In the Image of God (RJS)

Pete Enns has had an interesting series on BioLogos discussing the meaning of the phrase “Image of God” (You will find it here: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three).

From the Part One of his series:

Some understand image of God to mean those qualities that make us human, for example: possessing a soul, higher-order reasoning, self-consciousness, consciousness of God and the ability to have a relationship with him. This seems like a good definition, since only humans are in God’s image and these are qualities that make us human.

But we have to ask the question – is this a biblical approach? To reconcile evolution with Genesis some will ascribe the image of God to the “soul,” whatever this is. But Pete claims that this notion is not supported by Genesis or the rest of the Old Testament.

The phrase “image of God” is not about what makes us human. It is about humanity’s unique role in being God’s kingly representatives in creation.

John Walton says much the same thing in his commentary and in The Lost World of Genesis One.

Somehow it seems to me that, while true, this is not complete, not quite enough.  It doesn’t provide much help as we consider the impact of evolution on our thought about the nature of mankind created in the image of God, made alive with the breathe of life. So lets discuss the question today.

What do you see as the meaning and impact of mankind as created in “the image of God?”

The commandments against idolatry are rooted in part at least in the idea that humans are the image of God – there is no need for any other. In fact humans have a special place in creation as more than mere animals. Part two of Pete’s series looks at Psalm 8, a powerful Psalm.

O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
What is man that You take thought of him,
And the son of man that You care for him?

Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
And You crown him with glory and majesty!
You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field,
The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

O LORD, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

This is a profound Psalm about both the glory of God and the dignity of mankind. The humans  were created to rule as God’s representative and image. In his post on Psalm 8 Scot summarized the human task as a task “to rule on behalf of God as God’s gloried and honored Eikons.

Pete summarizes:

This psalm is a great summary of what image of God means. There is nothing in all of creation that has a higher status than humanity. There is nothing in all of creation that is more god-like than humanity.

Humanity has dignity and has a function, a role to fulfill. We too often revel in the insignificance expressed … what is man that You take thought of him? … and too seldom consider the dignity and the function, the role, given to mankind. The creation of mankind in the image of God is tied up in an understanding of this function. But it is a function, a role we are unable to fulfill … which brings us to the gospel.

It all comes back to Jesus. Our reading of scripture must be Christ-centered and the NT has some important contributions to make to our thinking on the meaning of the term “image of God”. The third installment of Pete’s series, posted yesterday, brings the discussion around to Jesus – the first born over all creation; the image of the invisible God. Jesus fulfills the role in a way that we are not and never have been capable of. In this he also does for us what we could not do for ourselves – not so that we can rest in our insignificance and inability, but to enable us to fulfill the role for which we are created. (Col. 1 and Heb. 2 among other passages).

But there is, and must be, more to the discussion. While all of this is true, it doesn’t seem to be enough. The image of God is related to function, no question; but there must be an aspect of being that enables this function. Here we get to the impact of science in this discussion. Neither an earthworm nor a Chimpanzee is equipped to rule over God’s creation. And the incarnation is not merely God become material, but God become flesh, fully human to dwell among us. I don’t find “soul” or ensoulment a useful concept in considering the creation of mankind in the image of God or as a description of the breath of life of Genesis 2:7. The points made by Pete in his series and the identification of Jesus as the perfect image of the invisible God undermine the connection between soul and image.

So there is a corollary to the question – the problem is not only to identify the meaning of the term image of God but … as Scot asked in his post a couple of weeks ago … also to answer the what and how question – what is it that enables the function entailed by “image of God” and how did God make humans in his image? Scot asked the question:

And another big one for me: If you believe in evolution, or theistic evolution (TE), how do you explain the “image of God”? Not only “what is it?” but “How did God do that?” Was it just natural development of potential already planted into the evolutionary process or was it something added to the evolutionary process?

How do you think about the term image of God and the creation of humans?

If you wish you may contact me at rjs4mail[at]att.net

  • Pete Enns

    Hi RJS,
    Nice post. Thanks for bringing attention to it.
    I hear what you are saying, but let me suggest something. What I (and John Walton, etc., etc.) say about the Image of God IS “enough” IF the topic of discussion is what the Bible says about the image of God. If the topic is “what makes us human in view of evolution,” then there is much more to be said, of course, but it takes us beyond the topic the Bible deals with.
    “What makes us human” and the biblical topic “image of God” are not different ways of saying the same thing. That is the confusion I am addressing in my series of posts. Christians sometimes press into service Gen 1:26-27, Psalm 8, etc. on topics they are not prepared to address. I dare say that “what makes humans different from animals” is not even a biblical question. It IS a contemporary question, though, and a vitally important one. So, let’s make up out minds: which topic do we want to discuss? Image of God or what makes us human?

