The Image of God

The Image of God is a concept and theological doctrine in Christianity and Judaism which asserts that human beings are created in God‘s image and therefore have inherent value independent of their utility or function.

  • 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 1:26-27 ESV)

Man in the image of God; what does this mean in practical terms? It cannot refer to bodily, biological form since God is a Spirit and man is earthly. But while it may be true that the body does not belong to the image, since God does not have a body, yet somehow we would like to see man’s body (which is a very real part of man) included in the image. Language and creativity,—two important parts of the image, are impossible without a body. And God the Almighty agreed to share with man dominion and authority over the animal kingdom (Genesis 1:28), an activity in which the whole man, body as well as mind, is involved. Furthermore the Son of God honored the human body by becoming flesh and dwelling among men (John 1:14) (Hebrews 2:14). C. S. Lewis suggests that before the Fall, the first man, Adam mirrored Christ the man of Galilee even more nearly than Christ would have resembled his own half-brothers. If this is so, it seems almost blasphemy to consider Adam sired by a shambling ape.

  • And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
    (Genesis 1:28 ESV)
  • And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
    (John 1:14 ESV)
  • Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.
    (Hebrews 2:14 ESV)
  • Answers in Genesis: Man – The Image of God

Humans in God’s image were intended at creation to bring glory to God as people who hadn’t sinned. Fallen humanity hasn’t lost the image of God, but the image is tarnished. “With Adam’s moral freedom to choose,” says Mark, “he rebelled against God, which has profoundly damaged the image of God in humanity and affects us in all areas of life. Through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, God is now restoring his original image in humans as they are transformed by following Jesus Christ.” The writer of Hebrews says of Jesus that “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:3-4). Jesus shows us who God is and what God is like.

  • He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
    (Hebrews 1:3-4 ESV)
  • Thinking Through Faith: What is the “Image of God”?

The Torah has additional references that indicate that mankind was created in the image of God.

  • .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.
    (Genesis 5:1-3 ESV)
  • “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.
    (Genesis 9:6 ESV)

We are made in God’s image, but the potential value of this image will not be realized unless we become conformed to the image of Christ in our morality. To be living in God’s image, we must be in a right (i.e., moral) relationship with God and with other humans, using our minds and our authority to serve God and our fellow humans. This is what it means to be in the image of God and conformed to the perfect image, his Son.

The Holy Bible states that Jesus Christ is the visible image of God.

  • He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.
    (Colossians 1:13-16 ESV)
  • In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
    (2 Corinthians 4:4-7 ESV)
  • GotQuestons: What does it mean that man is made in the “image of God”

The Serpent’s Seed

Serpent seed, dual seed or two-seedline is a controversial doctrine according to which the serpent in the Garden of Eden mated with Eve, and the offspring of their union was Cain. This belief is still held among some scholars, theologians and members of the Corpus Christendom.

Unfortunately, this doctrine has been used by some adherents of the Christian Identity Movement, who claim that the Jews, as descendants of Cain, are also descended from the serpent. They have employed their twisted version of this doctrine to justify their racist and antisemitic agendas.

The Holy Bible describes the fall of man in Genesis when Moses wrote, “Now the serpent [H5175] was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the mother of all living. Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:1-24 KJV).

Here we see the familiar narrative of the fall of Adam and Eve. Satan, disguised as a serpent confronts Eve as was she is in the garden. Satan convinces her that God is holding out on her because he does not want her to be like him. She eats the forbidden fruit and gives it to Adam. The result is a judgment from God, removal from the Garden of Eden and a fallen and depraved world. All of this came from one act of disobedience.

The foundational scripture for the serpent’s seed doctrine appears in Genesis 3:15, which in the King James Version says, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Advocates interpret this literally to mean that an offspring of the Serpent via Eve would eventually lose in a mortal conflict with one of “her seed”. Eve’s son by Adam would have presumably been called “Adam’s seed” so it has been suggested, since a woman does not naturally produce seed, that “her seed” is the first prophesy of an eventual human messiah produced by means of a virgin birth. Adherents believe this sets up the serpent’s seed as an antitype to Yeshua Ha’Mashiach (Jesus Christ).

The remainder of this article will provide a logical answer to a question I have heard many times over the years, that is, why was Eve not at all surprised that a “serpent” (nachash) was speaking to her. It will also provide a starting point for critical examination of the Scriptures, hopefully inspiring the reader to think more deeply about alternate interpretations to passages of Scripture in the Holy Bible. As with prophecy and parables, sometimes a passage of Scripture may have dual or even multiple interpretations. I make no claim that what this article will present is the biblically  correct interpretation as extra-biblical texts were referenced to illustrate and draw these conclusions. Nonetheless, the conclusions and interpretations do provide an interesting alternative aspect to Scriptures that many readers may have never considered.

