Q&A: Has any man seen God the Father or not?

Has any man seen God the Father or not?

Question

Has any man seen God the Father or not? Some verses say that some have seen God, but Jesus says no man has seen God. Is Jesus a liar? (John 1:18; 5:37; 6:46).

Answer

First of all, Jesus cannot lie (cf. Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18). So, what could he have meant in John 1:18; 5:37; 6:46? He had to mean — and the texts plainly state — that no one has seen God the Father, not that any hadn't seen God at all. Let's briefly review the texts in question:

John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

John 5:37: 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 6:46: not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Clearly, in each case Jesus is saying that none have seen God the Father. After all, Jesus is very God of very God (John 1:14) and he was literally seen by the very people he was speaking to! (cf. "seen" (x3), "manifest" (x2), "looked upon" (x1) in 1 John 1:1-4). So, he couldn't have been saying that no one had never seen God.

The Bible does teach that some have seen God. Some literally saw Jesus in the flesh. He lived, he went to the synagogue, and he taught and ministered in Nazareth, Galiliee, Caperneum, Jerusalem, Tyre, etc. He healed many sick. Many saw him on the cross, over five hundred observed him after his resurrection, and many saw his ascension to the right hand of God the Father. So, it can literally be said the incarnate God was seen.

In other texts, some saw the angel of the Lord (Gen. 22:11-15; Exod. 2:3-3; Matt. 1:20, 2:22; Luke 1:11-19, etc.), or had a vision (Acts 10:10) or dream (1 Kings 3:5) of God, yet others occasionally saw what we refer to as a Christophany (a manifestation of Christ that is tangible to the human senses) or a Theophany (a manifestation of God that is tangible to the human senses). There are many examples of these in Scripture: the burning bush (Exod. 3); the appearances to Abraham (Gen. 15:1; 17:1; 18:1), Isaac (Gen. 26:2), and Jacob (Gen. 28:13); the cloud in the wilderness (Exod. 14:19); and numerous others which pre-figure the coming of Christ. This said, no man — except Jesus — has literally seen God the Father.

For an explanation of the terms Theophany and Christophany, please see, "Was there more than one incarnation?" and "Did Jesus have a physical body before his incarnation?" below.

Related Topics

Was there more than one incarnation?
Did Jesus have a physical body before his incarnation?
God, the Uncontained One - 2 Chronicles 7:12-16 and 1 Kings 8:27
God Came From Teman?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).