Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser, Professor of Hebrew Bible

Genesis 1:27-28 states that humans are created in God’s “image” (צלם, tselem), but what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Some have suggested that God’s image is reflected in humanity’s God-given intelligence and discernment. In his Guide for the Perplexed, the medieval rabbi and philosopher Moses Maimonides said that it was because “the divine intellect conjoined with man… that he is ‘in the image of God and his likeness,’ not that God, may he be exalted, has a body or possesses a shape” (1.1). While Maimonides defined “image” as abstract intellect, the ancient Israelites defined an “image” as the physical representation of the divine on earth.

The biblical writers used tselem to describe the statues or “idols” of their polytheistic neighbors. God tells the Israelites that when they enter Canaan they must “drive out all the inhabitants… and destroy all their molten images (tselem)” (Num 33:52). The other nations put these images into their temples so that worshipers could bow down to an earthly representation of the deity. In an Egyptian text called the Memphite Theology, the superior god, Ptah, builds idols for the other gods so they have “bodies” to inhabit in their temples: “[Ptah] established [the gods’] shrines, he made their bodies according to their wishes. Thus, the gods entered into their bodies of every wood, every stone, every clay” (AEL 1.59-60).

Likewise, when the God of Israel creates humans in the divine “image,” God places physical representatives into the Temple of the world. This explains the prohibition against making graven images (cf. Exod 20:4-5; Deut 5:8-9): humans themselves are already the images of God. As God’s image-bearers, we humans are not divine ourselves, but we are made according to the physical image—the structure, likeness, and shape—of God’s own body.

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148 COMMENTS

  1. Christians do not worship images or anything in the earth. We have the Holy Spirit to tell us that it is wrong–and truthfully, He makes it unappealing for those who are indwelt by Him. Not so the neo-pagans among the rock concert crowd. I have seen pictures of rock concert “festivals”. The festival goers camp out for days and revel. It seems totally like idol worship–especially with their drunkenness, sexual romps and drug-taking. (Nothing new under the sun, paganism included taking lots of potions and elixirs and sex as part of the worship of idols.) Sad.

    • The Gospel of Philip “Some said, ‘Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit.’ They are in error. They do not know what they are saying. When did a woman ever conceive by a woman? Mary is the virgin whom no power defiled. She is a great anathema to the Hebrews, who are the apostles and the apostolic men. This virgin whom no power defiled but wishes the powers defile themselves. And the Lord would not have said “My Father who is in Heaven” (Mt 16:17), unless he had had another father, but he would have said simply “My father”.

      • The “Gospel of Philip” is a Gnostic fake. The books of the New Testament were recognized as Scripture the moment they were penned. Not so the other “gospels” which were brought forward later to be considered for inclusion in the canon. You are making a theology out of one line of Scripture? Jesus was merely indicating that the origin of Peter’s remark was not of men but of Heaven.

      • How in the world do you come to that conclusion?? Jesus HAD to be born a human. He had to grow up being emptied as we are tempted in order to be able to relate to us. He HAD to die, in order for His perfect, sinless, life’s blood to cover our sins & make us righteous before God the Father because He cannot look on sin. He had to be buried & rise again, for one to fulfill Isaiah 53 & other prophecies & also in order for us to be able to be resurrected into immortal bodies.

        • There are “gospels”, or writings, that were not included in our bible. When the decision was made to put together a book for Christians they prayed and were led by the Ruach HaKodesh as to what books should be included and what not.

          • My comment here is tangential at best, and hopefully not offensively picky, but in the transliterated phrase “the Ruach HaKodesh”, the “the” and “Ha” are redundant with each other.

  2. Given that humans come physically in all shapes(deformed to well formed) and sizes ( very tall to very short), sexually( minimally male and female) as well as intellectually (a spectrum from disabled, dumb to very bright) we then are committed to a confused, if not contradictory set of images of the deity

    • Thanks for your questions and comments, Winston. When the Bible says that humans (both male and female) are made in the “image” of God, think of it in terms of outline, shape, or structure; that is, just as both male and female humans (generally) have arms, legs, hands, a face, eyes, etc., God does also. Of course, God’s body is not made up of flesh and blood like our bodies (so something like skin color is outside the conceptual purview when it comes to divine embodiment), but there is basic anatomic parity between divine and human bodies.

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      • What is the biblical basis for saying that God has a body? Orthodox Christianity has generally denied this, citing texts like John 4.24 and Luke 24.39.

        • Thanks for your question, Jim. On God’s body, cf. Genesis 18:2-8; 32:24-30; Exodus 24:9-11; 33:21-23; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:26-28; Daniel 7:9. On Jn 4:24, “God is Spirit” ≠ “God is disembodied” (cf. Lk 3:22 for the Spirit in “bodily form”). On Lk 24:39, God’s body is not made from “flesh and bones,” but it is a body nonetheless.

      • Adam and Eve are a shadow of Christ and the church. [Eph 5:32 ] Together they are the image and likeness of God. Christ is the express ‘image’ [Heb 1:3 ] and the church is made to be ‘like’ him [Jo 3:2]

      • This conception of God having legs,hands,face,etc.,sounds so weird.As many commentators point out,the use of anthropomorphic language should be enough to explain the problematic passages(imho,the most telling:”Then God saw that it was good…”, like any ordinary craftman after completing a project!

    • Note that humans in every shape and size, on every intellectual level, are immediately recognized as humans.
      Nobody says, he looks like a pig, therefore he IS actually a pig, not a person. We innately KNOW.

  3. Is your conclusion that when anyone from any colour/complexion, tribe, nation, “race” asks to “see” god you would recommend that they look in a normal mirror? Hence different images of god are compatible.

    • I don’t think that to look into a mirror is to see God, per se. As I said in the post, humans are not divine or mini gods. However, when one looks in a mirror, he or she will (generally speaking) see a face with eyes, a nose, and a mouth, and the biblical writers note that God’s face has each of these facets as well.

