Thursday, May 12, 2005

Anthropomorphism of God? 

So, we were created in God's image (Gen 1:26), right? Well, then where are my wings dag gummit?! And my dragon's nose?! This has been something that has been bothering me for a while now. I am an avid sayer of Compline and in the beginning of the prayers portion there is a versicle and response which reads: "Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye. Hide us under the shadow of your wings." Now, being the apple of someone's eye is a strange thing to say in and of itself. But, what is this about wings? God has wings? Apparently. I did a quick search and came up with some interesting finds. The first time we hear of God having wings in the Hebrew scriptures is in the Book of Ruth 2:12, which says, "May the Lord reward you for your deeds, and may you have a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge!" Before that there are a number of references to the wings of the cherubim and several metaphors using eagle's wings. But the next reference to wings seems contradictory. In 2 Samuel 22, which is David's song of Thanksgiving, the picture of God provided in verse 11 has God riding "on a cherub...upon the wings of the wind". Well, if God's got his own wings, why does he need to ride on a cherub? 1 Kings 6:27 describes the wings of a cherub as being enormous, so they might be able to bear God, but that doesn't tell us why.

Psalm 17:8 is the source of the V. and R. from Compline and is a prayer for protection from persecutors. Psalm 18:10 revisits the same imagery as 2 Samuel, so now we're two and two. Two images of God with wings and two images of God using the wings of another creature for transportation. Psalms 57:1, 61:4, 63:7 are like Psalm 17:8, and we're back to hiding under God's wings, though 63:7 seems to be a joyful image whereas the others are images of defense, indicating fear. Throughout the rest of the Psalms we go back and forth between the image of God with wings and God using the wings of a cherub - 91:4, 104:3.

Throughout Isaiah and Jeremiah there are a few images of wings, but none relate to God directly. They are used as a metaphor for kings and armies - "For thus says the Lord: Look, he shall swoop down like an eagle, and spread his wings against Moab," (Jer 48:40). Here Jeremiah is prophesying about the "destroyer of Moab", but it seems clear that though God is the force controling the destroyer, the destroyer will be a temporal force.

Ezekiel's image of God has wings all over it! Just read the first chapter of the book and you'll come up with lots of wings, with no clear idea of to whom they belong. God? Angels? Are they the same thing, though appearing as many parts? Weird. Throughout Ezekiel, the wings of the cherubs seem to be protecting the mortal from the visage behind them. The face of God maybe?

In the NT, Jesus talks about God/himself as being like a hen who gathers her chicks under its wings (Mt 23:37, Lu 13:34). And then the only other mention of wings is in the Apocalypse. So, this image of God with wings seems to be a primarily Hebrew image. How can we then say we are in the image of God? Where are our wings? I think what's going on here has to do with a total "otherness" of God. Yeah, we're like God, but we're so finite! We can never be more like God than we already are, and that's both closer than anything else on earth and pretty far away from the original. Think Aristotle's "pure" and "separation of-" Forms.

Briefly, God's nostrils also seem to be dragon-like, rather than human-like. Ex 15:8 is one example. The length of God's nostrils has a cooling effect on his wrath against us. So, we should be thankful for that!

So, God is no longer an old guy in a nightshirt, but rather appears to be a chicken-dragon man. Oh no...God is Trogdor!

In all seriousness - this is some pretty wierd stuff and deserves some more thinking, but I've exhausted my thinking quotient for this reading week day. I'm going to the Sox/Orioles game...



Technically speaking, wouldn't it be the "avianomorphism" of God, since we're talking about birds, and not "anthropomorphism"?

Or, if it's dragonish stuff, maybe its the "herpetomorphism" of God?

I need more sleep.

By Blogger Benedict Seraphim, at 5:11 PM  

Does this mean I should dress up like a peasant and set myself on fire so that Trogdor (an anagram for God-Rort!) will deign to burninate me?

By Anonymous Si, at 4:01 PM  

Ryan, I can't help responding to your post with "Transformers, more than meet the eyes! Transformers God-like, in disguise!" (you just have to find the gizmo that makes the wings appear - yeah, that's the ticket, I'm SURE of it!).

Sorry it is hot and humid in Vero Beach today so I'm not thinking straight! (or - eek - maybe I am!)

By Blogger Debra, at 7:51 PM  

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