Does God Have a Bod?

What do you say to a Latter-day Saint who is determined to prove to you from the Bible that God the Father has a body of flesh, and that our bodies are literally made in God’s image? If you have never heard the Biblical case that God has a literal human body, where do you go for evidence to the contrary?

What do you say to the person who gives the following examples where the Bible states so plainly that God has a body?

  • God says, “Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness,” so we must look like God.
  • God walked in the Garden of Eden, so God must have feet and legs.
  • Moses and Aaron and 70 of the elders of Israel saw God, and under his feet was a paved work of sapphire stone.
  • Moses spoke with God face-to-face, and he saw God’s back.
  • Isaiah saw God and was blown away by the sight.
  • Jesus taught that God is our Father. So why should I not believe that God is my Father literally in every sense of the word?
  • Jesus says that the witness of two men is true (John 8:17-18) and that one of those two men is the Father—therefore the Father must be a man.
  • Paul also teaches that we are God’s offspring.
  • We are God’s heirs. A dog cannot be our heir, but only a human like us.
  • Jesus is the express image of his Father (Hebrews 1:3); therefore, his Father is a person, a man like his Son.
  • Stephen looked into heaven and saw Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of his Father.

OK, Christians, what do we do with these verses? Where is the Biblical basis for our belief when we need it most? Let’s take a look.

Here are four New Testament verses that conflict with the idea that God has a body:

  • John 1:18 - "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." In other words, the Incarnation has shown us God in ways that would have been impossible to see without the Incarnation.
  • Colossians 1:15 - "He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." ("Firstborn" means that Christ existed before anything in the universe was created, including any supposed divine ancestors God could have had.)
  • 1 Timothy 1:17 - "Now to the King of the ages, incorruptible, invisible (a-oratō), the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever."
  • 1 Timothy 6:15-16 - "the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the only One who has immortality, the One who dwells in inapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see." These verses are the key to our understanding of any passage that talks about visions of God. Whatever Biblical characters may have seen when they speak of seeing God, they did not see flesh and blood.

Isaiah seeks to refute the Babylonian belief that God has a body like ours. 40:15: "To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness will you compare with him?" Isaiah 40:25: "To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal?" You say God has hands? 40:12 says, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance?" Those must be big hands of his! And God must have big arms to carry us all in his bosom (Isaiah 40:11). Exodus 15:8 says, “At the blast of thy nostrils the [Red Sea] waters piled up” – God must have huge nostrils! (According to Psalm 91:4, God must even have wings and feathers.)

Yes, Isaiah saw God, but the train of God’s “robe” was so big that it filled the Temple. God's "body" is so big that by comparison, "the nations are a drop in a bucket, and accounted dust on the scales" (Isaiah 40:15).

In Deuteronomy 4:15-16, Moses tells Israel, “You saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb,” therefore “do not act corruptly by making an idol for yourselves, in the form of any figure, in the likeness of male or female.”

(Isaiah 40:13-14 also refutes the idea that Heavenly Father is an exalted man who once went thru our process of learning: "Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as his counselor instructed him? Whom did he consult for enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?")

Eventually, the belief in a God with a human body crashes and burns on the issue of God’s omnipresence. In Jeremiah 23:24, God asks, “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”  Solomon says to God, “Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) David says to God in Psalm 139:7-8, “Where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!”  In Acts 17:28, Paul quotes the pagan poet Aratus as being correct about God when he writes, “In him we live and move and have our being.” How does the whole human race get inside this God of flesh to live and move around?

Proverbs 15:3 tells us, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch over the evil and the good.” (Similarly, 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “The eyes of the Lord roam throughout the whole earth.”) Either God has a lot of eyes, or this is symbolic language designed to communicate the fact of God’s omnipresence.

Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (somatikōs). What would the point of that verse be, if God already has a human body? Paul’s point here is that in Christ is the only place where God resides bodily. In every other place or person in all the universe, God dwells only through his Spirit.

Jesus says in John 4:24, “God is Spirit.” (Joseph Smith attempts to retranslate this line, without manuscript evidence.) Even the LDS must have a non-material Holy Ghost to be omnipresent in place of Heavenly Father, who cannot be everywhere at once. In fact, in Alma 18:26-28, when Ammon asks Lamoni, “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit?”, he says, “This is God.” Sounds like Heavenly Father is spirit, not flesh. Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith said that God the Father is a “personage of Spirit” rather than flesh, until those Lectures were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants.

“God is not a man, that he should change his mind.” (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29) The question is not whether we believe the Bible on whether God has a body, but whether we correctly understand what the Bible is saying. Here, we must go beyond the literal sense, if we want to make sense of all that the Bible says on this subject.

Some might say it is idolatry to believe that God has a body of flesh. I prefer to see it as a mistaken misunderstanding. No one goes to hell simply because of such a mistaken belief. It is idolatry to say that there are three Gods, to believe that God has divine ancestors, and/or to believe that each of us can become gods. Again, we do not end up eternally lost for the sin of idolatry, but only for rejecting Christ’s offer to take away all of our sin.

But who wants unrepentant idolatry on their record?