2 Corinthians 4:4 ... 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. (NASB)

Why does Paul refer to Jesus as the "image of" God in this context? Is Paul being careful so that those who see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ know that they are not actually seeing God but rather God's reflection revealed in the face of Jesus Christ, his "image"? And being only an image, there is no danger of death by seeing so no veil is required?

  • 1
    We can't imagine an image being bearable to mean it isn't personally God you are seeing, because Scripture says Moses saw God under a visible form that didn't kill Him, likewise Isaiah, and so on. 'You cannot see my face and live' clearly therefore means you cannot see the unveiled nature of God as He is, but only a manifestation visibly of one or more of His attributes. Sep 15, 2018 at 12:59
  • So by Paul saying that Jesus is the "image of God" and since he can be gazed upon, then Jesus must be "only a manifestation visibly of one or more of His attributes"?
    – Ruminator
    Sep 15, 2018 at 13:05
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    Because it is a glorified human nature that you are seeing. God's divine nature isn't glorified. No one will ever see God except those in heaven. They can't. Sep 15, 2018 at 13:19
  • 1
    Why does Paul refer to Jesus as the “image of” God in this context ? - He seems to be contrasting the god of this world with the (true) God, whose image Christ is. See also John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11; Ephesians 2:2.
    – Lucian
    Sep 17, 2018 at 1:06
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    @Ruminator: The gods of this world have their own idolatrous images; the image of the true God is Christ.
    – Lucian
    Sep 17, 2018 at 23:02

6 Answers 6


First, the subtle paradox is to be recognized in the words, "image of the invisible [i.e. not having a visible element] God." Immediately one considers that something else is meant by 'image.' A representation or display for sure, but not merely visual. An intimation of what God is, but not visibly.. but rather personally.

I'm reminded of a passage in Wisdom 7 which appears to have been in the author of Hebrews' mind in chapter 1:

Wisdom 7:24-27 (DRB)

For wisdom is more active than all active things: and reacheth everywhere by reason of her purity. 25 For she is a vapour of the power of God, and a certain pure emanation of the glory of the almighty God: and therefore no defiled thing cometh into her. 26 For she is the brightness* of eternal light, and the unspotted mirror of God's majesty, and the image of his goodness.

Hebrews 1:3 (DRB)

[The Son] Who being the brightness* of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high.

* The Greek word ἀπαύγασμα translated "brightness" (but which more accurately means 'effulgence') appears only here and in Wisdom in all of the Bible. Couple this with the unity of subject matter and we have a solid case for this being in the mind of the writer.

Wisdom is personified to a great extent in this Book (and indeed the other wisdom literature) in preparation for themes taken up and developed further in the New Testament (cf. 1 Cor 1:24). Notably, Wisdom is deified quite unhesitatingly, and without scruple: intended to show that Wisdom is spoken of as distinct from God more or less as a rhetorical device—God has never been without Wisdom (Jn 1:1; cf. Lk 7:35); and how could He have been?

God is invisible because an infinite and ineffable Being cannot have a literal shape or dimension by definition, and thus no 'appearance' that isn't percieved purely by other means than what we would consider 'vision.' The image of this God must therefore 'relate' or otherwise 'show forth' the nature of God, much like an icon relates doctrine by visible image yet doesn't pretend to comprehensively suffice as a representation of the figures (i.e. be the thing represented).

A very striking passage is found in John, where we read that the Apostles ask to be shown the Father. Note Jesus' response:

John 14:8 (DRB) Philip saith to him: Lord, shew us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus saith to him: Have I been so long a time with you; and have you not known me? Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also. How sayest thou, Shew us the Father?

Cf. John 14:7.

This is so interesting. Jesus is not the Father (Jn 15:26; Mt 3:17) but:

John 1:18 (DRB)

No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The word translated 'declared' is perhaps closer to 'explain' or 'reveal' or 'relate faithfully.' This passage explicitly precludes the notion that those that saw God in the Old Testament were seeing the Father, and that rather they saw the Son:

John 12:37-41 (DRB)

And whereas he had done so many miracles before them, they believed not in him: 38 That the saying of Isaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he said:

Lord, who hath believed our hearing? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaias said again:

40 He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

41 These things said Isaias, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him.

Isaiah 6:1-10 LXX (Brenton)

And it came to pass in the year in which king Ozias died, that I saw the Lord sitting on a high and exalted throne, and the house was full of his glory. ... For the heart of this people has become gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

Cf. 1 Corinthians 2:8; Isaiah 44:6/Revelation 2:8.

The Son is God the Father to His creation. His Word. His manifest intent and communication otherwise unknowable (Mt 11:27). This is how we deal with the paradoxical 'image of [something invisible].' When God makes Himself known, that is the Son.

