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About the Book

Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III


Part V

Part VI

Part VII



Part III: The Terms "Image" and "Likeness" as Used in Genesis 1:26

Chapter 1

The Creation of the Image

     NOT INFREQUENTLY, THOSE who are offended at the Christian's assertion that God is the Father only of those who are His children by rebirth, observe with a show of confidence that we are obviously God's children because He created us. There are three things which may be said against this view: the first thing that undermines it somewhat is its inconsistency, the second is that it leads to an absurdity, and the third, it makes the whole of the plan of redemption meaningless.
     In the first place, the statement is invariably inconsistent, because if really pressed in the matter, most of those who present this argument don't really believe in creation anyway. They almost always believe that man was evolved. They may speak of man's creation as a kind of sop to their listener, supposing it to be the orthodox thing to believe, but completely without conviction as to the fact, themselves.
     In the second place, it leads to an absurdity for the following reasons: We know only from Scripture that man was created, and if this revelation is made the basis of the Fatherhood of God, the same Scripture tells us that the animals were created, in which case He is the Father of the animals as well. One cannot have it both ways. If one is going to appeal to Scripture to demonstrate that God is the Father of

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men because He created them, and for no other reason, then one must also say by the same Word of Scripture that God is the Father of animals because He created them, too. Thus, carried to its logical conclusion, the argument from mere creation per se, leads to the quite untenable position that God's relationship to man as Father is also His relationship to all other animals, a concept which is both comfortless and dishonouring to God, because by the principle of "like father like son" He then assumes a nature which is less than human -- leading inevitably to such forms of idolatry as the Egyptians once practiced -- thus providing the basis, I think, of Romans 1:22-25.
     It is not, then, the mere fact of creation which constitutes the Fatherhood of God with respect to man. No. The words of Genesis are to be read with far greater care, for they reveal an added dimension which, rightly understood, is the sole basis upon which the Fatherhood of God is predicated in Scripture.
     In the third place, this dimension is one which was lost to man in Eden with the terrible consequence of reducing him not from his high status of man to the lower status of animal, but to something far more dreadful than mere animal, a state the redemption of which occupies the whole of the rest of Scripture and in the meantime makes man an alien within the realm of Nature. A solecism among animals, he seems bent upon destroying his own species. He is a plunderer of his own habitat the earth. A creature who unlike all other creatures has aspirations far beyond his powers of realization, he lives as a consequence in a state bordering despair. No other species is alien to the rest of Nature, no other species is bent upon destroying itself, no other species deliberately destroys its own habitat, no other species seeks to be something which it is not by nature capable of being.
     Genesis tells us that man was created in a special way, bearing the stamp of God upon him which the animals did not bear. Genesis also tells us that he lost it. In doing so, he became an entirely unique creature, whose uniqueness lay in a propensity for wickedness exactly commensurate with his original capacity for the opposite. Bearing the image of God, he had a capacity for goodness which, when the image was lost, became a capacity of equal magnitude for wickedness. The question is, What was the nature of this stamp of God, the loss of which wrought such a profound change in human nature and the recovery of which is the central theme of the whole of the rest of Scripture?
     In Genesis 1:26 and 27, the following all too familiar words are to be found:

     And 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 fowl of the

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air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
     So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.

     This passage bears the most careful examination, and it is possible to show by a study of subsequent occurrences -- allowing Scripture to be its own best interpreter -- that these terms, "image" and "likeness," far from being synonymous, have precise meanings which demonstrate a clear and absolute difference between them.
     It is important, however, before proceeding to the words themselves, to note a significant omission in the second part of this excerpt from Scripture and to observe also the distinctive use here, as elsewhere, of the word "make" (Hebrew 'asah) as opposed to the word "create" (Hebrew bara).
     Reading this passage attentively, one observes that whereas verse 26 reads, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . ." verse 27 on the other hand reads, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him." There is in verse 27 no reference whatever to the likeness. But this omission is not because of any redundancy in the terms "image" and "likeness." There is a much more significant reason.
     The verb used in verse 26 is "make"; the verb used in verse 27 is "create." And these two words are also by no means synonymous. With reference to the image, Scripture employs the verbs create or make as the context requires. But in connection with the likeness, Scripture employs only the verb "make," and never the verb "create." This is important. The fact is, the Hebrew word 'asah, here rendered "make," has in the Old Testament the root meaning "to appoint," and in precisely the same way in the New Testament "make" frequently signifies "appointment." Thus, for example, in 1 Kings 12:31 Jeroboam "appointed" priests of the lowest of the people who were not Levites. The verb here is 'asah. Similarly, in Hebrews 7:21 and 28 we have the statement that Jesus was "made" (i.e., appointed) a priest after the order of Melchisedec. In Jeremiah 37:15 the prophet was put into a private house which had been constituted ('asah) a prison. The cities of refuge were appointed ('asah) for the safety of those who desired to escape the hand of the avenger to seek a fair trial. In each of these cases the concept is strictly not one of creation, but rather the circumstances were in various ways modified so that the significance of things referred to was changed. Thus in Genesis 1:16 the sun, the moon, and the stars which already existed were later given their special appointment as time keepers. Creation is probably not in view here at all.

