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Humanity ‘made in the image of God’- what does that mean?

October 31, 2015

imago deiSubstantive

locates the image of God within the psychological or spiritual makeup of the human being.

shared substance between both parties

the rational soul mirrors the divine

capacity unique to humanity such as reason or will

humanity’s capacity to have a relationship with the divine

among early Patristic Theologians like Irenaeus and Augustine, and Medieval Theologians, like Aquinas.

Irenaeus, unlike later Reformation Theologians, believes that the essential nature of humanity was not lost or corrupted by the fall
Irenaeus also draws a sharp line between image and likeness. Humankind before the fall was in the image of God through the ability to exercise free will and reason. And we were in the likeness of God through an original spiritual endowment.

Augustine describes a Trinitarian formula in the image of God – memory, intellect, and will

Morally, we have an inner sense of right and wrong. Our likeness to God is reflected when we act according to God’s moral standards, and our unlikeness to Him is reflected whenever we sin.

Mentally, we have an ability to reason and learn; to use complex, abstract language; to be creative in such areas as art, music, literature, and technology; and to experience a complexity of emotions.

Physically, our bodies reflect something of God’s character, for example in its enabling us to see; and our ability to bear and raise children like ourselves reflects God’s ability to create humans (and angels) who are like Himself.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1711 Endowed with a spiritual soul, with intellect and with free will, the human person is from his very conception ordered to God and destined for eternal beatitude. He pursues his perfection in “seeking and loving what is true and good”

imago dei 2Relational

one must be in a relationship with God in order to possess the ‘image’ of God.
Karl Barth and Emil Brunner argue that it is our ability to establish and maintain complex and intricate relationships that make us like God.
male and female is intended to culminate in spiritual as well as physical unions

“Its nature as an image has to do with the fact that it goes beyond itself and manifests something that it is not….It is the dynamic that sets the human being in motion towards the totally Other. Hence it means the capacity for relationship; it is the human capacity for God.” Pope Benedict XVI


a role in the created order, where humankind is a king or ruler over creation/the earth.
held by most modern Old Testament/Hebrew Bible scholars – texts where specific kings are exalted as “images” of their respective deities and rule based on divine mandate.

Many Mesopotamian religions at the time contained anthropomorphic conceptions of their deities, and some scholars have seen this in Genesis’s use of the word “image.” There is some evidence that “imago dei” language appeared in many Mesopotamian and Near Eastern cultures where kings were often labeled as images of certain gods or deities and thus, retained certain abilities and responsibilities, such as leading certain cults. This is historically evident in how ancient Egyptians often worshiped their pharaohs as gods, or the human “images” of their deities.

Ecological impact – image of god as caregiver over created order.
negative message about persons with disabilities

creativity – when we birth new possibilities

God is looking after her creation and calling it forth to ever higher evolution.
God likes playing because God is love. Aquinas said that love is of the nature to pour itself forth. It is effusive of itself. Creation is like a dance, an exuberant pouring forth of energy.

Or picture God as a violin player playing a cosmic tune or a singer for whom we are the songs.
If we live life to the full, we are God’s best tunes, we live the life of the trinity.

physical body and the Imago Dei in 2 Corinthians 4:4, in which Paul claims that Jesus Christ, in his entire being, is the image of God.
In 2 Corinthians 4:10, Paul states that Christians are “always carrying the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” However, in v. 16 he states that though the external body is “wasting away,” the inner being is renewed each day. In sum, for Paul it seems that being restored in Christ and inheriting the Image of God leads to an actual corporeal change. As one changes internally, so too does one’s body change

Irenaeus because the Son is modelled after the Father, humans are likewise modelled after the Son and therefore bear a physical likeness to the Son.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1701 “Christ, . . . in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, makes man fully manifest to himself and brings to light his exalted vocation.”2 It is in Christ, “the image of the invisible God,”3 that man has been created “in the image and likeness” of the Creator.
1702 The divine image is present in every man. It shines forth in the communion of persons, in the likeness of the unity of the divine persons among themselves
1705 By virtue of his soul and his spiritual powers of intellect and will, man is endowed with freedom, an “outstanding manifestation of the divine image.”

The Imago Dei concept had a very strong influence on the creation of human rights.
Puritan Revolution as an affirmation of the religious liberty of all persons. The concept was based not only on natural reason but also on the Christian struggle for liberty, justice, and peace for all.

For centuries, the female body was seen as inferior and the masculine as normative.
bodily phenomena typically associated with sin and taboo (e.g. menstruation), have been redeemed as essential pieces of the female experience relatable to spirituality.

theologians have examined the difference between the concepts of the “image of God” and the “likeness of God” in human nature

בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ image כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ likeness

imago dei 3Medieval theologians made a distinction between the image and likeness of God. The former referred to a natural, innate resemblance to God and the latter referred to the moral attributes (God’s attributes) that were lost in the fall.

However, the medieval distinction between the “image” and “likeness” of God has largely been abandoned by modern interpreters.

Since about the time of the Reformation, scholars have recognized that this [image/likeness distinction] does not suit the text itself. First, there is no “and” joining “in our image” with “after our likeness.” Second, in Genesis 1:27 we find simply “in God’s image”; and finally, in Genesis 5:1 God made man “in the likeness of God.” The best explanation for these data is to say that “in the image” and “after the likeness” refer to the same thing, with each clarifying the other. C. John Collins:

‘Image and likeness’ is a ‘Hebraism’. It was common in speech and writing to repeat an idea using two different words

Rabbinic interpretation of the substantive view

focuses on the function of image of God in kingship language.
While a monarch is cast in the image or likeness of God to differentiate him ontologically from other mortals, Torah’s B’reishit portrays the image as democratic: every human is cast in God’s image and likeness.
the image and likeness of God is transmitted through the act of procreation

Mekhilta D’Rabi Ishmael, the First of the Ten Commandments is held in parallel with the Sixth Commandment: “I am the LORD your God,” and “Do not murder.” Harming a human is likened to attacking God.

2 Enoch 44:1-3: The Lord with his own two hands created mankind; and in a facsimile of his own face. Small and great the Lord created. Whoever insults a person’s face insults the face of the Lord; whoever treats a person’s face with repugnance treats the face of the Lord with repugnance. Whoever treats with contempt the face of any person treats the face of the Lord with contempt. (There is) anger and judgement (for) whoever spits on a person’s face.

2 Enoch 65:2: 2 And however much time there was went by. Understand how, on account of this, he constituted man in his own form, in accordance with a similarity. And he gave him eyes to see, ears to hear, and heart to think, and reason to argue.

2 Enoch 65 speaks of humankind’s relation to God as “constituted in his own image,” while simultaneously noting this image is “a similarity,” rather than something that is directly imaging God.

Wisdom of Solomon 2:23: 23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity.

Sirach 17:1-4: 1The Lord created man of the earth, and turned him into it again. He gave them few days, and a short time, and power also over the thing therein. He endued them with strength by themselves, and made them according to his image, And put the fear of man upon all flesh, and gave him dominion over beasts and fowls.

2 Esdras 8:44: But people, who have been formed by your hands and are called your own image because they are made like you, and for whose sake you have formed all things – have you also made them like the farmer’s seed?

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From → Biblical, Doctrine

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