Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire


They are said to have been a small sect of the fourth century, but they were rather the sect of every people that had painters and sculptors. As soon as they could draw a little, or shape a figure, they made an image of the Divinity. If the Egyptians consecrated cats and gnats they also sculptured Isis and Osiris. Bel was carved at Babylon, Hercules at Tyre, Brahma in India.

The Mussulmans did not paint God as a man. The Guebres had no image of the Great Being. The Sabean Arabs did not give the human figure to the stars. The Jews did not give it to God in their temple. None of these nations cultivated the art of design, and if Solomon placed figures of animals in his temple it is likely that he had them carved at Tyre; but all the Jews have spoken of God as of a man.

Although they had no images they seem to have made God a man on all occasions. He comes down into the garden; He walks there every day at noon; He talks to His creatures; He talks to the serpent; He makes Himself heard by Moses in the bush; He shows him only His back parts on the mountain; He nevertheless talks to him, face to face, like one friend to another.

In the Koran, too, God is always looked up to as a king. In the twelfth chapter, a throne is given Him above the waters. He had this Koran written by a secretary, as kings have their orders. He sent this same Koran to Mahomet by the angel Gabriel, as kings communicate their orders through the great officers of the crown. In short, although God is declared in the Koran to be neither begetting nor begotten, there is, nevertheless a morsel of anthropomorphism. In the Greek and Latin Churches, God has always been painted with a great beard.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01