Anthropomorphism, also referred to as personification or prosopopeia, is the attribution of human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals, forces of nature, and others. [1] Biblical anthropomorphism is when human characteristics are projected on God.

The Bible has examples of God referring to himself in anthropomorphic terms and the biblical writers referring to God in anthropomorphic terms -- the purpose being to describe God in terms more understandable to humans. Without anthropomorphism, since God is invisible and immaterial, we would not have a framework on which to understand Him.

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Anthropomorphism in the Bible

Examples of anthropomorphism can be seen in the following passages:

Exodus 3:20 "So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all My miracles which I shall do in the midst of it; and after that he will let you go.

Exodus 32:14 So the LORD changed His mind about the harm which He said He would do to His people.

Isaiah 38:1-5 In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, "Thus says the LORD, 'Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.'" Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, and said, "Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Your sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah, saying, "Go and say to Hezekiah, 'Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, "I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will add fifteen years to your life.

The danger of incorrectly interpreting anthropomorphic verses

Many theologies have arisen out of literally interpreting anthropomorphic verses in the Bible; once such notable theology is Open Theism. This theology takes verses where God seemingly changes His mind (Numbers 16:20–35), and grieves (Genesis 6:5–6) to be literal statements.

Audius and his followers, the Audians, were a sect of Christians that arose in the fourth century in Syria and extended into Scythia. They took the text of Genesis 1:27 literally, saying that God has a human form. The error was so gross, and, to use Jerome's expression (Epist. vi, Ad Pammachium), so absolutely senseless, that it showed no vitality. [2]

Literal vs. figurative anthropomorphism

It is important to establish what texts in the Bible may be taken literally and what verses we must take figuratively.

Literal
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him."
John 14:6-7

Figurative
So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. "For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
John 6:53-56

The previous verse shows errors of incorrectly interpreting Biblical anthropomorphism in those that advocate transubstantiation.

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