I was glancing through a book by Virgil Dunbar entitled Why Christ Can’t Be Pictured. Here’s the underlying principle which seems to ground his overall position:
“Because the triune God is holy, no member of the triune Godhead can be pictured: God’s holy nature separates Him from artistic creation. The holiness of God’s nature reveals that He is a separate category of being, ontologically separate from the world, unpictureable by means of art” (111).
On the face of it, one obvious problem with this contention is the fact that Scripture contains picturesque descriptions of God. Take this example:
"As I looked,
thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
That's not a graven image of God. It is, however, a verbal image of God: a word-picture. And it's only natural for the reader to visualize the divine self-imagery. This picturesque description appeals to the imagination of the reader.
It's also hard to tell the essential difference between the mental image which this picturesque description is designed to evoke in the mind of the reader, and an extramental (i.e. artistic) image of the same thing.
If God pictures himself, then God is picturable. Perhaps Dunbar would draw a distinction between divine self-portraits and human efforts to picture God without reference to revelatory exemplars.
Yet his metaphysical argument, which hinges on divine transcendence, seems to disallow that sort of distinction. So what are we to make of Dan 7:9 and analogous depictions in Scripture?
Keep in mind, too, that Dan 7:9 pictures God discarnate (the Father) rather than God incarnate (the Son). So the question of God’s picturability antedates the Incarnation.