Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether anyone has seen God. The argument is that some passages say that no one has seen God, while others say that particular people have seen God. However, there is a reasonable explanation that solves this apparent contradiction.
Scriptures – Has Anyone Seen God?
No One Has Seen God
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”Exodus 33:20
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.John 1:18
And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen,John 5:37
not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.John 6:46
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, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.1 Timothy 6:15-16
Some People Have Seen God
When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,Genesis 17:1
And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.Genesis 18:1
2 God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.Exodus 6:2-3
9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. 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.Exodus 24:9-11
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 he beholds the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”Numbers 12:6-8
And Stephen said: “Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran,Acts 7:2
The Answer – Has Anyone Seen God?
God Is Spirit and Invisible, and So Cannot Be Seen
John 4:24 teaches that “God is spirit,” which means he is invisible and cannot be seen. John 4:24 refers to God the Father, so this means that God the Father has never been seen in a physical form.
Jesus Is the Image of God
Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, took on a human nature in the incarnation.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.John 1:14
So, people have seen God in the sense that people have seen Jesus physically.
It’s Arguable that God Appeared as Pre-Incarnate Jesus in the Old Testament
We know that Jesus took on a physical human form through the incarnation and has been visibly seen.
Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus “is the image of the invisible God.” This verse seems to communicate that, since God is invisible, anyone who has seen God in a physical form has seen Jesus, rather than the Father.
Because of this, it is reasonable to believe that when people in the Old Testament saw God, they were seeing a pre-incarnate Jesus, or, in other words, Jesus appeared to people in a particular human form.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: