Why are more modern (visual) depictions of YHWH not reflective of Ezekiel’s vision? 

Thank you for this question, which allowed me to hunt around and find out something about the history of representations of YHWH (in Christianity, referred to as “God the father” to distinguish him from the other two parts of the Christian trinity, God the son, and God the spirit. )

As we know, according to Deuteronomistic laws, YHWH is supposed to be aniconic—that is, without image or likeness. Prior to Deuteronomy, he seems to have occasionally been represented by a bull (or as being carried by two bulls). More on this in my blog entry on this subject: https://biblefaq390.com/helpie_faq/why-is-the-bull-or-calf-as-opposed-to-some-other-animal-so-important-in-the-ancient-near-east/ 

In Deuteronomy itself, and in parts of Exodus, YHWH is figured as a mighty warrior. I say figured, because he has the powers of one, but is never depicted physically as one. Frequently, he is evoked by the image of a “mighty hand,” which led to a tradition in early Jewish art whereby YHWH’s hand alone was depicted. As we’ll see in a moment, this tradition was coopted by early western Christian artists; western Christianity depicts YHWH (as God the father) far more frequently. 

Until recently, scholars assumed Jews did not include images in art at all; they even assumed that Jews had no tradition of representative art. A 19th c. Austrian scholar named David Kaufman proved this was not the case. Jews did have representative art, even depicting religious scenes, as long as those scenes were not used for worship. In addition, the biblical book of Esther was a popular subject of representation and its scrolls could be illustrated precisely because Esther does not mention YHWH at all. 

While Eastern Orthodox Christianity shied away from representing God in art, Western Christianity frequently depicted Jesus (God the son) before the 10th c. After the 10th c., artists gradually began to depict parts of God the father, starting with the hand (see above), then the head, then the torso, and finally the whole body. I cannot swear to it, but I suspect the image of God the father as an old man with a white beard comes from the Ancient of Days image in Daniel, which many have assumed was God, whether it was or not. Like this figure in Daniel, God the father in Western Art is frequently enthroned, and sometimes shown holding an orb of the world. Widespread use of this white-haired God the Father image persisted in Catholic parts of Europe (see Michelangelo’s famous portrayal of God the father on the Sistine Chapel ceiling: https://fineartamerica.com/featured/god-the-father-creation-of-the-sun-moon-michelangelo.html?product=puzzle&puzzleType=puzzle-18-24. Whenever YHWH stops in to the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert, he looks like Michelangelo’s deity.) However, Protestant nations like England shied away from such representation, whitewashing most church windows and murals in the late 16th century. For more and for some sources, the Wikipedia article on “God the Father in Western Art” is pretty good: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_the_Father_in_Western_art

As for why God is not shown in a chariot, as in Ezekiel, I wonder if one reason is that Apollo is so frequently depicted with a chariot. Early Christian artists were highly aware of iconography, and I think using the chariot with YHWH ran the risk of associating him with pagan gods.

Modern Jewish artists, while still avoiding representation of YHWH, now feel safe in depicting “aspects of God” such as the Shekhinah, often shown as a winged female who comforts her people. 

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