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When we read that “God is Spirit” (Jn 4:24), we might assume that God is nebulous or disembodied—something akin to the wind or a cloud. This strictly spiritual understanding seems to align with the Israelites’ experience of God at Sinai when, although God had descended upon the mountain, they “saw no form” (Deut 4:12, 15). Yet, just because the Israelites didn’t see a form, doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have one. To the contrary, the Bible is clear that God has an embodied, visible form in which the Divine interacts with humanity.

The Hebrew word for “form” is תְּמוּנָה (temunah). While it is true that the Israelites saw no “form” (תְּמוּנָה) at Sinai, God appears to others as a visible and embodied entity whose description mirrors the human form. For example, the psalmist declares of God, “I shall behold your face (פָּנִים; panim) in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your form (תְּמוּנָה; temunah)” (Ps 17:15). Notice how “face” parallels “form” in this verse; the psalmist equates God’s “form” with God’s “face,” so we know that this is a physical form.

God says of Moses, “With him I speak mouth to mouth (פֶּה אֶל־פֶּה; peh el-peh), clearly and not in riddles, and he beholds the form (תְּמוּנָה; temunah) of the Lord” (Num 12:8). While the Israelites standing at the foot of Sinai may not have been able to see God’s form, Moses certainly does! The reason that the Israelites couldn’t see the form of the Lord is not because God doesn’t have one, but because the divine form was obscured by a “cloud” and “thick darkness” (Deut 5:22). While it’s true that “God is Spirit,” it’s equally true that God has a bodily form.

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65 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Dr. Schaser. I appreciate the understanding you have given. GOD has an embodied entity but not everyone see HIM in this. When GOD does appear to someone embodied, would it be only in a male form? Years ago I had an experience talking with a lady who ‘suddenly appeared’ to help me out (emergency situation). She was reassuring me when management rushed in. They saw me standing there, but did not see this lady I was standing and talking with. This lady disappeared in thin air, just as she had appeared moments later to help me. My guess=Angel.

    • Thanks, Vida. When God appears it is neither in male nor female form, since God’s body is beyond gender. We know this from Genesis 1:27 — God creates both male and female in the divine image, which means that only what the two share anatomically (e.g., arms, legs, face, etc.) pertains to God’s own image and likeness. In other words, what separates gender biologically (i.e., genitalia) is not a part of God’s personal body. Likewise, angels may *appear* gendered (e.g., Gen 18:2) but they are, in fact, “other flesh” (σαρκὸς ἑτέρας; see Jude 1:7), not human, gendered bodies.

      • Thank you Dr. Schaser. Jude 1:6 was a little clearer for me than just Jude 1:7. The two together gave more understanding. The ‘appearance’ of gendered = other flesh = a being.

    • Bless u Vida. Heb 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. Even Jesus manifests Himself. He did,when He manifested Himself to Abraham in the three men who appeared to him when the Lord(Melchizedek)brought him the confirmation of having a son(Abraham addressed them”my Lord”)…and they ate meat and drank milk with Abraham…before two of them were sent to destroy sodom. When Moses asked if He could see Yahweh, He hid His face and passed…by…him…where…he…saw…the…back…of…a…man…God…is…man…and…man…is…God

  2. When I have shared this on rare occasions, folks do not know how to respond. I know what I experienced but to this day, it never leaves me. No one can tell me that GOD did not intervene in the emergency-life-situation. I can only conclude GOD sent me an Angel when I had screamed JESUS! I know this seems rather wild and many think I am ‘NUTS’ but I don’t care. They simply didn’t experience what I have. There is much more to this event but, the lifeless body did live. What would you call that? An Angel? Shalom!

      • It reassuring to know we have Angels around us and that we are in fact kept by the Power of GOD through FAITH. 🙂 Most times, I’m not conscious of it. I have often wondered about the ‘spiritual warfare’ that goes on in the heavenly realms. Is this fact/true? If so are there any lectures or blogs on this? Where can I get accurate information on it? Are there scriptures stating this? Thank you again Dr. Schaser. Shalom!

