Thursday, May 15, 2008

"...the image and glory of God..."

By Xavier

Divine rule.

In the first creation account the emphasis is on the divine rule God has endowed the first human being [adam[1]] with, reflected in the phrase “image and likeness”. Divine rule [radah = “subjugate”] allows adam to exercise divinely appointed dominion “over all the earth”[2]. In the context of Ancient Near Eastern culture, this places adam not only as the direct representative of God on earth, but as His “son”[3] [cf. Lu 3:38]. He is also made image-bearer, since “both terms[4] obviously refer to a relation between man and his Creator: a ‘likeness’ between man and God [as] the high point of the whole creation”. This is also “described in the preceding verses of Genesis”[5].

God is “Spirit” [John 4:24] and “invisible” [Col 1:15; 1 Tim 1:17] and as such, He is especially concerned how His image-bearer represents Him, especially when he partakes of the Divine Nature[6] [cp. Gal 5:22-23; Eph 5:9].

This adam is the first model, patterned [demuth] to project God’s unique and perfect [sinless] being[7]. Once equipped with these godly attributes, adam is able to act as God over his inherited world. Within this view, the text alludes to the fact that God had big plans for him, as big as anything we can imagine for someone crowned with “glory and splendor” [hadar=majesty], “made a little lower than gods” [elohim[8]; Psa 8:4-8]. But, with his “fall”, this initial purpose was lost. God immediately promised another “seed” [9] [Gen 3:15] who would set about in restoring it. So “just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man[10]” [1 Cor 15:49].

Relationship through names.
In the second account we have the creation of “relationship” through the use of names[11]. The woman is named “Eve” [Gen 3:20; “mother of all living”[12]], created as a “suitable helper” [ezer neged] and in this capacity, reflects the likeness of adam [as his “counterpart”; cp. Gen 2:20]; pointing to a preservation of the divine “image”. The words imply “that woman complements man, supplements him, completes him…supplies his deficiencies and fills his needs”, since neither is complete without the other[13].

The implication of names will eventually establish a “global community” of survival, identity and fulfillment. This is established by the singular, personal name of God, YHWH, first used in this account [Gen 2:4; 10 times in this chapter alone][14]. The word YHWH has been defined as “Redeemer”[15] and the closest form of the name has ties to the pre-Islamic root HWY, in Arabic meaning the desirous, passionate One[16]. So that the divine name captures something of the essence of the life that is named [identified], as well as the first biblical reference for speech and conversation when Adam names “each living creature” [v. 19-20].

Studying both elohim and YHWH shows that God as elohim is the Creator and YHWH is His name in relationship to those with whom He has entered into some kind of commitment or covenant. Elohim is a more impersonal title, while YHWH establishes God’s covenant relationship with mankind. The once generic name of adam assumes the dignity of a proper name [Gen 2:19]. As though “Adam” can now become personally involved in the continuation of creation: God’s co-worker.

The phrase created in the image of God is “to be understood as a relationship within which man sometimes stands, whenever like a mirror he obediently reflects God’s will in his life and actions…The image of God, according to this view, consists of man’s position before God, or, rather, the image of God is reflected in man because of his position before him.”[17]

This relational understanding has until now found new supporters[18], as opposed to the definition of the imago Dei [image of God] as understood by medieval “Church Fathers” [19] and imago by Reformists[20]. And though we have two creation accounts, they both tell us the same “origin” story. So, “in becoming, being and perishing, all creation is wholly dependent on the will of the Creator.”[21]