      • Then the writers you refer to are wrong: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:24 The Biblical writers may use anthropological terms to describe God but that is for the purpose of communicating His attributes of perceiving and evaluating -e.g., Php. 4:18, “They are a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. “

        • Michael, for John to say that “God is Spirit” doesn’t make the ancient Israelite writers wrong (the Gospel writer would never conclude that the Torah and the Prophets are “wrong”). I submit that, perhaps, we assume too quickly that the Spirit must be disembodied. Luke’s Gospel notes that at Jesus’ baptism “the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form (σωματικῷ εἴδει) like a dove” (Lk 3:22). Thus, for God to be “Spirit” doesn’t preclude God having a physical form or body; both Israel’s Scriptures and the Gospel can be right at the same time.

        • Remember Jesus is God. He has a human body. He is 100% God and 100% man. Nicene Creed makes that quite clear. That was made dogma in ~321 AD. The Church has believed that from the beginning ~33AD. Several Apostles declared that Jesus was the Son of God. Jesus did not correct them. Jesus declared himself God: “I and the Father are One!” and “Before Abraham I am” he declares himself as divine yet a separate person from the Father and the Holy Spirit. There are three persons in the Trinity but one God.

  4. I have always heard that God gave us an eternal soul for immortality eying defined as being “made in His Image??? Even though we are given free will to choose where that eternity is spent?? Is there, in your opinion any validity to this???

    • Thanks for your question, Rosemary. The notion of an “eternal soul” is more of a Greek philosophical idea than it is a Hebrew idea. The Hebrew word that is often translated “soul” (נפש) means one’s “self” or “life.” The ancient Jews were more concerned with the eternality of their physical bodies at the resurrection than they were in an eternal soul. Thus, in the thought of the biblical writers, being made in God’s “image” would connote physicality and embodiment, rather than a disembodied soul.

      • Mr. Schaser, I do feel that the “image” relates to 2 separate levels : a spiritual level and a physical level. I would connect the spiritual level rather with the Hebrew word ” נְשָׁמָה – Neshamah, a soul, the spirit of life”. Yeshua said once (John 8:51) that a person might never see death. This saying is confirmed by “The rich man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31). The Tanach initially refers to “the Spirit of God” (Genesis 1:1), it is only later on that the physicality of the Lord is mentioned. The Soul is the eternal foundation of our temporal body.

        • Thanks for your comments, Francois. You’re right that “spirit” language (נשמה or רוח) is common throughout the text with reference to humans. I think “spirit” is a more appropriate term to use than “soul” when discussing Hebrew thought. I would just want to push you to consider that “spirit” need not be a “disembodied” thing. In the Bible, “spirits” are often embodied (e.g., 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Lk 3:22).

  5. Respectfully, some reasons that persuade me not to name an image with a name of the Lord: 1) Ex. 20.5 implies that such images show “hate” for God, and are “iniquity” to be “visited” on future generations. 2) Ex. 32ff reveals that the golden calf was made to be an image of the Lord who saved them. Likewise, Jeroboam’s golden calves. 3) Rom. 1:22-31 reveals what exchanging the glory of God for man-images does to society. It is the Word, not an image, that reveals God.

    • Man made in the “image” of God has nothing to do with physicality. With respect, when you say God “has” a body, that seems to me close to heresy. The “image” of God in man lies in different areas, where we show the stamp of the Creator. We have free will – as God does. We can create (indeed “pro”create) as God does. We are tripartite – body, soul and spirit – as God is. We needed to be made male and female to be able to “show” the image of God (remember Eve was taken as the “side” of

  6. Last week I spent over two hours talking with two Mormon missionaries. This discussion sounds like what they were preaching from the Book of Mormon. They would be extremely pleased with the subject of God having a physical body (other than Jesus’). Scripture also tells us that God has wings, but we don’t.

    • Seren, I’m afraid I don’t know enough about Mormonism to comment. On the “wings” issue, see my response to your follow-up comment.

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    • The Mormans are quite literal in their interpretation. They fail to see the anthropomorphisms that God used when he talked to the Israelites. With regard to wings, God is telling his chosen people that if they stay faithful he will protect them like a mother hen covers her chicks with her wings. God the Father can project any image or use earthly things to speak with his people. The visit of the three angels to Abraham at the trees of Mamre and the burning pillar of fire are examples.

  7. Greek thought describes objects in relation to its appearance. Hebrew thought describes objects in relation to its function. Notice the two different translations of the Hebrew word ayil in Psalms 29:9. The NASB and KJV translates it as “The voice of the LORD makes the deer to calve” while the NIV translates it as “The voice of the LORD twists the oaks”. The literal translation of this verse in Hebrew thought would be; “The voice of the LORD makes the strong leaders turn “. The Hebrew word for both of these objects is (ayil).

  8. I agree with you. Greek thought views the world through the mind (abstract thought). Ancient Hebrew thought views the world through the senses (concrete thought). Concrete thought is the expression of concepts and ideas in ways that can be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard. In Psalms 103:8; “The LORD is slow to anger “. Anger, an abstract word, is actually the Hebrew word (aph) which literally means “nose”, a concrete word.If the translator literally translated the above passage “slow to nose”, the English reader would not understand.

    • In the same vein,isn’t yad the word for hand.And to know is yadah.Could the concreteness of hebrew thought be more expressive?!!When Genesis says’Adam knew his wife, and she conceived…’,he knew her by putting his hand on her!And it is fruit-bearing knowledge. On the other hand (excuse the pun),paradoxically abstract-knowledge-can-be-quite-dry-and-sterile.

  9. Didn’t Jesus say that God is spirit Jn4:24 and we must worship in spirit and truth? 1Cor13 lists those aspects of love and Gal 5 the gifts of the Spirit. When we are made in God’s image does that not mean that we are to display God’s character especially when we pray “make me more like Jesus’. I have never thought of the Almighty having any physical form until Jesus out on human flesh and dwelt among us. Needs pondering!

  10. I thought that the human form was relegated only to humans, not necessarily to Adonai. Thus, Yeshua became man to be able to relate to humanity. Are you saying that Adonai in the form of the Father always had a form like a human? This is new to me since I always thought that He is beyond any description. It seems that we can relate to Yeshua more than to the Ruach or the Father mostly because Yeshua took on a human form and lived among humans.