        • Dr. Schaser, I found a lecture on this. As I listened to the Gospel of Salvation in Hebrew part 2. I truly feel like ‘the lawyer (GOD) leading the witness (me)’. LOL Right place, Right time, Right connection…being led. LOL GOD Bless you! Shalom!

  3. I had a vision at night where I was standing on the shore of a lake in utter darkness. A form, like a man in a white robe was standing on the horizon and called me to come. I knew it was the Lord and I called out to Him “Lord, I can’t walk on the water” He said: “If you keep your eyes on Me, you can walk over the water.” And I began to move towards Him, but before I got to Him, I was suddenly back in my bed. The next day my husband had died.

    • Please, accept condolences on your husbands passing. May he rest in peace and may his memory be for blessing.

  4. I was 37 with 2 children and no money or family. I kept my eyes on Jesus and felt a peace beyond understanding for three days. Up to this day He is with me and takes wonderful care of me.

  5. God in His Pure Essence does not have either form nor body. I Tim 1:17. Also I Tim 6:16, and John 4:24 ( Spirit). At various times in the O.T. God appeared to man in a visible form in order communicate with humans. In Eternity past, before creation there was no time, space or matter. The references to His eyes, hands, etc are ANTHROPOMORPHISMS only. The ESSENCE OF God is SPIRIT, INVISIBLE without form, as clearly stated in HOLY SCRIPTURE.

    • The topic of the post, the Hebrew word תמונה (temunah), cannot be “anthropomorphic” because it’s never associated with humans; it describes entities in the heavenly realm who have a “form” — whether God (cf. Num 12:8; Deut 4:12, 15; Ps 17:15), or spirits (Job 4:16). It also appears in the context of not making a “form” of anything to approximate God (cf. Deut 4:23, 25; 5:8), but never with direct reference to “humanity.” Thus, “temunah” cannot be *anthro*pomorphic (i.e., approximating humans). More, 1 Timothy says God is “invisible,” not that God has no form.

      • Here, your argument is lacking because the writers of cited texts, humans of that time of writing, simply did not know the precise language of classic philosophy on being,cause, or here, this “form” ( of Plato or Aristotle as an invisible component of being (sensible being “defined” as matter plus form)) and consequently on God (in Aristotle’s Metaphysics as “pure thought, “self-thinking thought”, or “(first)unmoved mover”) Their only language was that of metaphor,poetry, and analogy (and other genres in literature);therefore,though they did not use this term (temunah)in texts with humans they took it from a real life of humans.

    • Brilliant seduction that’s precisely how I understood scripture God of the bible has no form but is I AM and can be what he decides to be he can take on a form as needed and required to fulfill his divine purpose God is spirit. A spirit has no body

    • Thanks for your note, Phil. “Temunah” (form) can’t be anthropomorphism, because the term explicitly describes God, not humans. God can be both omnipresent, filling the whole earth (Isa 6:3), *and* embodied in a particular location at the same time. The biblical text reflects a divine “fluidity” to God’s body and presence that humans (spatially and temporally bound as we are) do not have. For example, God can be enthroned in heaven (Isa 66:1) and also appear embodied within theophanies at the same time (see Gen 18:1-8).

      • I’m sorry but this premise of God having a bodily form is, forgive me, wacky. The Word did become flesh and dwelt among us. That incarnation is specific to Jesus. I think Dr Schaser is, knowingly or not, self-correcting when he talks of the fluidity of divine presence.

  6. God has appeared to us in Jesus. And (referring back to a previous piece) this definitely was ‘in male form’, fully man and fully God!

    • O thank you Maurice! I cannot fathom why the writer did not equate the “form” with Messiah Jesus. Too much ‘form’ality and not enough of the deity that the form IS.

  7. John.5:37, Jesus said “you have neither heard His voice at anytime, nor seen His SHAPE. Does this mean that God doesn’t have a shape?

