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In Gen. 1:26 we read:

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

My question does not ask what the image of God is in terms of its usual significance.

What I want to know is about the 'literal' image of God as it relates to the number of persons that make up the Godhead and some of the dynamics between them.

What could the peculiar manner in which God created Adam and Eve and the fact that Eve was to bear children be telling us about the image of God?

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  • Only when the Light comes into the world, the manifestation of the Son, is the relationship within Deity revealed. It is not revealed in creation, though there are hints, which, retrospectively, we may now apprehend.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 15, 2022 at 1:52
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    You now have two answer that have misunderstood you question. Perhaps you should clarify the question. There is no literal image of God!
    – Dottard
    Apr 17, 2022 at 10:54
  • @Dottard I tried to edit it and make it clearer. Has it helped?
    – user49416
    Apr 17, 2022 at 11:58
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    Um - there’s a guy on this site, his nom de plume is something like Soli Deo Gloria, who commented once about not trying to make scripture fit the mould of your (our) ideas.. I think he had a good point, although we disagree in some respects. But I sense another instance here, if I may respectfully say so. Genesis is a literary unit - certainly Gen 1-12 at any rate.. I feel like your cherry-picked verses in your question expose you to leading yourself up the garden path..? I see your flow of ideas.. but was that ever the writer’s intention? Is it not you agenda driving this process..?
    – user36337
    Apr 17, 2022 at 16:07

3 Answers 3

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The concept of the "Image of God" and what it is, can be deduced from the few times it occurs in scripture.

  • Gen 1:26, 27 - Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness, to rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, and over all the earth itself and every creature that crawls upon it.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
  • Gen 5:1 - This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in His own likeness.
  • 1 Cor 11:7 - A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
  • Col 1:15 - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
  • 2 Cor 4:4 - The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

We should also pause to note what the "image of God" is not - it is not the image of animals and birds and reptiles and people:

  • Rom 1:23 - and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Indeed, we find repeated instructions in the OT that people were to make no attempt to make an image of the invisible God, and, often reprimanded and punished for doing so: Judges 10:6, Isa 21:9, Deut 4:23, 12:3, Acts 7:43, Eze 8:3, 30:13, Amos 5:26, Dan 11:8, Nah 1:14, 2 Chron 33:7.

By contrast with Adam being made is God's image (Gen 1:26, 27, 5:1) we find that Adam, now a sinner, had a son, not in God's image, but in the image of Adam, Gen 5:3 -

  • When Adam was 130 years old, he had a son in his own likeness, after his own image; and he named him Seth. [That is, a sinner, as distinct from the image of God.]

From this brief survey, we learn that the literal, visible image of God does NOT exist - the image of God is one of Character that was deeply marred by the entrance of sin. Jesus Christ, as the second perfect Adam (Rom 5:12-19), is the only one who is the image of God. Further, one of the cardinal purposes of salvation is to restore the image of God in mankind - see appendix below.

There is another more important point here - the essential essence of God is "LOVE" (1 John 4:8, 16, 19) and Christ's followers are to imitate, emulate and encapsulate that love, John 13:34, 35. Now, if "God is love" at the very core of His being, and that agape-love is at its core other-centered, that God cannot be a single person but an eternal mutuality. (That is, a single person cannot exercise apape-love.)

I believe that this is why God created mankind as male and female because if Mankind was to exercise a similar other-centered love, the man cannot exist alone as Gen 2:18 states. Further, when God brought Eve to Adam, He said that would become "one", אֶחָד, the same word that is used to describe God in the Shema, of Deut 6:4. That is also why murder is such a heinous sin (Gen 4:1-16).

APPENDIX - the Imitation of Christ

The NT makes clear that one of the cardinal purposes of sin is to make us like Christ since Christ is the image of God.

