Does God Have a Body?

I know. That is the dumbest question one could ever ask!

Of course God does not have a body! Haven’t you ever read John 4:24 that says, “God is Spirit?” If God is (a) spirit then how does he have a body. Spirits don’t have bodies!

Before I get into why I have begun to investigate this insane question I would like to make two things completely clear:

1) I am in no way attempting to take the O.T. references to “the hand of YHWH,” “the arm of YHWH,” or “the eyes of YHWH” in a concrete way. It has never occurred to me to take those phrases as referring to actual body parts.

2) My question is not, “Does God have a human body?” (Please, no comments about Jesus here.)

Over the last couple of months I have been investigating Philo and the Stoic’s for their understanding of πνευμα. While I cannot say I have gotten to far into Philo’s thought I have done quite a lot of reading in the Stoic literature and reading scholarly works about them. It appears that the Stoic’s thought that πνευμα was the animating force in the world that also took the two material forms of air and fire (of which there are two types of fire: one creative and one destructive). For the Stoic’s the πνευμα is material not, as in Plato, transcendent and purely a mind. The Stoic’s had the idea (called εκπυρωσις) that the world went through cycles  where the world would become incorporated into God through fire. Then the world would be brought forth from God again. If you are inclined to think this has nothing to do with the N.T. please read Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s book Cosmology and Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit or Gitte Buch-Hansen’s It is the Spirit that Gives Life: A Stoic Understanding of Pneuma in John’s Gospel.

I am not sure how I will structure the future posts on this but right now I have two things to say about this:

1) When Jesus says, “God is πνευμα” that doesn’t have to mean God doesn’t have a body. Especially if we consider that Jesus became πνευμα (or the pneumatic man) at the end of the book. (You know walk through walls but still eat fish.) To say God is πνευμα may mean he is completely composed of that substance and not in any way refer to his “body” (or absence thereof). In Paul and in John there are explicit references to being changed (two of the ref. are 1Cor 15:51; 1John 3:2) into a different substance (which is taken to refer to theosis). I suggest that substance in πνευμα.

2) As far as Trinitarianism goes I have always had trouble with the logic of God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit. Here is one of the reasons why:

If God (the Father) is Spirit then why and how and why does God have a spirit that is distinct from the God? This logic seems to make no sense at all. A body has a spirit but a spirit having a spirit is ridiculous. Right?

(Also, let’s remember I am not trying to define God in reality but I am trying to ascertain the conception of some of the writers of the Scriptures.)

I would love to dialogue with anybody on this topic as this is a journey for me.

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3 Responses to Does God Have a Body?

  1. I am very interested in this topic but from the Hebrew Bible side of the coin. There are some good books out (that I haven’t fully read yet) on this topic in the ANE context with a few books: “When Gods Were Men: The Embodied God in Biblical and Near Eastern Literature” by Esther J. Hamori and “The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel” by Benjamin D. Somer. We should talk soon about this, as I am interested in how these ANE concepts function as possible foundations for early Christology and Theology in the NT.

  2. Pingback: Beginning Barth

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