A third figure of speech that we encounter within Scripture is anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is a metaphorical expression where human attributes are ascribed to God for the sake of helping us understand Him. For example, we read in Genesis 11:5:

And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built (Gen. 11:5).

This is a probable anthropomorphism because it seems unlikely that the all-knowing God literally had to journey from heaven down to Babel to investigate what people were building!

Many biblical scholars consider every biblical statement that describes parts of God’s body, such as His arms, hands, nose, eyes and hair, to be anthropomorphisms. Surely, they say, almighty God does not actually have such parts as humans do.

I would disagree, however, for a number of reasons. First, because Scripture plainly teaches that we have been created in God’s image and likeness:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26; emphasis added).

Some would say we are created in God’s image and likeness only in the sense that we possess self-awareness, moral responsibility, the capacity to reason and so on. However, let us read a statement that is very similar to Genesis 1:26, one that occurs just a few chapters later:

When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth (Gen. 5:3; emphasis added).

What does this mean but that Seth was similar in physical appearance to his father Adam? So if that is what it means in Genesis 5:3, why doesn’t the identical expression mean the same thing in Genesis 1:26? Common sense and sound interpretation say that it does.

Furthermore, we have some descriptions of God by biblical authors who saw Him. For example, Moses, along with seventy-three other Israelites, saw God:

Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank (Ex. 24:9-11).

If you had asked Moses if God had hands and feet, what would he have said?[1]

The prophet Daniel also had a vision of God the Father and God the Son:

I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days [God the Father] took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened…I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man [God the Son] was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed (Dan. 7:9-10, 13-14).

If you had asked Daniel if God had white hair and had a form whereby he was able to sit on a throne, what would He have said?

All of this being so, I’m convinced that God the Father has a glorious form that is somewhat similar to the form of a human being, although He is not made of flesh and blood, but is a spirit (see John 4:24).

How can you discern which portions of Scripture are meant to be interpreted literally and which should be interpreted figuratively or symbolically? That should be easy for anyone who can reason logically. Interpret everything literally unless there is no other intelligent alternative than to interpret what is written figuratively or symbolically. The Old Testament prophets and the book of Revelation, for example, are clearly full of symbolism, some of which is explained, some of which is not. But the symbolisms are not difficult to identify.


[1] Moses also once also saw God’s back as He “walked by.” God held His hand in such a way so as to block Moses from seeing His face; see Ex. 33:18-23.