  • Made like God. Gen 1:26, 27, 5:1, 9:6, Eph 4:20-24, 1 John 3:2. Note that this means that one of the purposes of salvation is to restore the likeness of God in humans that sin has erased.
  • Walk as Jesus walked. 1 John 2:6.
  • Jesus was led by the Spirit Matt 4:1. The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact, the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18).
  • Love as Jesus loved. John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2.
  • Lay down life for friends. John 15:13, Eph 5:2.
  • Jesus’ suffering leaves us an example. John 16:33, 1 Cor 7:28, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.
  • Because Jesus was persecuted, so are His followers. John 15:20, 21.
  • Conformed to the likeness of the Son. Rom 8:29.
  • Transforming our will and bodies to conform to God’s will. Rom 12:1, 2.
  • Jesus was baptized (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21, 22) and so should we be baptized, Matt 28:19, Acts 2:38, 10:48, 16:31, 22:16, Rom 6:1-9, etc.
  • Forgive as Jesus forgave. Matt 6:12, 14, 15, 18:35, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13.
  • Be imitators of God. Eph 5:1.
  • Be holy as Jesus is holy. Lev 11:44, 45, 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
  • Be pure as He is pure. 1 John 3:3.
  • Partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.
  • We are being changed into Christ’s glory (= reputation). 2 Cor 3:18.
  • Pray as Jesus prayed. Luke 11:1.
  • We are to have the mind of Christ. Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.
  • Be kind because God is kind. Luke 6:34, 35.
  • Be merciful because God is merciful. Luke 6:36.
  • Be servants to others as Jesus was. John 13:15-17, 1 Peter 4:11b, Matt 20:24-28.
  • Be patient as Jesus was patient. 1 Tim 1:16.
  • Talk/speak as Jesus speaks. 1 Peter 4:11a.
  • Be “perfect” (= mature and generous to enemies) as the Father is. Matt 5:48.
  • Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved His people and gave Himself for her. Eph 5:25.
  • Keep the commandments as Jesus kept the commandments of God. John 14:15, 15:10.
  • Abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. John 15:4.
  • Jesus gave his all and we must give up all things for Him. Rom 8:32.
  • Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19) and His is followers are called the sheep of His pasture (John 10:1-18, 21:15-17)
  • Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) and so should we (John 13:14-17)
  • Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5) and so are we by reflecting Jesus "light" (Matt 5:14-16)
  • Jesus is the “firstborn” Luke 2:7, Rom 8:29, Col 1:15, 18, Heb 1:6, Rev 1:5, and we are to compose the church/assembly of the firstborn, Heb 12:23; see also Rom 8:23 & Rev 14:4 where we are also called first-fruits to God and the Lamb.
  • Jesus is our sacrifice of atonement and likened to a sacrificial lamb offered for us John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, Eph 5:2, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, Heb 10:10, 12, Rom 3:25, 1 Peter 1:19, etc. Similarly, the life of a Christian is lived sacrificially for Christ Rom 12:1, Phil 2:17, Heb 13:15.

Indeed, it is the imitation of Christ that gives Christians the title; “Christian” meaning, one who is like Christ.

Perhaps the best description of the Christian life, Imitating God, is found in Rom 12:9-12, 17, “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

But there is much more.

  • Jesus died to sin and was raised to a new life, never to die again. This is also the process of every sinner in Jesus will also die to sin (at baptism) and be raised to a new eternal life, free of sin. See Rom 6:8-11.
  • Jesus is our great high priest (Heb 4:14, 15, 7:26-28), so too, we are a holy nation of priests. 1 Peter 2:9.
  • Jesus is the chief corner-stone and we are also stones in the building. 1 Peter 2:4-6.
  • Jesus is the chief shepherd, and elders are to shepherd the flock as He would. 1 Peter 5:1-4.
  • We are to be conduits of Jesus’ “water of life”. John 4:13, 14.
  • Jesus is the promised “seed” (Gen 13:15, 24:7) of Abraham (Gal 3:16) and so are we (Gal 3:29, Rom 9:8).
  • After His ascension, Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Ps 110:1, 5, Luke 22:69, Matt 26:64, Acts 2:33, 7:56, Rom 8:34, Eph 1:20, Col 3:1, Heb 1:3, 10:12, 12:2, 1 Peter 3:22), and so will we (Rev 3:21, see also Eph 2:6).
  • Jesus is “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32, Mark 5:7, 8:28) and Christians are called “sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35).
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  • This was the only part of your answer tgat spoke to my question: "Now, if "God is love" at the very core of His being, and that agape-love is at its core other-centered, that God cannot be a single person but an eternal mutuality. (That is, a single person cannot exercise apape-love.) I believe that this is why God created mankind as male and female because if Mankind was to exercise a similar other-centered love, the man cannot exist alone as Gen 2:18 states." The answer I have in mind is further down this line. When I post it I will start from where you left off here...
    – user49416
    Apr 17, 2022 at 9:09
  • @AndriesStander - you see my answer to narrowly. The fact that God is love and that we imitate God is to reproduce the image of God in us by the miracle of the Holy Spirit.
    – Dottard
    Apr 17, 2022 at 9:14
  • Just wait until I post my answer and then you will understand why I said the above. I don't view your answer too narrowly. I hope that after posting my answer you will see that you have viewed my question too narrowly. That is what I am seeing based on your answer. I really appreciate your effort but I was not asking for that answer and I tried to make it clear in the question.
    – user49416
    Apr 17, 2022 at 9:18
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"What does the creation of Adam and Eve and the birth of Cain tell us about the Godhead?"