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     But as is only to be expected, in the Old Testament many words through the centuries changed their meaning, so that although they retained their original sense, they also acquired secondary meanings. And one of the best ways to discover which is the more ancient meaning where several alternatives exist, is to consider personal names in which the word forms a part, as for example, the name Asah-el in 2 Samuel 2:18, "God hath appointed." In 2 Kings 22:12, 14 we have the name Asahjah which means "Jah hath appointed." In 1 Chronicles 4:35 we have Asiel which means "appointed of God." Essentially, the older meaning is not one of actual creation but rather of appointment. Thus while the image can quite properly be spoken of as having been both appointed for man and originally created in him, the likeness was appointed for him only, but not actually created. The likeness is, in fact, something to be achieved by a gradual process throughout a lifetime, a process completed only when having passed through death the child of God finds himself in the presence of Christ. As David said, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15). This distinction is one which is observed throughout Scripture, as can be shown by reference to other passages in which the two words occur, and it bears in turn upon the equally important distinction between a Christian's "standing" and "state." There are, therefore, good reasons for saying that the words are by no means synonymous. And it remains only to examine carefully what each term specifically means.
     Considering, then, first of all the word "image," it may be useful to review briefly some of the interpretations that have been placed upon it which are strictly philosophical rather than Scriptural. In the first place, it may be said that there is a pretty general agreement among Christian scholars who hold otherwise very diverse views, that the image, the Imago Dei, is the chief possession of man which makes him uniquely related to God; but there is by no means the same general agreement as to what this Imago Dei actually is. For example, there are those who believe that man alone has self-consciousness. It is widely held among animal psychologists, and the matter has been explored at great length by such people as George Herbert Mead (2) and Ernst Cassirer, (3) that animals have consciousness only. That is, they are fully aware of what is going on around them and able to make decisions on the basis of this awareness. But they do not "stop and think about themselves." Man alone is able to think about his thinking, to consider himself as though his self were another and in so thinking to observe

2. Mead, George Herbert, Mind, Self, and Society, University Chicago Press, 1934.
3. Cassirer, Ernst, An Essay on Man: An Introduction to a Philosophy of Human Culture, Yale University, 1944.

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his own thought processes. One must certainly assume that God has self-awareness also. In this case, we have a unique faculty shared by both man and God and by none other of His creatures -- except perhaps the angels. This faculty is held by some people to be the image.
     Then there are those who believe it is man's ability to reason which sets him apart from all other creatures. This capacity is perhaps seen in its purest form when man becomes a mathematician. In fact, Kant said that man's powers for rational thought in mathematics were as perfect as God's: that he could, for example, know that 2 and 2 make 4 as absolutely as God knows this. Sir James Jeans, (4) and many others like him, perceived so clearly the mathematical structure underlying all physical phenomena that he gave to the Creator the title "the Pure Mathematician."
     At one time a proposal was made to set out in giant dimensions on the Sahara Desert a series of bonfires forming a right-angled triangle, on each side of which the square would be erected. The plan was to set forth the theorem of Pythagoras on a vast scale at such a time of year that if there were any inhabitants on Mars who shared any essential part of our nature and if they were as sophisticated as we are, they would observe this message and acknowledge it by setting forth on their own planet some mathematical equation in reply. The point is that mathematics is the one universal language which it was believed all rational beings would be able to speak. Animals appear at times to be able to observe the difference between one and several, and at times to be able to observe when one is missing from a number. Whether they can advance beyond this stage is not certain. But in any case they deal only in concrete situations and as far as we know never in abstract concepts. Yet much of mathematics is pure abstraction -- negative numbers, for example. This enormously valuable, one might even say powerful, faculty for precise rational thinking makes man in one respect equal to God in capacity. Some men have believed that herein he bears the image of his Maker. The Imago Dei is rationality.
     Another faculty which some people believe sets man apart from the rest of the animal order is the ability to create. For many years whenever fossil remains of primate form were exhumed, they were always considered to be human if they were found in association with tools which there was reason to believe had been made by them. This was an assumption which had to be hedged somewhat, because it was always possible that the bones of advanced primate forms might be buried together with primitive weapons not because the subhuman

