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<p>One plausible explanation is that when people saw God in the Old Testament, they were not seeing the Father, but rather, they were seeing Jesus in a pre-incarnate form.</p> <h2>The argument</h2> <p>Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether anyone has seen God. Here are the relevant verses and passages:</p> <h3>No one has seen God</h3> <blockquote> <strong>Exodus 33:20
</strong> - "But,” he said, “<strong>you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.</strong>” </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>John 1:18 </strong> - <strong>No one has ever seen God</strong>; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>John 5:37 </strong> - And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, <strong>his form you have never seen</strong>, </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>John 6:46 </strong> - not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>1 Timothy 6:15-16 </strong> - 15 which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, <strong>whom no one has ever seen or can see</strong>. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen. </blockquote> <h3>Some people have seen God</h3> <blockquote> <strong>Genesis 17:1 </strong> - When Abram was ninety-nine years old <strong>the Lord appeared to Abram</strong> and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless... </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>Genesis 18:1 </strong> - And <strong>the Lord appeared to him</strong> by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>Exodus 6:2-3 </strong> - 2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3 <strong>I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob</strong>, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them. </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>Exodus 24:9-11 </strong> - 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and <strong>they saw the God of Israel</strong>. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. 11 And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>Numbers 12:6-8 </strong> - 6 And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. 7 Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and <strong>he beholds the form of the Lord</strong>. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” </blockquote> <blockquote> <strong>Acts 7:2 </strong> - And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. <strong>The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham</strong> when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, </blockquote> <h2>The solution</h2> <h3>God is a Trinity</h3> <p>This alleged contradiction in the Bible is easily solved when we realize that God is a Trinity. It is certainly the case that people <strong>can</strong> see Jesus, who took on a human nature in the incarnation, and people <strong>cannot</strong> see God, who "is spirit" (John 4:24 ).</p> <h3>God probably appeared as the pre-incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament</h3> <p>When God appeared to people in the Old Testament, He was probably appearing as the pre-incarnate Christ, since we know that there is at least one member of the Trinity who "is spirit" and who no one has seen, namely the Father.</p> <p>That the appearances of GOd in the Old Testament were Jesus in a pre-incarnate form is plausible because:</p> <ol> <li>We know that through the incarnation, Jesus is now the "image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15 ). So, generally speaking, it is through Jesus that God makes Himself seen. We may not know exactly how appearances of the pre-incarnate Jesus work, but it is a plausible assumption that whenever anyone sees God, that person is seeing Jesus.</li> <li>Jesus said "No one has ever seen God; <strong>the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known</strong>." In other words, Jesus, who is God Himself, who is "at the Father's side," is the person who has made God the Father, who cannot be seen, known.</li> </ol>
Some people have trouble accepting possible explanations to alleged contradictions in the Bible, especially ones that they consider a stretch. For example, Dan Barker, president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, says this:
I have received numerous replies from Christians who think that these contradictions are either trivial or easily explained. Yet not a single "explanation" has been convincing.
The fact is that there are plausible explanations for every alleged contradiction in the Bible. That there is a plausible explanation for an alleged contradiction does not mean that it is definitely the correct explanation for the alleged contradiction.
However, as long as a possible explanation has been suggested, then it has been objectively demonstrated that there is no necessary contradiction regarding the Bible verses and passages brought up.
When people like Dan Barker say that they don't find a particular explanation for a contradiction "convincing," then that is merely their opinion. A plausible explanation has been suggested that eliminates the necessary alleged contradiction. They simply don't like it, which is not at all a relevant argument against the explanation.
To read more about solutions to Bible contradictions and difficulties, check out Norman Geisler's The Big Book of Bible Difficulties: Clear and Concise Answers from Genesis to Revelation. While we do not agree with some of Geisler's theology, particularly concerning his view of predestination, this book is still an excellent resource. It is thorough and filled with research.
Another book to check out is Tim Chaffey's Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions: Exploring Forty Alleged Contraditions, which also answers many alleged contradictions in the Bible.