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He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.

Another answer proposes that -

Therefore, I am sure that Abraham (in Gen 18) saw YHWH just as clearly as did the disciples in John 20. Did the disciples 'see' Jesus

And from the same answer-

People have seen God - Job 42:5 - My ears had heard of You [= the LORD, V1], but now my eyes have seen You. 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. 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.”

Is this evidence the bible is contradictory, or that the verses listing some kind of appearance are not God, but something else that represents God?

He is the image of the invisible God, Col 1:15

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known. John 1:18

How do people explain, based on the crystal clear statement of Paul (in several places) that God cannot be seen, yet many seem to think he has been seen?

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  • This question (as noted previously in your writing) is not discriminating between a physical perception with physical eyesight and a perception of faith with the inward eye of faith. The resultant confusion requires clarity and detail in order for some sensible response to become possible.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 16, 2023 at 11:59
  • @Finster Are you sure that 1 Timothy 6:15 is the correct verse your quoting? Do you mean the verse should be 1 Timothy 6:16?
    – Mr. Bond
    Feb 16, 2023 at 14:32
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? Did the disciples 'see' Jesus (John 20:20) in the way Job 'saw' God (Job 42:5)?
    – Dottard
    Feb 16, 2023 at 20:03

5 Answers 5

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God said "no man shall see Me and live... " Genesis 33:20. Jesus said "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him" But some say "People have seen God". If both God's and Jesus' statements that "no man has seen God" is true, how can a contradictory statement like "People have seen God". be also true? Will we put God in the wrong, so we may be in the right? Job 40:8.

Genesis 18 cannot be used to deduce that Abraham saw God because of Paul's allusion to it in Hebrews 13:2 where it shows that Abraham saw angels, not Jehovah.

Hebrews 13:2 WEB

Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Was God being untruthful when he said no man will see Him and live? Exodus 33:20?

Reading Exodus 33:21-23 show us that Moses had to be divinely protected so he could see God's back (His passing glory). So Moses did not really see God face to face. Acts 7:38 shows us that Moses actually spoke with an angel representing God.

Exodus 33:20 - 23 ASV

20 And he said, Thou canst not see my face; for man shall not see me and live. 21 and Jehovah said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon the rock: and it shall come to pass, 22 while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand until I have passed by: 23 and I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my back; but my face shall not be seen.

Acts 7:38 WEB

This is he who was in the assembly in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, who received living revelations to give to us,

Others say Jacob wrestled with GOD and had seen God face to face. Granting, this angel/man is God, why did the man ask Jacob his name? Wouldn’t God, or an angel of God, already know it? Genesis 32:27.

Hosea 12:4 shows that Jacob wrestled with an angel.

Hosea 12:4 JPS Tanach

So he strove with an angel, and prevailed; He wept, and made supplication unto him; At Beth-el he would find him, And there he would speak with us;

To say that this angel/God whom Jacob wrestled and prevailed against Him, is God, implies that this "God" is not Almighty. How can the idea of fighting the Almighty and prevailing against Him be justified?

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  • 2
    You quoted Hebrews 13:2 and applied it to Genesis 18 thinking there were 3 angels, so why does vs1 say, "Now the Lord appeared to Abraham? And at Genesis 17:1-2 it says, "the Lord God Almighty appeared to Abraham physically? You also quoted Acts 7:38 "assuming" that the angel who was speaking to Moses is an actual angel. Stephen references the angel of the Lord at Acts 7:30 and is referencing Exodus 3:2 and at vs4 it is the Lord God calling to Moses from the midst of the bush. Getting back to Acts 7 vs2 Stephen says, "The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham etc.
    – Mr. Bond
    Feb 17, 2023 at 14:59
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    Absolutely I'm saying God is visible based on the fact that the Bible states it at numerous places. How do explain Genesis 17:1-2, or Genesis 18:1? Or at Genesis 16:13 according to Hagar? "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, "Thou art a God who sees; for she said, "Have I even remained alive AFTER SEEING HIM?" Since the "ONE" God chose to reveal Himself in the Bible as three distinct persons, who do you think Hagar saw, which person? This is how I reconcile this apparent contradiction, how do you reconcile it? Please read my detailed answer in this thread.
    – Mr. Bond
    Feb 17, 2023 at 23:21
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    @Mr.Bond. If God said no man shall see Him and live and Jesus said no man has seen God, I will take God and Jesus' words over yours. Feel free to contradict their statements. You are free to believe Hagar instead of God. Feb 18, 2023 at 0:05
  • 3
    Alex, It's not a matter of taking someone's word because Hagar's words are Gods inspired words. Do you really think that Hagar is lying? Was Jacob lying as well at Genesis 32:30? "So Jacob names the place Peniel, for he said, I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved." Do you need more proof? So again, how do you reconcile this "apparent" contradiction? At Genesis 17:1-2 God physically appeared to Abraham and made him a promise to multiply his descendants. Genesis 17:22 confirms this was a physical appearance. "God went up from Abraham." Also Genesis 18:1. Who did they see?
    – Mr. Bond
    Feb 18, 2023 at 0:27
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    @Mr.Bond "Absolutely I'm saying God is visible." I appreciate such a clear statement, as it helps people know who is speaking the truth. The Bible has a clear statement that speaks directly to this point. "Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:" (Colossians 1:15). A similar statement is to be found just a few chapters ahead of the one posted in the OP: "Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:17). God is the only being said to be "invisible" in the Bible.
    – Biblasia
    Feb 18, 2023 at 9:40
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Some will suggest from an imperfect understanding of the Hebrew idiom that people saw God in Old Testament times. But this is incorrect.