4. Jeans, Sir James, The Mysterious Universe, Cambridge, 1931, p.132.

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creatures had manufactured them but rather because they had been killed by them. Early men could have hunted and killed these more primitive creatures, possibly in self-defense, and not taken the trouble to retrieve their weapons. Such a circumstance is known to have happened with other prehistoric creatures, and the association of crude weapons with certain South African pre-humans could be a case in point.
     However, there are not a few animals which use tools of a kind or at least weapons in the form of sticks or stones. Baboons may use either, and there are some birds which pry grubs out of cracks in wood by using small sticks. However, this is not really the same as creating tools, for such creatures merely make use of what is at hand. Captive chimpanzees have been induced to make "tools" for reaching bananas that were otherwise out of reach which are quite elaborate for them. But here, too, the components of such tools had to be at hand. It does seem, then, that according to our present knowledge, man is the toolmaker; and by the same token, man the creator, is a unique creature. Clearly God also is a Creator. Not a few people believe that the image which man bears is his power to create.
     In the case of each one of these faculties -- the power to think about thinking, the power to be rational, the ability to create -- this may be said to be a common feature, namely, that they are shared by men of all faiths and by men of no faith whatever. Even the most superstitious and ignorant may be quite rational (perhaps cunning would be even a better word) when it is vital that they be so; even the most sickly and retarded individuals can be keenly aware of themselves; and it is rare indeed to find a person of mature years who cannot or does not create something during his life time by ordering and arranging things in a new way, for even the power to set things in order consciously and deliberately is an expression of creativeness. If all men, therefore, have in some measure all these faculties whether they are wicked or holy -- humble believers or militant atheists -- then it would be difficult to equate such a universal possession with the image of Genesis 1:26, which according to Scripture has been lost in man and must be restored. One surely need not re-create something which may already be present in an exceptional way even in the most wicked man who has no place at all for God in his thinking.
     There is a further faculty which man has, which many people feel has first claim as the hallmark of the stamp of God's image upon his nature. This is his power of making moral judgments. It matters not whether he obeys the judgments he makes. The important thing in the eyes of people who hold this view is that he recognizes a difference

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between a moral right and a moral wrong. Cultural relativism often makes that which is wrong in one society quite right in another society, and vice versa, but this does not really weaken the argument for man's moral sense. It is not a question here of whether all men agree upon a right as being universally so, but only that all men agree that there are such things as rights and wrongs, and that such judgments are not based on expedience. This moral faculty appears to be universal, even among such people as the Andaman Islanders who, according to Radcliffe-Brown, (5) although they collectively did not recognize tribal laws of any kind, yet individually were guided by what was personally felt to be right or wrong. The argument is that God makes moral judgments and has invested this same capacity in man, thereby stamping him with His own image. Even this faculty, though it does indeed appear -- unlike the others -- to be a kind of spiritual one, still cannot logically be equated with the image of God, because those who are furthest from God are often found to have the most highly developed moral sense. It is, in fact, a form of self-righteousness, a possession which, far from bringing a man nearer to God, is likely to have precisely the opposite effect -- as the New Testament shows only too clearly.
     None of these, then, can safely be identified as the image of Genesis 1:26, which was impressed upon Adam at the time of his creation. We must, therefore, turn for light to Scripture itself by examining carefully some other passages in which the word "image" is used.
     In this connection, I believe the key passage of Scripture is to be found in the incident recorded in Matthew 22:15-22. On this occasion the Scribes and Pharisees, always on the watch for opportunities to trap the Lord in His words that they might have something to accuse Him of, attempted to get Him to commit what was virtually treason against Caesar. Having in mind the injunction implied in the Mosaic law to the effect that the chosen people were debtors unto God only, they asked, "Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" The Lord Who carried no coins invited them to produce one for inspection. He then asked them a question that seemed innocent enough, "Whose is this image and superscription?" Hardly realizing the significance of the question, they readily answered, "Caesar's." Then said Jesus "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's."
     The key here, of course, is the image. That which bears the image

