A theophany is an explicit appearance of God to a person. Theophanies are relatively rare in the Bible, perhaps because it is very dangerous to be visited by the presence of God – we know from Exodus 33:20 that it is normally fatal to experience a theophany. In a sense the story of Jesus on Earth is one long theophany (John 14:9) but the term is generally reserved for dramatic, short-lived, super-natural experiences of God.

Theophanies in the Bible

Abram at Moreh in Shechem ~

the Lord appeared to Abram and said "To your offspring I will give this land" (Genesis 12:7)

Jacob at Peniel ~

"... I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." (Genesis 32:24-30)

Moses on Mount Sinai ~

Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with Moses and proclaimed his name, the Lord. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God..." (Exodus 34:5-28)

Isaiah's Commission ~

I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple (Isaiah 6ff)

Baptism of Jesus ~

_...heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Luke 3:22) This event is commemorated in the Feast of the Theophany by Eastern Christians. Most Christians in the Western tradition call this the Feast of the Epiphany._

Saul on the road to Damascus ~

... suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:3-7)

Revelation of St. John ~

... His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last..." (Rev 1ff)

Theophanies not in the Bible

Blaise Pascal ~

From about half past ten in the evening until about half past twelve. Fire! God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, Not of the philosophers and scholars. Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace. God of Jesus Christ. ( in a note found after his death)

Anthony Bloom ~

While I was reading the beginning of St. Mark’s Gospel, before I reached the third chapter, I suddenly became aware that on the other side of my desk there was a presence. And the certainty was so strong that it was Christ standing there that it has never left me. This was the real turning-point. Because Christ was alive and I had been in his presence I could say with certainty that what the Gospel said about the crucifixion of the prophet of Galilee was true... (Introduction to School for Prayer)


Bob Deffinbaugh, The Invisibility of God (Genesis 32:22-30; Exodus 24:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:17), 2005

Anthony Bloom School for Prayer Darton, Longman & Todd, London, 1971 ( ISBN 0232511616)