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God the Father

christ person trinity image

For Christians, God the Father is the first person of the *Trinity, and the “Lord” (rendered as Yahweh or Jehovah) from Jewish tradition who features throughout the Old Testament as creator, lawgiver, and sovereign, true divinity. The *Creation narratives of Genesis 1-3 state that God created humans in his own image and describe *Adam and Eve hearing the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the *Garden of Eden. Hence, God is traditionally depicted in Christian art as a human: an elderly man in flowing robes with white hair and a beard or as a younger male figure (more properly *Christ, the second person of the Trinity). The opening words of *John’s Gospel state the original coexistence of both God and “the Page 104 Word” (the Father and Son) which may partially explain the Christian predilection to depict God the Father as Christ, or, with the cruciform *halo traditionally reserved for Christ, in illustrations of both Old and New Testament narratives, including scenes of Creation.

The hand of God emerging from clouds or *heaven is often substituted for the full figure of God and frequently appears in numerous pictorial contexts requiring God’s presence (e.g., appearing in the sky during the *Ascension of Christ). God’s presence may also be symbolized in manifestations such as the burning bush on *Mount Sinai from which he spoke to *Moses.

In later medieval art, God the Father may be represented wearing a priestly hat (like a mitre), a crown, or a five-tiered tiara (expanding upon the papal three-tiered tiara), and he may hold a globe inscribed or topped with a *cross. The third person of the Trinity, the *Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) frequently accompanies or represents God in images of the *Annunciation to the Virgin *Mary and the *Baptism of Jesus. God the Father may also be shown in scenes of the *Coronation of the Virgin, and, from the twelfth century onward, may appear in images of the *Crucifixion (behind or supporting the cross over which the dove hovers, an image known as the “Throne of Grace”). In illustrations of the *Apocalypse and *Last Judgment, the awesome figure of the enthroned judge, the “Son of Man,” holding a book, with a sword projecting from his mouth, surrounded by stars and candlesticks, may combine the image of Christ with the Ancient of Days to dramatic effect.

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