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Chosen by God, Part 1: What the Image and Likeness of God (Imago Dei) IS NOT

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June 25, 2012 Tags: Image of God

Today's entry was written by Joshua M. Moritz. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: At the center of the theological and cultural controversy surrounding biological evolution stands the question: “How do human beings—creatures uniquely created in the image and likeness of God—fit into the scientific picture of life’s origins and development?” In this three-part series, Dr. Joshua Moritz endeavors to address this question by exploring what Scripture means—and does not mean—by the designation “image and likeness of God”. Today's post begins by describing some common misconceptions of imago Dei.


Left: "Abrahamic Covenant" by Christoph Weigel, 1695.
Courtesy Pitts Theological Seminary, Emory University.

The people of your culture cling with fanatical tenacity to the specialness of man. They want desperately to perceive a vast gulf between man and the rest of creation. - Ishmael 1
For the destiny of humans and the destiny of animals is the same: As one dies, so dies the other; Both have the same breath of life. And humans have no preeminence over the animals…All go to the same place; All come from dust, And to dust all shall return. - Ecclesiastes 3:19-20

What is humankind’s place among the animals? Should we even count human beings among the animals at all? Perhaps we—as men and women—are something else entirely? Such questions are not new. Indeed, they are as old as writing itself and similar ponderings about human identity occupy the most ancient of texts. While many of these primeval writings have crumbled in the winds of time and have come to us only in fragments, the Genesis account of human and animal origins remains a living document that occupies a vital place in the life of Christian practice and thought. In the first chapter of the Genesis narrative we read that humans—male and female—were created in the image (tselem) and likeness (demuth) of God. But what does this mean? There is certainly no shortage of proposed answers, and over two thousand years of theological tradition bears witness to this fact. Here, however, we are not primarily interested in tradition—as valuable and insightful as it may be—but we are concerned with what the Bible itself has to say.

Taking the authority of Scripture seriously demands that we engage with Scripture in light of both its original languages and its original cultural context. If we are to avoid—as much as it is possible—projecting our own personal, modern and post-modern cultural presuppositions onto Scripture, then we must be willing to do some of the hermeneutical (or interpretive) hard work. In other words, if we want to allow Scripture to speak for itself, we must be hyper-aware of the cultural lenses we are wearing when we read it. Interpreting the Bible through five hundred years of Protestant tradition, fifteen hundred years of Roman Catholic tradition, or one hundred years of Seventh-Day Adventist tradition won’t do.2 Rather we must venture to take off the thick hermeneutical lenses of tradition and boldly attempt to go into the world of the sacred text itself so that we can allow the ancient inspired words to shape the lenses or our reading.

With this approach to Scripture in mind, I believe it is useful to address the matter of the image and likeness of God (or imago Dei) by first asking what the imago Dei is not. Throughout the centuries, theologians, philosophers, and others have posed a number of answers to the question of what the imago Dei is. The vast majority of these answers have focused on one or a few characteristics that humans alone have and that non-human animals lack. For example, Evangelical Christian author Kay Warren explains: “Animals and people are two different classes of created beings and they will never be equal in their worth. As precious as animals are to our daily existence, they operate from instinct, not volition. Only people have a spiritual dimension. We are the ones created in the image of the Creator, the only ones with a soul.”3 In a similar manner, political commentator Ann Coulter, citing “the story of Genesis”, maintains: “It’s not merely opposable thumbs and a bipedal gait that make us distinct from the other beasts. It is consciousness of our mortality, a moral sense, language, mathematics, art, beauty, music, love, longings for immortality, a sense of symmetry, the soul’s ascent, the ability to accessorize, and our fascination with Branson, Missouri…We are in God’s image, and we’re the only ones in God’s image, which is why we eat escargot rather than worship them.”4 While these are two popular contemporary voices, similar views are espoused by numerous academics as well. In this way the imago Dei has, for many, become synonymous with one central characteristic or several key traits that make humans unique among and/or superior to animals.5

As intriguing as such perceived indicators of human uniqueness are, and regardless of the scientific status of claims for such distinguishing human traits, the idea that there are particular physical features and/or behavioral characteristics that make men—and not beasts—in the image and likeness of God is not one that is found anywhere in the pages of Holy Scripture. With regard to humans as “the image and likeness of God,” a literal and consistent reading of the Genesis narratives discloses that the imago Dei designation does not refer to unique characteristics or capacities which humans posses in a way that excludes other non-human animals.

