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Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 5;3 are the only two Hebrew verses wherein both דְּמוּת (dimut) and צֶלֶם (tzelem) occur together (as a couplet).

Genesis 1:26

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ וְיִרְדּוּ בִדְגַת הַיָּם וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה וּבְכָל־הָאָרֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶמֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵשׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ

Genesis 5:3

וַֽיְחִי אָדָם שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה וַיּוֹלֶד בִּדְמוּתוֹ כְּצַלְמוֹ וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת

The LXX has «κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν» and «κατὰ τὴν ἰδέαν αὐτοῦ καὶ κατὰ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ», respectively.

Genesis 1:26

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν καὶ ἀρχέτωσαν τῶν ἰχθύων τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντων τῶν ἑρπετῶν τῶν ἑρπόντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς

Genesis 5:3

ἔζησεν δὲ Αδαμ διακόσια καὶ τριάκοντα ἔτη καὶ ἐγέννησεν κατὰ τὴν ἰδέαν αὐτοῦ καὶ κατὰ τὴν εἰκόνα αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπωνόμασεν τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ Σηθ


In Genesis 1:26, the Hebrew text states, בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ (betzalmenu kidmutenu), while in Genesis 5:3, it states, בִּדְמוּתוֹ כְּצַלְמוֹ (bidmuto ketzalmo).

The Hebrew prepositions (in bold) are interchanged in the couplets between the two verses. Does this change the meaning of the Hebrew couplet, or could we consider the couplet in Genesis 5:3 when trying to understand the meaning of the couplet in Genesis 1:26?

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    I wish I could upvote this excellent question more than once. +1.
    – Dottard
    Oct 15, 2023 at 20:08

4 Answers 4

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Actually, to be pedantic, it is not the Hebrew propositions that are transposed, between Gen 1:26 and 5:3 but the nouns; thus we have:

  • Gen 1:26 - In our image, after our likeness
  • Gen 5:3 - In his likeness, after his image

It is instructive (as pointed out by the OP) that both prepositions are translated, in both cases, by the Greek κατὰ = "according to" in the LXX. Thus, the LXX translators did not think there was much significance to the distinction between these two Hebrew prepositions in this instance.

I think it is more significant that the order of the nouns are reversed making a kind of chiastic bracket around these two passages, presumably to call attention to the contrast AND similarities between God's original creation and Adam's procreation. It emphasizes that while being made perfect in Eden, Adam transmitted his sinful nature to all his progeny; hence the (implied) need for a universal Savior.

APPENDIX - Christ

I cannot resist mentioning, for completeness only, that it was said of Jesus:

  • Rom 8:3 - For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
  • 2 Cor 4:4 - in whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so as for not to beam forth the illumination of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  • Col 1:15 - The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
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  • @DerÜbermensch - the order of the prepositions is the same in both verses. The order of the nouns is reversed. The prepositions are transposed only relative to the transposed nouns. Thus, their order remains the same.
    – Dottard
    Oct 15, 2023 at 21:38
  • Okay, maybe interchanged is better word than transposed when describing the prepositions? Oct 15, 2023 at 21:50
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This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created. And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth: - Genesis 5:1-3

There is a creation, in God's image and likeness, that is encapsulated within humanity as a whole (male and female, called Adam) and there is the individual begetting wherein that image and likeness are passed on.

When God created Adam, all of humanity was represented, (like the way Levi paid tithes in Abraham (Heb. 7:9-10)). When Adam sinned, all sinned. Creation instills only one; Procreation passes along both. The image of God is tarnished by the likeness of Adam.

Image and likeness (creation) vs likeness and image (procreation)

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To rephrase your question (just to make sure we're on the same page), you're asking whether the switching of the prepositions (Beth & Kaph) changes the meaning? Most likely the answer is "no." GKC has this useful entry for Beth:

[§ 119f] 3. A general view of the union of certain verbs, or whole classes of verbs, with particular prepositions, especially in explanation of certain idioms and pregnant expressions.4

[§ 119h] (b) בְּ.6 Underlying the very various uses of this preposition is either the idea of being or moving within some definite region, or some sphere of space or time (with the infinitive, a simultaneous action, &c.), or else the idea of fastening on something, close connexion with something (also in a metaphorical sense, following some kind of pattern, e. g. the advice or command of some one בִּדְבַר פ׳, בַּֽעֲצַת פ׳, or in a comparison, as in Gn 1:26 בְּצַלְמֵ֫נוּ כִדְמוּתֵ֫נוּ in our image, after our likeness; cf. 1:27, 5:1, 3), or finally the Idea of relying or depending upon . . . , or even of merely striking or touching something.

(Wilhelm Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, ed. E. Kautzsch and A. E. Cowley, 2d, Accordance electronic ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), 378-379.)

After the grammar gives a list of possible uses, there, at the very end, they let us know that this is an idiom in which "בְּ", ("following a pattern of") basically = "כִּ" ("according to.")

Part of the reason for this is that Koine Greek still has a large amount of hypotactic conjunctions still left over from the Attic/Classical era. Whereas semitic languages have mostly paratactic conjunctions:

  1. Introduction. Part of the function of the particles is to give greater prominence to the modal character of a clause or sentence (ἄν and the interrogative particles), but more often to express the interrelation of sentences and clauses (the conjunctions). The number of particles used in the NT is considerably smaller than in the classical language (s. §107); yet in comparison with the poverty of the Semitic languages in this regard it appears exceedingly large. The conjunctions may be divided into co-ordinating, i.e. those which connect elements in sentence structure which are on a par with each other, and subordinating, i.e. those which subordinate and give a dependent character to the elements introduced by them. Co-ordinating conjunctions have the most diverse origins, while subordinating conjunctions are derived for the most part from the stem of the relative pronoun.