    • Good question, Sal. No, this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have a shape or form. Jesus also tells his listeners that they haven’t heard God’s “voice,” but God certainly has a voice. In the context of John 5, Jesus is speaking to certain Jews in Jerusalem (5:1), and he tells them that they haven’t had a experience of seeing God’s shape, but just because they haven’t seen it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have one. God has both a voice and a shape, it’s just that Jesus’ particular audience hasn’t heard or seen them.

  8. Neither space nor time, Kant argues, is an “empirical concept.” … Each is a necessary a priori representation which grounds the possibility of representations of objects “in” space and time. Neither space nor time is a “discursive” or “general concept,” but rather a pure intuition.

  9. Form in Plato. “form” may be used to translate two distinct concepts that concerned Plato—the outward “form” or appearance of something, and “Form” in a new, technical nature “forms are timeless and unchanging”, physical things are in a constant change of existence. Where forms are unqualified perfection, physical things are qualified and conditioned. A Form is aspatial (transcendent to space) and atemporal (transcendent to time). Atemporal means that it does not exist within any time, rather it provides the formal basis for time. It therefore formally grounds beginning, persisting and ending. It is neither eternal in the sense of existing

    • Yes…almost; St.Aristotle perfected St.Plato in his idea of being (any) as a composition of matter and form (in humans: soul is the form of body). Formally, the principle is eternal -like any law or theorem on formal sciences(math,logic)- or aeternal;therefore, the term “God” as the “cause” of everything understood as the principle is eternal and invisible (like the soul of any body or any math’s entity). This classic philosophy terminology fits perfectly with the Bible idea in Exodus 3,14 (I am) of God as the cause of liberation of the oppressed-St.Thomas Aquinas, S.Th.1a,13,1(On the name of God)

  10. The simple answer is found in John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. When we see God in form we are looking at Jesus either incarnate or in pre-incarnate form. He is the only ‘God’ we can see with our eyes while still in our sinful form.

    • You’re right with reference to John, Kirk (also compare Isa 6:1-5 with Jn 12:41). Thanks for that comment. Granted, things aren’t *quite* that simple…. Another manifestation of God is the “angel” (malakh) of the Lord, in which people see the angel, and then say they’ve seen “God” (e.g., Gen 32:30; Hos 12:3-4; Jgs 13:9-22). The “angel of the Lord” was an embodied “form” of God. However, the NT says that Jesus is not an angel, but rather is superior to the angels (see Heb 1:4-14; cf. Jn 1:51). Thus, the embodied angel (who is also God) seems to be an embodied form other than the pre-incarnate Jesus.

      • Referring to the status of Jesus in NT, you forgot that Hbr 2:9 speaks about Jesus lower in rank than angels! See my comments regarding the “form” (in Plato@St.Aristotle). Unfortunately, an eternal problem to rightly understand the naming of historical Jesus of Nazareth using the one perfect classic philosophy and the achievements only in 20th centry of semantics (in general math logic),here on the status (different ) of names (individual and general) and description ( of B.Russell in Principia Mathematica,1910). Stoics’s material implication and this definition of description- a perfect tool to conquer 17century (since A.D 325) Christological idioces!

        • Jesus is ‘The’ image of the invisible God not one image amongst many. The term Angel of the Lord or Messenger of the Covenant can not possibly exclude it from being the pre-incarnate word of God (Jesus).

  11. I am surprised that the word image is different then the word form. I see that a graven image is something we make. I am wondering if the word “body” has been misrepresented. I have never seen “form” used like this before.

  12. This article is misleading. Elohim Almighty has no form whatsoever. Elohim Almighty is spirit; the word spirit being used as human’s best stab at describing what humans can’t describe. No human has seen or heard Elohim Almighty at anytime.

    • The claim that God “has no form whatsoever” goes against the biblical data. Yes, “God is spirit” (see the above article, which begins and ends with this assertion), but that does not mean that God is disembodied, since spirits have bodily forms (e.g., Job 4:13-16). More, the text contradicts the notion that “no human has seen or heard Elohim at any time.” For example, according to Genesis 32:30, “Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God (Elohim; אלהים) face to face.”

  13. In relation to your article, what is your explanation of Exodus 33:20 (in context of course) when God says to Moses “you cannot see My face, for man shall not see Me and live”?