  • RJS

    Pete,
    I just don’t think that there is such a clean separation. The questions are not the same – but they are not orthogonal either. They intersect in rather complex ways.
    Do you think that what makes us different from animals wasn’t a biblical question because it was taken for granted that we were different?
    In this case “Image of God” was an important concept because it described the special role and function for which humans were created. In a view of special creation this poses no problem – humans were created as a special and different kind. But as we look at a concept like common descent the question becomes somewhat stickier.
    And of course speculation about the human characteristics that enable functioning in the image of God was popular long before evolution and common descent were part of the conversation.
    (I hope the comment isn’t the nonsense my captcha is: garmesm nunner)

  • Paul D.

    N. T. Wright makes the same point on our role as a “royal priesthood” representing God to the rest of creation and representing creation back to God in “After You Believe.”

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Like some of you, I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. I have come to think that for us to understand the qualities of us that could be in the image of god, we must first understand the image of god himself. This is best realized in the person of Jesus. So what is god in the context of Jesus and what would the image be.
    It is tempting for us to put things together that would in some way elevate us to show distinctiveness over the creatures and over others. Distinctives that would make us somehow better, but that is exactly when we have to go into the upside down world of Jesus and God. The last would be first and the first last. We need to be last. We are a servant people who need to have a relationship with the world that consists of servanthood and love. We will be in the image of god if we take care of things, serve others and, most importantly, have the ability to impact the other. So it is this ability to impact, to serve that is the image of god.
    At least that is where I am so far.
    The mechanism for this is simply the evolved nature of man. It is not our soul, per se, or our intellect, per se, it is our ability to impact, and hopefully impact in a positive way that is the meaning of image of god. We have the ability, unlike any other part of creation that I can see, to show our love and servant relationship to others.

  • JHM

    DRT:
    So would you say that perhaps the “image of God” is humanity’s ability to participate with God in the redemption of Creation?

  • AHH

    RJS:
    The image of God is related to function, no question; but there must be an aspect of being that enables this function.
    Why? If the function is an appointment by God to an office of responsibility, why must there necessarily be some unique quality in the appointees? The obvious example is God’s election of Israel to be his people (also a representative function in many ways), which we are repeatedly told in Scripture had nothing to do with any special qualities Israel had.
    I’m not saying that humans have no qualitatively unique aspects, or that the question of what makes us “human” is not important.
    But I think Pete Enns has a point that we should not ask the “image of God” passage in Genesis 1 to bear the weight of answering questions that it was not trying to address.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    JHM, I like what you said. The servant loving nature is the redemption and the redeemer showed us how to do that. So now we are invited into that participation in helping to create god’s presence here on earth. We are participating in creation, or redemption, depending on how you view it. I like that.

  • Norm

    RJS,
    The ANE concept of man was the one who was in covenant with the King. We are simply mixing apples and oranges by trying to equate attributes of mankind at large with this ANE conception. Pete is correct in his analysis but he keeps muddying the waters by throwing back into the conversation a cleanup statement that Image of God has some correspondence with humanity at large. It doesn’t until one enters into the King’s Domain as one of His Image Bearers. Trying to say those outside of the Biblical understanding of God’s people is even in the biblical scope is a non starter until they Call on the Lord. Read Gen 4:26-5:3 to see how that sets the stage for ANE concept of covenant subjects of the King.
    If one thinks the story of Adam reveals him as all our forebears then that is where the mistake begins. Adam is the forebear of the lineage of Christ as I’m sure many of us recognize that mankind has been out there much longer than Adam was. There were peoples all over the planet when Adam was established with God around 4000 BC. Adam wasn’t even established with the full Image because he only received the initial Likeness attribute. It took the second Adam (Christ) after resurrection to complete the full Holy Spirit embodiment of God’s Image upon the faithful.
    1Co 15:49 ESV Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
    As long as we keep tying the discussion of mortal humanity into the conversation of the faithful community of believers this concept about the Image of God will elude us. All mankind coming into the Image of God is the desire of God but that is a choice to accept.
    Many of us enjoy delving into the anthropological aspects of humanities characteristics but that is a concordist approach to bring it into this concept of a King and his subjects.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    5 JHM, 7 DRT
    “So would you say that perhaps the “image of God” is humanity’s ability to participate with God in the redemption of Creation?”
    I don’t agree with this. We were in the image of God prior to the fall. The call to dominion was prior to the fall. This the cultural/creation mandate is our purpose in the created order. We would be in God’s image had there been no fall and need for redemption.
    After the fall, Christ comes to redeem us and all creation. We are both being redeemed and are participating in redemption. We are being restored to the heights from which we fell.
    It is precisely because we think only in terms of God’s redemptive work that we do not dwell on the cultural/creation mandate. For instance, the meaning of work in everyday life (exercise of dominion) has been largely ignored until recently.
    God didn’t just come to save us from our sins. God came to restore us to a place of dominion … co-regents with God … over creation. It is our participation in dominion that makes “the image of God,” not our ability to participate in redemption.