    • The God of Israel always has had a physical form — not a “human” form, or “flesh and blood,” but certainly a form that mirrors our own. Take a look at Genesis 18:1-8 for when God appears to Abraham in a physical form. The apparent difference with Jesus is that he is God’s Word “incarnate” (i.e., dwelling in human flesh). While the “humanness” of incarnation in Jesus seems to be a new step, God was already embodied in a heavenly form — and that heavenly form looks a lot like our earthly form.

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      • The notion that Adonai has always had a form other than pure spirit seems less Hebraic than Greek. But as you pointed out several times, this isn’t necessarily true. Moreover, Hebrew block logic is based on concrete concepts compared to Greek abstract concepts. So what you wrote does make sense but it’s still difficult for me to accept, and even seems sacrilegious. My association and studies with Orthodox Judaism and Chabad tend to shape my POV. Aren’t the examples of Adonai appearing as a human in the Old Covenant actually Yeshua? Chuck Missler and others have argued this.

        • Yes, an “embodied” God seems foreign to Judaism, but that’s because most thinkers since Maimonides have assumed that God has no body. However, Jews before the Rambam (including the NT writers and the rabbis) were comfortable discussing God’s body or form. John’s Gospel argues that bodily manifestations in Israel’s Scriptures are appearances of the “Word” (e.g., 1 Sam 3:21; Ps 107:18-20), but also that when Isaiah saw God’s body in the Temple (Isa 6:1-3), he “saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke of him” (Jn 12:41; cf. 1:14). The Word’s activity prior to Jesus’ appearance is complex in John, but remains Judaic at its foundation.

      • This is what I was referring to when I made that statement about Adonai appearing in human form: “Throughout the Bible, we read of people in awe at meeting Almighty God and being told by Him not to be afraid. Many times, it is Malach Adonai, the Angel of the Lord, who appears — to Moses in a burning bush, to Daniel in a lion’s den — and says, “Fear not!” In Rabbinic teaching throughout the centuries, this manifestation of God in physical form is the Messiah.” Do you believe that ancients saw other forms of Adonai besides the Messiah’s?

        • Thanks for your question. Just as a clarification, rabbinic teaching would not claim that the physical manifestation of God = an appearance of the Messiah. The rabbis, by and large, did not conceive of the Messiah as divine. When God appears to Abraham in Genesis 18 there is no biblical evidence for this being “the Messiah,” it is the unmediated (i.e., non-angelic) form of the Lord. While John would likely say that this divine manifestation was the “Word” who is both “with God” and “God” (Jn 1:1), based on the Hebrew text the three “men” who eat with Abraham are two angels and the God of Israel.

      • Just out of curiosity,what would God need legs,arms,hands for?We need them to walk,seize,pull,etc.,but God? No wonder that in his infinite wisdom,He made sure that revelation transited from the Jewish sphere to the Greek sphere. New wine in new wineskin.

        • According to the Bible, whether in heaven or on earth, God exists and acts in space (e.g., Gen 3:8; Exod 24:9-11; Ps 2:4; Dan 7:9-10) and bodies facilitate one’s ability to do that.

          • God in space: so space existed from all eternity? Then you have 2 entities irreducible from one to the other: God and Space. How come they fit together anyway? Maybe there exist other such eternal entities “out there” but they can’t interact with our two-gods world? Just wondering…

          • So, for you, there exist 2 ultimate realities, God and Space? That’s the inescapable conclusion if you won’t accept that these biblical descriptions are anthropomorphic renditions of spiritual truths. But you won’t admit it.

          • According to Israel’s Scriptures, the God of Israel is both beyond earthly time and space and exists within these parameters — to separate God from time or space is to dispense with Israelite theology and God’s historical dealings with Israel. The ancient Israelite authors of the Bible do not address questions about the eternality of space or the irreducibility of alternate realities. While an embodied God may be in tension with certain conceptions of metaphysics or philosophy, a God without a body would be almost nonsensical from an ancient near eastern perspective.

  11. I cross referenced Is 6; Ezek 1; Rev 4;1Ki 22:19/2Chron 18:18 which made me think. Are we so conditioned into thinking that these were visions and we can’t take them literally, so God sitting, His loins. Or do we need to look afresh and allow the Holy Spirit to direct our thinking. It is challenging anyway and as you said EM, we can relate to Yeshua because He became a man like us. Continue pondering!

    • Thanks for your comments, Ruth. Those are good passages to cite for support that God has a body. Also see Genesis 18:2-8; Exodus 24:9-11; 33:21-23. “Continuing to ponder” is a great way to approach biblical studies — a good thing for each of us to remember when seeking to understand the text.

      • Isaiah 9:6,For unto us a child is born,this scripture refers to Jesus as the everlasting Father.Thats who he is God manifest in the flesh ,the saviour.The fullness of the Godhead bodily dwells in him .We are complete in Jesus.

  12. I think it is interesting that other nations put images into their temples so that worshipers could bow down to an earthly representation of the deity. I can’t quit put my finger on the scroll in Rev 5, but somehow I think that we are the scroll. It is our eyes being opened and the writing on both sides would be the two-fold victory of Christ. Does anything connect scrolls to temples? I would be curious if there is a connection.

    • Thanks, Kat. The scroll in Revelation 5 represents the “things that are to come” according to Revelation; that is, a message from God that John gets to see play out in his vision. Also see when John eats a scroll, thereby internalizing the message (Rev 10:9-10), which draws on the similar episode of Ezekiel eating a scroll (Ezek 3:1-2). There were certainly “temple scrolls,” i.e., scrolls that were kept in temples (such as religious texts or financial records), but that’s the only connection between the two that I can think of. Thanks again for your comment/question.

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  13. In ancient times there were temple gardens. The last thing which was put into the garden was the stone or wooden god. Eden is like this – Adam was the last ‘thing’ to go into the garden to work it. He was the ‘image’ of the true God but he was living and breathing and moving. That’s what being ‘made in God’s image’ means. We are living images representing Him.