Hebrew scholar Phyllis Bird informs us that the scriptural context of the phrase “image and likeness of God” makes it plain that “its theological significance is in the place it gives to humans within the created order, not in any physical or moral attribute of the species, in either its present or ‘original’ state.”6 In the Bible the imago Dei is not about exceptional human capacities or characteristics that automatically qualify humans as being included in the imago Dei category. There is no reason, explains Bible scholar James Barr, to believe that the author of Genesis chapter one “had in his mind any definite idea about the content or location of the image of God.”7 The terms “‘image’ and ‘likeness’…make no statements about the nature of human beings.”8 When we read of “the creation of human beings in God’s image (Gen 1:26)…the biblical narrative remains silent…about any qualities of human nature that might account for their special standing.”9

If we are to properly understand the meaning of the texts, then, says Old Testament scholar Claus Westermann, we must confidently resist “the tendency to see the image and likeness of God as a something, a quality.”10 Consequently, a literal reading of the early Genesis accounts demands that no specific anthropological content or characteristics may be directly equated with the imago Dei. If one is to take the findings of biblical exegesis seriously, then—apart from theological tradition—the image of God cannot be defined on the basis of particular physical traits or behavioral characteristics. This means that—according to a straightforward reading of Genesis and the rest of Scripture—humans are not said to be biologically or behaviorally unique in a way that is related to their being named the “image of God.”

In addition to the broad consensus among biblical scholars that the image of God in humans, when understood within its original Hebrew linguistic and Ancient Near Eastern context, has nothing whatsoever to do with an appeal to the human possession of particular characteristics which non-human animals lack, research in biblical exegesis has similarly revealed that there is no essential or substantial super-natural divide between humans and other animals. Scripture, when read in the original languages, clearly describes both “man and beast” as possessing “the breath of life” and refers to both equally as “souls.” In this way Scripture makes no ontological or metaphysical distinctions between humans and non-human animals. Instead, the scriptural “emphasis lies on the commonality that exists between the humans and the rest of the animal creation.”11

While the use of the Hebrew word nephesh, often translated as “soul”, to describe humans has been taken by some as an indication that humans are substantially set apart from the animals, the nephesh is not an exclusive possession of humans. Indeed, the Hebrew text describes both humans (Gen 2:7) and animals (Gen 1:21, 24) equally as nephesh hayyah or “living souls.”12 Thus, Bible Scholar Gordon Wenham explains that in Genesis 2:7, which describes the human being as a nephesh, “it is not man’s possession of the ‘breath of life’ or his status as a ‘living creature’ that differentiates him from the animals—animals are described in exactly the same terms.”13 In Genesis, “human beings…are only one subset of God’s ‘living beings,’ into whom God has breathed the breath of life” and established as “living souls.”14

According to the biblical understanding, then, “what is distinctive about human beings is not that they have a ‘soul’ which animals do not possess, nor that they have a ‘spirit’ which other creatures do not possess.”15 It is clear, then, that “the possession of nepheš is not a unique characteristic of the human person.” Indeed, “unless one is ready to grant that animals have ‘souls’ in the same way that humans are alleged to have, then we might better conclude that the Genesis account is referring to the divine gift of life: ‘the human being became a living person.’”16 Consequently, “claims for a ‘special creation’ of humanity in comparison with animals and the material world conflict with the strong assertion in Genesis 2 that, physically (organically), Adam does not differ from the ‘beasts of the field.’”17 The theological language of anthropology in Genesis 1 and 2 “underscores Adam’s linkage with the animal creation, not his difference from it.”18

Whatever else the imago Dei might be, then, a clear and consistent reading of Scripture does not permit us to equate it with either a non-material soul which animals lack or some unique physical characteristic or behavior which animals lack. These conclusions regarding what the image and likeness of God in humans IS NOT lead us directly to our discussion of what the imago Dei IS.