With respect to being God's image, not much.

To understand why we must understand what God has in mind when he described making man in his image.

26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image... -Genesis 1:26-27

Sandwiched between God's expressed intent to make man in God's image and the statement that he has so created man in his image is a functional description expressed in a command to humanity or in a conveyance of God's will and purpose for humanity. The functional description of God's image is that they are so made that they will have dominion or otherwise rule over all of God's creation in the earth and sea and heavens. This functional description, expressed as a command or a conveyance of God's will and purpose for humanity to have dominion or otherwise to rule over all of God's creation in the earth, sea, and heavens, explains what God had in mind in making man in God's image.

What God had in mind was for us humans to image God by reflecting His rule and dominion over all of His creation through humanity's rule and dominion over all of God's creation. We image God by our role as rulers. To be an image of God is to be God's representative ruler over creation. We are made to rule on His behalf. This is our primary purpose and function as created beings. We are designated as a biological class of representative rulers on God's behalf. Every aspect of our being is designed so that we may faithfully carry out the God-given duties of the sacred office we have from birth over this creation as members of this creation.

Because God's designation of us as images is a functional role-based designation, there is no need to assume that any and every particular feature of our biology or our experience as human beings is itself a reflection of some feature of God what he necessarily has or experiences beyond what He explicitly reveals that He has in common with humanity.

Because God's functional classification of us as his image is built into our biology, all members of the class of humans beings are by nature images of God from birth even if at various stages of our lives we are incapable of fully caring out our created function as representative rulers reflecting God's dominion. We are, at various times, immature images or broken images, or images in rebellion against the God in whose image we are created. We are, however, images non the less as Gen 9:6 makes clear.

With respect to Adam and Eve's creation and Cain and Abel's procreation, these are just practical solutions God has implemented to populate creation with enough of God's images so that we may carry out our function over all of God's creation to rule over all of God's creation - God creates people and people pro-create people. Ultimately we must multiply and fill the Earth to practically further God's will that we actually exercise dominion over God's Earth. The reality of our creation is such that we cannot have dominion over all of the Earth if there are not enough of us over all of the Earth.

While our creation and our own procreative abilities don't say much more about the inner workings of what you may describe as the Godhead, it does express God's character in how He has provided for us, with His power, the means by which we may carry out His will by creating us and, in creating us, giving us the miraculous power to procreate ourselves. From this and from many other examples we may understand God's character to provide for us in that which we may need in order that we may do His will.

There is a temptation by some to see the relationship of love between man and woman as an institution designed to reflect the inner relationship and plurality of God. This idea however seems to be at odds with the apostle Paul who clarifies that the relationship of love between the man and wife was meant to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.
-Ephesians 5:22-32

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  • Again, I was not asking for an answer about the image of God along the lines that you and Dottard answered. I appreciate your efforts though. I will post an answer today (hopefully) and I hope it will open a new line of thought for you from the passages of Scripture that have shed light on it for me.
    – user49416
    Apr 17, 2022 at 9:14
  • Fair enough. My concern is that you are looking for an answer about the image of God that the scriptures don't provide. The concept of being an image of God is a metaphor, and like all metaphors and analogies, we can get into a bit of trouble when we attempt to stretch it beyond its original intent. This is why I try to focus and base my understanding of the meaning of the image of God on the verses that actually discuss the image of God. Going much further than this ventures too far into the speculative and subjective territory to have much weight.
    – Austin
    Apr 17, 2022 at 9:59
  • I understand and share your valid concern.
    – user49416
    Apr 17, 2022 at 10:53
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About ten years ago, I was sitting and musing on the Egyptian trinity of Osiris, Isis and Horus and I was trying to think about it from Lucifer's perspective - why use the nuclear family as a counterfeit representation of God? I mean, if you are going to counterfeit something it must at least be close to the original, right?

Well, I wondered, if the group of people you are trying to deceive does not necessarily know anything about the original you are counterfeiting then you don't have to work that hard to get it so close that they won't notice the difference. My thoughts ended there (I think) but came back a day or so later.

I started wondering again if this whole father, mother, and child concept was not an attempt by Satan to counterfeit some beauty that I just have not seen in Scripture about the Godhead as three Persons. And then it hit me - God created the original family unit (Adam and Eve) in His image!

But two things came to mind instantly:

  1. I know what the image of God is (much along the lines of what @Dottard and @Austin have posted in answer to this question).
  2. God created only a man and a woman (two and not three persons).