    • Thanks for your erudite comment, Jayne. You’re absolutely right: the creation in Genesis 1 corresponds to the ancient temple-building process, so that humans are positioned as the the “image” that goes into the “temple” on the last day of its construction. What the writer of Genesis 1 is saying is that God made humans to function has the divine image not just in a temple, but in the entire world; indeed, the whole world is the God of Israel’s Temple, according to Genesis. See the following article for more on this: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/world-gods-temple/

  14. The Gospel of Thomas v. 2 ” Jesus said, “If those who lead you say to you, ‘See, the kingdom is in the sky,’ then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, ‘It is in the sea,’ then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty.”

    • How does this passage relate to humanity being created in the image of God? Do you want to unpack the text in relation to the forum topic? Why cite texts like the Gospels of Thomas and Philip, since they are both gnostic and apocryphal, and are not authoritative in any Christian tradition?

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  15. Don’t look without, look within. Looking out has you bowing to “things” which are idols. Isaiah 44:14-16 “He cuts down cedars or retrieves a cypress or oak. He lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a laurel, and the rain makes it grow. It serves as fuel for man. He takes some of it to warm himself, and he kindles a fire and bakes his bread; he even fashions it into a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.”

  16. As far as I know from the bible is, that God had no bodie because He is a Spitit. So where can I find the scriptertext, that God had a body or wings. Because the bible tells us the angels heve wings.

    • Thanks for your question, Erwin. On God’s body, see, for example, Genesis 18:2-8; Exodus 24:9-11; 33:21-23; Isaiah 6:1-3; Ezekiel 1:26-28. Technically it is the seraphim (שרפים) who have wings (cf. Isa 6:2), rather than angels (מלאכים), who look like humans. Angels can fly (cf. Dan 9:21; Rev 14:6), but the Bible never describes them as having wings. You’re right that “God is Spirit,” according to John’s Gospel (see Jn 4:24), but this doesn’t preclude God having a body.

  17. “As God’s image-bearers, we humans are not divine ourselves, but we are made according to the physical image—the structure, likeness, and shape—of God’s own body.” This is a disturbing statement. God is Spirit and therefore has no physical body or body parts. When the Bible uses human physical features to describe God it is making use of anthropomorphism. This is basic theology 101. Surprising the author makes this statement.

    • Ivan, the statement may be “disturbing” or “surprising,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not biblical. See the following verses in which God appears in bodily form and eats with people: Genesis 18:1-8; Exodus 24:9-11. Some biblical figures get to see God’s physical “form” (תמונה). For example, God says of Moses, “With him I speak mouth to mouth… and he beholds the form (תמונה) of the Lord” (Num 12:8). You’re right that many post-biblical theologians have understood anthropomorphic language for God as metaphorical, but that’s not necessarily what the ancient Israelites thought.

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      • Thanks for your response. I disagree with your interpretation of the image of God. What do you make of John 4:24 and John 1:18? Moses did see the form of God, precisely because he didn’t actually see God. God ate with Abraham. But there it is God accommodating himself in human form that Abraham encountered, not God in his infinite ontological self. Ex. 24 states the elders saw God, but does not describe what his form was. “under his feet” is typical anthropomorphism, in my view. I’m curious to know if you believe God has a flesh and blood body?

        • Nope, God’s body isn’t flesh and blood — humans are made in the divine image in terms of shape or structure, but not substance. On Jn 4:24, we needn’t think that “God is Spirit” = “God is disembodied” (cf. Lk 3:22 for a “bodily” manifestation of the Spirit). Jn 1:18 echoes other biblical passages (cf. Exod 33:20; 1 Tim 6:16), but still other texts state emphatically that people “saw” God (cf. Exod 24:10; Jgs 13:22); you’re right that seeing God here is not to see God’s “infinite ontological self,” since in these instances God is “embodied” (i.e., self-limited & locative).

      • Doctor, thanks for your article & insights. I was aware of God’s ability to materialize; (btw Abraham had no unholy issue like Moses did w God’s glory.) I never thought about we are made in God’s bodily image but our souls are for they are eternity. As children of God, we have no gender but like angels; but Jesus appeared the first fruit as a man, I assumed; He looks as a son of men in revelation. Do you think we, resurrected women will be more like the Holy Spirit in nature & image of the Messiah? Thanks,

  18. I would like to share this reflection with you for a moment from my heart. G-d created me by his divine will, purpose, and plan. He formed and fashioned me in his consecrated image and he breathed his Breathe of life into me by his Holy Spirit so I die to the flesh and life by his light and glory. G-d, our Abba Father and Great Physician brought me forth out of the darkness and held me and called me his own. I am A Child of G-d. I have this gift of life and relationship as a precious gift.

    • This is a translational issue: “wings” (כנפים) can either mean birds’ wings or the “borders of a garment” (cf. Num 15:38; Deut 22:12, 30; 27:20; 1 Sam 15:27; 24:4-11; Zech 8:23). Thus, when Ruth is laying at Boaz’s feet and asks him, “Spread your ‘wings’ (כנפים) over your servant” (Ruth 3:9), she refers to the extremities of his robe. Since Boaz doesn’t have literal wings in Ruth 3:9, we can safely assume that God doesn’t have wings in Ruth 2:12; both texts refer to garments. Since God wears clothing over his body (e.g., Isa 6:2; Dan 7:9), כנפים are best understood as “edges” of God’s clothes. This is clarified in Ps 61:4: “Let me dwell in your tent forever; let me take refuge under the shelter of your כנפים.” Just as a “tent” is made out of fabric, so too are “edges of clothing,” which is what the psalmist means with reference to God.

  19. All I know concerning images is that what you have draws like itself to it. For example, an image of a flower in a living room draws attention to it as a flower. Things of God draw attention to them as of God. For example, a menorah draws to it the God thoughts it represents- a cross the victory of the cross as God ‘s LOVE given so God thoughts it represents. So important not to have any image of false religions or strange things because they will pull those spirits & thought patterns in their direction.

