Friday, March 24, 2006

Imago Dei

Well, it's about a week late, but here it is. One additional sentence of clarification that might prove helpful: One of the benefits (inmho) of this view is that it accounts for all of the others (hey, it works in textual criticism). In other words, I argue that the other views have an element of truth, but they are ultimately insufficient. This view accounts for all the others, but supercedes them in it's comprehensiveness.

1. The Imago Dei. While most theologians are in complete agreement regarding the fact that man is created in God’s image, there is far less agreement regarding exactly what that means. While the scriptures have a good deal to say about the topic, they do not give an explicit or exhaustive definition for what is meant by such a phrase. Some suggestions include:

1) The Image of God as Physical Resemblance – This is held by the Mormons

2) The Image of God as a Relational Being – Karl Barth’s view

3) The Image of God as Dominion – Genesis 1:26 “fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over…”

4) The Image of God as Personhood – God and Man both have a soul, moral judgment, personality, a spirit, etc. Animals don’t have these things.

Most of these views are fine (except #1), and they may be true to some extent. However, I would argue they are all insufficient in some sense. The best view I have come across for accounting for what constitutes the image of God is that man is God’s Physical Representative here on earth. In the Ancient Near East, rulers would often erect a statue in their image or appoint a prince to rule a region. This was so that when they were physically absent, the inhabitants of that region would have a physical reminder of the ruler. This symbol of their authority was referred to as an “Image” (Heb. Tselem). Sinclair Ferguson further clarifies:

The image expressed the presence of an absent Lord in the sphere of his own dominion [or kingdom]. In that contest the ‘image’ was to his context what the ‘god’ was to the entire sphere of his lordship. This suggests that it is man as man (not some element in his constitution) which constitutes the divine image.[1]

Therefore, man as the image of God, serves as God’s divine marker in the universe. Though God is a Spirit, man is his physical representative here in the universe declaring to the whole universe that the Creator exists. This accounts well for the fact that Jesus is said to be the ULTIMATE image of God. Colossians 1:15 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Hebrews 1:1-3 “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Though the image of God in us has been marred because of sin, we are being renewed into the image of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18 and Romans 8:28-30), that is, the express image of God. This is why it is such a serious thing to commit murder. Imagine that while an Ancient Near Eastern ruler was away, some of his subjects destroyed the statue of his image. How would he respond? How much more serious is it to destroy the image of the Creator of the Universe?

[1] Cited by Mike Windsor, Systematic 402 Class Syllabus, pg. 84, CBTS.


David said...

Hmmmm. I like this interpretation. More theological than the others, which is the way I lean in regards to interpreting the Penta. generally. So then how would you take the actual text: "in our image"?

NWMihelis said...

I hadn't given that as much thought (as far as how I'd paraphrase that expression), but I guess it would be something like:

"Let us make man as our marker in the universe"

OR if you like the NLT type approach (which could also stand for Nate's longer [or looser] translation):

"Let us make man in such a way that in his entire being he demonstrates to the entire universe, both things seen and not seen (Moses would be anachronistically borrowing from a Pauline idea here) that God IS!"

NWMihelis said...


Btw, thanks for pointing out Instone-Brewer's book on divorce and remarriage a few weeks back on your blog. I am teaching a two part series on the topic to our homeschool bible class at CBC (the class is on ethics) and found it to be immensely helpful. Though time has not permitted me to read it cover to cover, I page turned it and read some specific sections. This it the first comprehensive academic treatment I've seen on the subject.