Stories We Like: A Guide to the Comma
(from Greek theophaneia, "appearance of God"), manifestation of deity in sensible form. The term has been applied generally to the appearance of the gods in the ancient Greek and Near Eastern religions but has in addition acquired a special technical usage in regard to biblical materials. In the Old Testament, God is depicted as appearing in human form, in natural cataclysms, in a burning bush, a cloud, or a gentle breeze-forms often associated with the divine "name" or "glory" (originally a visible halo accompanying the divine appearance). Old Testament theophanies are presented as actual historical events or as prophetic visions with symbolic overtones. The mark of biblical theophanies is the temporariness and suddenness of the appearance of God, which is here not an enduring presence in a certain place or object. The extension of the term theophany to such New Testament events as the Baptism and transfiguration of Jesus (also called epiphanies) has been questioned as inappropriate because in Orthodox Christian doctrine Christ himself in his whole life and work and death is the manifestation of God. The incarnation of Christ, however, may be seen as the ultimate and fullest form of divine manifestation in a whole spectrum of theophanies.