  20. Seeing that Jesus is God then being made in His imagine isn’t out of norm to believe. However God the Father is Spirit and has no body as we do.

    • Jesus John 6:46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. John says 1:1-3 The word made everything. This is the God who appeared in Human Form (OT) as Satan can Appear as an angel of light

  21. The real danger seems to me to ascribe a human form to God, since focusing about this human form may draw us to something else entirely.

    • Thanks, Jean-Victor. Your point on not portraying God in human form is well taken, but the Bible itself ascribes a “human-like” form to God when God appears on earth (Gen 18:1-8; 32:24-30; Exod 24:9-11; 33:17-23; Num 6-8; Isa 6:1-3; Dan 7:9-14). So it’s matter of humans being prohibited from replicating God’s body in a statue, rather than God not having a body.

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  22. I have been following the discussions with interest, but what I have gathered is that a new concept is always hard to grasp and believe. Most Christians have been raised to believe some doctrines that are not biblical, only that they are popular beliefs. The best approach is not to defend my belief, but to be open to be taught by the Holy Spirit in line with the Word of God. The truth is the one that will set us free, not popular beliefs and teachings. God’s bodily form is a hard teaching.

  23. Dr. Nicholas, I have always considered the “physical” image of Adam who was made in the “image” and “likeness” of God to be a true representation of God Himself. However, this “physical” image of human beings does not mean that God in His essential nature is anything but infinite spirit. The “physical” image which Adam bore is to that which God would manifest Himself in as Jesus of Nazareth, “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”

    • Agreed, Allen! The physical image of Adam (i.e., the human shape and form) accurately reflects God’s own body, *and* God is an infinite Spirit (Jn 4:24). Thanks for your contribution to the discussion.

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  24. GOD is SPIRIT and those who worship HIM, must worship HIM in Spirit and in Truth. We are made up of a body, soul and spirit (breath). The Spirit is HIS image. I’m not sure sure the physical is that important as we are all different, an individual, and all over this planet called earth. HIS SPIRIT is what should be reflected (once we are born again) and wouldn’t that be HIS image?

    • Hi Vida. Yes, God is Spirit (Jn 4:24), but we often think of “spirits” as disembodied, invisible entities. The Bible, however, describes spirits (including God’s Holy Spirit) as embodied, just like we are embodied. For example, Luke notes that when the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism, the Spirit does so in “bodily form” (Lk 3:22). There are several texts from the Old Testament that also describe spirits as entities with bodies. Thus, God can be “Spirit” and still have an “image” that our physical bodies approximate here on earth.

      • That exactly the point. If Luke points out that the Holy Spirit came in “bodily form”, it’s precisely because that’s not the normal nature of the Spirit!!! Or should we believe that the Holy Spirit looks like a dove? That should be the conclusion if we follow your-logic:God-has-arms-head-face,etc.,because-the-bible-uses-this-figurative-language…

        • Luke doesn’t say that the Spirit’s bodily form is that of a dove (the Spirit doesn’t “look like a dove”); rather, the syntax describes the embodied Spirit descending in the way that a dove would descend.

          • Good to know,thanks.Somehow the Greek language can express these nuances? So “like-a-dove” qualifies the verb “descending” and not “in bodily appearance”. But my point remains valid: Luke would not point out this “bodily appearance” if it was the normal nature of the Holy Spirit. Period.

  25. I think I have it Dr. Schaser. Such as JESUS walking on the Damascus Road with the disciples and they didn’t know it was HIM. and then stated, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us…’? Is this correct or am I still off course here?

  26. Interesting discussion. What if the “in” in “in our image” is a ב of identity to be translated “as our image” in Genesis 1:27?

    • Could well be, Dr. T 🙂 Nailing down the precise English equivalent of those ב’s is a tricky business. A ב of identity would make it so we humans are God’s “imagers” or “image-bearers” on earth. The text would be making a statement of human identity more so than our human shape. I’m quite happy with this as a translational option, as well as the theology that results from it!

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      • (fourth part of a post) Omnipresence cannot be restricted to a physical body. Just as all of the internet is everywhere, but can be focused in one location, God can reveal Himself through a physical frame, as He did in Jesus (who came to be the declaration of God – “Word” and “express image”). But He is not limited to such a frame, nor does he “have” one. Being God means being Spirit – who may choose to show Himself in tangible form, but does need that to be Himself.

        • God is omnipresent, filling the heavens, but God is also described as *embodied* in those very heavens: “the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow and the hair of his head like pure wool” (Dan 7:9). This isn’t a “theophany” of God on earth, but a vision of God embodied in heaven. The Ancient of Days is also not a “Christophany,” since we equate the “one like a son of man” with Christ (cf. Dan 7:13-14; Mk 14:62). God can be both omnipresent and embodied — there is a divine fluidity to God’s body that we must allow for, or else we will misunderstand the biblical picture of God.

  27. We can make graven images of God. We, the Church, the Chosen of God have seen Jesus. The Apostles walked, and talked with God just like Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. Jesus wants us to be in Him as He is in us. As we grow closer the image of Jesus starts to shine out. That is why the Church is full of images of Jesus. Remember Jesus said “I and the Father are one.” He declares his divinity which day by day the Apostles knew was true as they grew in Christ.

  28. When God created Adam in His Image, He breathed His Spirit into Adam’s nostrils. That’s what makes us so different from the animals and that’s what makes us “in His image”. I will understand these things when I am with the Lord in His Kingdom. Things will be so different there, like no time dimension. Jesus will hold out His hand to me and I will take it and God the Father will see me through the Blood of the Lamb: whole, clean and sinless. And I will see Him as He is.

