The Council of My Nation – Idolatry – Anthropomorphisms

D. Anthropomorphisms
Christians sometimes quote passages in scripture that speak of God in anthropomorphic terms. These passage may refer to God’s hands or feet, they may talk of God going down or up, in short these passages speak of God in a way that in a literal sense, would only be applicable to humans. Take the verse in Zechariah 14:4 which tells us that “His (God’s) feet shall stand that day on the Mount of Olives”. Christians understand this verse as a reference to physical feet of a human god. The Jewish understanding is that these words are a metaphor describing God’s actions. The point of the verse is that God will cause a direct impact on the Mount of Olives in a manner that will be unmistakably attributed to Him and to Him alone.

 So whose interpretation is correct?

The vast majority of anthropomorphisms used by scripture can in no way be interpreted literally. The outstretched arm of the exodus (Exodus 6:6, Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, 26:8, 2Kings 17:36), the heavens as God’s throne (Isaiah 66:1, Psalms 11:4, 103:19), the eyes of God (Deuteronomy 11:12, Amos 9:8, Zechariah 4:10, Ps. 34:16, Proverbs 5:21, 15:3, 22:12) are just some of the expressions scripture uses to describe God’s actions – and cannot be understood as a description of His being.

Furthermore, scripture uses the same figures of speech to describe the actions of entities other than God. Isaiah 55;12 has the trees “clapping their hands”, while Psalm 98:8 attributes the same action to the rivers. 2Samuel 12:11 speaks of the “eyes of the sun”, while Jeremiah 30:18 describes a palace “sitting”.

In the language of scripture both human actions and the limbs of the human body represent various concepts. The outstretched arm denotes a manifestation of strength, while the luminous face represents favor. The human body as a whole, together with the full range of human activity stand for a complete conceptual image. This image encompasses the entire spectrum of interaction that is possible between the Creator and His creations. This is not a coincidence. The passage in Genesis is telling us that this is the mold in which man was formed. God formed man in the image of the conceptual totality of His own interaction with His creations. Thus whenever scripture describes an action of God, it finds a metaphor from this conceptual human image. The image projected by the animals does not encompass the full range of activities possible between God and His creations. Thus it is only man that is created in the image of God.

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