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Theophany: A Biblical Theology of God’s Appearing

, 2018
ISBN: 9781433554377

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Each time God appears to his people throughout the Bible—in the form of a thunderstorm, a man, a warrior, a chariot, etc.—he comes to a specific person for a specific purpose. And each of these temporary appearances—called theophanies—helps us to better understand who he is, anticipating his climactic, permanent self-revelation in the incarnation of Christ.

Describing the various accounts of God’s visible presence from Genesis to Revelation, theologian Vern S. Poythress helps us consider more deeply what they reveal about who God is and how he dwells with us today.

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Key Features

  • Examines the biblical accounts of God’s appearances and what they mean
  • Discusses God’s nature and how these appearances point to his presence today


  • Part I: The Biblical Theme of God Appearing
  • Part II: The Mystery of God Appearing
  • Part III: A History of God Appearing: The Old Testament
  • Part IV: A History of God Appearing: The New Testament

Top Highlights

“The first kind of theophany is a thunderstorm theophany or thunderstorm appearance.” (Page 33)

“Old Testament thunderstorm appearances foreshadow the first coming of Christ, when Christ bore God’s judgment as our sin-bearer. They also foreshadow his second coming, when God will execute judgment against the wicked on the final day of judgment. In addition, thunder accompanies some of the descriptions of God’s presence in the book of Revelation, a book that focuses on God’s judgment.” (Pages 38–39)

“Theophany represents an intensive form of the presence of God. So theophany is like a subtheme within the broad theme of God’s presence. At the same time, the intensive forms of God’s presence show us a lot about the meaning of God’s presence in the broadest sense.” (Page 29)

“What is the significance of fire? In the Old Testament, fire can symbolize either purification or destruction. More often than not, it is destructive fire. The two sides are not incompatible, since purification comes by removal or destruction of what is impure.” (Page 43)

“Fire as an expression of God’s holiness also shows that God is faithful to his own character. So it underlines God’s commitment to his promises. Fire expresses God’s covenantal presence as the holy God.” (Page 43)

Praise for the Print Edition

Dr. Poythress’s book walks the reader through a gallery of God’s manifold glory. This volume invites the reader to stop and consider all of the different portraits of God’s personal presence in the whole canon of Scripture. Those who look in faith will be rewarded and encouraged in their walk with Christ.

—David Wenkel, adjunct faculty, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; author, Shining Like the Sun: A Biblical Theology of Meeting God Face to Face

This work is broader than any I have seen in its coverage of the biblical theology of theophany. I appreciate the many explanations of how each Old Testament aspect of theophany is fulfilled in Christ. The many chapters provide a spiritually uplifting study that is well organized and carefully written in terms any layman can understand, but also stimulating for advanced students.

—James A. Borland, professor emeritus of New Testament and theology, Liberty University

Poythress is a master at pulling together various strands of Scripture and showing their coherence. This book on the multifaceted aspects of God’s presence is no exception. Theophany fills a real void in evangelical theology—informative for the scholar but accessible to the layman. Students often ask me about the various senses of God’s presence discussed in Scripture, and I typically give a vague answer. But now, after reading Poythress, my answers will be much more informed; and I have a first-class resource to share with my students.

—Robert J. Cara, provost, chief academic officer, and Hugh and Sallie Reaves Professor of New Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary; author, Cracking the Foundation of the New Perspective on Paul

Product Details

Vern Sheridan Poythress (b. 1946) is an evangelical philosopher, theologian, and Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary where he has taught since 1976. In 1981 he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church Evangelical Synod, which later merged with the Presbyterian Church in America.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition


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  1. Forrest Cole

    Forrest Cole



Digital list price: $25.99
Save $5.00 (19%)