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At John 1:18 it says,

"No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."

But Genesis 17:1 says

the Lord appeared to Abram and said, "I am God Almighty."

While Exodus 33:18-23 describes God appearing to Moses:

18 And he saith, "Shew me, I pray Thee, Thine honour;" 19 and He saith, "I cause all My goodness to pass before thy face, and have called concerning the Name of Jehovah before thee, and favoured him whom I favour, and loved him whom I love." 20 He saith also, "Thou art unable to see My face, for man doth not see Me, and live;" 21 Jehovah also saith, "Lo, a place [is] by Me, and thou hast stood on the rock, 22 and it hath come to pass, in the passing by of Mine honour, that I have set thee in a cleft of the rock, and spread out My hands over thee, until My passing by, 23 and I have turned aside My hands, and thou hast seen My back parts, and My face is not seen."

While Job said:

Job 42:5: My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.

How can we make sense of John 1:18, given that God has appeared to multiple people, who are even said to have "seen" God, the same word used in John 1:18? All of these occasions would have been known to the readers of John, so what should we conclude that John intended to be understood by what he wrote?

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11 Answers 11

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Really, you have answered your own question. God appeared in Spirit to Abraham, not by sight, but to faith.

And Abraham believed God - and it was evaluated to him unto righteousness Genesis 15:6

If Abraham saw (anything) with his eyes, where was the faith ? And why would he be evaluated unto righteousness if he had seen ?

As you say :

No man hath seen God at any time John 1:18 KJV

God is a Spirit John 4:24 KJV

And God appeared unto Abraham.

Stephen enlarges on this just before they stoned him :

The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, Acts 7:2 KJV

Right at the beginning, before he had built any altars, before he knew a thing and before he had been obedient in any way ...

The God of glory appeared.

Thus began his journeyings. Later, there was a delay. It was clearly something to do with nature - his father seems to have got involved and seems to have organised the family. But they stopped short. Progressed no further.

But that initial appearance remained with Abraham and urged him onwards to Canaan. And afterwards, it was God's initiative, all the way. God appeared. God spoke. Over and over.

But from other scriptures we know that this was not a physical appearance. Though one time three men draw near and Abraham says 'my lord'. But I deliberately put a small letter for only when the men depart (and become two men when they reach Lot in Sodom) only then does Abraham converse with the Lord.

These are mysteries. This is spiritual.

As you say, God is a Spirit.

And the God of glory appeared unto Abraham.

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    Right, God did indeed appear to Abram but it was a "physical" appearance. Abram physically saw God with his own eyes. This is confirmed at Genesis 17:22. Keil and Delitzsch OT Commnetary. Jehovah now appeared to Him again, when he was ninety-nine years old, twenty-four years after his migration, and thirteen after the birth of Ishmael, to give effect to the covenant and prepare for its execution. Having come down to Abram in a visible form (Genesis 17:22)," Now, I knew this before reading the commentary. At Genesis 16:7 who appeared to Hagar? Read vs7-13. Connect vs10 with vs2 at Genesis 17.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 10 '20 at 21:43
  • @Mr Bond Perhaps those visible appearances of God (theophanies) are a condescension whereby the limitless divine is made available to temporal senses. Exodus 33:20 "you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live." but his backside was shown. Jan 10 '20 at 23:25
  • Mr. Borden, I'm going to address what you said by way of adding to what I posted because we are limited by just adding comments, so bear with me.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 11 '20 at 0:05
  • @Mr.Bond There are two covenants. Hagar represents one of those covenants. That covenant was administered by angels. Thus, Hagar saw an angel. Abraham saw God himself, in spirit and by faith.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11 '20 at 7:21
  • Nigel, is this your own interpretation, or is this one that's often presented by biblical scholars, church fathers,etc? (Your reasoning chain does sound very much like some things I've heard discussed at bible studies .....) Jan 11 '20 at 19:13
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In verse 18, John says,

“no man has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”

The word “ἑώρακεν” that is translated here as ‘seen’ in most of the English translations is third person singular of “ὁράω” which, according to Thayer, has three basic definitions. First, it means to see with the eyes. Secondly, it means to see with the mind, to know, to perceive. Thirdly, it means to become acquainted with through pragmatic experience (The 1981 New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon, p 451).

