Friday, April 27, 2007
the face in hebraic theology
Last week I did a little word study in my Hebrew class on ~ynIP'. (panim or "face"). It was fascinating to begin to unpack the theology of this concept in the Old Testament. One commentator noted that to have a face is to be in relationship. The face, as the portal to the total person, is loaded with nuances as we turn towards or away from one another. Something that caught my attention was the connection between the ideas of "face" and "presence." To seek the face of YHWH is to go to the temple, the place of his presence. To "face" someone is to offer total presence. Abraham Heschel has written about the absence of presence in panim in his book God in Search of Man. His way of understanding the holocaust and other atrocities is to name the "eclipse of the face of the Divine" (hester panim). This takes me to a christology of "face"- just as sin has to do with a breaking between faces (fractured relationship), so the hope of the Messiah is really YHWH taking on a face of flesh and blood- Christ is the embodiment of panim, restoring the hope of full presence in the interpersonal realm. A Christian theology of relationship will always look like two people painting each other's faces back on- just as they ought to be- restored to glory.