The function and purpose of humanity found in the 1st account comes via elohim, the sum of all creative powers, which He alone “causes to be” [cp. Ex 3:14; YHWH][22]. To be created in God’s image points towards a personal relationship, dealt in more detail in the 2nd account. The declaration that “it is not good for the man to be alone” reveals the personal name of God as a way into this exclusive relationship. In Genesis immortality is an option but eventually forfeited, human history beginning in the newly created struggle between life [sinlessness] and death [sin]. But, because “Adam” was specifically made to reflect God so he could share of His Divine Nature, “mortality [death] will be [one day] swallowed up in victory” [Isa 25:1, 8; cp. 1 Cor 15:54-57; Eph 1:11][23]. This is to be accomplished through “the promised seed” [Gen 3:15], “the image of God” being restored, completing the destiny originally designed for the first adam, which he willfully forfeited[24]. So that humanity is guided back to the “image and likeness” of God; human history as we know it [life & death struggle] coming to an end, fulfilled by the initial plan and purpose of an eternal relationship with YHWH elohim, the LORD our God!


[1] The Hebrew word adam literally means “red earth”, an economical way of describing man whose body is essentially dust with blood coursing through it.

[2] Furthered expressed by the Hebrew word kabash, which means to “overcome”, “subdue”.

[3] “It is a designation for a creature indicating a special relationship with God. In particular, it denotes God’s representative, God’s vice-regent. It is a designation of kingship, identifying the king as God’s son.” Colin Brown, ‘Trinity and Incarnation: In Search of Contemporary Orthodoxy’, Ex Auditu, 1991, p 88.

Image: Heb = demuth = “model” = in the pattern of; Likeness: Heb= tselem = metaphorically = “shade, phantom”.

[5] G. C. Berkouwer, Man: The Image of God, pgs. 69-70.

[6] By Divine Nature I refer to the modern concepts that have arisen within Western and Jewish theology regarding the “Godhead”. This terminology has been relegated to the notions of: Greek Neo-Platonism, Medieval Rationalism, Jewish Kabbalah and modern-day Christian mysticism. The latter “involves going beyond all that we speak of as God—even the Trinity—to an inner ‘God beyond God,’ a divine Darkness or Desert in which all distinction is lost…The notion of the hidden Godhead was renewed in the teaching of Jakob B√∂hme, who spoke of it as the Ungrund—‘the great Mystery’, ‘the Abyss’, ‘the eternal Stillness’. He stressed the fact of divine becoming (in a non-temporal sense): God is eternally the dark mystery of which nothing can be said but ever puts on the nature of light, love, and goodness wherein the divine is revealed to human beings.” Christianity, Negative mysticism: God and the Godhead, Encyclopedia Britannica. Also see: Personal Christianity a Science: The Doctrines of Jacob Boehme the God Taught Philosopher 1919, Jacob Boehme, Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

[7] “As a mirror reflects, so man should reflect God”. See section under: “The Image of God: A Theological Summary”, pg. 67, Hoekema, Created in God’s Image.

[8] Occurring more than 2,600 times in the OT, designates the one true God when paired with His unique name YHWH [alt. Adonay, trans. “LORD”]. Although the form of this word is plural [eloh-im], it is frequently used as if it were singular-that is, with a singular verb (Gen 1:1-31; Exo 2:24).

[9] The seed of Israel is a seed of God or a divine seed (Mal 2:15) through its union with God (cf. 2Pe 1:4). The author of Genesis describes the seed of Abraham, the promised seed, referring to Isaac, Jacob, and his 12 sons (Gen 12:7; Gen 15:3). The word is used 21 times in this setting (Exo 32:13; Deu 1:8). The seed of the royal line of David was crucial to Israel's existence, and the term is used 9 times to refer to David's offspring or descendants (2Sa 7:12). The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary

[10] Jesus Christ was God’s second attempt at creating a masterpiece, the ultimate representation of that “masterpiece race” made in the image of God. There was nothing “mere” about the first adam as conceived by God, and nothing “mere” about the “second adam”, Jesus, who was made according to the same design.

[11] Note the introduction of capital letters by bible translators to the generic term of “adam”.

