Thursday, May 30, 2013

Grubbiness is next to godliness

There are conservative Bible scholars like Ken Mathews (in his commentary on Genesis) and E. J. Young (in his popular monograph entitled In the Beginning) who consider the depiction of God in Gen 2:7 to be anthropomorphic. In addition, Mathews considers 2:21-22 to be anthropomorphic, as well as 3:8. I have problems with that interpretation:

i) I freely grant that Scripture contains many anthropomorphic depictions of God. However, it’s insufficient to classify a representation as anthropomorphic. You need to be able to say what that stands for. Otherwise, what distinguishes an anthropomorphic depiction from a figurative depiction? If it’s not literal, what really happened? Did anything really happen?

So you can’t just say it’s anthropomorphic and leave it at that. Not, at least, if you adhere to the historicity of the account.

ii) But are the depictions of God in Gen 2-3 anthropomorphic? For one thing, if God actually made Adam and Eve by an act of special creation, how else would the narrator express that idea except by using idiomatic verbs normally employed in human manufacture? That’s the vocabulary he has at his disposal.

iii) In addition, the depictions of God in Gen 2-3 dovetail with Pentateuchal angelology. The Pentateuch contains many angelic apparitions, including the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is a theanthropic angelophany. Indeed, it’s arguably a Christophany (although the point I’m making in this post doesn’t turn on that identification).

I classify the depictions of God in Gen 2-3, not as anthropomorphisms, but angelophanies. (Theanthropic angelophanies, to be precise.)

In the Pentateuch, angels do rub shoulders with men. Occupy time and space. Interact with their physical surroundings.

iv) Finally, it’s instructive to compare Genesis with the Gospels:

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature (Gen 2:7).

21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man (Gen 2:21-22).

And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue (Mk 7:33).

And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” (Mk 8:23).

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud (Jn 9:6).

22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22).

Seems to me that Jesus has a modus operandi that’s very reminiscent of God in Gen 2. Jesus isn’t afraid to get dirt under his fingernails. If Jesus doesn’t mind getting grubby, up-close-and-personal, when he performs a miracle, why assume God’s method is different in Gen 2?


  1. Would it be too simplistic to consider it a theophany?

    That's what I've always understood it to mean, though this is the first time that I've read the phrase "Theanthropic angelophanies"

    I've always read that if it is an identification of God, "The angel (or messenger of the LORD who was the LORD", then it's considered a theophany.


    1. A specific type of theophany: angelic theophany.

    2. 1) Did you form the phrase yourself from your own exegesis? I'd be interested to see if anyone else has used that particular phraseology (Not that I disagree with it, I'm really just curious)

      2) This isn't even relavent to your post;

      However, I'm really enjoying the e-book "Musica Mundana" you have available. I literally cannot stop reading it.

      Sorry for breaking the comment rule, there. lol

    3. I think Meredith Kline was fond of "theophanic". So it's just a case of putting that adjective with the noun ("angelophany").