In Part 2 of this series, Dr. Moritz examines how the phrase "image and likeness of God" is used within Scripture itself.

Notes

1. Daniel Quinn, Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit (New York: Bantam, 1992), 146.
2. I mention SDA because the prophecies of Ellen White and her interpretations of Genesis have played a significant role in shaping contemporary Evangelical understandings of the text. See Ronald L. Numbers, The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992), 74. For an online lecture on this topic see http://vimeo.com/38687776
3. Kay Warren, “Puppies Aren’t People: When compassion for animals goes too far,” (Accessed May 22, 2012) http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2009/04/kay_warren_puppies_arent_peopl.html. In this essay Kay Warren cites the theological views of her husband Rick Warren.
4. Ann Coulter, Godless: The Church of Liberalism (New York: Crown Forum, 2006), 266.
5. For example a recent group of Genesis interpreters concludes, “Evidence points to the fact that man is a unique creation, made in the image of God.” David N. Menton, “Did humans really evolve from ape-like creatures?” in War of the Worldviews: Powerful Answers for an Evolutionized Culture, ed. Ken Ham, Bodie Hodge, Carl Kerby, et al. (Green Forest, Arkansas: New Leaf Press, 2006), 43-59.
6. Phyllis A. Bird, “Theological Anthropology in the Hebrew Bible,” in The Blackwell Companion to the Hebrew Bible, ed. Leo G. Perdue (Malden, MA: Blackwell 2001), 262.
7. James Barr, “The Image of God in the Book of Genesis: A Study of Terminology, ” Bulletin of the John. Rylands Library 51 (1968-69), 13.
8. Horst Dietrich Preuss, Old Testament Theology, vol 2, trans. Leo G. Perdue (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 115
9. Kathryn Tanner, “The Difference Theological Anthropology Makes,” Theology Today 50:4 (Jan 1994), 573.
10. Claus Westermann, Creation, trans. John H. Scullion, S.J. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), 57-58.
11. Iain Provan, “The Land Is Mine and You Are Only Tenants (Leviticus 25:23): Earth-keeping and People-keeping in the Old Testament,” CRUX 42:2 (Summer 2006): 5.
12. Claus Westermann, Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary, 1st ed. trans. John J. Scullion (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 136.
13. Gordon Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1-15 (Waco: Word, 1987), 61.
14. Provan, “The Land Is Mine and You Are Only Tenants,” 5.
15. Ray Anderson, “Theological Anthropology” in The Blackwell Companion to Modern Theology, ed. Gareth Jones (Oxford: Blackwell, 2004), 85 (emphasis added).
16. Joel B. Green, “Restoring The Human Person: New Testament Voices For A Holistic and Social Anthropology,” in Neuroscience and the Person: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. Robert John Russell, Nancey Murphy, Theo C. Meyering, and Michael Arbib (Vatican City State and Berkeley, CA: Vatican Observatory and CTNS, 1999), 5.
17. Lawson G. Stone, “The Soul: Possession, Part, or Person? The Genesis of Human Nature in Genesis 2:7” in What About the Soul?: Neuroscience and Christian Anthropology, ed. Joel B. Green (Nashville: Abingdon, 2004), 50.
18. Ibid., 57.

Pitts Theological Seminary
Joshua M. Moritz, PhD, is Lecturer of Philosophical Theology and the Natural Sciences at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Francisco, and Managing Editor of the journal Theology and Science. He has studied at the Graduate Theological Union, Moravian Seminary in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, and Calvin College in Grand Rapids Michigan. Dr. Moritz holds degrees in theology, philosophy, history, the classical languages, and evolutionary biology.

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Mark Edward - #70629

June 25th 2012

This is something I have long thought.

Friends have raised the issue of what it means to be in the ‘image of God’, and whenever the idea of humans uniquely having ‘spirits’ or being ‘souls’ is brought up, I make the point that within the Bible itself, animals also have ‘spirits’ and are ‘souls’. The idea is often so repugnant to them, that they readily abandon their idea of sola scriptura when Biblical passages* are raised to show them.

