Anthropopathism in the Bible: Definition and Examples

ReformedWiki Post

Anthropopathism refers to instances where the Bible uses human emotions to describe God. A similar concept, anthropomorphism, refers to instances where the Bible uses human physical characteristics to describe God.

Does God Have Emotions?

Whether God has emotions is a theological controversy. The Reformed position is that while the Bible communicates about God in terms of human emotions, the way that God experiences emotions is fundamentally different from the way humans experience emotions in that God’s emotions do not change.

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith says that God is “without body, parts, or passions.”

Therefore, when the Bible describes God in terms of emotions, it is utilizing anthropopathism, or, describing God using human emotions to help people understand what God is like using language they understand.

Examples of Anthropopathism in the Bible

Below is a list of examples of anthropopathism in the Bible. In these examples, God is not “regretting,” “grieving,” or feeling “indignation” in the sense that he has changing emotions. Rather, these passages are simply using this kind of human language to help us understand what God is like. They are not saying that God has human emotions or that his emotions are changing.

Genesis 6:6 – “the Lord regretted”

And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

Genesis 6:6

Isaiah 54:6 – “grieved” (Anthropopathism in the Bible)

For the Lord has called you like a wife deserted and grieved in spirit, like a wife of youth when she is cast off, says your God.

Isaiah 54:6

Psalm 7:11 – “indignation”

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.

Psalm 7:11

Read More – Anthropomorphism

As mentioned above, a very similar concept is anthropomorphism. Learn the definition, and see examples, of anthropomorphism in the Bible here. The difference between anthropopathism and anthropomorphism is that anthropopathism is about describing God with human emotions, and anthropomorphism is about describing God with human physical characteristics.

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