7

Romans 8:29 ESV

"For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers." [image/eikonos] My emphasis.

Genesis 1:26 ESV

"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." [image/tselem] My emphasis.

How do "eikonos" and "tselem" compare in these verses?

Is "image" in Ro 8:29 different and qualitatively separate from "image" in Gen 1:26?

Is the Ro 8:29 image a restoration of something Adam lost? In Genesis 3:19 the Lord God speaking to Adam says, "for you are dust and to dust you shall return."

2
  • Are you asking to compare the words as they are used generally in Hebrew and Greek or are you asking for a comparison of how the words are used in the context of the two passages? It feels like you want the general comparison which may be very different than what is intended by the context.
    – David D
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:22
  • @David D. Thanks, I have edited the question to make it the context of the the two passages.
    – C. Stroud
    Sep 11, 2023 at 15:52

7 Answers 7

1

Hebrew “image” and Greek “image”

Though it is true that the Greek “eikon” is equivalent to the Hebrew “tselem” in word meaning, the “image” in Romans 8:29 is different from the “image” in Genesis 1:26, theologically and qualitatively!

Explanation:

“Image” and “Likeness” in Genesis

As extensively as I could study, this is what I understood regarding the “image” and “likeness” in Gen 1:26:

”Tselem – Image”

This is a 3-dimensional copy of the original!

How do I know it is a 3-dimensional copy?

Number 33:52 talks about “their molten images”! Now, a molten image is cast into a 3-dimensional figure. It is a statue or an idol.

”Demuth – Likeness”

This is the “content” or similitude (with characteristic details) of the original. It could be a drawing, a picture, a bas relief or even a sculpture. But the copy will have the important features of the original.

For example, the idolatrous “King Ahaz goes to meet Tiglath-Pileser king of Asshur at Damascus, and sees the altar that is in Damascus, and King Ahaz sends to Urijah the priest the likeness (demuth) of the altar, and its pattern (details), according to all its work” (2 King 16:10).

This likeness could have been in the form of a drawing, a bas relief or even a clay model. But the details will be made clear.

The Difference:- An amateur can make a 3-dimensional image of Abraham Lincoln. But it may not look like (no likeness) Lincoln. It may look like somebody else! However, when a professional sculptor makes a 3-dimensional image of the same, it will look like (likeness) Abraham Lincoln! In other words, both made the same image but only the latter made the likeness (the characteristic features of Lincoln)!

So, the Scripture is clear, man is a 2 and 3-dimensional copy (in the physical world) of the Almighty God who is in the spiritual realm! The similitude or characteristic features also include God's creative intelligence, dominion, rationality etc.

So man is a physical copy of the spiritual God in shape and similitude!

This is all the more clear when we read:

“And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years and fathered a son in his own likeness (demuth), according to his image (tselem), and called his name Seth” (Gen 5:3).

It is obvious that “tselem” and “demuth” cannot mean one thing in Gen 1:26 and another thing in Gen 5:3!

So if Seth was as similar as Adam in shape and form (in 2 and 3 dimensions), then it is obvious that a human being is as similar as the Almighty God in shape and form (in 2 and 3 dimensions)!!

I would say if anyone wants to see how the Almighty God looks like, just look in the mirror!! (I know I am going to get down votes!)

This explains why God took great pains to save the humanity but didn’t do so in the case of the fallen angels!!

Image in Romans (or New Testament)

If we are already in the image and likeness of God, then what is the image talked about in Romans or in the New Testament in general?

The answer is rather simple:

We are now a physical image and likeness of God. But we will take on a spiritual image and likeness of God!!!

This is what Paul says:

“Behold, I speak a mystery to you: we shall not all fall asleep, but we shall all be changed (from physical to spiritual). In a moment, in a glance of an eye, at the last trumpet; for a trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible (spiritual), and we shall all be changed (from physical to spiritual). For this corruptible (physical) must put on incorruption (spiritual), and this mortal (physical) must put on immortality (spiritual)” (1 Cor 15:51-53).

“If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” (1 Cor 15:44).

“and according as we bore the image (eikon) of the earthly (physical), we will also bear the image (eikon) of the heavenly (spiritual)” (verse 49).

“God is spirit” (John 4:24). “Now the Lord is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17).

The above Scriptures are very plain and self-explanatory. We are now a physical “image” of the spiritual God. This is what Genesis 1:26 is saying. But we will become a spiritual “image” of the spiritual God. And this is what Romans 8:29 is saying.

Jesus Christ says the same thing

Jesus, while discussing with Nicodemus, says:

“What is born of the flesh is flesh (that is, physical), and what is born of the Spirit is spirit (that is, spiritual)” (John 3:6).