As one friend of mine says, it is easier for Christians to ‘cling to their ignorance’ and keep a view they already have no matter how wrong it is, than it is to undergo discover something new that corrects a belief they’ve believed for so long. To me, this is especially bad when the belief they so ferociously refuse to give up is a secondary or tertiary issue. It’s not even a major doctrine that is at stake, but that’s the problem: it’s doctrine, therefore it simply cannot be wrong.

 

* Adam is given the ‘breath/spirit of life’, and made as ‘living soul’: Genesis 2.7. Animals have the ‘breath/spirit of life’: 1.30; 6.17; 7.15,22-23. Animals are ‘living souls’ 1.20,21,24,30; 2.19.


wesseldawn - #71144

July 16th 2012

I very much agree with you and your openness is refreshing but from what I’ve discovered, soul and spirit are very different.

Only one creature/man (living soul/Gen. 2:7) entered God’s garden (Gen. 2:8) and there got God’s image and was then called Adam.

“God is a Spirit” (John 4:24) - a Spirit is immortal/eternal.

Therefore, a living soul entered the supernatural garden and got an immortal/eternal component that is automatically passed on down Adam’s line.

“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?” (John 10:34)

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. But ye shall die like men...” (Psalm 82:5-7)

Dualism: immortality (gods) and mortality (die like men):

“Then shall the dust (human body) return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” (Eccl. 12:7 - brackets mine) 

It doesn’t appear to be a popular idea on this forum, which I don’t understand because it’s not my idea, I got it from the Bible itself!

 


Francis - #70635

June 25th 2012

I disagree with Dr. Moritz.

He attempts to make the case that Scripture shows humans are not different in essence from other living things:

- the “imago Dei designation does not refer to unique characteristics or capacities which humans posses [sic] in a way that excludes other non-human animals”

- “we must confidently resist “the tendency to see the image and likeness of God as a something, a quality.”

- “no essential or substantial super-natural divide between humans and other animals… In this way Scripture makes no ontological or metaphysical distinctions between humans and non-human animals.”

- “Whatever else the imago Dei might be, then, a clear and consistent reading of Scripture does not permit us to equate it with either a non-material soul which animals lack or some unique physical characteristic or behavior which animals lack.”

Again, I disagree.

What is meant by man being made in the “image and likeness of God”? I would say Scripture indicates that, like God, but unlike other living things, man alone

-          Has the intelligence and power to exercise authority over all other living things (Gen 1:26)

-          Has an eternal character (Wis 2:23)

-          Has the ability to be holy (2 Cor 3:18; Eph 4:22-24)

Lastly, Dr. Moritz says man was NOT specially created [“Consequently, “claims for a ‘special creation’ of humanity in comparison with animals and the material world conflict with the strong assertion in Genesis 2 that, physically (organically), Adam does not differ from the ‘beasts of the field.’”

Genesis says Adam WAS SPECIALLY, or at least separately, created. It indicates Adam did NOT come FROM the beasts of the field but rather was created separately. [Gen 1:26; Gen 2:7]  


Marshall Janzen - #70641

June 25th 2012

Francis, I wonder if your disagreement may be slighter than you expect.

In your first bullet point, you bolded “exercise authority over all” and I suspect that this is also where Dr. Moritz may be going. Having God’s image is about being given a mandate and authority. The other part of your point, having “the intelligence and power” necessary to do so, may arguably be a necessary prerequisite, but is not what the image itself is about.

As for an “eternal character”, I don’t think there is good reason to see the image of God as conferring God’s immortality on humans any more than it confers God’s omnipotence. Gen. 3:22-24 describes God specifically preventing humans from having access to immortality. The only way humans gain eternal life is through being united to the only source of life, undoing the estrangement pictured in Gen. 3. The immortality 1 Cor. 15 describes isn’t inherent in our human nature; it is God’s gift.

On your third point, I expect future parts will get to those verses, so it may be more fruitful to discuss that later (so we’re not arguing against something that hasn’t yet been presented). I do believe that the authority God grants humans by making humanity the divine image-bearer carries with it a great responsibility: to use that authority in a way that truly reflects God. I’d say it’s not so much about ability as responsibility (although, again, one could argue that ability is a prerequisite for this responsibility).