And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. (Exodus 33:20, KJV)

If anyone had seen God's face, he or she would have died. And this did not happen.

Moses, for example, did not die while on the mountain with God--precisely because he did not actually see God, even though he spoke "face to face" as it were with God.

It might be helpful to realize that one can speak "face to face" with someone while in the dark and not seeing each other.

The Old Testament holds much more treasure on this subject, but it is out of scope for this question.

The New Testament agrees with the Old Testament that no man has seen God.

Twice, John the Revelator repeats this truth. Repetition in the Bible is a signal for the importance of something.

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. (John 1:18, KJV)

No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12, KJV)

This truth is afterward applied to relationships.

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20, KJV)

In the very first chapter of Paul's letter to Timothy, he highlights the fact that God is invisible.

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)

The verse provided in the question, in the KJV, says:

Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16, KJV)

Conclusion

Yes, this text says definitively that neither has anyone seen God, nor could anyone do so.

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  • appreciate your answer +1
    – Steve
    Feb 18, 2023 at 9:05
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You have drawn attention to the various declarations that God cannot be seen by men, and they should surely be understood as conclusive. It is what we should have expected, since human understanding must be incapable of taking in the "fullness" of God. It would be like trying to pour a gallon into a pint pot.

You have proposed already that "the verses listing some kind of appearance are not God, but something else that represents God?", and I suggest that this is the right solution.

The way I normally put it is that men are offered "an image of God which accommodates itself to their understanding". It is a kind of filtering, as when people filter out the strong light of the sun when they try to watch an eclipse. When Moses asked to see the glory of God at Sinai, the Lord replied" You cannot see my face and live". Moses had to hide his face when the glory passed by, and then get a brief glimpse of the "back" (Exodus ch33 vv17-23).

That would explain why the various accounts of men "seeing God" offer slightly different pictures. The burning bush seen by Moses in Exodus ch3, Ezekiel ch1, Revelation ch5. It is not a direct vision of God, but it is enough to give them a sense of being in the presence of God.

1
  • appreciate your answer +1
    – Steve
    Feb 18, 2023 at 9:05
1

After Jacob wrestled with God in Genesis 32:

30 Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

This was a theophany of God, a physical manifestation of God.

Jesus declared in John 1:

18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

The uncreated Son of God has seen the uncreated God.

1 Timothy 6:

16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.

No one can see the incorporeal essence of God. God is not a created being but we are. We do not have the ability to see the uncreated form of God.

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I personally like the question because it gives us the opportunity to address verses that "seem" to contradict each other and that's how we learn.

Jesus Himself stated the following verses. 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 any man hath seen the Father, except he who is from God, he hath seen the Father."

Because of the Son's position and His relationship with the Father, (John 1:18), Jesus is the only physical manifestation of the Father. (John 14:9). The Father has no separate manifestation from the Son. What is known of the Father is revealed through the Son. To see the Son is to see the essence/nature of the Father, (John 1:1,18;John 10:30, 12:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.

Now, here is Genesis 17:1-2, "Now when Abraham was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me and be blameless, vs2, And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly."

God could not be more clear with His words that He appeared to Abram. So how do we determine what kind of an appearance this was? An ecstatic vision, in a dream or was it a physical appearance? From the context at Genesis 17:22 gives the answer, "And when He finished talking with him, GOD WENT UP FROM ABRAHAM."

This is backed up at Genesis 18:1, "Now the Lord appeared to him by the oak of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent of the door in the heat of the day." There was an extensive dialogue between the Lord God and Abraham. The last verse says, "And as soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed; and Abraham returned to his place."

Job 42:5 was mentioned as seeing God. The following explains that it was not a "physical" seeing with the eyes. In what sense did Job see God? (Job 42:5) The answer with the green check did an excellent job in explaining Job's seeing.

At John 12:41, "These things Isaiah said, because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him." The Apostle John is referencing Isaiah 6:1, "In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple."

Isaiah saw the glory of YHWH. John says that Isaiah saw "his" glory, the glory of Jesus. the verb Isaiah used for "saw" in 6:1 is ("ra'ah"). In the qal, it refers to the act of seeing in the literal sense, to see with the eyes (as opposed to, for example, "machazeh," which is the act or event of an ecstatic "vison")

In referring to the event, John uses the Greek word ("eidon") - also a verb referring to the act of seeing with the eyes in the natural sense. There's a lot more information on this subject of "Who did men see and in what form did they see Him in the Old Testament" at Genesis 16 and at Genesis 22.

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