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

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Don Stewart

We have seen that God is defined as spirit and a spirit does not have a physical form. But there are passages in the Bible that seem to indicate that God does possess a body.

Eyes

The Bible says that God has eyes.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him (2 Chronicles 16:9).

Arms

Scripture speaks of the arms of God.

And remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm (Deuteronomy 5:15).

Hands

The Bible records God speaking about His own hands.

All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imaginations (Isaiah 65:2)

Fingers

Scripture attributes finger to God.

The magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God." But Pharaoh's heart was hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said (Exodus 8:19).

Feet

The Bible says that God has feet.

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

These Are Not To Be Taken Literally

These verses are not to be taken literally. They are known as anthropomorphism (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 an outstretched arm, eyes that see everywhere, a mighty hand.

It Would Be A Strange Looking Being

If one wishes to take these references to God's character literally then they will wind up with a very interesting-looking being. Consider these verses:

Feathers And Wings

The psalmist speaks of the feathers and wings of God.

He shall cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you shall trust (Psalm 91:4).

Sword For A Tongue

John wrote about God's tongue is like a sword.

He had in his right hand seven stars, out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (Revelation 1:16).

A Door

Jesus said that He was a door.

Jesus said: "I am the door" (John 10:9).

Fire

The writer to the Hebrews stated:

For our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

By taking these verses literally God would look like a bird, have a sword for a tongue, would be made of wood, and would function as a furnace!

Summary

In many passages in Scripture God is described as having bodily parts. The Bible describes God's eyes, arms, hand, fingers, and feet. These images are not to be understood literally. The technical term for them is anthropomorphism. This is the attributing of physical characteristics to God. Rather than 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.

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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