[12] Hebrew chavvâh meaning "living, making alive" (Gen 3:20). In Gen 2:23, she was designated as a woman (’iššāh)…both sharing [a] common humanity. As her name indicates, she then gave birth to the human race (Gen 4:1-2). The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary

[13] Created in God’s Image, pg. 77

[14] In Jewish tradition, the divine name YHWH is written Adonai, since pronouncing it is considered sinful. This has been variously translated as “LORD” or “Lord” [the generic elohim “god” or “gods”]. The combination of “LORD God” [YHWH elohim] refers to the Creator Himself, “the God of Israel. It is attested about 450 times in the OT…Adoni [is] addressed to human beings (Gen 44:7; Num 32:25; 2 Kings 2:19, etc.). We have to assume that the word Adonai [which has a plural ending] received its special form to distinguish it from the secular use of adon [i.e. adoni]. The reason why [God is addressed] as Adonai [with long vowel] instead of the normal adon, adoni or adonai [short vowel] may have been to distinguish YHWH from other gods [elohim] and from human lords [adoni]”. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, p.531

[15] “The most significant name for God in the OT; It has a twofold meaning: the active, self-existent One (since the word is connected with the verb “to be,” [Ex. 3:14]) and Israel’s Redeemer (Ex. 6:6)...especially associated with God’s holiness (Lev. 11:44-45), His hatred of sin (Gen. 6:3-7), and His gracious provision of redemption (Isa. 53:1, 5-6, 10).” Ryrie Study Bible, note on Gen 2:4.

[16] Dictionary of Deities and Demons, pgs 910-920

[17] Paul Ramsey, Basic Christian Ethics, p 255.

[18] Emil Brunner, The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption; Eugene H. Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, A Conversation in Spiritual Theology.

[19] For a detailed study see Aquinas, Summa Theologiae: 1a. 90-102: “is there an image of God in man? It seems that God’s image is not to be found in man. For Isaiah says, 'to whom then will ye liken God? Or what likeness will ye compare unto him?' [Isa 40:18]”

[20] The original man, at first in a right relationship with God, was also in harmony with himself; his will remaining subject to his reason, which in turn had a right knowledge of God’s will. Luther best exemplifies this tradition: “His intellect was the clearest, his memory the best and his will was the most straightforward…Moreover, he had greater strength and keener senses than the rest of the living beings”. Lectures on Genesis, a Commentary upon the 15 Psalms, pp. 129ff

[21] Created in God’s Image, pg. 5

[22] “The First Foundation is to believe in the existence of the Creator…a Being that is complete in all ways and He is the cause of all else that exists…It is inconceivable that He would not exist, for if He would not exist then all else would cease to exist as well, nothing would remain…Independence and mastery is to Him alone…for He needs nothing else and is sufficient unto himself. He does not need the existence of anything else. All that exists apart from Him [the angels, the universe and all that is within it] all these things are dependent on Him for their existence. This first foundation is taught to us in the statement, "I am HaShem your God..." (Shemos = Ex 20:2, Devarim = Deu 5:6).

The Second Foundation is the unity of HaShem to believe that this Being, which is the cause of all, is one. This does not mean one as in one of a pair nor one like a species [which encompasses many individuals] nor one as in one object that is made up of many elements or as a single simple object which is infinitely divisible….a unity unlike any other possible unity. This second foundation is referred to when [the Torah] says, “Hear Israel! HaShem is our God, HaShem is one". [Devarim, Deu 6:4]. The 13 Foundations of the Ramba’m

[23] Proleptically the bible speaks of its eventuality through the resurrection of the dead [cp. 1 Cor 15:20-28].

[24] This “changing of the guard”, as it were, is furthered alluded to in the NT where Satan is continually referred to as: “ruler”, “prince” and “god [theos]” of the “world” [kosmos or “present age, eon]”; John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 2:2; 6:12; 1 John 4:4; 5:19] So, even though Satan is the “father of all lies”, there is some truth in the exchange he has with the person he perceives as the “son of God” [and “God’s new vice-regent”] at Lu 4:6: “…this authority and their glory…to me has it been delivered [paradidōmi = ”surrendered, yielded”] and I give it to whomever I wish”.

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