So, I once again walked off this topic in my mind for a couple more days not intending to return to it, but, then it started coming together as Jesus's words about Himself and about the Holy Spirit came to mind. I started seeing a typological object lesson of sorts about the three Persons of the Godhead, especially in the very peculiar manner that He went about creating the first man, woman and (when Cain was born) family unit.

What do I mean by typological object lesson? Well, in my mind I view what I am about to share as a mix between typology and an object lesson. I have found my understanding of what typology is to differ greatly (it seems) from others on this site so I will include a few brief examples here in an attempt to share the simplicity of typology in my mind. Go look at the examples of Joseph, Moses, Jonah, Abraham and Isaac, etc.

If there was any greater significance to the creation of Adam and Eve as created in God's image, then Adam would have to represent the Father and Eve the Son since Jesus makes prominent the Father and not Himself - just as Adam was created first and not Eve. But the fact that they were male and female barred my thinking along such lines for a while.

That was until I realised that their differing gender could be 'typologically translated' as describing the very real differences that exist between the Father and Son who are at the same time interdependent on one another and in a very complex relationship of unselfish love. In the same way do men and women differ from one another and yet each cannot live as a truly complete being without doing so in a very complex relationship with one another in which they genuinely do become one while retaining their differences as male and female.

The following verse was what got me thinking of Eve as representing the Son:

No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. John 1:18

When God created Adam, He did so from the dust of the earth, but, not so with Eve. How did He do it? Yes, very unique...God took a rib that was in the bosom of Adam and from it He created Eve. So Eve was in a sense 'in the bosom of Adam' just as Jesus says He is 'in the bosom' of the Father.

In John 1:18 Jesus also refers to Himself as the 'only begotten Son'. Without getting too bogged down with exactly what monogenēs means, let's just go with Liddell and Scott's lexical entry for this word and see if Genesis 2 has any more light to shed on it.

In Gen. 2:19-23 we read:

And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.

And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;

And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

I want you to note the comment made about the animals in verse 20. It says 'but there was not found an help meet (suitable) for him'. Now I remember reading this as a child and thinking, Well duh! Of course there would be no companion found among the animals for him because Adam is a different kind of being! And this is where, I believe, Genesis gives us a very practical example of monogenēs as it describes the creation of Eve in the verses that follow.

She certainly was one of a kind both in her relationship with Adam and as the only female human being on the planet. Adam's first words about her are deeply significant. He says she is bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh - in other words, we are made of the same 'stuff'. This signified the fact that she could understand him and enter into companionship with him in a way that was impossible for any of the animals.

God has many sons, as we have seen in the Jesus's genealogy recorded in Luke 3 but none of these sons are like Jesus. He truly is a one of a kind Son in that He shares the same existence of the Father (bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh). And just like the animals could not fully enter into such deep companionship with Adam as Eve could, so too is it impossible for finite, created beings to fully enter into that level of companionship which the infinite Father has with His Son. We are just not 'made of the same stuff'!

In the following verses we read about the Holy Spirit that He is sent by both the Father and the Son:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: John 15:26

And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. Luke 24:49

What do we find in Gen. 4:1,2? Yes, that children proceeded from both the father and the mother just as the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son.

Now I am not sure how you see God's omnipresence, and, whether you tie it to any one or simply all three Persons; but, I would venture a step further and say that Adam and Eve could not be everywhere at once, however, they could be through their children that would go about and populate the earth. As they would come and visit their parents they would tell what is happening in their neck of the woods and thus Adam and Eve would benefit from the 'omnipresence' of their children.

In my thinking there is no threat to having a picture of God (image of God) where all the 'omni' attributes do not exist equally in all three Persons simply because it is in harmony with the interdependent, unselfish love relationship that I believe exists between the heavenly Trio.

There are more details about this that I could share but I have forgotten them. It has been some time since I last opened this file in my mind. If I am reminded of anything I will update this answer.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Jesse
    Apr 21, 2022 at 3:20
  • @JesseSteele how exactly do I move comments to chat when working from my mobile phone? On another string of comments I eventually clicked on the link that suggested to move to chat but once moved I could not post my reply in chat...
    – user49416
    Apr 21, 2022 at 5:17
  • Sometimes you can move the comments like you did, but I moved them because I'm a moderator.
    – Jesse
    Apr 21, 2022 at 5:19
  • Your writing has a very conversational style, but it could be more concise, to read more like an encyclopedia—fewer words, to the point, less "bloggie". This is a great, old post on what Answers need here on BH. I look forward to seeing more posts from you.
    – Jesse
    Apr 21, 2022 at 5:21
  • Thanks Jesse. I will look into it then.
    – user49416
    Apr 21, 2022 at 10:44

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