Jesus clarifies what He means by “born of the Spirit is spirit”:

“The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don't know where it comes from or where it is going. That's the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

When a physical person is “changed” into a spiritual person, he will no longer be subject to matter, space, time and energy! He can become invisible to the physical world!

This is exactly what Jesus Himself demonstrated, after His resurrection, when He appeared out of nowhere to the disciples inside a “locked” room (John 20:19 and 26). Here Jesus behaved like a wind. The disciples didn’t know where Jesus came from or where He went!

This is exactly what Paul also, who was taught directly by Jesus (Gal 1:12), says:

“And I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood (physical man) is not able to inherit the kingdom of God (spiritual), nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor 15:50).

Did Adam lose this physical image?

Not according to the Scripture! Even after Adam sinned and was expelled from the Garden, man is said to be in the image of God in Genesis 9:6:

“Whoever sheds man's blood, his blood shall be shed by man. For He made man in the image of God”.

We also need to remember that though Adam sinned and was expelled, his own son Abel was “righteous” (Matt 23:35)!

Even before Adam sinned, the Scripture says that Adam was “formed out of dust from the ground” (Gen 2:7). So Gen 3:19 was a reminder of the same to Adam by God; “for you are dust and to dust you shall return”.

So, Rom 8:29 was NOT a restoration of something that Adam lost! It was an entirely brand new phenomenon brought by Jesus the Lord!!

2

The question asks for a comparison of "image" in the context of Genesis 1:26 and "image" in the context of Romans 8:29

Summary:
In Genesis, "image" is connected to creation and:

  • is meant to distinguish humanity from the animal and plant kingdoms
  • indicates the elevation of humanity to the role of God's steward or ruler on behalf of God over all creation, under God's authority

In Romans "image"

  • is the image of Jesus
  • being conformed to the image of Jesus is the work of the Spirit
  • those who are in Jesus are to represent, be like, the image, of Jesus

Though humanity is distinctive from the animal and plant kingdom and humanity still rules over creation, the rejection of God's authority (Genesis chapter 3) puts humanity out of its relationship with God. This relationship is restored through the work of Jesus for those who are in Him through the work of the Spirit.

Let's look at the context of the Genesis verse.

Genesis 1:24-30 NIV

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 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.

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. [bold mine]

"Let us make mankind" in verse 26 contrasts with "Let the land produce" in verse 24. In verse 26 something different, great and amazing is about to be done. God creates mankind both in nature and over nature. Mankind is given the responsibility to "rule" creation in the right relationship with God. "Let us make mankind" also indicates a special value God places on mankind over and above that of the other animals.

In verse 26, God explains what He is about to do and why. Mankind is to be made in God's image or 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".

In verse 27, God does what He says He will do.

In verses 28 and 29, God gives them instructions that align with the intent given in verse 26. God's stated purpose and instructions help us understand what is meant by "image" or "likeness".

In Genesis 1:26, "image" or "likeness" refers to the responsibility God gave man to rule creation as His agent. God rules over the universe and we are to rule over creation under God's direction—God's image.

The fact that mankind sinned does not mean that they are no longer created in the image or likeness of God.

Genesis 9:4-6

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each human being, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of another human being.

6 “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

God tells Noah, long after sin entered the world, that mankind has been and is made in the image of God. This is at the root of the value God places on human life.

Romans 8:29, here's the context in vv. 14-30:

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.

22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? 25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. [bold mine]

Romans 8:29 is one verse in a long explanation starting in 5:12 concerning the law of Moses and the law of the Spirit.
In this chapter, Paul is saying

  • there is no condemnation for those who are in Jesus because they live according to the law of the Spirit rather than the law of the flesh.
  • the law of the Spirit fulfills the Mosaic law is fulfilled in us - v4
  • the law of the Spirit stands against the sinful nature vv. 5-13.
  • the Spirit leads us in the present vv. 14-17
  • the Spirit guarantees the future vv. 18-25
  • while aiding us in prayer in the midst of suffering vv. 26-27
  • conforming us to Christ's likeness vv. 28-30.

Based on the context "image" is specific to the image of Jesus and refers to the work of the Spirit in the life of those who are in Jesus.

Summary
In Genesis, "image" is connected to creation and:

  • is meant to distinguish humanity from the animal and plant kingdoms
  • indicates the elevation of humanity to the role of God's steward or ruler on behalf of God over all creation, under God's authority

In Romans "image"

  • is the image of Jesus
  • being conformed to the image of Jesus is the work of the Spirit
  • those who are in Jesus are to represent, be like, the image, of Jesus

Though humanity is distinctive from the animal and plant kingdom and humanity still rules over creation, the rejection of God's authority (Genesis chapter 3) puts humanity out of its relationship with God. This relationship is restored through the work of Jesus for those who are in Him.

