A Christophany is an appearance or non-physical manifestation of Christ. Traditionally the term refers to visions of Christ after his ascension, such as the bright light of the Damascus Christophany.

Also, following the example of Justin Martyr who identified the Angel of the Lord with the Logos, some appearances of angels in the Hebrew Bible are also identified by some Christians as preincarnate appearances of Christ.


See also: Pre-existence of Christ

The etymology is from the Greek Χριστός (Christos) and the Greek ending “phany” from the verb phaneroō, to be revealed or to manifest. This noun is derived by direct comparison with the term theophany (theo-phaneia).

Stained Glass Window Painting Church Saint Mary

Stained Glass Window Painting Church Saint Mary


Academics generally use the term solely in relation to the New Testament visions of Christ. George Balderston Kidd (1852) popularised the term in relation to the identification of angels in the Old Testament as Christ.

The term was used by Albert Joseph Edmunds (1857–1941) in relation to the revealing of Christ in Christianity and Buddhism.

Since the work of James Borland (1978) usage of the term in conservative Christian publications related to Old Testament appearances of Christ has multiplied exponentially.

New Testament

A New Testament Christophany is Paul’s vision of Christ on the road to Damascus, and the subsequent one of Ananias. Another New Testament example is John’s vision of the Son of Man, recounted in Revelation 1:12-18.

Claimed examples of Christophanies in the Hebrew Bible

Genesis 3:8 was regarded by most Church Fathers and medieval commentators as an appearance by the Logos, or pre-existent Christ, and in art God was always given the features of Jesus until about 1400.

A popular Christian understanding of the relationship between Melchizedek and Jesus is that Melchizedek is an Old Testament Christophany. Romanos the Melodist interpreted the figure with whom Abraham spoke in Genesis 18:1–8 as being Christ himself.

J. Douglas MacMillan suggests that angel with whom Jacob wrestles is a “pre-incarnation appearance of Christ in the form of a man.”

Some church fathers such as Origen and later theologians such as Martin Luther believed another example is the “Man” who appears to Joshua, and identifies himself as “the commander of the army of the LORD.” (Joshua 5:13-15). The standard argument that this was in fact Christ is that he accepted Joshua’s prostrate worship, whereas angels refuse such worship [1]; see Revelation 19:9-10. Additionally, he declared the ground to be holy; elsewhere in the Bible, only things or places set aside for God or claimed by him are called holy; see Exodus 3:5. Jewish commentators [2] reading the same text do not accept that this figure was Christ (or even Adonai), but rather the Archangel Michael.

Jonathan Edwards identified an example in Daniel 3:25, when the fourth man in the furnace is described as “… and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” or “like a son of the gods.” The “Suffering servant”, from the Book of Isaiah is believed by many Christians to be Jesus. The vision of Isaiah (Isaiah 6) may be regarded as a Christophany. It appears to have been seen as such by John the evangelist, who, following a quote from this chapter, adds ‘Isaiah said this because he saw His glory and spoke of Him’ (John 12:41).

Visions of Christ after the New Testament

The appearance of Christ and his Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and to Mary of the Divine Heart

The appearance of Christ and his Sacred Heart to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque and to Mary of the Divine Heart

Main article: Visions of Jesus and Mary

A vision is not usually described as a Christophany.

  • Saint Jerome is believed to have had a precise vision of the Blessed Trinity, as is illustrated by Andrea del Castagno.
  • Magdalena de Pazzi was a deep mystic who claimed several christophanies about the Trinity.
  • Lúcia dos Santos of Fatima claimed to have seen Jesus in the Trinity in Tui in 1926.
  • Mary Faustina Kowalska claimed to have had recorded her visions of Jesus.
  • Joseph Smith claimed to have seen both Jesus Christ and God the Father in an event known as the First Vision.

Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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