  • Intuitive and informative. (+1).
    – Nigel J
    Sep 15, 2018 at 22:40
  • God is "invisible" only in that we can't see him from where we are. He is invisible to us because if we see him we die. But why does Paul mention that Jesus is God's image in this context? What is his point?
    – Ruminator
    Sep 16, 2018 at 10:55
  • @ Sola Nice insight into the "image of the invisible" +1
    – alb
    Sep 16, 2018 at 14:05
  • John 1:18 is interesting: often translated as 'only begotten Son', the Greek words literally translate in this case as 'only begotten God'... Oct 11, 2018 at 4:32
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    I have come to think that the whole fiasco of confusion on this matter derives from Plato via Philo.
    – Ruminator
    Nov 14, 2020 at 18:18

In 2 Corinthians 4:4 why does Paul call Jesus the “image of God”?

2 Corinthians 4:4 ... 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. (NASB)

The Son of God made his appearance as a perfect human creature by birth through the virgin Mary. He was really the ‘second Adam’ or second perfect man on earth. (1 Cor. 15:45)

1 Corinthians 15:45 NASB

45 So also it is written: “The first man, Adam, became a living [a]person.” The last Adam was a life-giving spirit.

We can say of this ‘second Adam,’ Jesus Christ, that he, too, was like his Father in heaven. (Heb. 1:3)

Hebrews 1:3 NASB

3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and [b]upholds all things by [c]the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Col. 1:15)

While Jesus was made in the image of his Father in heaven, he never sought to be equal with God, for we read:

Philippians 2:5-8 KJV

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus was so much like his Father, so much in harmony with His righteous ways and life, that when he spoke, the listener would not be hearing something that Jesus was thinking up of his own imagination. Why? Because the Bible says:

“(John 5-19-20 NASB)

" Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever [a]the Father does, these things the Son also does in the same way. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will be amazed."

All anointed members of the Christian congregation are foreordained by God to be patterned after the image of his Son.Having borne the earthly “image of the one made of dust [Adam],” as spirit creatures they thereafter bear “the image of the heavenly one [the last Adam, Christ Jesus].” (1Co 15:45, 49 Rom. 8:20)

Romans 8:29 NASB

29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters;

Jesus is not God for after purification of sins sat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Heb. 1:3) , and being an image of God,He cannot be the original, hence Jesus is not God, but the "IMAGE" of God


Jesus clearly declared saying, “Not that anyone HAS SEEN the Father, EXCEPT He who is from God; He HAS SEEN the Father. (John 6:46)” God is Spirit (John 4:24); therefore, incorporeal WITHOUT physical form to be seen by human. Apostle John also declared this truth saying, “No one has seen God AT ANY TIME. The ONLY begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Because God is INVISIBLE (Col. 1:15) and therefore CANNOT change from eternity to eternity (Psalm 90:2; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17); Jesus is the IMAGE (persona: Hebrews 1:3) of the INVISIBLE God for He, Jesus, is the ONLY ONE who has seen God.

  • Consistent to John 1:18, apostle Paul did declare the following in 1Timothy 6:15-16: “… which He (Jesus) will manifest (declare) …, He who is the blessed and only Potentate (Sovereign), the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has IMMORTALITY, dwelling in UNAPPROACHABLE light, whom NO MAN HAS SEEN or CAN SEE, …” Please note that the texts in brackets are added by me to indicate my understanding. Jul 10, 2021 at 14:28

Because Jesus is, to coin a phrase, he was, the living image (copy) of his Father (creator).

Jesus said at:-

John 14:9 "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also. . . ."

To put it another way, he was just like Jehovah in that he reflected personality perfectly. ethos


The point of using “image” in 2 Cor 4:4 is another reference to Christ’s deity.

2 points relative to your questioning Paul's usage of the word “image”.

There is a very interesting usage of the same word EIKON (image) in Hebrews 10:1 (AKJV)

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.

In this verse, the writer is pointing out that the law is only a metaphor for the true spiritual reality. He says the law is a shadow and not the very image of the heavenly things. In this usage the word “image” represents the actual reality.

Hebrews 1:1-3 (AKJV)

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;

“Express Image”:

Strongs: Greek CHARAKTER: exact copy;

Vines: “In the NT it is used metaphorically in Heb 1:3 of the Son of God as ‘the very image’ (marg ‘the impress’) of His substance. The phrase expresses the fact that the Son is both personally distinct from and yet literally equal to, Him of whose essence He is the adequate imprint (Liddon). The Son of God in not merely his image (His CHARAKETER). He is the image or impress of his substance or essence. It is the fact of complete similarity which this word stresses in comparison with those mentioned at the end of No 1. (EIKON).” “In John 1:1-3, Col 1:15-17 and Heb 1:2-3, the special function of creating and upholding the universe in ascribed to Christ under His titles of Word, Image and Son, respectively. The kind of Creatorship so predicated of Him is not that of a mere instrument or artificer in the formation of the world, but the One by whom, in whom and for whom all things were made and through whom they subsist. This implies the assertion of His true and absolute Godhead (Laidlaw, in Hastings’ Bib. Dic).”

