Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human characteristics, behaviors, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities (e.g. animals, objects, even cartoon characters). The term “anthropomorphism” is a combination of two Greek words, “anthropos,” which means man, and “morphe,” which means form.
This term can also be understood theologically. God uses anthropomorphism in the Old Testament when He attributes human characteristics, behaviors, emotions, and intentions to Himself. God the Father is Spirit, so He does this to help us understand who He is and what He does. Of course, human characteristics, behaviors, emotions, and intentions are accurately applied to Jesus. In His incarnation, the second Person of the Trinity became human. But we must remember that in Jesus’ glorification we do not know what human characteristics He fully maintains because He is not constrained by human flesh or by man’s world.
Biblical Anthropomorphism Describing Physical Characteristics
The Old Testament speaks of God’s “face” (Ex 33:20, Num 6:25), His hand (Ex 3:20, 33:23, Ps 81:14), His arm (Ex 6:6, Ps 89:21), His foot (Isa 66:1), His eyes (Ps 32:8), etc. Does God have a face, hands, arms, feet, eyes, etc? The Bible says He does, but we must remember God’s face, hand, arms, etc. are not human and we should not limit our understanding of God by these words. We can agree, His face is more beautiful than any human face, His hands more gentle than any human touch, His arms stronger, His feet swifter and His eye brighter than we can know.
Anthropomorphism Describing Actions
The Bible records God the Father talking (Gen 1:3ff, Gen 17:3), touching (Dan 10:18), looking (Gen 9:16, Deut 11:12, Ps 34:15), stooping (Ps 113:6), smelling (Gen 8:21), hearing (Exo 2:24, Psa 66:19), walking (Gen 3:8), holding (Psa 18:35, Psa 139:10), fighting (Jer 21:5), guiding (Ps 32:8), etc. Does God speak, see, smell, touch, even taste, as we do? What about hearing and walking? Again, God is Spirit and while these human characteristics are used to describe God’s actions, we must not limit Him to human capabilities in His actions. His words are truer, His touch more gentle, His sight is clearer, His hearing keener, etc.
Anthropomorphism Describing Emotions
Human emotions are also used by God in His Word to help us understand His nature: sorrowing(Gen 6:6), remembering (Gen 9:16), pitying (Jud 2:18), relenting ( Ex 32:14), grieving (Gen 6:6), regretting (1 Sam 15:35), jealousy/zealousness (Exo 20:5), anger (Job 32:5, Ps 7:11), etc. We know God is emotional because the Bible applies these human emotions to Him. But again remember that we understand these characteristics constrained by human understanding. God is omnipotent so even His emotions would be different than man’s which are generated by man’s limited knowledge.
Created in His Image
In every human characteristic, action, and emotion we are like God, not God is like us. We are made in His image, but He is not in our image. We are finite. God is infinite. Our characteristics, behaviors, emotions, and intentions are constrained by our time and space dimensions, as well as our finite knowledge. God is outside of time and space and He is all knowing, all powerful, everywhere present, and all good. Therefore, just as human attributes applied to animals do not make them human, God’s use of applying human attributes to Himself does not make Him human. Again, God does this so we can understand Him, but we must never use them to limit Him.
We should always stand in awe of the magnificence and majesty of our God. He is greater than any human characteristic we can observe, bigger and more amazing than any knowledge of Him we can have, and far beyond anything our imaginations can fathom.
Several human emotions that we share with God should not be thought of as anthropomorphism (attribution of human characteristics to a non-human entity). Those emotions include mercy, grace, compassion, longsuffering, and more — especially LOVE! These are inherent to who God is. They are part of His very nature.
God is Love/God Loves
Love illustrates, most clearly, the differences in our human characteristics, actions, and emotions and those of God. We are fallen. God is perfect and holy. God loves fully with a steadfast love (Deut 7:9, Ps 86:15, Ps 136:26), a comforting love (Zeph 3:17), an abiding love (John 15:9), a compelling love (John 3:16, 12:32), a demonstrated love (Ro 5:8), a bestowed/lavished love (1 John 3:1), an unfailing love (Heb 13:5b). Read about God’s love: How Can I Understand the Love of God? Stand in awe of God’s great love for us, and rejoice in the magnitude of His great love:
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
God is outside of our time and space dimensions and far beyond anything our finite minds can fathom. Therefore, although anthropomorphism can be very helpful in comprehending our incomprehensible, infinite God, don’t use the attribution of human characteristics to create a false image of God the Father. Be very careful. (Read: Does God Eat?) God is not flesh and blood, as humans are. He is Spirit. And even Jesus, who in His incarnation was fully human, is now glorified and unconstrained by human characteristics.
