I occasionally write posts in response to questions sent in by readers. Read on to find out how to submit your question.
Here is a question that a reader sent in about the image of God in humans.
You invite questions; so here we go:
Genesis 1:27-27 says this: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
Genesis 5:1-3 says this: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”
Were we created in God’s or Adam’s image or how do I understand this verse?
Here is my response:
Good job noting the repetition of the “image” theme in Genesis 1:26-27 and 5:1-3.
The author of Genesis was not intending to show a distinction between the image of God in Adam and the image of Adam’s descendants, but rather their similarity.
Just as Adam and Eve were made in the image of God, so also, all their descendants also bear the image of God.
An illustration from math and logic might help.
- If A=B
- And B=C
- Then C=A.
So if Adam was made in the image of God, and Adam’s descendants bear Adam’s image, then all of Adam’s descendants also bear the image of God. That is what the author of Genesis is stating.
Plugging it into the logic above, we could say this:
- The Image of God (A) was stamped upon Adam (B).
- Adam’s Descendants (C) bear Adam’s image (B).
- Therefore, Adam’s Descendants (C) are also stamped with the Image of God (A).
Of course, we must remember that the image of God is not physical appearance. We must not think that because we have skin, hair, two eyes and ears, etc, that God also looks this way. He doesn’t. God is Spirit. When Genesis talks about Adam (and all of Adam’s descendants) bearing the image of God, it refers to something other than our physical appearance.
What is the Image of God in Man?
The context of Genesis 1:26-27 gives us the best clues as to what is meant by “image” and it probably refers to the things that set us apart from animals – our intellect, emotions, will, authority to rule over creation, desire for relationships, and other non-physical attributes and characteristics. A more detailed study of what the image of God entails would require a longer answer.
Did Sin Destroy the Image of God?
We must also not forget that something happened to Adam in between Genesis 1 and Genesis 5. He sinned against God, and as a result, along with the image of God, was also stamped with the mark of death (Gen 2:17; 3:23). This idea is brought out over and over in Genesis 5 as it shows that death has passed to all people through Adam (cf. Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:21).
We must also note that the image of God was not lost when Adam sinned. It might have been marred or darkened, but it remained intact. Some believe otherwise. For example, Martin Luther once said this: “I am afraid that since [mankind] lost of this image through sin we cannot understand it to any extent.” John Calvin also wrote in various places of the image of God as having been destroyed by sin, obliterated by the Fall, and utterly defaced by unrighteousness.
Yet Scripture says that the image of God is still intact. Genesis 9:6 teaches that one of the reasons murder is such a terrible sin is because mankind is made in the image of God. If the image was destroyed by sin, then this argument against murder would make no sense. Similarly, in James 3:8-9, we read that we should not curse other people because all are made after the likeness or image of God.
[If you would like to ask a Bible or Theology question , please submit it via the contact form on my About page. Please keep your questions brief, and I will select a few to answer each month.]