The Field Work Begins

Well, here we are, all assembled in the Garden of Eden, where humanity began, and where our trail begins. Let’s have a look at where the very first mention of God’s image is found in Scripture:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 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 (NASB)

One thing is very clear from the start; Man was created in God’s image, His likeness; there isn’t anything hidden in this is there?

It doesn’t appear so at first glance, the English of the New American Standard Bible is clear, concise and fairly literal in its translation. Even so, it is a translation from ancient Hebrew, and particularly when we are basing a study on a specific word, we need to check the original language to verify the translations.* When I checked, I found that the Hebrew word translated “image” in the English is tsehlem, and for good measure, the Hebrew word translated “likeness” is demuth. Here are the definitions:

tsehlem:  from an unused root meaning to shade; a phantom, i.e. (figuratively) illusion, resemblance; hence, a representative figure, especially an idol:—image, vain shew. (Strong’s H6754)

demuth: resemblance; concretely, model, shape; adverbially, like:—fashion, like (-ness, as), manner, similitude. (Strong’s H1823)

when we look at these two definitions, we might be slightly confused with the first one, since there can be a connotation with an idol, and in fact this word is used multiple times in the Old Testament to mean just that; an image, an idol. Yet when you think about it, “image” is exactly the point, and not all images are images of false gods. A photograph is an image, which is why we go to Google and do an “image search” when we want a picture of something or someone, for the image looks just like the real thing. A photographic image of you bears your likeness, and so it would appear that Man bears the likeness or image of God; we look like Him, or at least, when humans were first created, we looked like Him.

There are some leads in these two verses that we will need to follow up on, but first, it seems to me that we need to ask ourselves a question:

Knowing what happens in Genesis 3 when the woman, and then the man chose to eat from that one tree they were forbidden to eat from, did the resulting fall, and its consequences cancel out this image thing? We need to look into this now, because if it cancelled out God’s image within us, then what’s the point of going forward? Our questions would be answered; the fact that we were created in the image of God at the beginning really makes no difference now. However, if the image and likeness of God were neither cancelled nor revoked after the fall, then we have a great deal of exploring left to do.

So here’s what I did to find out: I went to Bible Gateway and searched for “image of God” (with quotes) and I got three hits: First, I got Genesis 1:27 (above) and then I got Genesis 9:6, and finally 2 Corinthians 4:4. Here they are:

Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man?

Genesis 9:6 (NASB)

 in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

2 Cor. 4:4 (NASB)

It would appear that we have something of value here, but without looking further, we only have a couple of “proof texts” which may or may not prove anything, so I’d better follow my own rules and check out the context…

Genesis 9:6

Holy heart attack! I looked this verse up, and I found that it falls within the context of Gen. 9:1 -29, which falls within the overall context of Gen. 7-9; the Flood. Chapter 9 is God making His covenant with Noah, whereby God promises to never again destroy the earth by a flood, and gives Noah some terms to follow, one of which is found in vv. 5-6; that stipulation is that we are not to shed man’s blood (murder), and if we do, our blood will be shed by man, and God gives His reason for this: We are made in His image. In Genesis 9:6, God Himself is speaking to Noah; it is an imperative command of God! Thus, this confirms that the image of God is still intact in us after the fall.

2 Corinthians 4:4

This verse falls within the larger context beginning in 2 Cor. 2:12 and running through chapter 5 about the ministry of reconciliation. Throughout this section in various ways, Paul makes the point that Jesus is the source of our message, of our resolve and of our calling as Christians, not ourselves, for Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, and we, as ministers of reconciliation, are vessels of clay through which He ministers in this world. God is seen in Jesus (image, likeness) and Jesus is seen in us (image, likeness).

Of course Paul didn’t write this in Hebrew, for he wrote in Greek, and the word he was using was eikon (from which we get our English word “icon”) and guess what it means? Yes sir, it means “image, likeness”.

Therefore, not only is the image of God present in Man after the Fall, it is present all the more with us in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but I would have to say that our exploring is just getting started, and we have some leads to follow up on in the next post. Certainly there are two that I can’t wait to get into: First is, who is the “us” and “our” we found in our verses, and second is this: Are women created in the image of God, or is it just men? We’ll see how far along we get next time!


* For the purposes of this study, I’m using the Blue Letter Bible which is free and easy to use if you’d like to check my work in finding the meaning of the original words.


About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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14 Responses to The Field Work Begins

  1. pipermac5 says:

    Genesis 9:6 should blow huge gaping holes in the dogma of those who believe that mankind lost God’s image in the fall, but they would say that Genesis is “just history” so we can’t base our theology on it. What other parts of the Bible do they also want to throw out?



    • Don Merritt says:

      Steve, you’ve touched on something there that should be a warning to all of us, for in my experience, once a person signs on to a doctrinal perspective, they’ll throw out pretty much anything to win and argument!

  2. Matt Brumage says:

    Ironically, you’ve hit on one of the words which some scholars point to in order to build a case for this passage being a late development of Hebrew thought. “demuth” is supposed to be an Aramaic “loan word” only used in later Hebrew writings.

    Hogwash. The roots of Hebrew words and Aramaic words have the same source, and simply because this word is fairly rare among Hebrew writing doesn’t make it late for all Hebrew writing. The exilic writings where it’s found (Ezekiel and Daniel) only support the common root (Semitic), not dependence. It’s also found in early Isaiah, 2 Kings, and various Psalms (notoriously difficult to date).

    So, the “image of God” is not a late development of Hebrew thought, but a very early concept which I suspect we’ll find supports a whole host of other things God teaches His people, and teaches them right from the beginning.

    By the way, I love the Blue Letter Bible site. I refer to it in the Bible study I lead regularly. I also use the app on my tablet.

  3. Cate B says:

    Well Holy Heart Attack! I am enjoying this series…. come on….. 😀

  4. peggywright says:

    Interesting. See you tomorrow.

  5. Thanks for those two verses – in context – Don. Already, mind blown, and we’ve only just begun!

  6. I found it interesting that the Hebrew word for “image” can be translated “idol,” and the Greek word that Paul uses is the root for “icon” (which some people consider to be a form of an idol).

    • Don Merritt says:

      Yes, it really is an interesting twist that an idol is the image of a false god, and we are created in the image of the one and true God; the idols are the counterfeits in more than one way.

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