  29. Man made in the “image” of God has nothing to do with physicality. With respect, when you say God “has” a body, that seems to me close to heresy. The “image” of God in man lies in different areas, where we show the stamp of the Creator. We have free will – as God does. We can create (indeed “pro”create) as God does. We are tripartite – body, soul and spirit – as God is. We needed to be made male and female to be able to “show” the image of God (remember Eve was taken as the “side”

  30. (Continuing from a post which cut off at 100 words) God needed male and female to be able to “show” the image of God (remember Eve was taken as the “side” of Adam, not just a “rib” – bad translation). God does NOT “have” a body as you assert . He CAN manifest Himself through a body – that is the mystery of the Incarnation, and the OT theophanies (or, as I consider, pre-NT Christophanies – Jesus appearing before he was born on Earth – a God outside of time – which is what infinite and eternal mean – is

  31. (third part of a post) Christophanies – Jesus appearing before he was born on Earth – a God outside of time – which is what infinite and eternal mean – is God manifesting Himself in bodily form. That does not mean that God “has” a body. He may use one to show Himself. Remember, ALL of God is everywhere (that is the true meaning of omnipresence – not just that “God is everywhere” – ALL of Him is). Omnipresence cannot be restricted to a physical body. Just as all of the internet is everywhere, but can be focused in one

  32. Shalom. Thank you for putting this space for comments as it helps me to contemplate what our classmates are thinking. Concerning the topic “What is so wrong with making images of G-d?” along with the comments and numerous appropiate references that Dr Schafer points out out that we are created in the image of G-d, does that not say/infer that should we think of ourselves more highly than we ought would exemplify our personal lack of and need for humility) Blessings!

  33. We are all made in the image of God in that we have three parts – body, soul & spirit, just as God has three parts – God the Father (Soul), Jesus the Son (body) and the Holy Spirit (spirit). He is one God in three distinct forms (The Trinity). Made in the image of God has nothing to do with physical appearance. Physically deformed, mentally deformed, etc. is all because of sin. “I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me”. At the rapture we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye into His likeness in that we will have perfect bodies unblemished from sin. People have pictures that represent Jesus in the flesh but none of us know what he looked like except that he looked like any other Jew. Jesus came in humility to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. He will come again as the conqueror and King of kings.

    • Richard Gen 2:7 and God breathed into ADAM”S nostrils the breath of live and man became a breathing creature. Breathing does not represent GOD who does not need to breathe. NO RAPTURE Jesus comes Raises us, rules Here and does NOT go back to heaven No one goes to heaven.

  34. Shalom! Richard Vaughan said we can make an image of God as Yeshua was human and we have seen Him. Also, that there are images of Him in churches. Not true – while Yeshua walked on the earth and people back then, ie. the Apostles, etc. saw Him, we never did and do NOT have an accurate idea of what He looked like. Icons in churches are of man’s imagination, just as artists have their own interpretation. Some have Him in long hair, some in short hair – NO ONE has the true idea of what He looked like.

  35. Shalom! This is a very interesting topic of discussion! One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the putting on of the linen garment and the woolen garment. The linen representing the spirit body and the woolen representing the physical body. At this time in my walk with Yeshua, I see the Word as spoken in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13:
    “We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.” I am still learning. 🙂 Thank you for your wonderful emails! Shalom Aleichem!

  36. Hi there,
    My comment on this, Making God’s image is a very big fault that all of us should avoid, and be careful of putting yourself in danger of G-d’s anger, if G-d said let us make people in our image this means that you yourself is a small God the really one and Big one is hidden as invisible, whom describes himself as no one could live once he/she see His existence,

    I LOVE G-D HE IS EVERYTHING TO ME, I ALWAYS GAIN STRENGTH FROM HIM, WHEN I’M WEAK JUST AS CELINE DION SAYS, YOU ARE MY EYES WHEN I COULDN’T SEE,

    • ENJOY
    • ENJOY
    AND
    • ENJOY

    • Be Blessed

    Annanias Visagie

  37. With respect I do find many remarks on this subject disturbing. What are images but substance of the earth. Cant see hear etc. As the Bible indicates they are dead idols and our God is not a dead but a living God. Our Lord said clearly that a sprit has not flesh and bone as you see me have. Meaning of course that they were handling the real risen Lord and Saviour. Is God then Spirit Or flesh and bone ?

    • Thanks, Colin. When God appears in embodied form in the Old Testament, it is not in a body of human flesh and bone. It is a spiritual body, which is not made of flesh and blood (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-50), but it is a physical body, nonetheless. Jesus is flesh and bone insofar as he is God incarnate (i.e., enfleshed in a human body).

    • 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!

    • Thanks, Colin. When God appears in embodied form on earth in the Old Testament, it is not in a body of human flesh and blood. It is a spiritual body, which is not made of flesh and blood (cf. 1 Cor 15:42-50), but it is a physical body, nonetheless. Jesus is flesh and bone insofar as he is God incarnate (i.e., enfleshed in a human body).

  38. I do not agree that we should make any images that represent God in anyway. In it’s broadest sense, the Lord’s prayer, “hallowed be thy name”, means a deep reverence for He that is so profound and holy that to use any image of Him is to attach a mortal element to Him, to bring Him down to a level of commonality. The tabernacle built by human hands was but a foretaste of the real Heavenly tabernacle which we can’t even hope to fathom with our finite minds, it was there that Jesus presented His offering of atonement on the mercy seat to the Father. Anything made by human hands, unless directed by God, is man’s idea and perspective, dragging it down to a level of human form. As far as images of Jesus goes, I rest my case, Christ came to this earth a mere two thousand years ago and tabernacled among us and we can’t even get His image right. Most pictures of Him depicts a Hollywood image; 6 ft. tall, long hair, great looking. Remember, Judas had to select Him out among the apostles by kissing Him on the cheek because he looked like any other Jewish man of His time. If we can’t get the image of Jesus, God in the flesh, correct, how do we get God the Father correct, saving and excepting various representations throughout the Old Testament.

  39. The Creator existed before there was any matter existing; the bodies we recognize are necessarily made of matter; therefore what “body” means in reference to God is going to have to be understood later, when our minds will be more open, and “we shall know as we are known.” My heart is warmed by so much caring about the nature of God and how He is made manifest on this Earth! Father! May your Kingdom come and Your Will be done on Earth as in Heaven! We have bodies; let’s use them for His purposes among body-bound beings.

