In the Eyes of God: A Metaphorical Approach to Biblical Anthropomorphic Language

By Brian C. Howell

An enlightening exploration of anthropomorphic portrayals of divine action in Scripture, showing how they can be understood through the study of metaphors.

ISBN: 9780227174333


Throughout the Bible, Divine interaction with humanity is portrayed in almost embarrassingly human terms. God sees, hears, thinks, feels, runs, rides chariots, laughs, wields weapons, gives birth, and even repents. Many of these expressions, taken at face value, seem to run afoul of much classical theology, including divine simplicity, transcendence, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and especially immutability.

Traditionally, these texts have been seen as ‘accommodations’ to human intellectual and moral limitations. That is, they were deemed as giving God a more approachable feel, but not as representing any ‘real’ part of his character, being, or interaction with humanity. For example, references to God seeing or hearing are not deemed to represent real acts, as God already knows everything.

However, this view is largely based on an Aristotelian conception of metaphors as rhetorical devices, not vehicles that carry any truth content. Since the 1970s, the understanding of how metaphors convey meaning has taken great strides. These advances can help unlock how divine action – often inadvertently flattened under theological presuppositions – functions within a text. This book aims to explore the biblical metaphor of divine sight in Genesis and how current understandings of metaphorical function can enrich our reading of the text and its theology.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Brian C. Howell is a lecturer for the West of England Ministerial Training Course, and a freelance writer, lecturer, speaker, saxophonist, and music teacher.



1. Approaching Biblical Anthropomorphic Language
2. Approaching Divine Metaphors
3. Theomorphism
4. Seeing Good and Evil – Genesis 1-3
5. God, the Sons of God, and the Man of God
6. A View to Judgment – Genesis 11:
7. Status and Blessing in the Sight of God – Genesis 16
8. A Second Look at Sodom – Genesis 18:1-19:29
9. The Mountain with a View – Genesis 22
10. Conclusion

Appendix A: Exegesis of Genesis 16:13-14
Appendix B: The Righteousness of Lot
Appendix C: Testing

Name and Author Index
Scripture Index


Endorsements and Reviews

Learned and lucid, this fine work explores the nature of anthropomorphic language in Scripture and Christian theology. What it means to describe God in human terms has long been controversial, but this book tackles the issues in an irenic and scholarly way. Using modern insights into metaphors, Howell examines the places in Genesis where God is said to see to produce a most illuminating discussion that biblical scholars and systematic theologians should not overlook.
Gordon Wenham, Trinity College, Bristol

In the Eyes of God stands out as an attentive piece of theological investigation. Here we find a fresh response to the challenge of divine metaphors in the Bible. … This insightful monograph carries the discussion on divine metaphors forward, with close attention to specific examples from the biblical text. This will remain a major work in the field and one I will go to again and again.
Heath A. Thomas, Southeastern Seminary

One of the thorny issues in discussions of religious language has to do with metaphor. They are everywhere in Scripture, and often used to refer to God. … Brian Howell tackles this issue, drawing broadly on recent philosophical work on metaphor and on religious language, as well as upon biblical studies. By careful examination of some of the key issues and their use in Old Testament narrative, he brings a fresh perspective on long-standing theological problems.
Oliver D. Crisp, Fuller Theological Seminary