  • Norm

    Michael,
    Just because the literary Temple Creation account of Genesis 1 falls before the detailed story of Adam’s beginning doesn’t necessitate the concept that Day 6 is about mankind at large. That is an assumption made and an awful big one at that. If the Authors intent was to set the stage with an introductory literary prologue much like a book has a Table of Contents at the beginning doesn’t mean the details of the last chapter supersede the opening chapters.
    Actually Paul says in Romans 7:9 (speaking as a member of the Body Israel from Adam) that he was alive before Adam received the law/commandment in the Garden. Adam was placed in the Garden and that was intended to bring life with God but then the Law came and he died/fell. Before this though Sin was in the World which completely discredits a view that man had the Image of God before the Fall.
    Gen 2 describes the world as a desert wilderness before establishing Adam as the “Man” and placing him in the Garden. This doesn’t sound like a pleasant world if you ask me and hardly supports the idea that humanity was out there already in God’s Spiritual Image. It is the same concept that we find Jeremiah detailing about Israel because of their unfaithfulness when there was “no man” and the fruitful land had turned to a desert again just like before Adam’s establishment.
    Jer 4:23-26 ESV I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. … (25) I looked, and behold, THERE WAS NO MAN, and all the birds of the air had fled. (26) I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, ..
    The bottom line theological implication of your point is that if man had the Image of God before Adam fell then God made a mistake by trying to establish Covenant Garden life with Adam. Why not just leave man alone if he is already in God’s image before the Garden. Paul’s thesis in Romans and elsewhere is that it was the Law that brought the problem to the Garden life and Christ came to reconcile that issue by removing the Law for His covenant people who were attempting to live in the Garden through works replacing it with His Grace.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I am now going to step in way over my head, but this makes sense to me.
    The first creation story, of which Gen 1:26 is a part, is written by the Elohist. It is of one oral tradition with one set of basic assumptions and objects. The second creation story in Gen 2 is written by the Jahwist and has it’s own set of objectives. The elohist using Elohim, the jahwist uses YHWH.
    The elohist appears to be the story teller who is consumed with the image of god, and the image of others. Note that after the book switches from the elohist to the jahwist, it then switches back to the elohist to talk about the lineage of Adam in Genesis 5. So what we have here are two different creation stories that have different intentions.
    Also note that the image of god elohist does not have “the fall” in his account. And the Jahwist has the fall but no image of god language (some body correct me if I am missing something here.)
    So Michael Kruse, I don’t think we should mix the two and try to reconcile them into one theme, they are most likely two themes with different intentions.
    I liked what Norm said, but it seems that one of the objectives of the elohist is in determining a lineage in his image from God (Gen 1) and then carries that theme on in the image of Adam in Gen 5.

  • Keith Cummings

    I don’t think being made in God’s image is about how we were created or what we were created out of or with (if you define “soul” that way). It has to do with purpose. We were created in God’s image because we were created to be God’s image bearers, representing him in his creation. We need no “graven images” of God because we are called to remind all of creation of him by our lives.
    In my opinion, this view of “made in God’s image” raises the discussion above biology, special creation or other Genesis 1 arguments. Instead we must address how we go about imaging God to creation, a much more noble and difficult task than arguing about what might or might not have happened thousands (or billions) of years ago.
    That said, I still find the varied aspects of the creation discussion interesting, but as some point we need to move on to more important matters.

  • Ben Wheaton

    DRT,
    Firstly, I understand that the JEPD theory has it that Genesis 1 is a Priestly source, not an Elohist; not to mention that the “Elohist” source is the most ephemeral of the sources in that already pretty ephemeral theory.
    Secondly, whether Genesis 1 is a different source or not is irrelevant to how we interpret the book as a whole. It had at least a final editor, who had a message that he wanted to convey; it is to this message that we ought to attend, not to our hazy notions of what a hazy hypothetical author may have thought.
    I agree with Michael Kruse.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    #13 Ben, it may very well go by different names, but one thing is clear, the final editor wanted us to know that these were different stories and the editor intentionally differentiated the two stories. Gen 1 refers to God as Elohim, and Gen 2 to 4 as YHWH. Then Gen 5 is back to Elohim. Add on top of that the difference in what was created on which days then it seems to me that the editor did not want us to mistake the two stories for each other.
    I interpret that to mean that they are different. They teach different things and they wanted them to stand out differently, or at least we should not stand on our heads trying to integrate them because they are plainly different.
    I am not sure about the different theories, I just remember hearing that at one point so I went and looked up the original language of the Gen 1 to 5 texts and they indeed refer to God by different names so they are different stories.

