When Jesus speaks to the Samaritan woman, he tells her that “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24; πνεῦμα ὁ θεός; pneuma ho theós). For some, this phrase denotes that God is an ethereal being who is not spatially delimited; in other words, that God has no bodily form. However, the Bible often describes spirits as embodied, and John’s own Gospel presents God as both “spirit” (πνεῦμα; pneuma) and as having some kind of body. When Yeshua says that “God is spirit,” he does not argue against divine embodiment. Instead, for God to be “spirit” means that the Lord is not made of flesh and blood like human beings, nor is God bound by our physical world.

For help in understanding what Jesus means by “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24), the best place to go is back to the beginning of John’s Gospel. In the Johannine prologue (1:1-18), the evangelist asserts that God (1) has some sort of “body,” and (2) that body is not physical in an earthly sense—that is, God’s bodily form is not that of flesh and blood. On this second assertion, the Gospel clarifies that God is not made of human materials. John says that everyone who receives the Word of God becomes “children of God, who were born, not of blood (αἱμάτων; haimáton) nor of the will of the flesh (σαρκὸς; sarkòs) nor of the human (ἀνδρὸς; andròs) will, but of God” (1:12-13). These verses highlight the fact that God is not made up of “blood” or “flesh,” nor is God “human”; according to John, the Father exists and operates beyond the earthly realm.

At the same time, John also notes that God exists in a bodily form that is not like our own. The very end of the prologue states that “no one has ever seen God,” but that the one-of-a-kind Word, “who is in the Father’s bosom (κόλπος; kólpos), has made him known” (1:18). The Greek word translated “bosom” (sometimes translated “side” [e.g., ESV, CEB]) literally describes God’s chest or the part of the body between the arms. Luke’s description of Lazarus in the afterlife can help us make sense of how God can be both “spirit” and have a “body.” When Lazarus dies, Jesus says that he is “carried away by the angels to the bosom (κόλπος; kólpos) of Abraham” (Lk 16:22). Of course, since Lazarus meets Abraham in the afterlife, the patriarch’s “bosom” is no longer made of flesh and blood—his physical body remains in the grave. Nevertheless, Abraham (and Lazarus, for that matter) is still very much embodied in the afterlife—in what we might call a “spiritual body” (1 Cor 15:42-44). In a similar way, God has a bodily form, but the divine body is made of “spirit” rather than “flesh.” The Fourth Gospel shows that God can be both “spirit” and embodied in heaven.

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54 COMMENTS

  1. Question: My Christian husband was cremated, we figured that if a Christian were blown to smitherines in a war, our G-d would still find them. I too will be cremated, what do you think Biblically.
    • Thanks for your question, Maree. The biblical text states that all people will return to dust eventually (cf. Gen 3:19; Job 34:15; Ps 90:3; 104:29; Ecc 3:20), so cremation just speeds up a processes that the Bible already assumes. More, according to Revelation, along with those who are raised from the ground at the resurrection, John sees that "the sea gave up those who were in it" (20:13). Not to put too fine a point on it, but those who have been buried at sea have been "fish food" for some time now. If God can raise bodies from the sea at the resurrection, then God will have no problem raising those who have been cremated :)

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    • We are very happy that you’ve joined our discussion forum. Would you believe that these articles are only a taste of what Israel Bible Center has to offer? We also provide comprehensive teaching on a variety of biblical, historical, and cultural topics. You might begin with The Jewish Gospel of Matthew or The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. You’ll be amazed at the Jewish world that awaits you. Don’t delay another minute: enroll now!
    • God is invisible but real , he put Jesus in Mary cause his people needed an example that they could see to teach them , Jesus is part of his Father but can be born , live in the flesh & be raised from the dead, you can't Him out
    • Hi Eunice
      The Bible is clear when it says absent from the body present with the LORD. The moment life cease to be in this Earth and you are a believer you close your eyes on this Earth just to open your eyes in the presence of Yeshua.
  2. Thank you, Dr. Schaser. Some years ago I met a fellow community college student who told me about how to sign up for cremation after death. I took the opportunity, thinking it was probably cheaper than a casket and a funeral held at a church. Since then I have run into those who think differently, felt guilty, and wondered about going to court about changing that arrangement. But I find myself agreeing with Dr. Schaser and am comforted by his words. I shall leave the cremation directions in place. Dolores
  3. Shalom Dr Nicholas, I had a problem with the cremation part because of Christians that associate it with other religions. Thank you for the explanation to Maree.
  4. Dr. Schaser, Upon reading your article I recalled a scripture referring to God that completely describes Him as a Spirit. Exodus 24:9 describes the God of Israel that Moses and those with him saw, then describes the body of heaven seen through "his clearness." See St. John 1:1-14
    • Linda, thank you for your input. The reference to "clearness" does not refer to God, nor does "clearness" mean "transparency." Instead, the "clearness" (טהר; tohar) refers to the sapphire stone on which God stands and, therefore, should be translated as "clarity" (as in the "clarity" of a precious stone). While the KJV has "his clearness," this is both a misunderstanding of the Hebrew syntax and an English insertion into the text: in the Hebrew, there's no word for "his." The verse should be translated, "Under [God's] feet was like a pavement of sapphire stone, as the very heavens [in terms] of clarity." Every other major English version follows this line of translation (compare ASV, CEB, ESV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NRSV). While the KJV is often sound in its translation, the King James misunderstands Exodus 24:9.
  5. For myself, I don’t want to be cremated but that doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong. A decision of the heart. All that matters to me is: That I’m a born again Christian and some day I will be with my Jesus throughout eternity. Sooner than later.
  6. Abraham And Lazarus Are Spirit as this event Rev 20 happens 1000 plus years AFTER Jesus returns and all those in the grave Including Abraham And Lazarus and we who are alive are changed rise to Meet Jesus who Come here to rule . God made everything. Cremation no problem
    • So you don't believe the time statements in Rev 1 and 22. How can you believe anything in the bible if the HS was not truthful or accurate in the book of Revelation: Must quickly take place, the time is near, soon, at hand, shortly and attested by His apostles.

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  7. Dr. Schaser, you teach with so much simplicity. I love reading your revelations as well as your response to reader's questions.

    Here's mine: Please explain this verse:"and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."

    Thank you.
    • A wonderful question! It may be too complex to answer in a single response here, so I will put it on my list of articles to write. It will appear on our website later this week.
    • “And do not lead us into temptation”
      is better understood “let us not enter in to temptation...” or
      “keep us from temptation”....
      (SEE LUKE 22:40).
      Because God does not “lead” us into any wrong-doing.
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