Meaning of Theophany

What is Theophany:

Theophany means manifestation, appearance or revelation of the divinity. It derives from the Greek voice θεοφάνεια (theopháneia), a word that is composed of θεός (theós), which means God, and φαίνω (phainō), to appear.

In many religions, we find various manifestations of the divinity, either in perceptible form, as narrated by the different religious myths, or in the form of dreams, ecstasies and visions. Even in a broader sense, we can consider theophany any exposure to a simulacrum of divinity, either within a sanctuary or carried in procession among the people.

Theophany in the Old Testament

Theophany can also refer to the manifestations and appearances of Yahweh to the people of Israel, as they are related in the Old Testament, in the first chapters of the Genesis, or as narrated in the Exodus (III: 4-6), in the form of fire, when Yahweh appears before Moses as a burning bush; or in human form, when Moses sees him on Mount Sinai, during the delivery of the Ten Commandments (Exodus, XXIV: 10).

To refer to a theophany, the expression of Angel of Yahweh or the Lord is also used in various parts of the Bible: Numbers, XXII: 32-35; Judges, II: 1-5, VI: 1-24. Similarly, throughout the Old Testament testimonies of theophanies are recorded in various prophets: Isaiah, SAW; Ezequiel, I; Daniel, SAW.

Theophany of Mamré

It is a passage from Old Testament that relates the appearance of God to Abraham in the plain of Mamré (Genesis, 18). There, apart from the announcement that Abraham and Sarah, his wife, both now old, will beget a new son, a dialogue takes place between Abraham and God where the first intercedes for Sodom, objecting to its destruction if it exists in that city. enough just men, because that would mean the punishment of these on a par with the unjust. It is considered one of the emblematic biblical episodes on the application of divine justice.

Theophany of Jesus

The feast of January 6 is known as Theophany in the Greek Orthodox Church, the same date that the Catholic Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord, with a similar meaning.

The name of the festival Theophany alludes to the manifestation of the Holy Trinity in the baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the voice of the Father is heard announcing Christ as his very beloved son, as narrated in the New Testament. In the scene, then, all the persons of the Holy Trinity are represented: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Theophany and epiphany

Although theophany and epiphany are very similar terms and tend to be confused, they are not synonymous. While theophany literally refers to the supernatural manifestation of God or gods, the word epiphany, in its etymological sense, means "to appear above" or "to show oneself above."

Unlike the Orthodox Church, whose feast of the theophany refers to the supernatural revelation of the Holy Trinity, the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord of the Catholic Church refers to the moment when the Child Jesus is visited by the kings of the East. , who recognize in him a higher authority. This revelation of Jesus as an authority superior to earthly powers is known by the name of Epiphany.

Therefore, in the context of Christianity, theophany has a Trinitarian connotation, while the epiphany has a Christological connotation.

Theophany in Ancient History

Herodotus calls Apollo's spring festival in Delphi theophany, in which the birth of the god and the annual return of Apollo (Sun) to the hyperborean regions were commemorated.

Theophany and philosophy

The philosopher Escoto Eriúgena used the term theophanies to refer to all beings, both corporeal and spiritual, that are irradiations of the divine substance. In this sense, theophany symbolizes the true nature of finite things, that is: to manifest the only and immutable reality, which is God.

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