  • Norm

    DRT,
    I think most likely the Genesis account was constructed by one person or group of priest working together toward the end of the First Temple period and reflects a literary construction that reflects a messianic viewpoint first and foremost. They appear to simply be bringing their historical events into one composite form to tell and also prophesize the coming Messiah. These stories are all rife with messianic messages imbedded within them and thus demonstrate the ultimate aim of the composer’s intent and match the ultimate theme of the overall purpose of scriptures.
    I think what many of us have missed is something Augustine pointed out over 1600 years ago and that Gen 1 is a six Day creation account detailing the ages from Adam to Christ with the sixth age the period of the consummating Image of God and then the Sabbath Day Rest of God. This matches with Walton’s idea of a 7 Day ANE Temple construction account as well. Gen 2:4 is simply the start of the first chapter of the book and Gen 5:1 details Adam’s characteristic of only the lesser likeness of God at first. This reflects Adam’s mortal attempt at achieving relationship with God and he and all until Christ fall short of the full Image.
    1Co 15:47 ESV The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.

  • unaplogetic catholic

    I presume I am one of the strongest evolution supporters that comment here, and I was puzzled by Pete Enns’s duscussion.
    For what it’s worth, I think the concept of Image of God is extremely important in our understanding of how humans relate to God and to each other. “Image of God” means that we are all created to reflect some sense of the divine goodness in our lives and we should strive to prefect that goodness, knowing perfection is not possible in this world. We also need to be reminded that *every* other human being-every vagrant, political enemy, drug addict and hardened criminal–also has that “image of God” within them, even if I have trouble seeing it from time to time.
    I also think we cannot in any way confuse”Image of God” to mean “Image of man” as is often done. God is not a physical being and is not a primate, so being a member of the species homo sapiens is not necessary to be created in the “Image of God.” It just worked out that way. The result of evolution could have been that the sentient beings made in the Image of God were reptilians-not mammals. That means we can’t look to physical characteristics to determine the scope of the “Image of God.”
    Because it is inherently spiritual we cannot scientifically detect it and science has little to say about it.
    “How did God do that?” Was it just natural development of potential already planted into the evolutionary process or was it something added to the evolutionary process?”
    To me these are speculative questions that have no answers in biology. As a Catholic, the answers are easy: “It’s a mystery!”

  • Rick

    Ben Wheaton-
    Just it is good to see you put up a comment. It seems like it has been awhile.
    In regards to the topic at hand-
    This may have already been mentioned, but is part of the image of God not just the role itself, but the realization of that role?

  • Ann F-R

    Norm, I hear double-predestinationarianism in your comments, alongside a “young adam” if not YEC. Is that an accurate understanding?
    Michael, I agree with you that the image of God precedes the fall because we’re created in God’s image, male & female in creation, but I wonder what prevents you from seeing redemptive action in God’s image? Jurgen Moltmann sees the relational Trinity as incorporating creativity and redemptive interactions toward creation, if I’m remembering his theological thought correctly.
    Keith, the imaging of God in created humans can affect how we perceive and treat one another. Certainly, women, slaves, and people of darker complexions have suffered from dehumanization justified by perceiving them as not having that full image of God. What constitutes “more important matters” is certainly in the eye of the beholder!

  • Ben Wheaton

    DRT,
    I’m not sure that the final editor meant them to be different stories; as I understand the structure, Genesis 1-2:3 (curse those gentlemen who made up this ridiculous chapter division–Alcuin, I’m looking at you) is a prologue that sets up the scene for the first ‘toledot’–that is, “these are the generations of Adam,” etc. They are not meant to be taken by the author as contradictory, but to mesh seamlessly as part of a larger whole; namely, the book of Genesis. Also, I understand that it is by no means certain that the prologue is late; it could very well have been a source used by Moses himself from the cultural stock of Israelite culture to begin Genesis. The point is that it is a quasi-poetic prologue, and so we need not take it as being a different account of creation. It is like saying that because the genealogies in Matthew and Luke do not match the list of kings in the OT or each other, therefore they must be wrong; it is a difference of genre and therefore must be interpreted as such.

  • Norm

    Ann F R
    I don’t get into the Reformed ideas about predestination but simply boil it down to what God told Cain to do.
    Gen 4:7 ESV If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
    We simply have choices and one of them is whether to be in communion with God. Cain chose poorly.
    Also I’m the furthest thing from a YEC that you can find being a TE adherent so my remarks about 4000 years ago just reflects the Hebrews own writings and understanding about when Adam their forebear lived. He was drawn from the dark pagan world of mankind and established with God in Covenant and begun the lineage that became Israel. The rest of mankind (Gentiles) came in with the redeemed old church through Christ.
    Again I see us getting into a metaphysical inclination concerning the Image of God when the Jews would not have. We are letting our Greek philosophical and scientific minds run away with us and need to get back to Hebrew theology as our basis. When we start quoting theologians who take a physical view then we are perpetuating ideas built upon a false premise. Part of the problem with western theology is this inclination to bring in the Philosophical in lieu of the Hebrew to answer questions that may intrigue us but are completely outside the scope of the issue at hand.
    If we are trying to formulate the Image of God as an attribute to establish the worth of man that sounds good but that is not what Image of God is about. God was willing to allow His Son to Die a cruel Death on the Cross so that every human can come to him establishes each and every one of ours worth to God. We don’t need to extrapolate a metaphysical idea on to it so that it solves some particular issue that we would liked fixed.

