Genesis 1:26 New International Version Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

What's the difference between image and likeness?

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    +1 Good question. Tselem (image) is used, also, of the images of idols. Demuth (likeness) is largely used in relation to God, by Isaiah, and in relation to cherubim, by Ezekiel. – Nigel J Aug 11 '20 at 12:59
  • Thanks Nigel. For years I just read them as synonyms. – Glukrom Aug 11 '20 at 13:12
  • I am hoping someone will enlighten us. As yourself, I have just read and not understood. I've looked at Young's Concordance today but scanning the word-usage in scripture hasn't revealed anything to me. My initial thought is that 'image' refers to the appearance and 'likeness' would be more - the manner, the behaviour. But I am guessing, so cannot post a real answer. – Nigel J Aug 11 '20 at 13:19
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    Let us make mankind in our shadows as (or like) Adam-oth – R. Emery Aug 11 '20 at 13:20

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, "Let us make mankind in our image [εἰκών] , in our likeness [ὁμοίωμα],

We share some of the spirit and soul functions of God. The meanings of these two words overlap somewhat.

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image [εἰκών] of God.

Philippians 2:5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature a God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature b of a servant, being made in human likeness [ὁμοίωμα]. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Jesus bears both the image and the likeness of God. Image emphasizes the inward/spiritual attributes of God while likeness emphasizes the soulical attributes and outward form. Their usages do overlap. That's what makes it confusing at times.

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    In Philippians "likeness" is to humans "...being made in human likeness." How do you conclude that means likeness of God? – Revelation Lad Aug 29 '20 at 13:17

The word image in the Hebrew בצלמנו in v26 speaks of being a representative form, like a shadow. It takes on the form of the original and is intended to imitate the original.

In all instances that the word tselem is used, its always a representation of another. The vast majority of the times unfortunately it is an inanimate object (idol) representing a deity, unlike the case of Adam who is a living image(r) with responsibilities.

The LXX in this verse uses the Greek word εἰκών for image and the word can be understood to mean a copy. God made a copy of Himself in Adam.

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. Heb10:1

This verse seems to indicate in the NT Greek usage of the word that the image is a good copy or a good representation of the original unlike a shadow which is too vague.

Its followed by the word translated likeness כדמותנו to further explain and build on the idea that it’s about being similar to God.

This word demure means, similar or like but not the same as, in all other instances it is referenced in the OT

It would at first impression appear that this is referencing the physical appearance and this might include the physical appearance yet is not limited only to appearance but it especially means to be a representative in likeness to God. A copy of God on earth. (This only makes the nachash’s offer to Eve all the more enticing, don’t just be a copy of God but be a god in your own right).

However the Hebrew continues to speak of dominion וירדו and if one were to take the translation punctuations out, one could read the text as saying something to the effect, ’let us make man in our image and likeness with dominion over the earth‘

In which case the emphasis doesn’t fall so much on the exterior appearance but the position of authority. Man was intended to govern on the earth as God governs in the heavens.

Man is the imager of God, like a representative or in modern language like an ambassador of God on the earth, exercising dominion over the realm below the firmament

  • What needs to happen here is you need to understand the Hebraic concept, rather than focusing on the (Hebrew) word. A Hebrew reading this would know exactly what this meant, and your leaning towards representation is correct. Other than through creation, God can only reflect his Glory through Man. +1 – Dave Aug 12 '20 at 18:09
  • Agreed @Dave but if I had gone the route of concept then I would have been asked to document other references which I don’t have handy, so I tried the word route. – Nihil Sine Deo Aug 12 '20 at 19:26

The Hebrew meaning of Our Image & Likeness to Elohim:

In Bereishit (Genesis) 1:26, we read "In Our Image, after Our Likeness" (בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ ).

In the Hebrew, we see the word "Tsalem" ( צַלְמֵ֖) traditionally translated as "Image" in English. Then we see the suffix "Nu" (נוּ ) = "Our" in English. - Next we read the phrase "Ki-Demut-Nu" ( כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ) literally translated "Like - Appearance - Our".

Interesting to note the English word "Demure" regarding feminine qualities is similar to the Hebrew word "Demut" ( דְמוּתֵ֑).

However we see "Ki-Demut" ( כִּדְמוּת֙) used later in the Tanakh to describe the "appearance of a son of Adam" ( כִּדְמוּת֙ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָ֔ם) in Daniel 10:16.