    • Later Christian tradition assigns the name “Luke” to the third Gospel, and imagines that its writer was a Gentile. However, any attempt to identify the author is conjecture. Since much of the Gospel reflects Jewish knowledge, interpretation, and assumptions, it is just as plausible that the writer of “Luke” was a Jew.

    • 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!

  40. I am concerned that so much ink was spilled about the ‘image of God’. Today, our imaginations are not cast in wooden or metal images, but in trying to make God fit what we think he should be like. For instance: people seem to agree that God must be loving, so cannot punish us for our short-comings; thus, he cannot be just or righteous. This is a fabrication of our imagination; i.e., an idol or image of God. The Bible, both OT and NT, have many anthropomorphic figures of God. So, why say he has a physical form?
    Shaloam.

    • Thanks for your comments and question, John. The Bible speaks of God in physical form many times (e.g., Gen 18:1-21; Exod 23:8-10; 33:17:23; Num 12:8). In the case of Genesis 18, for instance, God appears to Abraham, eats and drinks with him, and has an extended discussion with him. This is not merely “anthropomorphic” language; rather, this is an account of a physical, embodied appearance of God.

  41. I can’t say that the Bible does not describe God as having a form at times, whether in a vision or physically, however, the majority of descriptions of God having eyes, ears, hands, etc., does fit the idea of anthropomorphisms in a poetic sense. God also appears in the form of a cloud by day and a fire by night. Again, as a fire in a bush. Some of the visions show him looking a bit freaky. Why should God outside of physical manifestations, pre-creation, let’s say, have a form? Doesn’t make sense.

    • Thanks for your comments and question, Walter. You’re right that the biblical poetry speaks of God anthropomorphically, but God appears physically in non-poetic texts as well (e.g., Gen 18:1-21; Exod 24:8-10; 33:17-23; Num 12:8). Even when God is seen in heaven, God is seen as having a form (see Ezek 1:26-28). Thus, the best way to understand divine embodiment is that God maintains a physical form (though one that is not comprised of flesh and blood) in the heavenly realm, and then is manifest in that same embodied form when God appears to human beings in the earthly realm.

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      • “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”. Heaven was created. God is beyond heaven. Any description of God “in” heaven is a manner of speaking due to our limited spatial-temporal mind. It’s like when we say Georgia-in-my-mind:obviously-it-doesn’t-mean-bodily-in-my-mind! Even “our-Father-in-heaven” is a-manner-of-speaking. Let’s-not-reduce-God-to-our-level-of-understanding. He-does-come-down-to-our-limited-level-sometimes-in-order-to-communicate-some-truth, but-it-doesn’t-mean that’s-how-He-is-“in”-Himself.

  42. The PHYSICAL BODY interacts with the PHYSICAL CREATION. The SOUL of animals and MAN collects… the data which the PHYSICAL BODY retrieves via the SENSES. The SPIRIT of MAN / the HEART of MAN is the originator / the source of all MAN-ISSUES. [Pro 4:23 ASV] Keep thy heart…; For out of it are the issues of life. [Jhn 14:10 NASB] “…I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The WORDS that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in me does His WORKS.

  43. God-Son was NOT the originator of the WORDS which He SPOKE; the Father was.
    The HUMAN originates all from within / from the HEART. The inner-being of the HUMAN accomplishes / WORKS via the SOUL and the PHYSICAL SENSES of the BODY.
    The “in the image of God” HUMAN is a PERSON. Person-hood is defined as Intellect / Cognitive, Emotion / Affective and Will / Conative. If you do a word-study of MIND, HEART, SOUL, SPIRIT, you will find that each / all of these human entities relate to Intellect, Emotion and Will.

  44. I have a question: Why did Jesus add “MIND” to [Deu 6:5 NASB] “You shall love the LORD your God with all your HEART and with all your SOUL and with all your MIGHT”?

    • The revelation of God, is in expansion of the truth, Who knows the Mind of the Spirit, but we have the Mind of Christ. The eternal God is fully revealed in Christ thus He alone can add to the Holy Scriptures. Where He adds we must be careful to listen!

    • Jesus is God in the flesh. God has three offices; The Father, the son, and the Holly Spirit. As in the book of Isaiah chapter 7:14 (KJV) Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his

  45. Could it be that since our Creator-God dwells in an eternal realm, that He / the incarnate Christ, could have incarnated FIRST “in the fullness of time,”INTO TIME, gone back into the eternal realm, and appeared in The Garden of Eden as the “resurrected Christ Jesus”? That would account for all of the Christophanies / Theophanies – as The angel of the LORD.
    I find this Scripture reference intriguing: John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You BEFORE THE WORLD WAS.”

    • It is because the form of God is invisible, beyond incomprehensible, how can any artisan so talented, create such a form that would be even close to His divine presence! Never would it be possible. God cannot be so defined. What is the image of love? Of holy holy holy?

  46. Dr. Schaser, is it possible that the root of the concern is that any image attempts to describe and define God, a thing He refused, when He chose the description, “I am what I am”, for Moses?

  47. God as Spirit is invisible and Nonmaterial. God cannot be simultaneously material and immaterial in His essence; this would be ontologically and exegetically impossible. We observe in Luke 24:39 and Isaiah 31:3 that the nature of spirit is contrasted with the nature of material things (1 Tim. 1:17)

  48. I agree that the Most High has a physical body. There are two types of bodies – one is mortal, which we humans currently have, and one is immoral, which YHWH, Yeshua, and the angels currently have, and we will have ourselves after the resurrection.

    • What I have a question about is your view of agency? There are times in Scripture where a third party (agent) speaks, but is referred to as the first party. I know several scholars who believe these moments we’re told God physically appeared were actually a case of agency.

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  49. Right on, but will ruffle feathers of tradition. It’s the Latins and Augustine that invented the “glowing orb God” that is by definition, bodyless and unseeable. The translators have not helped when they translate aoratos as “invisible” instead of the literal “not seen” in 1 Tim 1:17 and others.

  50. I have this question about people who paint painting of what they imagined what Yeshua looked liked. Then people buy these paintings and put them in their homes. Or it could be painting of any of the Prophets or Apostles.
    When they are on your walls hanging would that be considered a image.
    This is something I have questioned for a long time.
    Thanks for any help in answering this.