  • Justin Topp

    I like Pete’s distinction in comment 1 because it gets to the issues that RJS and I have with the current series.
    As a biologist, I won’t say that we’ll never find anything, but there doesn’t seem to be a qualitative difference in the material stuffs between us and the other animals… it’s a quantitative one at best. So, for example we have a nice neocortex and the ability to use symbolic forms of expression, and often underappreciated ability to speak and vocalize these thoughts. Most current thought on human uniqueness comes from anthropology and cultural studies though and this is likely where the intersection of Pete’s and RJS’s images will occur.
    I am doing a study (every now and then!) of this on my blog and am hoping to develop an academic paper and a public book offering at some point. But the best answer to Pete’s question seems to be that we’re functionaries. This is the “business” end of the image of God.

  • Norm

    Justin
    As a biologist your premise makes sense but does it as a theolgoian?
    If so then how do you establish your premise from theology?

  • Justin Topp

    Norm,
    What’s my “premise”? I don’t understand. Is it that we won’t find anything in biology that makes us different? This isn’t a premise, it’s an answer. We haven’t.

  • Norm

    Justin,
    Simpy how is a biological investigation have anything to do with a theological understanding of the Image of God which is a Spiritual Manifestation. I don’t see how biology will ever answer that question.
    2Co 3:17-18 ESV Now the Lord is the Spirit, … And we all, … are being transformed into the same image … For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
    This doesn’t mean that humans inate ability to relate to God isn’t an interesting biological investigation as it is but that issue has nothing to do with a Hebrew ANE concept of a King and His subjects as image bearers.
    One will need to come to grips with what about those who chose not to embrace Christ putting on the Image of God which is the Holy Spirit. This seems to be a big problem for us as Christians theologically if we are saying that everyone has what we have through faith. It is also a big problem for the biologicaly inclined as they need to explain biologically why some are in a lesser state of the Image compared to others. Now if you don’t have to develop sound theology around that concept then it may be acceptable to put it out there as a feel good position. However for the discerning theologian the question is eventually going to need to be addressed properly.
    Well actually one may not have to address it if they keep their head down. ;)

  • Justin Topp

    Norm,
    SO if I understand you correctly, only those who accept the Gospel are created in the image of God? All are created, but only after responding to the Gospel are they then in the image of God? Okay, I guess. But I like what Walton and others have to say. And it sounds like you believe that they are, I don’t know, clouded (for lack of a better word) so their position is wrong? I didn’t think that my biology background was causing me to prefer their position over another… I just thought that their position was stronger. But at least I think that I now understand where you’re coming from.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    We live in a world where we understand ourselves to be on globe orbiting the sun. The ancient folks inhabited a world where there was a mass of land surrounded by waters. There was bubble shielding us from waters above. Now when Genesis talks about the “earth” or the “land,” I’ve read scholars who suggest that all this meant for them was the space people inhabit. For them it would likely have meant Mesopotamia and a little beyond. So was Genesis about the “whole earth” or not? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that it encompassed all the world they knew. No, in the sense that there was much more to the world than they knew. But even here, the story is not a history lesson about land masses but a narrative revelation of theological truths.
    Similarly, are the early chapters of Genesis about all humanity? I think yes in the sense that it is intended to explain the origins and context of Israel and surrounding peoples (for them that was all humanity.) No, in the sense that it is not going to help us understand pre-historic humans, or humans outside their horizon (say American Indians), or help us reconcile evolutionary development. It is not a history but a theological narrative to answer the theological concerns.
    I don’t think we know the precise origins of Genesis one, two, and succeeding chapters. However, it appears to me the Genesis editor(s) have woven this into a narrative. The earlier chapters of Genesis are not in some arbitrary order but ordered to give flow to a story. It appears to me that Gen 1-2 give us the purposes of the created order and humanity (not just Israel). Genesis 3-4 gives us the fall from our assigned function (not just Israel). This becomes the archetype for human behavior through the ages, and sets the stage for how Israel is disobedient. Genesis 12 then marks the beginning of the reversal of this for all humanity … all of Adam’s progeny … not a redemption of Israel which then draws in those outside Adam’s progeny. I’m still reflecting on this but this idea that the Jews envisioned a progeny outside of Adam strikes me as an attempt to achieve a concordist view between science an Scripture.
    Therefore, when we read that humanity was given dominion in Genesis one, we are indeed being informed of humanity’s (not just those who join up with God) function. Psalm 8 reiterates this idea that it is humanity’s function to rule and have dominion. Peter shows this is present in NT passages as well in his third post.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    Oops. #26 was in response to Norm in #10.

