Rabbinic views . . . on God appearing in human form

In the 12th century AD Rabbi Moses Maimonides formulated what has come to be known as the thirteen principles of the faith. The third principle is as follows: “I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, is not a body, and that He is free from all the accidents of matter, and that He has not any form whatsoever.”

Jesus said, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). God is spirit and he is “free from all the accidents of matter.” But to suggest that we should believe with “perfect faith that He has not any form whatsoever” would only be correct if this could be substantiated from the word of God. “Perfect faith” is only that which is established upon the sure foundation of the word of God revealed through the Messiah. “Faith” established upon any other foundation is imperfect, presumptuous, and possibly even reckless.

But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Messiah (Romans 10:16-17).

We are spiritual beings created in the image of God. The Lord does not consist of matter, and neither essentially do we, but we temporarily inhabit a mortal body (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-7). The Scriptures present plain evidence that the Lord, who is spirit, has appeared in bodily form. Therefore we cannot believe with perfect faith that he never has, nor ever will, appear in any form whatsoever.

“When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:6-8).

In Genesis 3:8-10 it is recorded that Adam and Eve heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden. In Genesis 18:1 it is recorded that the Lord appeared to Abraham and it is further evident from the account in Genesis 19 that the Lord’s appearance to Abraham was in the form of a man. Such references are often explained as anthropomorphisms, but clearly the Lord is able to appear in bodily form.

The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah (8:14) that he would be a sanctuary, but for Israel he would be a stone that causes men to stumble. This has indeed been fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. Accepting that God has appeared in the person of Jesus the Messiah, as the living temple of God among his people, has become the biggest stumbling block to the people of Israel. Genesis 32:25 records Jacob’s struggle in the time of his greatest darkness and fear. It is written that Jacob wrestled with a man, refusing to let go until the man blessed him. Immediately after this struggle Jacob testified that he had seen the Lord (Yahweh) face to face. Furthermore, it was only through clinging to the man right through the night that he was blessed and given the name “Israel.”

To know God face to face in the person of Jesus the Messiah, involves the greatest struggle for the natural descendants of Jacob. It is only through prevailing in this intense struggle that the descendants of Jacob will ever become the true Israel of God. The faith of the descendants of Jacob will never be perfect until they too encounter the Lord face to face in the person of Jesus the Messiah.

Jesus, the Son, is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation (i.e. form or similitude) of his being . . . (Hebrews 1:3).

Many people conclude that Christians are idolaters because they elevate a man (Jesus) to the status of God and worship him as God. However, Christians do not believe that a man became God – they believe that God appeared among us as a man.

Jesus the Messiah – being in very nature God, made himself nothing . . . taking the very form of a servant, being found in human form. And being found in appearance as a man (Philippians 2:6-8).

For in Jesus the Messiah all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Messiah, who is the head over every power and authority (Col. 2:9-10 cf. Daniel 7:13).

Jesus said, “…the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent (John 5:37).

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9