5. Radcliffe-Brown, A. R., The Andaman Islanders, new edition., Free Press, London, 1948.

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of Caesar is Caesar's. That which bears the image of Adam is Adam's. That which bears the image of God is God's. It is all a question of whose image it is. The man stamped with the image of God belongs to God, is His possession, His Man, His Child.
     Elsewhere in Scripture the Image is similarly taken as a symbol of belonging: he who bears the image of God belongs to God. Colossians 3:10 tells us that the recovery of the image is a creative act. Romans 8:29 tells us that the elect are predestined to the recovery of this image and that in the process, by becoming a brother of Christ, we recover our sonship of God. By direct creation Adam, while he bore the image of God, was thereby identified as a son of God (Luke 3:38) and accordingly, He who later bore the express image of the Father was the Son of God (Hebrews 1:3) -- a Second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).
     Now while Adam himself was created with this image, his disobedience so robbed him of it that all his children thereafter bore not the image of God but his -- and even his likeness (Genesis 5:3). In this particular passage, it will also be noticed that in verse 1 the fact is re-affirmed that originally when God created man, He also appointed him to be in His own likeness. The change of verb in this carefully worded sentence bears out the beautiful sense that Scripture makes provided that one treats it with sufficient care. In verse 3, it is stated that Adam's children were not merely "his sons," so that by this relationship they bore his image, but in the end their characters developed as his, so that they also came to bear his likeness. In this we once again see confirmation of the vital distinction between the words "image" and "likeness," for it is apparent that the image is that which establishes relationship, and likeness is that which establishes similarity of character. In the matter of the relationship, the choice is not ours, either in natural generation or, in the final analysis, in supernatural generation, as Romans 8:29 and John 1:12 and 13 assure us.
     On the other hand, I John 3:1 and 2 have these comforting words for the Christian:

     Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
     Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

     We have here, then, a double assurance. First of all, the image has even now been re-created. This is a present fact guaranteeing our sonship, recovering for us by a creative act of God the relationship with Him which effectively makes us men in the sense that Adam was a man.

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     Secondly, there is the further guarantee that how ever much we may fail in this mortal life to achieve a true likeness to God in Christ, we shall one day, nevertheless, see that likeness perfected, assured of awakening with it as David also was assured.
     In Romans 1:21 and following, Paul points out that idolatry in its crudest forms begins when man, unconsciously making the assumption that he bears God's image, assumes that God bears his. But the image he now bears is a fallen one, reflecting nothing of God's true glory but only the corruption of human nature; and so, re-creating God after this corrupt pattern, man changes the truth into a lie and makes a mockery of worship. The fact is, of course, that man bears the image not of unfallen Adam but of fallen Adam, of Adam after he lost the image of God. And until this Image is re-created in man, he cannot possibly achieve any God-like character. We cannot imitate God, that is, we cannot become God-like in nature, until first of all we have become His "dear children" (Ephesians 5:1), since only the children of God are partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This divine nature is not something which man has, merely by being human, but it is something only when by an act of God, as John 1:12 puts it, he becomes a son of the Father in heaven.
     It is not, therefore, the possession of a faculty that constitutes in man the Imago Dei, but the possession of a relationship. By creation, God reconstitutes in man, when he is born again, something which sets him apart from all unredeemed men and makes him a member of what is, in fact, a new species, the blameless family of God. He becomes related as a son to the Father and knows it. He knows it because the new spirit born within him bears witness to this fact in a self-conscious way and because he is assured of it by the Holy Spirit of God, whereby he cries, "Father" (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).
     As a dog recognizes a dog even when man has manipulated its form and character almost beyond canine recognition, and as a horse recognizes a horse, and as each species recognizes all other members of its own species as belonging to its own family, as its own "kind" -- so the new man in Christ recognizes by some inner perception all other members of his own "species" and acknowledges without hesitation the same Father.
     Any man so transplanted into the kingdom of God is also at the same time brought into a new relationship with the whole realm of Nature. This thought is explored much more carefully in Part II, "Nature as Part of the Kingdom of God," but it may be well to give one or two illustrations of the kind of evidence which Scripture supplies as to the fact itself. Consider, for example, the rather striking but all too

