Friday, July 25, 2008

Imaging God

The Bible gives a pretty detailed description of Jehovah. He has arms (Deut.11,2), hands (Ex.15,12) and fingers (Ps.8,3); a face and a back (Ex.33,23; Deut.13,17). Apparently he has flames coming from his body (Ps.50,3) and most interestingly, smoke coming from his nostrils and burning coals from his mouth (Ps.18,7-8), although I have never seen depictions of this aspect of him. In the Middle Ages God was usually shown as an old man with a beard and wearing a crown, or more correctly a tiara. In those days there were kings so naturally God was seen as a big king in the sky. During the Renaissance God remained pretty much unchanged except for often having a stern, almost angry expression. When I visited the Baroque churches of Europe in 2000 I noticed that God was often shown as an equilateral triangle (the Trinity) with an eye in it. It gave me the creeps! No matter where I went in the church this big eye was glaring at me. I noticed also that his ‘Holy Ghost’ aspect was usually depicted as a dove. One of the most unusual, not to say bizarre, portrayals of God and one that has gone completely out of fashion, shows him with three faces. Reminds one of Siva. William Blake’s wonderful drawing of God as the divine designer with his compass is the only one I have seen showing him naked. This certainly makes sense. Why would God need clothes? In the film Evan Almighty God is a suave elderly black guy in a white suit (white seems to have become God’s favorite color of late) instead of the more usual flowing robes. One could write a thesis on what this says about contemporary American religious thinking. My favorite depictions of God are of him on a horse or in a fiery chariot pulled by horses. It confirms what I’ve always believed – that animals do go to heaven.


dmkorman said...

I am told that, to many, God resembles the late actor, George Burns. : )

This need to create an image (God, Jesus, Buddha), is, of course, misguided by their own respective teachings.

Unknown said...

Ahem... aren't we forgetting all the other Gods through the ages?


"We have more Gods than you can shake a stick at. Godchecker's Mythology Encyclopedia currently features over 2,850 deities."

With that many Gods, someone must have got it right somewhere!!