In God’s Image- Genesis 1:26

In Genesis 1:26, we find the story of the creation of human beings, in which God says “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness”. Human beings are unique in the created order, for they are the only creatures who are in God’s image, but what does this mean, how are we unique? We find more on this in Genesis 2:7, where we receive more “details” about the creation of human beings. There we find that “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul”. Other creatures are referred to as “souls” in Genesis 1-2, but only man is referred to as a “living soul”. We will remember that life is defined in relation to God, and man being a living soul here means man is the only “soul” united to God, the only soul existing in a personal relationship with God, able to commune and communicate with Him. In the text of Genesis here, man’s uniqueness is described by God “breathing into his nostrils the breath of life”. The Hebrew word translated breath here is neshama, and human beings are the only creature to whom this neshama is given, it is the neshama which makes humans a “living” soul, seeking and living in a personal relationship with God, which only human beings are capable of in all the created order. According to ancient Hebrew commentator and expert Nahmanides, the word neshama is best translated as “spirit”, and the construction of Genesis 2:7 is meant to show us that the soul (reason, speech, volition) is subject to the spirit, or neshama. Nahmanides also tells us that the Hebrew word formed here in Genesis 2:7 has an extra letter when compared to the same word used of animals in Genesis 2:19. This extra letter is the Hebrew yod, which is the first letter of Yahweh, God’s holy name in the Old Testament, which further emphasizes the fact that man is unique in the created order, the only creature created in God’s image. Returning, then, to Genesis 1:26, man is created in God’s “image” and “likeness”. The Hebrew word image is tselem, and the word likeness is demuwth, which are similar words but not exact synonyms, and refer to similar but slightly different things. The word tselem is commonly used of statues or idols, and generally denotes an exact representation of something or someone. The word demuwth is generally translated as “to resemble”, and denotes not so much an exact representation but more of a general resemblance. The key idea here is that man is both, and it is commonly understood that after the fall in Genesis 3, something is lost, that the image of God in man is either lost or in some way diminished or distorted. In Genesis 3:22, after the fall, we find God saying now “The man has become like one of us”, the man has become what he was not, and what we notice here is no mention of the image, but only the likeness. Man is no longer an exact representation of God (image), but now only bears a general resemblance to God (likeness), man has lost the image but kept the likeness. Man is like God in that he is able to choose for himself what is good or evil, right or wrong, true or false. What he has lost is not the ability to choose this, but the propensity to choose what God says is right and wrong, good or evil, true or false. He will now decide for himself on these things and not submit to what God says they are. As we finish the story in the New Testament, we find that Jesus Christ is the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), that Jesus is the “exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3), and that in Christ we are “being renewed in knowledge in the image of our creator” (Colossians 3:10). Believers are now being renewed in the image of Christ, who is the image of God, now able once again to be an exact representation of God rather than merely bearing a general resemblance to Him. To put all of this together, then, we find that man was created in the image and likeness of God, created to be an “exact representation of His being”. As a result of the fall, man lost the image but retained the likeness, now no longer being an exact representation of God but only bearing a general resemblance to Him. In Christ, the image is then restored, and as we are conformed to the image of Christ we become the image of God we were always intended to be, communing with Him, communicating with Him, and submitting to what he says is right or wrong, true or false, just as Jesus did.

No Comments Christianity  //  Conformed to the Image of Christ  //  Creation and Fall  //  Growing In Grace  //  Nature of Man  //  Old Testament

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