The Bible records God speaking about His own hands. Isaiah records God saying the following about this.

I held out my hands all day long to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices... (Isaiah 65:2 NRSV)

The Lord has held out His hands to rebellious Israel.

4. Fingers

Scripture attributes fingers to God. Pharaoh’s magicians spoke of this when they saw the miracles that Moses and Aaron were doing.

And the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God!“ But Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, just as the LORD had said. (Exodus 8:19 NRSV)

The magicians of Pharaoh attributed the miracles of Moses to the finger of God.

5. Feet

The Bible also says that God has feet. The psalmist wrote,

You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet. (Psalm 8:6 NIV)

God will place all of His enemies under His feet.

6. Face

In the Book of Exodus, we read of the face of God. The Bible said that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face.

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent. (Exodus 33:11 NIV)

Moses had a unique relationship with the Lord. He saw the face of God.

7. Lips, Tongue, Breath, and Neck

In a passage in the Book of Isaiah, God is said to have lips, a tongue, breath, and a neck. It says the following.

Look! The LORD is coming from far away, burning with anger, surrounded by a thick, rising smoke. His lips are filled with fury; his words consume like fire. His anger pours out like a flood on his enemies, sweeping them all away. He will sift out the proud nations. He will bridle them and lead them off to their destruction. (Isaiah 30:27, 28 NLT)

Lips, tongue, neck and breath area attributed to the Lord.

One of Job’s three friends spoke of the lips of God. We read the following.

“Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you...” (Job 11:5 NIV)

God is said to have lips to speak against those who do evil.

8. Back

The Bible speaks of the “back” of God. The Lord said to the prophet Jeremiah,

I will scatter them before the enemy like the east wind. I will show them My back and not My face on the day of their calamity. (Jeremiah 18:17 HCSB)

The Lord has a backside.

9. Heart

We read that God has a heart. In the Book of Genesis, it says the following.

The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. (Genesis 6:6 NIV)

God has a heart.

Does God Really Have a Body?

Do these verses mean to teach us that God has an actual body? No. These verses are not to be understood literally. They are known as anthropomorphisms (assigning human characteristics to God). The descriptions are to be understood as metaphors that describe in finite human terms, the characteristics of the infinite God. Humankind can better understand and identify with God when He is described as having such things as an outstretched arm, eyes that see everywhere, and a mighty hand.

From these descriptions, we are able to gain further insight into the character of God but not His physical description. God does not consist of any material, or physical, substance.

Summary – Question 17
Why Do Certain Passages Seem to Teach That God Has a Body? (Anthropomorphisms)

In many passages in Scripture, God is described as having bodily parts. The Bible describes such things as God’s eyes, arms, hand, fingers, and feet. Does this mean God actually has these body parts? Does the God of the Bible have a body?

While many have made the mistake of assuming these are actual descriptions of what God looks like they are not. Indeed, these images are not to be understood literally. God is not made of any substance and He has no parts. God is spirit.

The technical term for these descriptions is anthropomorphism. This is the attributing of physical characteristics to God; a Being who has no physical characteristics.

Rather than being literal descriptions of God’s Person, they are rather descriptive pictures that the Bible uses to help us better understand the varied character of God. From these descriptions of God which we find in Scripture we are in a better position to understand the nature and character of God.

Does God Have a Physical or Material Body? ← Prior Section
What Do We Say to People Who Interpret All Descriptions of God in a Literal Manner? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

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.


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