And finally, the Gen. 2 creation account shows human and beast made of the same physical material (dirt) by the same creator (God) using the same process (sculpting) producing the same result (a living being). This account gives more detail when the human is formed (verse 7) than later when the beasts and birds are formed (verse 19), but the second description seems designed to mirror the first, though without pedantically repeating each word. So, I wouldn’t make too much “dust of the ground” becoming “ground” or the missing statement about God breathing into the beasts. Elsewhere, Scripture is explicit that beasts and humans both have God’s breath/spirit within them (e.g. Ps. 104:29-30; Ecc. 3:19-21).

We may differ on how literally we take the sculptor/potter imagery in Genesis 2, but I think Dr. Moritz’s point is that the human’s creation is described similarly to the creation of the beasts.


Marshall Janzen - #70638

June 25th 2012

I’m enjoying this piece and looking forward to the rest of the instalments. After reading the John Hammett posts, I was hoping for something along these lines.

When I first read through this piece, I was bothered by the inconsistent use of “man” to sometimes refer to male individuals and other times all humans. This ambiguity is unhelpful in this topic, especially since there are those who argue that only males directly bear God’s image (often based on interpretations of 1 Cor. 11:7). But, when I came back to the article this afternoon, I noticed that this had been cleaned up, and the only generic use of “man” was in quotations (where it is appropriate, and where the surrounding context removes any possible ambiguity).

So, thanks to the author and/or editor for making this article even more clear!


Joriss - #70648

June 26th 2012

There is a difference between the spirit of animals and humans, though.
Ecclesiastes 3:21
Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”
But the KJV version says:
Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?
The latter translation is in accordance with Ecclesiastes 12:7
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
The Preacher says everything is vanity, because of the endless and seemingly senseless repeatance of things in the course of life and the course of centuries, and that you can’t detect the work of God in it. In this sense animals and humans are the same, both come from dust and become dust again. Even so there is no difference between the wise and the fool (chapter 2 : 14-16). The wise and the fool die in the same way, either of them without leaving remembrance.
So the Preacher is complaining that, from this point of view, there seems no difference between the wise and the fool, and between humans and beasts and he calls it: vanity! In other words: Why can’t we see this. It’s a torturing problem to him and it tends to make  him apathic and hate life.
So to take this for an argument that humans and animals don’t differ too much as a creature is, I think, incorrect, because, in my opinion, it has nothing to do with it.
From Eccl. 12:7 you can see that the Preacher perfectly knows and understands the difference between the soul of an animal and that of a human. He is just complaining that it is not to be seen in the way we live and die, just as he is complaining you can’t see the difference between wise and fool people.


Norman - #70661

June 26th 2012

Just a little more clarification regarding Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 might be helpful in this discussion. The translation does not accurately reflect the nuance of the key terms as well as could be. Here is a better look IMO along with my alterations.

Ecc 3:18-20 For what happens to the children of man (adam) and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man (adams) has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return.

To a casual observation it seems trite what I am pointing out but from a Hebrew perspective it is important. The children of adam has covenant Israel connotation behind it really can’t be universally applied to imply humanity at large.  It means those with knowledge of YHWH and is not the generic Hebrew term for man which is “ish”. Its usage here is essentially comparing the children of Israel with the Beast which brings me to the next important designation.  The translation used in this article has “animals” instead of “beast” which doesn’t again quite illustrate the correct Hebrew nuance. Beast is a term that is used throughout much of Hebrew literature especially poetic and apocalyptic to designate a human who is outside the relational bounds of knowing God.  The classic usage can be seen in the story of King Neb in Daniel who succumbs to the mind of the “beast” when he failed to give glory to God, instead he took the glory as his own.  He returned to the mind of a “man” when he regained his sense about such matters and repented and acknowledged God eventually.  We know how the “beast” is used also dramatically to illustrate rulers from the Sea and from the Land in Daniel and Revelation. Ezekiel likewise utilizes the “beast” designation quite often to illustrate wild humans living outside of God’s relationship.  The whole clean and unclean animal structure of the Hebrews are built upon these symbolic representations and in order to glean a deeper Hebrew insight we need to be aware of these distinctions.