  • Norm

    Justin,
    I think Pete and Walton gets very close to the core of this issue but IMO their needs to be a bigger emphasis upon Christ than to allow a little wiggle room for the idea that humanity somehow has God’s Spiritual Image.
    Pete actually discusses this subject better than just about anyone else I have run across so I must give him his dues. I just think it is a little more concrete than what he fully demonstrates occasionally. One of the offshoots of taking the Image of God to all humanity is a proclivity toward Universalism as it tends to simplify difficult issues for some. There simply are theological ramifications when you think through the implications.

  • Norm

    Michael,
    I actually like a lot of what you have stated but will have some different takes on some of your conclusions.
    First we can gain an insight to who is being discussed by whether Elohim or YHWH is used in these first four chapters of Genesis. Gen one is exclusively Elohim and is a Universal understanding of the totality of that introductory purpose. It takes in the scope of all humanity both Gentiles and Jews. When we move into Gen 2 & 3 we see where these two terms for God become interwoven at times and sometimes separate. The writer is providing us clues with this usage and of course we should recognize that when YHWH is used we have a Israel connection to help us discern. This is especially noticeable with the Cain/Abel story because it is almost completely YHWH used which means this is a Jewish intention and since it is about being kicked out of God’s presence and Covenant then we understands the context. This helps us understand the Cain/Abel usage in the NT concerning the problems the Jews had with oppressing their faithful brethren the Christians
    Here is the problem though with taking all humanity as having dominion as found in Daniel 7 where it is explicitly spelled out for us that at the time of messiah the Saints (the church redeemed) will have dominion. This is not a physical dominion in the pure sense but manifest itself in the spiritual realm.
    Dan 7:27 ESV And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven SHALL BE GIVEN TO THE PEOPLE OF THE SAINTS OF THE MOST HIGH; their kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.’
    Dan 7 is a recapitulation of Gen 1:26-27 and Gen 9 concerning dominion rule and illustrates and reinforces them as prophecy toward Messiah. Everything in scripture points to Messiah.
    Also concerning Psalm 8. I pointed out to Pete the other day that there are two different Hebrew words for Man used in the same sentence and that the first word is for Generic mankind and the second word was “adam” denoting those men in Covenant (namely Israel). When you read that section with this recognition it changes the emphasis of which man is going to have dominion. It appears clearly that the (Adams) were the ones to have dominion in lieu of the first man mentioned, especially if you understand how the Hebrews framed and used these two words for man with different intents. It is not the first time we lose context because the translators don’t know how to distinguish the Hebrew different words.

  • http://krusekronicle.typepad.com Michael W. Kruse

    Ann F-R #18
    “… but I wonder what prevents you from seeing redemptive action in God’s image? Jurgen Moltmann sees the relational Trinity as incorporating creativity and redemptive interactions toward creation, if I’m remembering his theological thought correctly.”
    I was responding to JHM #5 where it seemed to imply that our participation in redemption is the key defining element of being in the image of God. I agree that participating in redemption is an extension of being made in the image of God but it is not the defining element.
    We were made for communion with God and others, and we were made for dominion over creation. That is our ontological distinction. It is our purpose before the fall, after the fall, and after the consummation of the new creation. The call to redemptive work is penultimate and temporary. It did not exist prior to the fall. It was initiated after the fall. It will expire at that consummation of the new creation. If our defining “purpose” was to participate in redemption, and being in God’s image is tied to participating in redemptive work, then at the new creation we are without a purpose and are no longer in the image of God.

  • Ann F-R

    @Michael #30 — thanks for that! You expressed your thoughts clearly, and I’m in agreement with the direction. I appreciate the distinction you’ve made by adding communion to dominion. The redemptive activity wouldn’t be necessary w/out the fall & alienation. (Although I recall Moltmann presented his work on the Trinity in such a way that precluded “open” theology.)
    @Norm… hmmm, I’m not buying what you’re spinning! Psalm 8:4 looks much more like classic Hebrew poetic reinforcement, not modernist distinctions. You didn’t reference the verse number, but I’m guessing it’s verse 4 you were speaking of. Yes? When I look at the structure of your arguments, you’re overlooking poetic directions and meaning in both Gen 1 and Ps 8. (I won’t venture into the usage of apocalyptic imagery in Daniel.) Whatever you call it, you’re getting into the land of double predestination, and the price of that theology is too steep in real lives. I don’t believe you’ve captured how the Hebrews understood their own history and scripture, either. They’re not marking time the way we do, for one thing. Your thought patterns seem to be more Greek & western than Hebraic/eastern, from my POV. Perhaps you don’t appreciate Moltmann’s theological thinking; I don’t think you’ve evaluated him correctly. AFAICS, none of us is trying to “formulate an Image of God as an attribute to establish the worth of man.” Are philosophy & metaphysics a personal bugaboo? From my POV, you’re casting that shroud over thoughts that aren’t either.

  • Norm

    Ann F-R
    The problem with your anylisis is you don’t know what youre talking about. Sorry to be so frank but that is the way I see it. Now if you want to address some details that I brought up concerning the implication of the use of two different Hebrew words translated as man in Psalm 8:4 then maybe we can start over.
    Throwing this false scholarly image around is not going to cut it with me.

