Speaking to God face to face

In today’s Missal reading we read “The Lord would speak with Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”

There’s lots of language like this in the Old Testament where a literal reading would lead us to suppose that God was there in the form of a physical person.

So I was wondering what the Catholic interpretation would be of verses like these. After all, I don’t suppose the Church teaches the “God-in-a-bod” theory.

This is just a figure of speech. There are many other passages in the Bible where God is spoken of as having a body. For example in Ex 33:22-23 God tells Moses that during the vision Moses will have the next day He will cover Moses with His hand and then Moses will see only His back when God passes by. But for example when it comes to seeing God face to face, God tells Moses in this same passage that “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” So Moses cound not actually see God. John McKenzie in his “Dictionary of the Bible” remarks that the passage where Moses is said to see God’s face simply “signifies a more intimate personal communion than was known to normal experience.”(in the article “Face”.)

mspencer’s comments here are good. I think that Moses was addressing some kind of “filtered” “special presence of God.”

Interestingly, “filtering” God seems to have been one of the primary roles of angels in the Bible.

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