Regarding Bereishit (Genesis) 1:26, The "Adam" ( אָדָ֛ם) or Human Image (צַלְמֵ֖ ) is first modeled like the feminine "Demut" likeness of Elohim which supports modern Geneticists discovery that a Y (Yod) chromosome is required to form a female zygote into a male embryo. - [Genesis 1:26] deals with conception before [Genesis 2:7] deals with development of the man and woman.

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    Thats pretty good. I think man was created on the 6th day but woman on the 7th day. Mmmmm... – R. Emery Aug 11 '20 at 13:36
  • And I think gen 6 originally followed gen 1 – R. Emery Aug 11 '20 at 13:37
  • [Genesis 1:26] deals with conception before [Genesis 2:7] deals with development of the man and woman. – חִידָה Aug 11 '20 at 14:01
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    You seem to be saying that 'image' is 'appearance' and 'likeness' is 'behaviour'. Are you able to supply links to substantiate what you are asserting ? – Nigel J Aug 11 '20 at 14:05
  • @Nigel J // However we see "Ki-Demut" ( כִּדְמוּת֙) used later in the Tanakh to describe the "appearance of a son of Adam" ( כִּדְמוּת֙ בְּנֵ֣י אָדָ֔ם) in Daniel 10:16. - so we can validate Appearance instead of Behavior as an accurate Hebrew meaning. – חִידָה Aug 11 '20 at 14:46

In the Insight on the Scriptures (published by the Watchtower Society), the article on the word Image says the following:

Whereas references to images in the Bible frequently relate to idolatry, this is not always the case. God, in creating man, said first, “Let us make man in our image [or, shadow, semblance], according to our likeness.” (Ge 1:26, 27, ftn) Since God’s Son stated that his Father is “a Spirit,” this rules out any physical likeness between God and man. (Joh 4:24) Rather, man has qualities reflecting, or mirroring, those of his heavenly Maker, qualities that positively distinguish man from the animal creation. (See ADAM No. 1.) Though in the image of his Creator, man was not made to be an object of worship, or veneration.

Even as Adam’s own son Seth (born to him in his imperfection, however) was in Adam’s “likeness, in his image” (Ge 5:3), Adam’s likeness to God originally identified him as God’s earthly son. (Lu 3:38) Despite man’s fall to imperfection, the fact of mankind’s originally having been made in God’s image was cited after the Noachian Flood as the basis for the divine law authorizing humans to serve as executioners in putting murderers to death. (Ge 9:5, 6; see AVENGER OF BLOOD.) In Christian instructions concerning feminine head covering, Christian men were told they ought not to wear such a covering, since the man “is God’s image and glory,” while the woman is man’s glory.​—1Co 11:7.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers under Genesis 1:26, gives us similar insight:

In our image, after our likeness.—The human body is after God’s image only as being the means whereby man attains to dominion: for dominion is God’s attribute, inasmuch as He is sole Lord. Man’s body, therefore, as that of one who rules, is erect, and endowed with speech, that he may give the word of command. The soul is first, in God’s image. This, as suggesting an external likeness, may refer to man’s reason, free-will, self-consciousness, and so on. But it is, secondly, in God’s likeness, which implies something closer and more inward. It refers to man’s moral powers, and especially to his capacity of attaining unto holiness. Now man has lost neither of these two. (Comp. Genesis 9:6; 1Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9.) Both were weakened and defiled by the fall, but were still retained in a greater or less degree. In the man Christ Jesus both were perfect; and fallen man, when new-created in Christ, attains actually to that perfection which was his only potentially at his first creation, and to which Adam never did attain.

So being made in God's image and/or likeness is to be understood as having similar qualities and capacities as the Creator, but not to the same degree.

Man's likeness to God can also be seen in his governance over the earth as is illustrated in the Awake! December '88 article What Does Genesis Really Say?

Another description of the creation of man is found at Genesis 1:26. There God says: “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) Since the Bible tells us that God is a spirit, the phrase “in our image” must be understood to mean possessing God’s qualities.

This statement explains, in a way that evolution never could, why man is so different from the animals. Only man can control the animals and the vegetation around him. Only man has a moral sense and a conscience. Only man has a wide freedom of choice and such a developed intelligence. Only man has the ability to conceive of the existence of God and the gift of speech with which to speak to Him. The Journal of Semitic Studies says: “Human speech is a secret; it is a divine gift.”

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