If John is arguing from the first definition, this needs to be understood in the light of pragmatic Old Testament examples. We know from the many examples of theophonic manifestations in the Old Testament that God has repeatedly presented himself to man in a number of ways. At times, God availed himself only to man’s auditory senses. He spoke to Adam, to Cain, to Noah, to the Hebrew patriarchs, to Moses, to the prophets, and to others. Sometimes he visited himself upon man in the form of dreams or visions as to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah chapter six. Other times, he appears as objects such as the cloud or the pillar of fire that went before Israel in the wilderness. Still, there are other times when he visited man in human form. There are some eight accounts of this type of theophany found in the Old Testament.

The word ‘theophany’ is derived from two Greek words, “Θεὸς” meaning God and “φωνή” meaning sound or voice. A theophany then is a hearing of the voice of God. Theophonic experiences in scripture assume many forms, yet all seem to have a singular function. They communicate the will of God to man. They provide man with a point of reference that man can comprehend. In so doing, God is demonstrating compassion for the limitations of the human mind to understand things that are beyond his ability to comprehend. In some theophonic experiences, God will accommodate only man’s sense of hearing. One only heard the voice of God. God speaking to Noah in Genesis 6 is just such an example. Another is Genesis 12 where God spoke to Abraham. Sometimes, these theophanies would be accompanied by some type of material phenomenon such as fire, wind, or earthquake as in the cases of Moses in Exodus 3, the nation of Israel in Exodus 13 and Elijah in 1Kings 19. Each of these accompanying natural phenomena would appeal to a broader range of physical senses as God sometimes chose to speak in these things. Still, at other times, God chose to assume an anthropomorphic form as in Genesis 18 when he appeared to Abraham in the company of two angels, all in human form. For further reference, one might examine these examples of anthropomorphic theophanies. What appears in each of these is the repeated phrase “The Angel of Jehovah” 22:15-18; 31:11-13; 48:15-16, Joshua 5:13-15, Judges 6:11-24, and Judges 13:15-23.

In each example where the phrase “The Angel of Jehovah” is used, God is represented as the messenger of Jehovah. The phrase “The Angel of Jehovah” is only used to describe the spokesman of deity. This term is never applied to anyone else in scripture. He is always functioning as the spokesman of the divine triad. In each case, this is deity appearing in human form. In every example, those to whom The Angel of Jehovah appeared always understood, at some point, that he was God and they honored him as such. The Angel of Jehovah will always assume divine authority in each of these Old Testament exemplars. He will always be seen serving as the agent of communication, hence the term “The Angel of Jehovah.” He is angelic not in nature but in function. In nature, he is God. In function, he is the messenger in the triadic unity.

If “ἑώρακεν” in verse 18 is to be understood as an intellectual limitation, this would seem to fit better with the closing statement of this prologue. “He has explained him.” The Greek word “ἐξηγήσατο” means to set forth in detail, to set forth in language, to make known or to reveal (George V. Wagram’s Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, 1983). This is the etymology of our word ‘exegete’. In other words,

“No man has understood or comprehended God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he has EXPLAINED him.”

The Logos presents God to the mind of man through the medium of human language in such a way that man is now able to understand something of the nature and character of God that he could never know from his observation of the natural world. Only the one who came out of the very presence of God could have done this.

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Scripture states both that God cannot be seen directly:

Exodus 33:20 Thou canst not see my face: for man shall not see me and live.

And that He was, many times, seen directly (Gn. 16:13; 32:30; Jdg. 6:22; 13:21-22; etc.).

We are to conclude that seeing God under a visible form counts as 'seeing God,' but not as seeing the nature of God directly (as if the Divine Nature is something that could be placed into a visible, finite arrangement of colors or shapes).

Mary bore Immanuel, "God With Us." But she did not bear the Divine Nature who took flesh from her. In other words, she did not generate that which is unseen, only a seen nature for the invisible Son. Jesus was seen by men, and men therefore seen God, but they didn't see the Divine Nature in itself, they saw a human body. Jesus was born, but the Divine Nature was not born. Because to be born, and to be seen, and yes, to die, apply to His human nature (visible outward appearance), and not to His Divine Nature which is by nature invisible. But it is the same Person who owns the Divine Nature and the human (as He owns all creation, yet in a special way, the body He took from Mary).

It is in this sense that "no one has seen God at any time," (Jn. 1:18) yet have seen Him in the Person of Christ, who was "manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory" (1 Tim. 3:16). Christ the Revelator (Rev. 1:1) "hath made him known."