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frequently overlooked association of ideas in Matthew 6:25-34. The Lord is in this passage telling the people how the fowls of the air are the subject of God's watchful care (verse 26), how He ensures that grass shall grow to provide the basic food for all earth-bound creatures (verse 30). For after all, in the strictest biophysical sense, all flesh is grass. And then He draws from this a very practical lesson, namely, that His listeners, if they take care to make sure that they, too, belong to this kingdom, will share the same care that God shows to His other creatures. In other words, as God cares for the creatures and living things which are part of the kingdom of Nature, so He cares for those who belong to the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of Nature is, in fact, part of the kingdom of God.
     Man enters this kingdom by being born again, and without this rebirth he neither belongs to it nor understands it. In John 3:3, the word "see" in the Greek has the meaning of "understand," the usage being exactly as it is in English when after being given an explanation, one may exclaim, "Oh, I see!"
     Diametrically opposed to this kingdom is the kingdom of Satan. And it is instructive to notice that whereas Satan or his emissaries have had to ask permission of the Lord to enter into members of the kingdom of Nature, even such unclean ones as are mentioned in Matthew 8:30, 31, there is no evidence in Scripture that the demons ever sought the Lord's permission to enter into unredeemed men, such as Judas. On the other hand, Satan did have to ask permission with respect to Peter (Luke 22:31, 32), a request which was, of course, denied. Even the dead bodies of the saints seem to be inviolate, for Satan found himself similarly opposed when he sought the body of Moses (Jude 9).
     A striking recognition of these two components in the kingdom of God, the human and the animal, is accorded in a remarkable manner in Jonah 4:11. The human component is represented in this case by infants not yet able to tell their right and left hands apart; and the animal component, by "much cattle." The text reads:

     And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than 120,000 persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand . . . and much cattle?

     Wicked as Nineveh had become, God nevertheless declared it ought to be spared if for no other reason than that it contained a large number of "members" of His kingdom. Such were the animals, because unfallen: and such were the little children not yet accountable (Luke 18:16). The association of these two orders of living creatures is most significant. 

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     So redeemed man and Nature share this together, that while they suffer the effects of sin in the world, they are both nevertheless part of the kingdom of God, and in a new way akin to one another. Only unredeemed man is alien both to heaven and to earth. What a terrible thing this is! When man, quite convinced by an evolutionary philosophy that he is one with the rest of Nature, argues on this account that only if he is allowed to act "naturally" will he achieve the kind of life and the kind of society that he longs for, he is completely deceiving himself, for Nature's nature is unfallen (though disturbed by the presence of sinful man), but man's nature is not unfallen. When Nature acts naturally, it is acting according to the law of God, and the same is true when redeemed man acts according to his true nature. But when fallen man acts naturally, he is not acting according to the law of God but giving expression to his fallen state. As Barth put it, "Sin is man behaving naturally." The freedom from anxiety that living creatures have (to which the Lord Himself made reference, thereby confirming our own impressions as we watch animals) results from the fact that they live in obedience to God's law written within them, law which we refer to with little true understanding, as "instincts." Redeemed man shares this much with Nature, that he too has the law of God written within (Hebrews 8:10), though his obedience to it is by no means perfect. But natural man is in rebellion against this law, whether he realizes it or not, so that in many ways he is by nature not merely alien to, but at war with, all other creatures. When he is transplanted by a new birth, by re-creation, he experiences in an entirely new way a sense of affinity with every other part of the kingdom of God including the realm of Nature. This common experience, which amounts to a new discovery, is beautifully summed up in those perceptive verses of a well-known hymn:

Heaven above is softer blue,
Earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue
Christless eyes have never seen:
Birds with gladder song overflow,
Flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know,
I am His, and He is mine.

     Sometimes I think we do not enjoy the fullness of this sonship experience as we should, because we have failed to realize some of its implications. Were we to do so, we should perhaps be not quite so surprised at the idea of St. Francis preaching to the animals. In a way, he was merely sharing with them the Good News. 

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     In summary, then, we have proposed that true man, by biblical definition, is man bearing the image of God whereby he is related to Him as a son to the Father and is a member of the kingdom with its laws written within him, serving as the counterpart of animal instincts. The members of the kingdom of God thus share this common experience, that both are guided and governed largely from within.
     Peter Lange, (6) in his commentary on Genesis, seems to me to come very close to this position when he remarks, "Man is nowhere said (as the animals are) to be after his kind, but when this new entity is to be brought into the cosmos, God is represented as saying to himself, or as though addressing some higher associate than nature, 'Let us make man in our image.' The image, therefore, in the case of humanity may be said to stand for the 'kind' or to come in place of it." It would be a fair rendering of the word "kind " in Genesis 1 (Hebrew min) as "akin to," i.e., as offspring are "kindred to" parents. In this case, "in our image" is a parallel through a special kind of kinship, kinship with God as a child with his Father.
     Unredeemed man, lacking this relationship because he lacks the Image and lacking this system of inner guidance, is alien to that kingdom and therefore alien also to the rest of Nature which is still part of it. This total alienation both from true manhood and from Nature makes unredeemed man a unique and lonely creature. Such is the penalty of having lost the Imago Dei.

6. Lange, Peter, Commentary on Holy Scripture: Genesis, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, reprint p.355.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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