  • like a child

    I’m still trying to process all this, so my comments may not make any sense – it is late and I’m tired!
    With respect to the meaning behind the term Image of God, I’d like to know what the ANE Isrealites thought of the soul and matter, because that would surely affect how the Bible was written and what they would feel the need to write about and what was a “given” for them. While I know many in science lean towards monism nowadays (i.e. neurochemistry explains all what we would have normally attributed to the soul), I’m still having a hard time reconciling monism with the Bible, because if I take Jesus and the resurrection at face value, then surely there must be another dimension that we don’t understand (although much can be explained by neurochemistry).

  • Pete Enns

    Norm,
    You wrote above “Also concerning Psalm 8. I pointed out to Pete the other day that there are two different Hebrew words for Man used in the same sentence and that the first word is for Generic mankind and the second word was “adam” denoting those men in Covenant (namely Israel). When you read that section with this recognition it changes the emphasis of which man is going to have dominion. It appears clearly that the (Adams) were the ones to have dominion in lieu of the first man mentioned, especially if you understand how the Hebrews framed and used these two words for man with different intents. It is not the first time we lose context because the translators don’t know how to distinguish the Hebrew different words.”
    Perhaps you missed my response on the BioLogos thread you are referring to. As someone who has been reading Hebrew for 25 years and even taught Hebrew poetry for about 14 years, let me say categorically that you are completely misreading the Hebrew parallelism, or better, you are reading a questionable theology into the parallelism. You can certainly put together a theology of your liking, but don’t anchor it this way. I also think you are overstepping your sphere of competence a bit when you suggest that translators “don’t know how to distinguish the different Hebrew words” simply because they don’t share your peculiar way of handling the Hebrew, which is rooted in your theology.

  • RJS

    like a child,
    Interesting question about ANE views about soul and matter. This should be part of the discussion as we look at Gen 1 and 2 and other passages. The term “image of God” may refer to a function as Pete and others explain, but this doesn’t answer all of the questions.
    On monism vs dualism – I hope to get into this in some posts. But I have to find time to do some reading in order to put up a useful post.
    I think that there must be another dimension that we don’t understand as well. Although neurochemistry can and does explain much – or at least points toward an imperfectly understood explanation, there is also a feed back mechanism by which we can influence what we become. I don’t buy the purely responsive view.

  • Norm

    Pete,
    I’m going to simply ask you then why did the Hebrew author use two different words for “man” in verse 4 that carry different connotations in OT scripture. I don’t mind you correcting me but I do want a logical answer for why the same word was not used both times. And by the way this is not the only location in which this is done. Also are you not recognizing what other OT scholars have pointed out that “adam” translated man can often carry the implication of a covenant connotation especially related to Israel contrasted to other words translated as man? Maybe the Hebrew scholarly world isn’t united on these issues either.
    As far as translators go I’m hardly the only one who recognizes the tendency of translators to use English words that really do not portray the correct nuance of the Hebrew. How many times is man found in the KJV? I believe over 1800 times yet in the YLT it is found only about 1500 times, yet man translated from “adam” is found only about 540 times and so the other 1000 or 1300 times its translated from a different Hebrew word. Are you saying that this recognition has no bearing on the original intent of the Hebrew authors meaning? Are we to be oblivious to this recognition and ignore possibly some Hebrew nuance that the English doesn’t demonstrate?
    Pete, I fully realize my limitations

  • Pete Enns

    Norm
    “I’m going to simply ask you then why did the Hebrew author use two different words for “man” in verse 4 that carry different connotations in OT scripture.”
    Connotation is a function of context. Words do not have semantic ranges apart from their function in context.
    I don’t mind you correcting me but I do want a logical answer for why the same word was not used both times.”
    Because that is how Hebrew poetry works.

  • RJS

    Pete,
    Is it common in Hebrew poetry to say the same thing in parallel ways, using different terms and expressions for the same concept as a matter of form?
    In English, even in technical prose, it is important to use different words for the same thing. I often edit what I write to make sure the same word is not used too often – otherwise it simply reads poorly.
    If the style of writing demands parallel forms – then reading too much into the choice of words is a mistake.

  • Norm

    Is there any possibility that the word “man” used first relates to generic mankind whom it ask whether God is mindful of but the second man is the Jewish “son of man” whom God visited. That seems to make a little sense out of what is going on in this poetic expression. This is especially true as it relates to Dan 7:27 in which it was the saints of the most high who are given dominion.