1
  • Thank you David. This is biblical understanding. Dec 24, 2023 at 5:54
2

Looking at the context of each, there are certain aspects of “image” in Genesis 1 and Romans 8 that are distinct from one another. “Image” of Gen 1:26 results from a creative process.

"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” - Gen 1:26

Unlike the creative process of Genesis 1, “image” in Romans 8 is achieved through a process of spiritual transformation and rebirth.

For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Rom 8:29

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God – Rom 8:15-16

In Genesis God looked at all that he had made and declared it to be good (Gen 1:31), but what was good came to be distorted by sin. Just as the word “good” captures the essence of how man was made in God’s image, the word “sinner” encapsulates the condition of man’s fallen state. Once as one in spirit with God, man returns to the dust from which he was made.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. – Rom 8:5-6

The OP asks, “Is the Ro 8:29 image a restoration of something Adam lost?” It is important to note that the restoration of God’s image is not a process of retrieval. Specifically, what man lost through sin cannot be retrieved by man himself, incapable as he is of any righteousness of his own (cf Rom 3:10). The image of God can only be restored when man is conformed to the image of Christ. This is fundamentally the work of the Spirit (cf Rom 8:26, 2 Th 2:13, 1 Pet 1:2).

The OP also asks, “Is ‘image’ in Rom 8:29 different and qualitatively separate from ‘image’ in Gen 1:26?” I approach this question by considering whether “image of God” in Gen 1:26 is qualitatively different from “image of his Son” in Rom 8:29. The answer, I believe, is no.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. – Col 1:15

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. – Heb 1:3

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? – Jn 14:9

0
1

First, we must recall that Genesis and Romans are in different languages.

Second, Gen 1:26 uses TWO different words to describe humankind, namely:

  1. צֶלֶם (tselem) = "image". This essentially has two different usages in the OT:
  • a fabricated image of something such as: the gold tumors of mice, 1 Sam 6:5, 11, and of heathen gods, Amos 5:26, 2 Kings 11:18, Eze 7:20, 16:17, Num 33:52, etc
  • likeness or resemblance, Gen 1:26, 27, 5:3, 9:6, etc.
  1. דְּמוּת (demuth) = "likeness/similitude". It is used elsewhere in the same sense such as Eze 1:5, 10:1, 10, 26, 28, Dan 10:16, 2 Kings 16:10, Isa 40:18.

The Greek LXX (about 250 BC) used the following two words when translating Gen 1:26 -

  1. εἰκών (eikon) = image". It is used in the same two senses as the corresponding Hebrew word, specifically:
  • an image or ikon of something including a false pagan god, Rom 1:23, Rev 13:14, 15, 14:9, 11, 15:2
  • likeness or resemblance of a person, Matt 22:20, Marl 12:16, Luke 20:24, Rom 8:29, 1 Cor 11:17, 15:492 Cor 3:18, 4:4, Col 1:15, etc.
  1. ὁμοίωσις (homoiósis) = "likeness", eg, James 3:9

Thus, the answer to the OP's question is that the corresponding Greek and Hebrew words in Gen 1:26 and Rom 8:29 have almost identical meanings and usages.

Indeed, it is one of the fundamental purposes of the plan of salvation that:

  • God made mankind in God's image and likeness
  • sin destroyed that image and likeness
  • the purpose of salvation is to restore the image and likeness of God in mankind.

We see this in many places in the NT. Here is a short sample:

  • Rom 8:29 - because those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be firstborn among many brothers.
  • 2 Cor 3:18 - And we all having been unveiled in face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit.
  • Col 3:10 - and having put on the new, the one being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one having created him,
  • James 3:9 - With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, those being made according to the likeness of God.
  • 1 John 3:2 - Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.
4
  • 1
    I may have misunderstood but are you suggesting that the loss of God's 'image' (by sin) is restored to the sons of Adam by 'redemption' ? The purpose of salvation is to restore the image and likeness of God in mankind Are you conveying that God's purpose ever was in Adam (and not in Christ, another humanity) ?
    – Nigel J
    Sep 11, 2023 at 22:46
  • @NigelJ - The restoration of God's image in humanity, specifically among the saved (not the wicked) is part of the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit which was enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus. See the quoted texts above.
    – Dottard
    Sep 11, 2023 at 22:49
  • 2
    Is there an Old Testament passage that indicates that it was the characteristic of being made in the likeness or image of God that was destroyed by sin? It's clear in Genesis that the relationship was broken but the relationship with God and being created in the image of God are two different things.
    – David D
    Sep 12, 2023 at 15:20
  • @DavidD - while I agree, the marring of the image of God (= His moral character) is the fundamental cause of our sinfulness. (see Ps 51:3, 4 - we are born sinful!) Further, the NT makes clear that the restoration of that image is crucial, see 2 Cor 3:18.
    – Dottard
    Sep 12, 2023 at 20:15
1