    • Good question, Ken. Exodus 33:17-23 is another instance of God appearing in embodied form. According to Exod 33:22, God appears to Moses through God’s “glory” (kavod; כבוד), which is one of several ways that God manifests physically on the earth. The word for “glory” comes from the word for “weight” (kaved; כבד), which denotes physical mass to the body in which God manifests. More, the passages refers to God’s “hand,” “back,” and “face” (33:23). God has a face, it’s just that one cannot see it and live. The precise meaning of this cautionary statement is a bit unclear, since Moses encounters God “face to face” elsewhere (in the very same passage, in fact!), but doesn’t die (e.g., Exod 33:11; Num 12:8; 14:14; Deut 34:10; cf. Gen 32:30; Jgs 13:22-23).

  14. In John’s gospel at the end of Chapter 1 he writes – “No one has ever seen God, but God, the only begotten one who is at the Father’s side, He has made him known.” Jesus is God in human form and the perfect image of the Father. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This was part of the Son’s mission to reveal to us what God is like in a human context that we could understand. Philippians 2 makes this very clear as well.

  15. 1 John 3:2-3 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. NIV
    With ! Tim 6:13-16 God is more and we will not know until He returns. It is more than Just a Spirit form. Only until He appear will we know. We are to live what He says. Love Him and others.

  16. Every mention of God, Lord, or angel is always in male persona in the Bible. I never read where it mentions or appears to take on a female persona. God, let us make man, Gabriel male, Michael male. Though I do believe angels around us can transform to be in male or female persona. If there is a mention of female diety please advise me.
    TY

    • Thanks, Debra. You’re right that angels are described as male, but they aren’t men, since they have “other flesh” (Jude 1:7) that is different than the flesh of human bodies. The Bible describes God using feminized imagery (cf. Deut 32:!8; Isa 42:14; 49:15; 66:13; Hos 13:8), but God is neither male nor female as human beings are (cf. Gen 1:27).

  17. Question: If angels have no genitalia, how did the sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6 manage to have sex with women? Any thoughts?

  18. Remember Luke 24:39 as Christ speaks to Thomas after the resurrection — ” “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

    If God is “spirit,” Christ says he does not have a bodily form. God can manifest himself to humans in any way he desires, but in his essential existence, Christ says he does not have a body.

    • I would caution against assuming that “spirit” = “disembodied,” since both the Old and New Testaments describe spirits as having bodily forms (cf. Job 4:13-16; Lk 3:22).

  19. When Jehovah was directing Moses He was a Spirit form and when He was born he received a physical body and when he died He was the first to be resurrected as He is the” resurrection and the life”. He and our Heavenly Father have immortal tangible bodies. All of us born in this life will also be resurrected as promised by JESUS CHRIST.

  20. Indeed very true! God does have a form! In fact Genesis 1:26-27 clearly states that God made man – male and female in His image and likeness. And why we never see Him in the same form as we are – besides the fact that He showed Moses His back part and /or He covered the niche where He had put Moses with His Hand and such – Genesis 3:7 clearly tells us why – because God cannot fall into sin unlike Adam and Eve who could see their naked physical bodies only the moment they sinned.

  21. The problem is that the spiritual world has no physical form, but humans can only think in terms of forms, whether images or other such items, or in words, which are symbolic forms for ideas about the spiritual. The spirit world exists, but in this mortal life we can’t see it– which is why God took the form of a human being, Jesus, to make Himself more understandable to us. In the Tanakh, Melchisedek might have likewise been God in human form, and one of the three visitors to Abraham was YHWH, the other two apparently being angels.

    • Thanks for your comments, Johanna. Why would we assume that “the spiritual world has no physical form”? The biblical text suggests that spirits do have embodied forms (e.g., Job 4:13-16; Lk 3:22). Melchizedek was a priest of God (as opposed to being a manifestation of God), but you’re right that God appears in physical form in Genesis 18.

  22. I had heard that it’s our limited western thinking that seeks to give God a form whilst in Hebrew thought it was explicitly forbade from ever doing so (in line with the 2nd commandment which can also be understood as never forming an image of God to worship).