  • Percival

    An interesting discussion. RJS and Pete, thanks for bringing it to us. I enjoyed and was enlightened by all three of Pete’s essays. Michael Kruse’s thoughts are clearly expressed and reasonable, as always.
    Now, Norm, I read your comments hear and over at Biologos and found them somewhat interesting. I realize that Jews have sometimes read Genesis from a viewpoint similar to yours, but that doesn’t necessarily add to its credibility to me. Jesus seemed to quite clearly indicate that Jewish readings of the scriptures were off base especially when it came to the gentiles. “Adam” seems to clearly mean human in a broad sense. Even today, Semites (Arabs) refers to humans as “Adams” (Awaadim). Also, Semites still say things twice with different words so that you know it’s important, not because they are making any distinction the second time they say it.
    I’m not so sure what your theological payoff is for following this line of thought. It seems to be driven by some other issue. When Anne F-R made some insightful comments (as well as some that were very unclear) your reaction seemed to be over the top, This seems to be an indication that your emotions are driving your theology. I’m curious to learn what your issues really are and why this “image” question impinges upon it so deeply. Are you part of a movement, a school of thought? Or are you an outlier? Seriously. I’m curious about where you are coming from.

  • norm

    Percival,
    Those are fair questions.
    My premise comes from the point of view that we indeed have lost an edge in reading scripture that allowed for the Messianic coming of Christ to be recognized. There are a lot of factors but actually Pete’s examination gets to the heart of the matter. It is an ANE reading that was proprietary specifically to the Jews and yet not all Jews grasped it. (The classic use of Parables by Christ a prime example) The literature of Enoch and Jubilees were more of a product of second Temple Judaism that represents probably a better view of those First Christians that followed Christ. The Jews after their annihilation of 70AD by the Romans decided they had enough of messianic literature and excluded those first century influential books. They did this around 90AD and it was the Pharisaical mindset that took control of Jewish thought that now predominates and it also begin to color some of the views of the church. When you couple that literal means of reading scripture with the gradual western literal methods of the Church you end up with different viewpoint often at odds with the original intent of messianic fulfillment. Prime examples are the churches appropriation of a literal 6000 year for the age of mankind and the contemporary ideas of a worldwide flood and Armageddon views.
    In my opinion and I’m not alone in these ideas is that when studied more closely the Jews were actually teaching that their Heritage came from Adam and not mankind at large. Adam was the first of a Covenant establishment (Israel) that stretched lineage wise to Christ. The problem is that in the mind of ANE covenant mentality the people in covenant were the ones under consideration and not those outside covenant Kingship. The Image of God works within this parameter and Christians have basically always applied this approach to Salvation yet don’t always match their theology consistently with it. Thus the problem I have with Pete’s article’s which is 95% accurate except for one detail. That is the idea that the Image of God has something to do with all Humanity whether in faith with God or not. He makes a good case for its full establishment with Christ but then says that this is something also inherent with all mankind. The problem is it is like saying salvation comes to those in Christ but all mankind is endowed with salvation as well. This is simply opening the theological doors to Universalism which makes some people happy but it is not the reality of Covenant existence outlined in scripture.
    You are correct that I was snippy toward Anne F R which arose from some of her condescending insinuations. I should have controlled myself better in retrospect.
    This subject is very deep and I raise it just to let folks know that there are some other nuances out there percolating that understands the ANE Jewish approach I believe better from a consistent theology and history. As I also have stated many times I believe Pete examines this subject as well or better than just about anyone but that doesn’t mean he explains it perfectly. I know Pete is probably frustrated with me but if we don’t raise questions at the appropriate times then sometimes error gets imbedded in theology that comes back to bite us. Church history is full of examples of that constantly occurring.

  • Percival

    Norm,
    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

  • Ann F-R

    @Pete #34 & 37, thank you for reaffirming what I was trying to say about Hebrew poetic parallels. You confirmed exactly what Gerald Wilson wrote & taught about Psalms when he was an adjunct @ Fuller. (Nice to know I was hearing Gerald well! I so wish he’d been able to complete his Psalms commentary!)
    @ RJS #38, yes, Hebrew poetry frequently has synonymous parallels, which are reinforcing and advancing (rather than distinguishing). (Antithetic parallels also have reinforcing functions, but they serve to reinforce contrast.) I think Pete would agree with that broad synopsis.
    @ Norm #32, needless to say, I think you’re incorrect!

  • Norm

    Ann F-R
    And I think you are overlooking the significance of the connotation of Hebrew words often translated “man”.
    No one is denying that parallelism exist in Hebrew poetry however the question is not whether a form of parallelism is being used but specifically what does the Hebrew connotation impart to the usage of those two separate words imply upon the overall context of that specific piece of poetic literature. If the words as defined in Hebrew have substantial variance which I believe they do then the parallelism is limited to a degree by that insight. Specifically this is important if one word typically implies Jews and the other generally Gentiles. As I have stated, this idea that “adam” means essentially the same as “enosh” in Hebrew carries significant bearing on the subject at hand. I would be surprised to hear that Pete would categorically declare that these two words mean essentially the same because I’m aware of other Biblical scholars that point out the difference and as one who wants to understand the complete nuance of this scripture under consideration it is important to investigate this.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X