    • Thanks for your question, Joanne. Paintings are “images” of a kind, but but the biblical prohibition is thinking in terms of idols (statues or molten images). Paintings of Jesus or the Prophets and Apostles are not, in my estimation, breaking the command against making images of God. In fact, we have examples of paintings and mosaics from ancient synagogues of biblical figures like Moses (the most important personage in Judaism), so it seems that paintings weren’t a problem even back then. What people should avoid is making idols of God (the Father, in NT terminology).

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  51. Dr Nicholas.
    When our bible tells us that “man” is made in Gods image I understand that in Hebrew it infers not “hu-man” but “Adam.” And not the first Adam, but the 2nd. So Yeshua as our Messiah. As the 1st fruit. Then we, believers, as we become one w/Messiah.

    • David, “Adam” in the Genesis story isn’t a proper name; rather, the word means “human” or “humanity.” In fact, the word most often has a “ha” attached to the front, making it mean “the human.” Thus, in Genesis 1:27 the text states that God creates “the human” or “the humanity” in God’s image — the text refers to humanity as a collective, rather than a single person named “Adam.”

      • So can you share the meaning of the 2nd Adam, is this not the “image” of God.

        1Co 15:45 – The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit.

        • Paul’s “second Adam” material also has to do with the “image” of God — both Jesus being in God’s image and followers being transformed into that image — but Genesis 2-3 deals exclusively with the first “Adam” (more precisely, “the human”; האדם) as an archetypal representative of all humanity.

  52. Yahusha’s Spirit is the Mashiyach; the Word became flesh- the Word became a living soul..The Word is Yahusha’s soul; his body was not created by dust.. he is the bread of presence..his body is the living manna from heaven

  53. Jam 1:24 The Word is to be your reflection. Not body structure. EL made Adam in His image. Adam was a reflection of EL prior to breaking His commands. Not talking about body structure

    • Leister.

      The Word is the word of creation. When the creator speaks, thru the power of his Breathe/Spirit it is the living Word.

      That’s why Jeshu as the Word in earthly flesh is the image of the Creator. Because he is! We are not yet in His image!

  54. It is sometimes said that there were 2 Incarnations: the first, when the Word became flesh in the Bible, where mere human words, Hebrew and Greek, became the Word of God; the second, when the Word, Son of God, became man, son of Mary.

  55. I would like to ask the Hebrew word for Yahweh to me looks like a letter on either side of a mirror, though not a reflection but a likeness, is this in Hebrew thought a way of expressing our relationship to the Lord?

    • Personally, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the strokes of the Hebrew letters or the way that the word “looks,” but the Jewish mystics in the late antique and medieval periods weren’t afraid to draw out theological meaning based on these kinds of observations.

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  56. Could the image of God also mean that God created creatures that can relate to their creator on an equal level as beings with personality, intelligence, moral choices, etc. It looks to me that God created them so that he could fellowship with them and share life with them which also includes God enjoying their fellowship as free human beings, given the ability to make their own independent choices and decisions as God himself is able to make them.

    • Thanks for your question, Siegfried. While it’s certainly true that humanity shares some of God’s attributes — like personality, intelligence, and morality — that’s not what being made in God’s “image” and “likeness” means. Instead, these terms (צלם and דמות) refer to bodily shape and form. Later in Genesis, God describes murder (i.e., the destruction of a human body) as an affront to the divine “image” (Gen 9:6), which shows that “image” is related to physical embodiment as opposed to abstract faculties. Also compare Ezekiel 1:26-28 for God’s “likeness” being that of a human being.

  57. Nobody has seen God’s face.HE is a spirit.We are made in his likeness which I believe to be our spirit or soul.We will be recognizable to each other in heaven as Elijah & Moses were recognized on the Mt. with Jesus. Graven images, idols, or other gods were not to be worshipped. God made Himself known/seen yet they strayed.God is a jealous God that will not tolerate any affections towards other gods & that is where danger arises.People have a tendency to place more value on what they can see or trust in their own creations.Today we rely on our faith Anything that would take us away from God to the point that we value it or worship it more, is categorized in N.T. as idolatry.Our bodies are temples of God, so should not give over to immorality which amounts to idolatry. If we had a photo or a statue of God, people would journey to see it. Some would try to steal it, buy it and so on.That’s not what He wants us to do. He wants our full trust, love,& respect.We honor Him with how we live our life.

  58. Thank you Dr. Nicholas for your comments and reference to read “Can a spirit have a body?”. That article lead me to “The Soul or Spirit”. I don’t disagree with anything that you have written.In fact, it opened the flood gates of my thoughts. I can reflect on actual experiences that I have had in the past, which I believe had purpose,comfort & strengthened my trust in God. I can tell you that when my dad passed away,I saw him sitting on the end of the bed ,outside of his physical body ,that was directly behind him. He was smiling at me. I gazed at him, in shock, until the mortician came. I turned around to talk to her & while she was talking, I heard a strange noise, that encompassed me like a whirlwind. I was afraid to look behind me, plus I did not want to be rude to the mortician while she was talking.The oxygen machine was not on or anything else in the room to make a noise. When she left, I turned back around. His physical body looked very different & I knew my dad was no longer there. But,I also had an overwhelming feeling everything was going to be okay. I later asked the mortician if she had heard or seen anything strange while we were talking.She was not shocked. She told me to find & talk to other people that have also been blessed with similar experiences.I had heard him walking in my house the night before he died & thought it was my imagination. I won’t go into anymore details but yes ,a spirit can have a body without flesh & blood, that can be heard and even have a familiar scent. For the most part I look at life realistically and logically, but some things we can’t explain. It reminds us ,we are mortal,God is real & ever present. He sends us many blessings & help throughout our life’s journey.

    • Thank you for these comments, Judy. You’re right that you’re not the only one to have this kind of experience. We appreciate you sharing it, and we’re glad that the articles are contributing to your thoughts. Thanks for studying with us.

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