    I was taught that the key to understanding “forms” described in Hebrew text was rather as “function”; ie the “hand of God” refers to functions like provision & protection, rather than assigning God a physical form.

    Would this be considered inaccurate or fanciful by your understanding?

    • Thanks for your questions and comments, Shaun. It’s interesting that you put it the way you did; namely, that “it’s our limited western thinking that seeks to give God a form” but that Hebrew thought doesn’t do this. Actually, it’s the other way around: the Hebrew Bible assigns a form to God, but western thinking (i.e., classical Greek philosophy) has argued against the embodiment of God. In Jewish thought, the “form as function” approach is close to Maimonides’ interpretation in the Guide for the Perplexed (12th century), in which he asserts that each time the Bible refers to God’s physicality or form (e.g., “hand of God”) that it means something metaphorical — so that God’s “hand” would refer to something like God’s “power,” but not to actual embodiment. Maimonides’ view is strongly influenced by Islamic theology and philosophy, which is, in turn, influenced by Greek philosophy, so the non-physical view of God actually has its origin in western, non-Jewish thought. But, again, the Hebrew Bible is more than comfortable talking about God’s body and/or form. If you’re really interested in this topic, you might take a look at Benjamin Sommer’s excellent book, “The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel.” It’s a bit technical at times for non-scholars, but it’s still readable and worth the work! Thanks again for this astute question!

      • I have only recently become aware of Maimonides, but only in passing and it sounds like some of his thoughts influenced one of the bible teachers I listen to! Thank you for the book suggestion, I’ll add it to my reading list! I’m not scared of academia haha

        Though I am looking forward to “Apocalypse & Allegiance” though which condenses Kraybill’s thesis on Revelation to a more readable level 😂

        On a more related note….I thoroughly enjoyed taking a “function over form” interpretative lens in some cases….Could it be justified by tradition of a PaRDeS approach (as long as you start with the Peshat), or better to steer clear altogether (in your opinion)?

        • I certainly tend to favor the peshat — the Pardes interpretative framework is post-biblical, and I think that allegorical or esoteric readings of the text, while sometimes fun, often do not reflect the authorial intent of the original authors. Thanks again for reading, Shaun.

  23. Awesome subject. I believe GOD is LIKE the sun, HE is LIGHT, HE is SPIRIT, says the Word. And if HE appear to people even in OT, HIS WORD appeared in bodily form(Jacob, Abraham, Adam). And the WORD became flesh happened because of the covenant HE made……..

  24. …… We are talking about our CREATOR, our GOD the ELOHIM, such power is impossible to be limited. If HE “wants”, he can take part of HIM and appear in any form. HE, or YESHUA, or angel appeared a whole week to me, the power was so undescribable,

  25. I accept that the statements in Genesis about man being made in the image and in the likeness of God are literally true. 1 Cor. 15:45-49 (read it in the CEV) supports that view. The resurrected body has flesh and bone but in the spirit realm form that is immortal.

  26. This is silliness! Biblical writers use human items (e.g., the hand of God) to describe God’s activities. In Genesis, God walked in the garden of Eden. Is that some sort of indication or proof that God has physical feet? Be child-like, NOT childish!

  27. Dear Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser of course God has a form, Genesis tells us that we are created in His image and likeness: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them”. (Gen 1:26-27)

  28. Praise be to our Father in heaven. shalom Dr Nicholas . to answer your question let us look at this example matter has three forms solid,liquid and gas.we cannot see oxygen with physical eyes .so likewise GOD has a spiritual form He is able to be one with The son.if

  29. We cannot see God lest we die? Perhaps ALL OT appearances of GOD were Christ (WORD)? We are created in His image! Does that mean only His intellect, Will, etc? To have a throne, one needs a form to sit on it. God cannot be contained He is a SPIRIT.

  30. You just want people to study hebrew and are not really dealing with qeustions asked by people and all I want to know is the bible the hitorie of Isreal or is it the spirituly resemblems of the people who wrote it and proclaimed it as the bible.

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