I like this commentary by (JFB)

The new creation is analogous to the first creation (2Co 4:6). As man was then made in the image of God naturally, so now spiritually. But the image of God formed in us by the Spirit of God, is as much more glorious than that borne by Adam, as the Second Man, the Lord from heaven, is more glorious than the first man. Ge 1:26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The "image" is claimed for man, 1Co 11:7; the "likeness," Jas 3:9. ORIGEN [On First Principles, 3:6] taught, the image was something in which all were created, and which continued to man after the fall (Ge 9:6). The likeness was something towards which man was created, that he might strive after it and attain it. TRENCH thinks God in the double statement (Ge 1:26), contemplates both man's first creation and his being "renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created Him."

0
  1. First Adam (Genesis 1) - Evolutionary Physical Being: The first Adam, as described in Genesis 1, is seen as a physical being that evolved over time. He is considered more perfect than Jesus in some aspects, as he didn't have earthly parents and was given authority over the earth and living beings.

  2. Second Adam (Genesis 2) - Metaphysical, composed of body, soul, and spirit: The second Adam, mentioned in Genesis 2, is described as metaphysical, composed of body, soul, and spirit.

  3. Third Adam (Genesis 3) - Religious and divine, subject to mortality: The third Adam, mentioned in Genesis 3, is characterized as religious and divine, but subject to mortality.

The relationship with the image of the Son of God is based on the idea that as more children of Adam are transformed into the likeness of the Son of God (Jesus Christ), the primacy of the Son of God is elevated. This is linked to the leadership and authoritative position that Christ holds as the firstborn among the dead, as referenced in Colossians 1:18.

This interpretation suggests that the progression of Adams throughout the chapters of Genesis represents a spiritual evolution and an ascent in terms of perfection and relationship with God, culminating in the figure of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. The parallel between the types of Adam and the image of the Son of God emphasizes the spiritual transformation and exaltation that occurs as individuals become more like Christ.

1
  • 1
    You say, "He is considered more perfect than Jesus in some aspects". Where in the Bible are we told about these people who thought this?
    – C. Stroud
    Sep 23, 2023 at 16:33
0

The reasoning is correct. Paul describes the salvation from sin into holiness and perfection as conformation back to the original image of mankind as intended by God. Sin destroys our true purpose, thus breaks our relationship with God. Being renewed and conformed to the Son's image is the same as being conformed to the original sinless state of the divine likeness. It is not just Adam who is created in God's image but all his children (Gen 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image."). As the sages also explains, sin destroys of the perfect image of man, thus sinners ceases to be in the image of God:

  • Legends of the Jews 1:3:8
    And still another consequence of the sin of idolatry was that the countenances of the men of the following generations were no longer in the likeness and image of God, as the countenances of Adam, Seth.
    (The Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg [1909])

  • Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer 53:9 Because before his sin Adam was a perfect image of the heavenly bodies. Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, trans. and annotated by Rabbi Gerald Friedlander, London, 1916

From A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud & Midrash, Vol 3, Strack & Billerbeck:

  • ʾAbot de Rabbi Nathan 39 (10A): (R. Aqiba? [† ca. 135] said,) “Because of his sin, humanity is not capable of knowing lyd' the image of the upper world (the true essence of God) [on Romans 7:15]

  • On 1Cor 15:47, Pirqe Rabbi Eliezer 11 (6B): God said to the Torah, “We will make a man in our image and according to our likeness” (Gen 1:26). And the Torah answered and said, “Lord of the worlds, the world is yours and this man, whom you will create, is yours; but he is ‘transitory and full of turmoil’ (Job 14:1) and will fall into the power of sin. If you do not act long-sufferingly with him, it would be better for him if he did not come into the world.” God said to her, “Am I called ‘long-suffering’ and ‘great in grace’ for nothing (without reason)?” Then he began to gather the dust of the earth for the first man from the four corners of the earth: red, black, white, and yellow. Red: this is the blood; black: these are the entrails; white: these are the bones and sinews; yellow: this is the body. And why did he gather his dust from the four corners of the world? God said, “So that, if a person comes from the east to the west or from the west to the east, or to whatever other place he wants to go, and his end comes to depart from the world, the earth in that place may not say, ‘The dust of your body is not from me, and I will not accept you; go back to the place from which you were created!’ This means to teach you that, wherever a person may go, and his end comes to depart from the world, from there the dust of his body stems, and thither he returns, and that dust raises its voice; as it says, ‘For you are dust and you will return to dust’ (Gen 3:19).”

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.