So Ecc 3:18-20 is not really comparing the souls of humans with the souls of animals but is comparing the futility of the Hebrew man (adams) with the souls of wild and God forsaken Gentiles (beast). The lament simply is one based upon the Hebrew recognition that their methodology toward God was lacking and left them in the same dire straits as gentiles. They were in need of redemption which is an idea that permeates OT literature beginning with Gen3 after the fall. That is why this section references the return to the mortal dust of the land which simply implies the same problem that fallen Israelites were mired in their mortal nature in need of being raised up out of their natural dust origins in order to stand with God. That is how Paul describes the situation in 1 Cor 15.

1 Cor 15: The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

Notice that Paul posit that those in Christ are going to bear the Heavenly Image lifting them up out of the first Adam’s mortal nature as the man of dust.  That indeed is what Gen 1:26 is all about; it projects what God is going to accomplish for man (adams) at the end of the Day.

2 Cor 3: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

I would like to say that I found this article extremely refreshing as often the science types like to make a biological connection with the Image of man when it is a theological implication that reflects God’s higher standard of living. The Image of God is found through Christ whom we are called to reflect.

Col 3: … seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.


Melissa Mills - #71018

July 10th 2012

I agree with Dr. Moritz’s observation that it is good to return to Holy Scripture. In studying Biblical Hebrew, I have been struck by the wonderfully confusing ambiguity of the Hebrew language. In particular, I’m fascinated with the ambiguity that accompanies the Hebrew verb tense forms. That is, whereas in English, we use verb tenses to indicate whether we intend a future, a present or a past action or state, Biblical Hebrew uses the context together with verb tense to suggest whether the reported action or state is one that has been completed or whether it is one that is to be completed in the future.

This ambiguity seems particularly fitting to me in the context of Jesus’ words to the centurion who took Jesus at his word, that the centurion’s servant would be healed (Matt 8:5-13). That is, if God says that something will be, isn’t that the same as saying that it is as good as done? And if someone is reporting something as having been done, might not that be a prophetic word of that which is yet to come? 

This said, I’m wondering when we consider Genesis 1, if we might consider the creation as being still in process. Are we still in the sixth day of creation? Here are some reasons this make sense to me. 

1. Jesus himself is Emmanuel, God With Us. Jesus is the image of God, God made flesh. 

2. The resurrected Jesus Christ is the first born of the new creation, the new type, the Son of Man. As Norman writes in his comment above, 1 Cor 15:47-49:  Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. We will bear the imageo Deo when we are completed.

3. Genesis 1 ends on the sixth day. The Sabbath is the day of rest, the day of completion. We are shown it ahead of time so that we may practice it, and so that we may know where we are going. Our whole life is the practice of preparation for Sabbath. As Jesus said, “For the Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” (Matt 12:8, Mark 2:28 and Luke 6:5).

4. Jesus often called himself “the Son of Man.” Is this the next generation after the “type” that is Adam?

5. Jesus spoke of “this generation” in ways that connote something longer than a twenty year span.

6. Our God is the God who “gives life to the dead, and calls into existence things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17). This continues to happen every moment as space-time comes into being.  Where does time come from—and all of space with it?

7. In Genesis 18:17-19, we are given privy to the thoughts of the LORD as prophetic revelation. 

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” 

Is it possible that this same reasoning applies to all of Holy Scripture? God tells us where we are going so that we might know that “to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice” constitutes our creation. 

As Norman pointed out above, this is transformation.

2 Cor 3: And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

The difference that this understanding of Genesis 1 makes is that it leaves still ahead of us our completion, our perfection.  As Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 

Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

The Greek word used is teleois, from telos. 

It also has the effect of giving us joint responsibility for our own creation.  Perhaps being created in the image of God means we are responsible for what we become.  Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” 

Perhaps God is testing our hearts as a way of allowing us to participate in the creation of our own transformed selves, transformed by the love that has first been shown us.

Perhaps sharing in the process has something to do with our creation “in the image of God.”

Perhaps the creation through love into vessels of love is a characteristic, seen prominently in Jesus, into which we are given the grace to grow.

I would love to hear your thoughts about this.  Thank you for your posts.


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