It's because He was manifested in the flesh that men saw God, and before His incarnation, they saw Him in the person of the "angel of the Lord," whom all the earliest generations of Christians identified as the pre-incarnate Son. And whom in any case is God, according to Scripture, and visible.

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How do we reconcile Genesis 17:1-2 with John 1:18 and John 4:24?

I answered a similar question, though it has now been closed. Jesus Christ was concealed in Old Testament why? - Biblical Hermeneutics SE.

Here's part of it:


The Father was revealed in the New Testament:

  • Matthew 11:27 "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."
  • John 1:18 "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."
  • John 5:37 "And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form."
  • John 6:46 "Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father."
  • John 17:25-26 "O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."

Jesus was "YHWH", the God of the Old Testament:

  • John 1:1-3,14 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. … All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
  • Ephesians 3:9 "and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ"
  • Colossians 1:16 "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him."
  • 1Corinthians 10:1-4 "Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ."
  • Compare Isaiah 44:6 with Revelation 2:8: "… I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God." with "… These things says the First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life"
  • Compare Exodus 3:14 with John 8:57-59: "And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”" with "*Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” with "Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by."

In the last incident, note that Jesus's listeners understood what he meant; they were going to stone him for blasphemy, claiming to be the God of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament tells of multiple instances of God dealing directly with humans.

John 1, Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, and other New Testament passages explain that the God of the Old Testament, known as “I AM”, or “JHWH”, was in fact Jesus, before his incarnation as a human being.

When he says that no one has seen God, John is not talking about God (YHWH), but about God the Father.

God the Father never appeared to humans, and was mostly unknown during Old Testament times.

John 1:18 goes on to say that the Father was at last fully revealed to mankind by Jesus, “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”.

Did Abram see God?

Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. — Genesis 18:1–3

Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. — Genesis 18:16

Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. — Genesis 18:22

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. … — Genesis 19:1

Yes he did: "the LORD appeared to him", "three men", "My Lord".

Two of the "men" were angels, but the one that remained with Abraham was "the LORD", the all upper-case indicating the Hebrew word YHWH.

He saw God, but the person he saw, the YHWH of the Old Testament, was Jesus before his incarnation. It wasn't until over 2000 years later that Jesus revealed the existence of the Father.

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I have not quoted scripture here but there is also the story of God being present in the flesh with Adam and Eve walking through the Garden. I believe in all instances of "seeing" God was his word, his Son - our Yeshua. Remember that before Abraham he was, is and will come. Here is some scripture: Gen 3:8 they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

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    There is also the angel who ascended in the flame, before Manoah and his wife, there is also the man who wrestled with Jacob, there is also the one in the fiery furnace of whom Nebuchadnezzar said 'like unto the Son of God'. But none of these are said by scripture to be 'God'. Nor does Genesis say of Eden (as you do) that God was 'present in flesh'. Those words are just not in scripture. The voice of God walked. Not God. Not God in flesh.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 11 '20 at 10:34
  • Jason, which Christian denominations/faith communities take that view of the Word walking with Adam and Eve? (Adding the scripture that you are referring to, and pointing to which faith communities take that understanding of scripture) would be the minimum support that your answer needs (in other words, good start to an answer but it needs a little more support) Jan 11 '20 at 18:58
  • Nigel, did you read the verses that proceed Judges 13:20? Vs3, "Then the angel of the Lord APPEARED to the woman, and said to her, you are barren etc. and shall give birth to a son." Notice vs6, "Then the woman told her husband, "A man of God came to me and his appearanbce was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome." Vs18, "But the angel of the Lord said to him/Manoah, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?" This event is analogous to Genesis 16 and at Genesis 18. Incidentally you did not address what I posted at Genesis 18. Again, these are physical appearances.
    – Mr. Bond
    Jan 12 '20 at 16:44
  • Korvinstarmast, I added scripture to the answer. I assumed everyone would know what I was referring to.
    – Jason Henley
    Jan 12 '20 at 18:45
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The reason no one has seen God at any time, as John 1:18 affirms, is that God is invisible.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: (Romans 1:20, KJV)

This verse in Romans explains that God's "eternal power and Godhead" are "invisible things." If that were the only text on the matter, we might still find it unclear...but there are others.

Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Colossians 1:15, KJV)

Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:17, KJV)

Clearly, these scriptures teach the invisibility of God. Interestingly, we don't often consider this aspect of God's nature, thinking more often of God's immortality, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. But we should add "invisibility" to the list.

In Hebrews we read:

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27, KJV)

The expression "as seeing" in this text clearly denotes seeing by faith. That is, of course, what the chapter is all about, and it is often called "the Faith Chapter" or the Bible's "Hall of Faith."

As its first verse states:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1, KJV)

But how did Moses "see" God?

And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. And he turned again into the camp: but his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, departed not out of the tabernacle. (Exodus 33:11, KJV)

Moses, with whom God said He would speak "face to face," was not actually permitted to see God's face. We read only a few verses later:

And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen. (Exodus 33:23, KJV)

Clearly, one can speak face-to-face without seeing the face of the other individual. Consider the next case....

What about Jacob?

And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. (Genesis 32:30, KJV)

In this verse, Jacob claims to "have seen God face to face." But had he? The verses just prior to this give the important context needed to understand the situation.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. (Genesis 32:24, KJV)

And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob's thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. (Genesis 32:25, KJV)

And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. (Genesis 32:26, KJV)

And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. (Genesis 32:27, KJV)

And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. (Genesis 32:28, KJV)

And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. (Genesis 32:29, KJV)

The story shows that Jacob mistook his "assailant" for an enemy, not knowing Who was with him--and he wrestled for his life. This was also done in the darkness of night when Jacob could not see who it was. Before daybreak, the heaven-sent One requested to leave, because dawn was soon to break. In other words, whomever it was did not wish to be seen. Furthermore, Jacob's night companion refused to identify himself.

How then had Jacob "seen" God? Only by faith.

What about all the Israelites?

And they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land: for they have heard that thou LORD art among this people, that thou LORD art seen face to face, and that thy cloud standeth over them, and that thou goest before them, by day time in a pillar of a cloud, and in a pillar of fire by night. (Numbers 14:14, KJV)

Did the Israelites see God face to face?

The text says the Canaanites had heard this, but the text does not actually assert it as an undeniable fact. But more than this, seeing by faith is certainly a part of this.

Remember, God's glory was always something that the people were expressly forbidden to look upon. God's Shekinah glory that resided above the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant, was not to be viewed by the people, and a covering was draped over the ark, concealing it, whenever it was moved by the priests. But when the Philistines returned the stolen ark, the record says:

And he [God] smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the LORD, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the LORD had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. (1 Samuel 6:19, KJV)

Of course, these men of Bethshemesh had not actually seen God--but they had dared to look at this symbol of His presence, and were punished for even this.

There is no record of anyone having actually seen God; though there are texts in which people spoke as if they had. John, confronted by an angel, bowed in worship--perhaps thinking, mistakenly, that this angel was God Himself. We humans are easily confused when looking upon immortal beings. Yet the Bible is clear that no one has seen God at any time. That should settle the matter.

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  • +1 a good answer that sticks to the text and doesn't need to make anything up like a 'pre-incarnate Jesus'. The Jewish Targums consistently refer to the 'logos' as the presence of God in the OT. Where God is 'amongst men' it it His logos. Targums Onkelos and Neofiti biblicalunitarianpodcast.podbean.com/e/… and ep. 180
    – steveowen
    Aug 23 at 1:51
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We observe the clear statement several times in the NT that no human has ever seen God the father:

  • John 1:18 - No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (ESV)
  • John 6:46 - No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (See also Matt 18:10.) v- 1 John 4:12 - No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.

But in the OT we have this:

  • Isa 64:4 - From ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.
  • Job 42:5 - My ears had heard of You [= the LORD, V1], but now my eyes have seen You.

This last two references are significant because it says that people have seen God, that is The LORD, YHWH (V8), despite what the NT texts assert. Here are more examples:

  • Gen 18:1, 10 - Then the LORD appeared to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day, while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. ... Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son!”
  • Gen 32:30 - So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
  • Ex 3:5, 6 - “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
  • Josh 5:13 - 6:2 - And the LORD said to Joshua, “Behold, I have delivered Jericho into your hand, along with its king and its mighty men of valor. (V2)
  • Judges 6:14 - The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Am I not sending you?” [See also V16]
  • Eze 1 - the prophet's vision of God; many elements of which are repeated in Rev 4 & 5.
  • See also instances of the “Angel of the LORD” clearly being the LORD - Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1, Rev 8:3-5, 10:1-10, 18:1, 20:1-4.
  • A closely related phrase, “Angel of God” who is clearly God as in Gen 6:13, 8:15, 9:8, 17, 15:13, 17:3, 4, 21:12, 16-21, 35:1, 10, Ex 4:3-8, 6:2, 23:20, 21, Deut 1:6, 1 Kings 12:22, etc. See also Acts 10:3, 4, Gal 4:14.

