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What Is Meant by “God’s Right Hand”

Question:

How can Jesus be at the right hand of God? Does that mean God has a form?

Answer:

The Creed states: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

In this case, the expressions “seated” and “right hand of the Father” are both symbolic, not literal.

In Scripture (Matt. 23:2) and even in modern times, the word seated can refer to being installed in a position of authority. When a legislature is “seated,” it means it has been convoked, not that its members are all in the sitting position.  And to be “seated” in an assembly is to be enrolled in it. To “sit tight” can mean to actually remain sitting, or it can mean to remain in the location where you are.

As for the phrase “the right hand of the Father,” we must remember that in Scripture the “right hand” is a reoccurring image. It generally denotes closeness (Ps. 16:8), possession (Ps. 78:54), authority (Ps. 110:1), honor (Ps. 45:9), or power (Ps. 60:5, 118:16).

St. Thomas Aquinas (ST, III, q. 58) notes that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father in the following ways:

  • Jesus dwells with the Father in heaven
  • Jesus, in heaven, shares with the Father all authority, judgment, and power.
  • Jesus shares in the glory and honor of the Father
  • All things belong to Jesus
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