  • 3
    To say that something is an image of something else is to say that it is not the thing itself. At least in the normal use of language. So if he wanted to say "Jesus is Almighty God" why doesn't he say so? Why not say, "God is a Trinity - eternally existing in 3 co-equal persons? Instead he says the father alone is God and Jesus is the image of God (as was Adam). What's his point? If, as you say, his point is that Jesus is eternally co-equal to God then he's doing a really lousy job.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 16, 2018 at 14:20
  • Well, I would remember that it's the Holy Spirit who chose the words leaving room for faith. BTW, did you not read Hebrews 10:1? The verse says the image is the thing! "The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves." (NIV)
    – alb
    Sep 16, 2018 at 15:32
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    And Christ is only the image of God, not God himself. See Hebrews 1:1-3.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 16, 2018 at 17:26
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    Hebrews 10:1 is not saying that the law and Jesus' work were both the same thing only one was real. What it is actually saying is that the law did NOT provide the form of the good things to come, only the "shadow". They had the general outline of a propitiatory death but the details were different. Jesus' death was the ratifying death of the new covenant with the houses of Israel and Judah. So while the law contained sacrifices it did not contain a ratifying death. Jesus' actual work included that.
    – Ruminator
    Sep 17, 2018 at 11:59
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    Sorry, don't wish to argue and discuss conspiracy theories but the use of "shadow" in Heb 10:1 is a metaphor. It would make no sense syntax wise to say that the metaphor stands for an image which stands for the real. Sorry, the metaphor stands for the reality. NIV interpreted it correctly.
    – alb
    Sep 17, 2018 at 22:32

Why does Paul call Jesus the “image of God”? 2 Cor 4:4

... 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.

Let's note other verses that show Paul's understanding here. The words 'seeing' are used with little regard to sight of the eyes, but to know with the mind, to understand and apprehend who God is.

I've emboldened words to show a theme here.

Acts 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those sanctified by faith in Me.'

Colossians 1:15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the representation of His nature

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

While many references are made to sight and light etc - it is referring to knowing and grasping with the heart and mind what and who God is, and what He is accomplishing amongst mankind. 'Seeing' with the eyes has little to do with anything - esp. with regard to 'seeing' God. The 'glory of God' is a far grander reality than what one might 'see', but when the mind is opened too - physical sight of God's works is just a beginning to see the wonder of God and come to know who He is from the wonder of His creation.

Jesus showed miracles and works to help them, through seeing, they might then believe who he was and who he represented.

Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves John 14:11

In fact, Is 53:2 reminds us, He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, so what we saw in Jesus is little to so with the eyes, but everything to do with the nature he displayed on behalf of his Father and God.

We see this further in the OP passage, 'the god of this world has blinded the minds' Again with the sight metaphor, but the message is about more important matters.

Jesus as the 'image of God', is a way to realise the true nature of God - shown in His human son. A son without sin or any corruption of the world but heavenly in nature - even though Jesus had his own will which differed to the Father's - yet was always brought into subjection.

Coming out of the OT structure of laws and death and endless sacrifice, there is much work to do to draw the people into a new way of light, love, grace, forgiveness. This is made (increasingly) obvious in Jesus who came speaking of the new Kingdom, the new life of spirit, being born from above etc. Again, speaking with sight metaphors, saying,

"If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him." John 14:7

John 6:46 not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God; only He has seen the Father.

No one has ever seen God. God's only Son, the one who is closest to the Father's heart, has made him known. John 1:18

When we see who Jesus is, what he did, how he did it, and come to know him, we know the Father also. As the reality of the New Covenant is being established in these new believers, they are needing to be retrained to know who their God is and what He is like. Jesus was sent to reveal the Father in ways never before understood with deep knowing Jesus makes possible by his example.

Luke 10:22 All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son, and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him."

Paul draws them into the new reality of who they now are - and we who follow.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Cor 3:4-6

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. v17

Man, made in the image of God (Genesis) occurs only in (not by) Christ. Without Jesus - 'in the image of God', we cannot fulfil our destiny to be in God's image.

Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly. 1 Cor 15:49

Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers.

This was the plan all along - God as Creator has not stopped creating, We are His creation, brought to completion in Christ - who is the image of his God.

We, as the 'many brethren', are included in Jesus - the image of God, to also be image bearers as planned from the start,

Further with regard to 'seeing' with the eyes. We remember Israel and their exodus from Egypt - they saw amazing things that we'd think would change them forever. No, days after the miraculous crossing of the Red See, they were grumbling again. They saw - but they did not know or understand - they were blinded by the veil God had allowed to remain.

But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ 2 Cor 2:14, Col 1:26, Eph 3:3-6, Rom 16:25-27

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