In the third chapter of the Book of Genesis, the word used for “serpent” [H5175] is “nachash” in the original Hebrew manuscripts. Nachash means the “shining one” or “glistening one.” The root word (etymology) for “nachash” is also “nachash” [H5172] which means “to hiss or whisper” and specially used as the “whispering of soothsayers. Lucifer is a title ascribed to a chief fallen spiritual being in Isaiah chapter 14. Used in a modern context as a proper name for Satan though the title is neither a name nor describes Satan. Most applicably applied to a fallen Watcher, the Hebrew title is literally “heylel:, literally ” to shine or boast”.

Eve was not talking to a snake. She was speaking to a bright, shining, upright being who was serpentine in appearance, and who was trying to bewitch her with lies. She was in the presence of one of the sons of God [B’nai Elohim], a created angelic beings who had free will, who were much more powerful than mere angels. She was speaking to a member of the divine council who did not share God’s enthusiasm for His new creation, mankind, to whom He had just given rule over the planet (Genesis 1:26-27). Many scholars and theologians believe that the Nachash’s motive for seducing Eve was jealousy at humanity’s appointment as supreme authority under God on earth, as opposed to the sons of God being appointed to that role on Earth.

  • The Real Mother of All Humanity
  • And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.
    (Genesis 4:1 KJV)

There are many possible ways to translate the above phrase from Hebrew (the language of the original manuscript) to English. The Targum Yonasan ben Uziel offers a unique translation of the verse in the following manner:

“And Adam knew that Eve, his wife, lusted with an Angel and she conceived and she gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man with the Angel of God.”
(Targum Yonasan, Bereishis 4:1)

Targum Yonasan ben Uziel says that Cain was not Adam’s son at all; Cain was a product of the union of Eve and an angel. The Peirush Yonason, a commentary on Targum Yonasan further elucidates:

  • “Adam understood that Cain’s appearance was not that of the lower regions [Earth], but rather from the upper regions [Heaven]. Therefore he knew that the Angel Samael in his lust for Eve had come upon her, and this is the meaning of “a man with Hashem” — with an Angel of God.”

It is clear that Samael, who also happens to be the Yeitzer Hara, Satan, The Angel of Death (Malach Ha’Mavet) and the Guardian Angel of Esau, is, according to this extraordinary Midrash, the true father of Cain the murderer, the first “naturally born” human being.

The Yalkut Shimoni, a compendium of Midrashic material, (Bereishis 4:35) elaborates, in the name of Rabban Yishmael: The rider of the snake came upon her, and she conceived Cain, after which Adam came upon her and she conceived Abel, as it is written, “And the man knew Eve his wife.” What did he know? He knew she conceived, and she saw that her son’s demeanor was not from the earth, but rather, from the upper regions. And she understood and said, “I have gotten a man from [an Angel of] G-d.”

Before Adam was created, a natural rival to Adam existed, capable of challenging him for supremacy. That being was apparently capable of speech, and was cunning and passionate, to the extent that it identified itself as a replacement for Adam. That creature was the Nachash Kadmoni — “Primordial Snake.” This view is evidenced by the Gemara (Sotah 9:) which describes the “original snake” as:King of the animals…walking erect on two feet…eating the same food as man…and plotting to kill Adam, so that it could marry Eve.

The obvious purpose of the snake was to shake Adam out of a state of complacency, forcing him to achieve his potential. Adam would have to recognize his own greatness, and define the distinctions between himself and the serpent. Unfortunately, Adam failed. The Maharal (Chidushei Aggados Sotah 9•) explains that the snake was far from being an equal of Adam. It was merely a creation, programmed by Hashem, designed to challenge Adam in
certain specific areas. In order to compete in these limited areas, Hashem endowed it with qualities of greatness, as man obviously would not be challenged by a creature whose stature is far below his. Hence it was imperative that the snake possess great attributes.As a creature, however, it only approached, but it did not really rival Adam. It was endowed with limited greatness in order to serve as a test for Man. Man failed this test.

We find a similar thesis in Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer (13). The angels were jealous of the superior qualities of Adam, and plotted his downfall. The Malach Samael volunteered to sabotage Adam, by seeking out the most clever of the animals, the snake (Bereishis3:1), and investing it with great powers. This enhanced being was now poised to challenge Adam. This explains the language of the Yalkut Shimoni (Bereishis 4:35):    — “rider of the snake.”

