Today we’re going to look at the word “anthropomorphism”. What is anthropomorphism and why is it a church word? Let’s first define what it means. To start, let’s look at the origin of the word. The prefix comes from the Greek word “anthropos” which means “human” and the root comes from the Greek word “morphe” which means “form”. So what does this word actually mean? Webster’s Dictionary describes anthropomorphism as an interpretation of what is not human or personal in terms of human or personal characteristics. Here’s an example. Let’s look at my favorite video game character Sonic the Hedgehog. He’s a hedgehog right? But what’s different about him from normal hedgehogs, besides the fact that he’s blue, he has more human-like arms and legs, human hands and feet and has the ability to speak. These are all human attributes given to a non-human character and this is a form of anthropomorphism. What’s this got to do with God? Knowing what we just learned about anthropomorphism, let’s see if there’s any example of that in the Bible.
The question we need to be asking is: Has God ever been described with human attributes in scripture? I think so. Like when David said the Lord is his shepherd, that’s a great example. Another example is in Psalm 89:13 which says your arm is endowed with power, your hand is strong, your right hand is exalted. The psalmist is using human attributes like arms and hands to describe the power of God but does that mean that God actually has arms and hands like that verse said? Nope, the Bible makes it very clear that God is spirit, he is not a physical being. He is beyond the realm of time, space and matter. The reason anthropomorphism is used in Scripture is to help the reader better understand what God’s like. Because God is limitless and far beyond what we can comprehend, the authors of the Bible often use human traits to help people better understand God’s character.
Here’s an example that often gets misunderstood. In the creation story, we are told that God created everything within the first six days and on the seventh day he rested. This doesn’t mean that on the seventh day, God decided to take a nap or went to sleep but the author described God as resting as a way to show that God had ceased his work of creation on the seventh day. So anthropomorphism is basically describing God with human qualities? Exactly.