By Contributor Karin Heller
I was reading the Gospel of John and came across verse 18 that says, “No one has ever seen God.” Is this true? It is confusing me because I thought that in Genesis it said that Adam and Eve walked along side God and talked with him. And in other parts of Genesis, in the genealogies, it says that certain people “walked with God.”
Were all of these hypothetical? Or was there some sort of mistranslation?
When people in the Bible “walk with God”, this does not mean that they see God face-to-face as you can see me when we meet on our beautiful campus and walk together to Dixon Hall.
The first chapters of Genesis are a particular literary genre similar to fiction. They express theological realities! This means that they speak of events that happened, still happen, and announce an even greater fulfillment in the future. In other words, these chapters give us an explanation why the world is what it is today and what God’s plan for the human being is.
When these texts were written the authors believed that God created man and woman living in an intimate relationship with God, which included seeing God. This was their belief and this belief kindled their hope that God would realize such a thing in the future.
In the Old Testament, just as in the Book of John, God says “Man cannot see me and live,” (Exodus 33:20). Only the pre-existent word of God has truly seen God (John 1:18). The biblical writers present Adam and Eve as seeing God and walking with him as an expression of their faith! Only those who met Jesus of Nazareth during his 30 years on earth really saw God and most of them didn’t realize it! Even his disciples, his closest friends, had a really hard time to realize that! Why? Because their faith was so weak!! The events in Genesis 2 announce the creation of a man and a woman capable of gazing on God with their human eyes! Unfortunately, we very often read the first chapters of Genesis as a story of the past and we neglect so much to read them as a story of the present and the future! We are such prisoners of our, “it really happened in the past” faith!
Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years. Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.