The Many Hands of God

Spring has arrived! It’s time to bathe in the warm, embracing hands of our glorious sun.

As far back as 10 thousand B.C.E., history is abundant with carvings and writings reflecting people’s respect and adoration for the sun. And it is simple to understand why as every morning the sun would rise, bringing vision, warmth, and security, saving man from the cold, blind, predator-filled darkness of night. Without it, the ancient cultures understood, the crops would not grow, and life on the planet would not survive. These realities made the sun the most adored object of all time.

I’d like to share with you a very interesting curiosity that helped shape my understanding of the relationship between our sun and our “Gods”.

Introducing the many Hands of God:

The Hand of God is a motif shared by many cultures across many different time periods. You may be familiar with the artistic depictions of Late Antiquity and Early Medieval periods, when God would come from the heavens to bring warmth and salvation to us mortals.

The hand, sometimes including a portion of an arm, is a metaphor used to indicate the intervention in or approval of affairs on Earth by God. Let’s take a look at some images, shall we?

Here is the pharaoh Akhenaten depicted as a sphinx at Amarna worshiping Aten, the Sun God. Notice the hands radiating from the Sun God giving life to not only the pharaoh, but also the trees in the lower right:

Sun-Aten2

Here is a detail of a relief dated to 1350 BCE of the Sun God’s hands:

Sun-Aten

Akhenaten, Nefertiti and their children embraced the hands of Aten the Sun God:

Sun-Aten3

Fast forward a few hundred years to the city of Dura-Europos in modern day Syria and you will find a painting in a Jewish synagogue with a remarkable resemblance to the reliefs of ancient Egypt. Here you can see the two hands of God intervene in Exodus scenes, it dates to around 300 BCE:

Sun-Europos

The hand of God intervenes at the sacrifice of Isaac, see hand on top right. This relief can be found in Armenia and dates to 10th century CE:

Sun-Isaac2

Moving on…Here we have a portrait of Jesus by Verrocchio around 1472 CE. You can see both hands of God and the holy spirit as a dove in this Baptism scene:

Sun-Jesus

Here is the oldest Byzantine icon of Mary, mother of Jesus. It dates to around the 6th century CE and is located in Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Mount Sinai. Notice how it’s not too far off from the Egyptian scene where Akhenaten and his family are embraced by the hands of God.

Sun-Mary

This is a beautiful mosaic in the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare in Classe,  located in Ravenna, Italy. Notice how the animals, trees, and even the angels are entranced by the hand of God:

Sun-Apollinare

Here is a close up of the hand. The mosaic dates to the 6th century CE.

Sun-Apollinare2

Here is another mosaic from Ravenna, this is from the Basilica of San Vitale and also dates to the 6th century CE. On a side note, if you like Christian mosaics, Ravenna is the city to visit, trust me.

Sun-Vitale

Now, the hand or hands of God motif is not restricted to the middle east. You can find examples all over the world.

This is Kuan Yin. The tradition of representing her with a thousand hands – which may be seen in pictures and statues of Kuan Yin throughout the Far East represents “the ruler of all the energies of creation”. We see the solar rays emerging from Kuan Yin as they emerge from the Immaculate Heart of Mary, showing the all-encompassing radiance of the Solar Mother. This wooden statue of Kuan Yin was fashioned in 1656 in Bắc Ninh Province, northern Vietnam.

Sun-KuanYin

The religions of the Hindus is filled with images of Gods with many, many hands; I hardly need to elaborate. This is Surya. Surya has hair and arms of gold. He is said to drive through the heavens in his triumphal chariot harnessed by seven horses or one horse with seven heads, which represent the seven colours of the rainbow or the seven chakras. He presides over Sunday.

In Hindu religious literature, Surya is notably mentioned as the visible form of God that one can see every day, i.e.: The Sun! This is a 19th century CE Tanjore school paiting located in southern India:

Sun-Surya

And just for fun here is the Slavic Hands of God. The Hands of God is a popular term applied in Slavic Neopaganism to a design found on a funerary urn found in a cremation cemetary of the Przeworsk culture (2nd century CE).  This symbol is associated with Dazhbog, the Slavic solar deity. For Slavs, the cross was associated with fire and life, but generally with the sun and the balance of the Universe. Notice the hands pointing in the four cardinal directions :

[Don’t be frightened of the swastikas, they are, in fact, ancient solar symbols. Look up Jainism and you’ll see what I mean.]

Sun-Dazbog

So what have we learned?

1) Christian depictions of the hand(s) of God are ripped directly from Jewish traditions, which are, of course, copied from the ancient Egyptians. In fact, one look at the ancient Egyptian religion and you will see all the elements the make up Judaism and Christianity.

2) “God” and his “hands” are just metaphors for the real live bringer on this Earth: The Sun! Let’s be honest with ourselves, all religions are in one way or another essentially worshiping a 4.5 billion year old ball of gas. The connections across the religious symbols, both ancient and modern, are all too obvious.

Thanks for reading,

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