Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Open Theology

Editor-in-Chief: Taliaferro, Charles

Covered by:
Elsevier - SCOPUS
Clarivate Analytics - Emerging Sources Citation Index

CiteScore 2018: 0.37

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.275
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.975

Open Access
See all formats and pricing
More options …

God and Man as Unrepresentable Images

Carla Canullo
Published Online: 2019-06-28 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2019-0015


The Syrian bishop Theophilus of Antioch said: «Show me your man, and I will show you my God!». This sentence is a way of conveying that man is the image of God. Philosophical thought has attempted to grasp this image through the representation, which suggests the representation as both visual model and act of thought. The image as representation of thought is the method through which both God and man have been thought. This is confirmed by Immanuel Kant who, in the ‘transcendental Dialectic’ of the Critique of Pure Reason, showed that metaphysics thought both man (transcendental paralogism) and God (transcendental Ideal) as an ‘idea’. In contrast, Husserl’s phenomenology opened a new method by conceiving every image, and therefore also the image of God and man, not as a representation of thought but as a ‘phenomenon’ that manifests itself. The phenomenological method, based on the imperative “zu den Sachen selbst!”, would be adequate to grasp human essence that, like the divine one, is spiritual, indefinable and unrepresentable. In order to think this unrepresentability, the present paper investigates the work of Jean-Luc Marion, who thought the unrepresentable image of God and, therefore, of man, by distinguishing the image as an idol and as an icon. Above all, we will try to show that phenomenology allows us to grasp the image of God and man as an icon that cannot be constructed by thought.

Keywords: Image; Representation; Phenomenology; Idol; Icon; Infinity; Immanuel Kant; Jean-Luc Marion; Blaise Pascal; Georg Cantor


  • Aczel, Amir D. The Mystery of the Aleph. Mathematics, the Kabbalah, and the search for Infinity. New York : Four Walls Eight Windows, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Bacon, Francis Verulam. Novum organon. Cambridge; Cambridge University text, 2000.Google Scholar

  • Cantor Georg. Contributions to the Founding of the Theory of Transfinite numbers. Dover publication, New York 1955.Google Scholar

  • Cusano Nicholas. The Vision of God. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing, 1960.Google Scholar

  • Gardies, J.-L. Pascal entre Eudoxe et Cantor. Paris: Vrin, 1984.Google Scholar

  • Hart, Ray L. Unfinished Man and the Imagination: Toward an Ontology and a Rhetoric of Revelation, Louisville (Kentucky): Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville (Kentucky) 2001 (first edition: 1968).Google Scholar

  • Hedley, Douglas. Living forms of the imagination. Edimburgh: T & T Clark, 2008;Google Scholar

  • Hedley, Douglas. Sacrifice Imagined. Violence, Atonement, and the Sacred. London, New York: Blumsbury, 2011.Google Scholar

  • Hedley, Douglas. The Iconic Imagination. Bloomsbury, London, New York, 2016.Google Scholar

  • Husserl, Edmund. Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie. Allgemeine Einführung in die reine Phänomenologie, Hamburg: Meiner, 2009.Google Scholar

  • Isidor of Seville, Etymologies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.Google Scholar

  • Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason, London, New York: Macmillan, 1964.Google Scholar

  • Levinas, Emmanuel. The Ruin of Representation, in Discovering Existence with Husserl. Evanston (Illinois): Northwestern University Press, 1998,Google Scholar

  • Marion, Jean-Luc. God without Being. Hors texte, translated by T. A. Carlson and D. Tracy, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2012.Google Scholar

  • Pascal, Blaise. The Thoughts, Letters and Opuscules of Blaise Pascal. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and company, 1887.Google Scholar

  • Theophilus of Anthioch. Ad Autolicus, http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.html

  • Wunenburger, Jean-Jacques. Philosophie des images, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1997.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2019-03-27

Accepted: 2019-04-29

Published Online: 2019-06-28

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 158–165, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2019-0015.

Export Citation

© 2019 Carla Canullo, published by De Gruyter. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License. BY 4.0

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in