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?

  • 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. – Sola Gratia Sep 15 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 at 13:05
  • I don't believe I conflated what Paul intends by the word 'image' and what the Prophets saw when they "saw God." – Sola Gratia Sep 15 at 13:09
  • So why can one stare into the face of the risen, glorified Jesus Christ but not God? – Ruminator Sep 15 at 13:17
  • 2
    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. – Sola Gratia Sep 15 at 13:19

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 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 at 10:55
  • @ Sola Nice insight into the "image of the invisible" +1 – alb Sep 16 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'... – Possibility Oct 11 at 4:32

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).”

  • 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 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 at 15:32
  • And Christ is only the image of God, not God himself. See Hebrews 1:1-3. – Ruminator Sep 16 at 17:26
  • 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 at 11:59
  • "Express image" is Trinitarian corruption. If you look at the lexicon it gives the words actual usage in extant Greek but when it comes to the scriptures it creates a bogus meaning of "exact representation" which, even in its corrupted form shows that Jesus is a copy, not the original but gives a false impression. The point is that Jesus is not "the same substance" with the Father (who alone is God) but rather he's a reflection, like the moon is of the sunlight, only 20% of the light. – Ruminator Sep 17 at 12:08

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

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