Saturday, January 19, 2013

In what sense are humans made in the image of God?

Genesis 1:27 says
So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them.
Over the centuries there have been a multitude of interpretations as to what this actually means. Is it mostly to do with physiology, rational capacities, sexuality, relationality, morality, emotions, something else, or some combination?

Vinoth Ramachandra discussed this at some length at the class I was involved with at Lanka Bible College two weeks ago. I found his perpective very helpful and challenging.

One should read this passage in the cultural and political context of the ancient world in which is was written. Then conquering kings would establish their rule and authority over regions by placing statues of themselves in conquered territory. These "images" of the ruler were to be respected by his subjects. To disrespect the image was to disrespect the ruler. Subjects showed honour and respect for the king by showing honour and respect for the statue.

Every human, whatever their sex, race, social standing, nationality, religion, or morality, is made in God's image. They are God's representative on earth. We are to respect, value, and honour them. If we do not show respect to another human we are actually showing a lack of respect to God, YHWH, the Creator of the universe.

Another side to the "image of God" is that, just like the statue, humans are God's representative or ambassador. Hence, we are to live in ways that honour and represent God (not ourselves) to others.


  1. One could argue some people (such as a King or Pope) are more representative of God in certain areas, than others. A hydrogen atom is also an image of God, but humans are more "God-like". What if a scientist like Feynman is more equal than the rest of us?

    Have you ever considered the separation of church and state? If that is a good thing, then does that mean God wishes to not be respected explicitly? We worship Him implicitly through the study of science, which I view as the modern state religion.

  2. Tinos

    Thanks for the comments and questions.
    Here are I am focussing on what the Bible text actually says. A Pope or King may claim to be more representative of God, but that is not what Genesis 1 is say.
    Feynman is certainly a better scientist than all of us. However, that does not make him more valuable in God's eyes. Genesis is saying that he is no more special than an illiterate.

    Church and state is the subject for another day.