It was actually Samael controlling the snake. Thus, when Rashi (Sotah 9:) declares that the snake had marital relations with Eve, he means that Samael, controlling the actions of the snake, actually had relations with Eve. Samael’s actions resulted in Adam’s sin, and Adam’s subsequent decline to the status of mere mortal (see Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 2:30). Samael’s relations with Eve produced Cain, and with Cain came the introduction of evil into
the “genome” of mankind (see Shabbos 146; see Rashi (ibid.)).

Mankind Was Created in the Image of God

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. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
(Genesis 1:26-31 ESV)

Out of all of God’s creation, only mankind was created in the image of God. But was does it mean to be created in the image of God?

The Hebrew word for “image” used in Genesis 1:26 is tselem (צֶלֶם), Strong’s H6754. The usage of this word suggests that man is made in the likeness or resemblance of God.

God clearly does not have a body of flesh and bones. Yeshua said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24 KJV).

In the Book of Revelation, John wrote, “And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. And out of the throne proceeded lightnings and thunderings and voices: and there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:2-5 KJV).

Certain groups, notably the Mormons, have committed the error of saying that God the Father has a body, and have thus become anthropomorphites, people who say that God has a human form.

This form of doctrinal decay has also set in among certain segments of American Evangelicalism, most notably in the Pentecostal Word Faith movement. Many Evangelicals have (temporarily or permanently) bought into the idea that the Father has a body.

Anthropomorphites argue that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) and point to verses that refer to the strong right arm of God, the eyes of God, and so forth.

Tatian the Syrian said, “Our God has no introduction in time. He alone is without beginning, and is himself the beginning of all things. God is a spirit, not attending upon matter, but the maker of material spirits and of the appearances which are in matter. He is invisible, being himself the Father of both sensible and invisible things.”

The Bible is clear that mankind, unlike the rest of creation,  is made in the image of God. Furthermore, the Bible repeats this truth after sin enters the world, which means even though sin has stained and marred us, we remain God’s image bearers.

Part of being made in God’s image is that Adam had the capacity to make free choices. Although he was given a righteous nature, Adam made an evil choice to rebel against his Creator. In so doing, Adam marred the image of God within himself, and he passed that damaged likeness on to all his descendants (Romans 5:12). Today, we still bear the image of God (James 3:9), but we also bear the scars of sin. Mentally, morally, socially, and physically, we show the effects of sin.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.
(Romans 5:12-13 ESV)

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.
(James 3:7-10 ESV)

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11 KJV).

John Calvin wrote the following comments on Colossians 3:10:

“We are renewed after the image of God. Hence, too we learn, on the one hand, what is the end of our regeneration, that is, that we may be made like God, and that His glory may shine forth in us; and, on the other hand, what is the image of God, of which mention is made by Moses in Genesis 9:6, the rectitude and integrity of the whole soul, so that man reflects, like a mirror, the wisdom, righteousness, and goodness of God. He speaks somewhat differently in the Epistle to the Ephesians, but the meaning is the same. Paul, at the same time, teaches, that there is nothing more excellent at which the Colossians can aspire, inasmuch as this is our highest perfection and blessedness to bear the image of God.”

What John Calvin is saying is that to image God is to “mirror” His invisible attributes to the world, somewhat like Moses, who radiated the glory of God after being in God’s presence. Therefore we are not to reflect Adam, the culture or even ourselves to the world. Rather God has bestowed upon us the amazing ability and awesome responsibility to be His mirrors on the earth, reflecting His goodness and glory to all for His glory and our joy. All persons are God’s image in a basic sense, but Christians image Him more than non-Christians and mature Christians do so even more.

God formed man from the dust and gave him life by sharing His own breath (Genesis 2:7). Accordingly, man is unique among all God’s creations, having both a material body and an immaterial soul/spirit.

The good news is that when God redeems an individual, He begins to restore the original image of God, creating a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). That redemption is only available by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from the sin that separates us from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through Christ, we are made new creations in the likeness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The image of God is generally held to mean that people contain within their nature elements that reflect God’s nature: compassion, reason, love, hate, patience, kindness, self-awareness, etc. Man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Though we have a physical image, it does not mean that God has one. Rather, God is spirit (John 4:24), not flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).

Yeshua alone has imaged God perfectly. Many New Testament Scriptures, and even Yeshua Himself, declare this.

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.
(Colossians 1:11-16 ESV)

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
(Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me.
(John 12:44-45 ESV)

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
(John 14:8-11 ESV)

Yeshua told is how we can best mirror the image of God and the radiance of His Glory as Moses did. Yeshua said, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16 ESV).