BIBLE INTERPRETATION: Why does the Bible sometimes speak of God in human terms?

Christians: Why does the Bible sometimes speak of God in human terms?

On many occasions the Old Testament speaks of God anthropomorphically, or in human terms. Old Testament scholar Roy Zuck says:

Deuteronomy refers to God’s hand (2:15; 3:24; 4:34; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8; 33:11; 34:12) and arm (4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 11:2; 26:8) as expressions

of His power. His eyes (11:12; 12:28; 13:18; 32:10) represent His omniscience and constant attention, while His face (5:4; 31:18; 33:20; 34:10) and mouth suggest His communication of His glory and word. In fact the “mouth” of Yahweh is a metonymy for His word as propositional revelation (1:26, 43; 8:3; 9:23; 17:6, 10–11; 19:15; 21:17; 34:4). In startlingly human terms Yahweh is said to write (10:4), to walk (23:14), and to ride (33:26).1

Jacob Neusner is the most respected scholar of Judaism, and his book The Incarnation of God examines the notion of divine incarnation as it emerges in rabbinic literature.2 Neusner is so aware of the force of the anthropomorphisms in Hebrew Scripture that he actually calls them incarnational.3 He defines incarnational as “the representation of God in the flesh, as corporeal, consubstantial in emotion and virtue with human beings, and sharing in the modes and means of action carried out by mortals.”4 Neusner goes on to say: God’s physical traits and attributes are represented as identical to those of a human being. That is why the character of the divinity may accurately be represented as incarnational: God in the flesh, God represented as a person consubstantial in indicative physical traits with the human being.5

He argues that some earlier rabbis held to a doctrine of incarnation; he is fully aware of the theological connections this has for Christianity, despite the fact that he is Jewish, because he sees that the biblical evidence of the Old Testament leads to the incarnation.

In summary, people knew of Jesus’ incarnation in advance because God prophetically revealed to them who would come, where he would come, when he would come, and why he would come.

What your favorite title, image, or metaphor used in relation to God in Scripture?

1Roy B. Zuck, ed. A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 66.
2Jacob Neusner, The Incarnation of God: The Character of Divinity in Formative Judaism (Binghamton, NY: Global Academic, 2001).
3See ibid.,12, 17.
4Ibid., 12.
5Ibid., 166.