The very fact that the NT so confidently asserts that no human has seen God the Father, but many people have seen God/YHWH in the OT means the inescapable conclusion is such epiphanies were of the pre-incarnate Jesus as per John 8:58 – “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Therefore, I see no difficulty with Job, Abraham and Moses actually seeing the LORD as many others also did.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 23 at 1:25
  • The "discussion" was about the contradiction in the ESV translation of John 1:18, which led to a whole new question posted here: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/66873/…
    – Polyhat
    Aug 23 at 3:39
  • Baffled why this was downvoted. It's a well-researched and intelligent answer. +1
    – Robert
    Sep 5 at 17:55
  • @Robert - many thanks. I do not know who so consistently downvotes such material but it is probably one of the several Arians on this site who cannot abide an opinion that differs from their own.
    – Dottard
    Sep 5 at 21:15
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Everyone and anyone can ‘see’ God. Always have been able to

ROMANS 1:20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

The Hebrews called it, or rather summarised it as shekhinah (ʃɪˈkʌɪnə).

Man’s ‘flesh’ needs to ‘see’ with his ‘natural eyes’. That’s what Job had to use. Jobs spirit, hence his spiritual ‘eyes’ were ‘dead’ (blind) thanks to Adam. Same for unbelievers, exactly as Paul said in Romans.

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The meaning of John 1:18 I'm certain is of a Spiritual sense. Knowledge and Understanding of God. Not to actually physically see in this case.

Hebrews 1:1

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,”

He did appear in person in times past in one form or another. And then later Jesus Christ. Jesus said if you have seen Him, you Have seen The Heavenly Father. So there is that.

In John, Christ is speaking Spiritually.

John 14:17 (KJV)

“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

1 Corinthians 2:14

14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Matthew 13:15-17 KJV

15 For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.

16 But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.

17 For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.

Christ would often say do you have eyes to see and ears to hear ?

Consider Paul words here for how people are :

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 King James Version

11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Mark 12:30

“And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.”

Think about The Tree of Life, and the Tree of Knowledge of good and Evil. Men are analogous to trees throughout God's Word.

God even calling Himself a great green fir tree. Satan is called in scripture a plain cedar.

The point being these are spiritually discerned and not as the world sees.

John 17:

25 O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.

26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Mark 8:24-38

24 And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking.

25 After that he put his hands again upon his eyes, and made him look up: and he was restored, and saw every man clearly.

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It is a known topic - Many holy fathers spoke about this, starting from 1st century (St. Dionysios the Areopagite) - some say that „his” works are actually from 4th century - especially in the 13-14-15th century till today - in 20th century.

The matter was settled down in a series of synods in 14th century - between 1341 and 1351, however since the topic is deep, that's why from time to time theologians explain it to us.

In order to understand you must make distinction between God's essence and His energies - that is between what God is and what God does. In God both His essence is God and, also, His energies is also God.

Nobody can see God in His essence but He is perfectly communicable in His energies.

If you want to dwell further, read St. Gregory Palamas about this. Here is a glimpse.

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  • Everyone can see the acts of God - is that really noteworthy? And how would the energies of God speak to Abraham etc?
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 22 at 5:45
  • I would upvote this if you can provide more references and tie in the argument about works and essence to the scriptures in question.
    – Robert
    Sep 5 at 17:56
-1

The primary Hebrew word for God is Elohim אֱלֹהִים. It is the plural of eloah אֱלוֹהַּ. The fact "God," singular, is written with a word that is plural has various explanations as may be seen in this question and it answers: Why is Elohim translated as God rather than gods in Genesis 1:1?

Perhaps the simplest explanation is regardless of what one "sees" when the LORD appears, it is only God "in part." That is to say, Abram (or Hagar or any other) actually saw a singular aspect of God, but did not fully see God. Similar to Moses' request to see God (Exodus 33:18-23) which was granted "in part." Moses really saw something; yet at the same time was not the face of God.

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