Anthropomorphism will always fall short of fully revealing God to us. Magnify God above all human characteristics, human actions, and human emotions. Stand in awe of His incomparable and incomprehensible Person and works. Someday we will see Him in all His glory, with eyes, minds, and understandings that are unencumbered by human restraint.
Isa 55:8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
Jesus is the Reason this Ministry Exists
We continue to reach people worldwide with the truths of God's Word and the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Your generosity is both a blessing and encouragement to us. Our mission is to glorify God by equipping, encouraging, and empowering YOU to understand the Bible and grow in faith. If our online resources have blessed you, we hope you will support Reasons for Hope* Jesus. Our ministry outreach has grown significantly and. . .
Please support Reasons for Hope* Jesus with a donation of $5, $10, $20, or more. A donation of any amount is needed and greatly appreciated.
CLICK TO DONATE
to Reasons for Hope*Jesus(a 501c3 Ministry)
Use a Credit Card or PayPal for safe, secure giving.
***A Hidden Message in Psalm 23?***
Hidden in the six verses of Psalm 23 are 11 names for Jesus. When you subscribe to our newsletter, we’ll send you The Names of God in Psalm 23 PDF that reveals all 11 names and Scripture verses of comfort and hope (link will be sent in your confirmation email).
A Room with a View of Eternity—The Last Will & Testament of Jesus Christ Take a seat at the Master's table. Learn about the riches He gives to all who are His. This book will bless and encourage you, give you hope, and help you live in the joy of your salvation and the riches of Christ that are yours.
The Top Ten Got Questions? in 2021
- The Meaning of NUMBERS in the Bible?
- The Meaning of COLORS in the Bible?
- How are the Shepherd’s ROD and STAFF Different?
- How long did JOB SUFFER?
- What is the Significance of the Wise Men's THREE GIFTS? And were they kings?
- Did The Wise Men Arrive 12 DAYS AFTER JESUS’ BIRTH? Or Was It Much Later?
- Which Old Testament Book Did JESUS QUOTE most often?
- How Did the Wise Men Know This Was the Messiah and KNOW TO FOLLOW HIS STAR?
- Did Jesus Fight Satan to Take Back the KEYS of Death and Hell?
- Was Jesus CRUCIFIED on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday?
More Popular Got Questions & Articles
- Is Leonard Cohen’s “HALLELUJAH” a Christian Song?
- How was Jesus Like a Worm? What’s the CRIMSON (OR SCARLET) WORM in Psalm 22?
- What do the 12 stones UNDER the JORDAN River mean? (Joshua 4)
- If BAPTIZED as an Infant, Do I Need to Be Re-Baptized?
- What are the NAMES of JEHOVAH Hidden in Psalm 23?
- How Many MIRACLES Did Jesus Do?
- Where did OT Saints go at death? ABRAHAM'S BOSOM?
- Is Satan’s Real Name LUCIFER?
- Was MARY a LEVITE Making Jesus both a Priest and King?
- What Does It Mean to TASTE & SEE That God Is Good? (Psalm 34)
- What are the “I Will ” STATEMENTS of Satan, God, and Jesus?
- Do ANGELS TAKE US TO HEAVEN When We Die?
- SIN, INIQUITY, TRANSGRESSION? How are they different?
- What Did Jesus Say About HEAVEN (and HELL)?
- Why Was a RAM SACRIFICED in Genesis 22 Instead of a Lamb?
TOP TEN Videos from Reasons for Hope* Jesus
- Memorial Day BAGPIPES TRIBUTE: Amazing Grace
- RISE AND SHINE and Give God the Glory, Glory!
- PAUL HARVEY: THE BIRDCAGE
- WERE YOU THERE When They Crucified My Lord?
- PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: A SOLDIER'S PLEDGE
- JOHN WAYNE ~ WHY I LOVE AMERICA
- Hark! the Herald Angels Sing -- CHARLIE BROWN Christmas
- THE LEGEND OF THE CANDY CANE - A Christmas Story to Share
- Erwin Lutzer - We Will Not Be SILENCED
- Jimmy Stewart - Nativity Scene Prayer: Mr. Krueger's Christmas