(F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and Robert W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Accordance electronic ed. (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1961), 225.)

In Hebrew it is customary for the author to stack two elements side by side (parataxis). And then the reader is left to determine the relationship between them. Greek has a 'wider palette' of words to choose from to organize the thoughts (ⲟⲩⲛ, ⲁⲣⲁⲟⲩⲛ, ⲅⲁⲣ, etc.)

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Swapping the two ‘prepositions’ (correctly singled out by Dottard), far from concluding that they are synonymic, rightly indicates instead that the writer intended to apply both the meanings of them on each one of the ‘preposition’, to avoid any possible misunderstanding to the hearer/reader. All this in ‘equal measure’ – we may say- as the LXX’s single reading (κατα) – against two ‘prepositions’ - indicates.

I hope to have done a fine thing to add the following information to help you to focus better the common factors as well as the distinction factors among these terms.

The first ‘preposition’, in both Gen 1:26 and 5:3, (or, better, the abbreviated prefix of it) is -כ [k-]. In the Hebrew Bible this particle is spelled also in some longer wordings, for example, כי [ki] (in Gen 1:4), or כה [ke] (Gen 15:5). Moreover, it may can be related to the verbal form used in Job 28:25 תכן [tkn].

Anyway, the basic concept behind this ‘preposition’ has to do with an ‘establishing some limits’ (about space, measure, behavior, and other precincts) in which an object (in a broad sense) must be placed. As derivative noun, we may find the meaning of ‘measure’ (again in a broad sense). From that root (so, much time before the Greeks) we probably have drawn the term ‘canon’.

With regard to this, John Parkhurst wrote (all the bold emphasis onward is mine): “כה [ke] a particle of restriction or limitation of manner, place, or time.” “[…] Martinius, in his Lexicon Etymolog[ical] in QUIA, deduces this particle ‘from כ [k] according to, as, denoting the agreement of cause and effect’, but it seems more accurate to say, that כי [ki] is a particle derived from כהה [kee], to restrain, and denotes restriction or limitation, particularly of fact, cause, effect, and time” (Analytical Hebrew & Chaldee Lexicon, p. 222, under the entry כהה [VI, VIII]; see also p. 373, under the entry כון > כן).

In synthesis, this particle focuses on the concept of some precise limitations to the equality of two objects, in which some parts are ‘superimposable’, whereas others not. Mathemathically speaking, we may imagine this situation with the help of two sets which intersecate each other. The lines which delimitates the superimposabled space (namely, the ‘intersection’) between the two sets is what this ‘preposition’ means, that is (in comparison of two objects): an equality limited to some parts of the object to be taken as a model.

The other ‘preposition’ (or, better, the abbreviated prefix of it) is -ב [b-]. The proper (original) sense of this particle is ‘to be within, inside’ (static mode), or, ‘through, between’ (dynamic mode). Probably, from this term was derived also the Hebrew noun בית (bit), namely, ‘a house’, ‘an indoor space to live in’).

But, since the question is about “דמות [dmut] and צלם [jlm] in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 5:3” we have also to understand the difference of meaning between these two terms. After that we may understand better the cross-compound between the ‘prepositions’ and these nouns utilized in the Bible passages at issue.

J. Maxwell Miller wrote: “The two terms [צלם (jlm), and דמות (dmut)] are not entirely parallel and certainly not synonymous in their meaning and normal usage.” (In the ‘Image’ and ‘Likeness’ of God [1972; published by Society of Biblical Literature, vol. 91, no. 3, p. 293]).

The general concept shared by both terms is ‘to be a model’, or/and ‘to elaborate a model’. Bot, above this general concept in common, there exists a difference between these two words. We will see them further on.


צלם (jlm)

Now, we will focus only some Bible passages, trying to catch the meaning this word possesses (as a noun, or as a verbal form):

Gen 9:6 – about a forma mentis in common between God and man (to do justice).

Num 33:52; 2 Kin 11:18; Eze 7:20 – about heathen images, properly, images of how those worshippers did imagine their gods were in their appearance. Not for nothing ‘image’ and ‘imagination’ come both from the same Latin root [imaginor > imago], sharing both the general concept of speaking about of ‘something imaginated’ (compare note at Psa 39:6).

1 Sam 6:5 – about figurative representations of a ‘tumor’ (טחר), and of a rat.

Psa 39:6 – about a mental imagination (compare the identical concept, illustrated in Pro 18:11, about riches/money). The LXX has “εικονι”, ‘an image’. Some modern renderings: “vain shew”, KJV, ERV; “l’apparence”, or, “vain show”, Darby, Webster; “image”, Douay-Rheims, Young.


דמות (dmut)

Here, too, we will focus only some Bible passages, trying to catch the meaning this word possesses (as a noun, or as a verbal form):

2Kin 16:10 - equiparated to a תבנית [tbnit], namely, a traced ‘outline, model, sketch, plan, blueprint’;

Isa 13:4 - about an ‘outline’, but in auditive sphere (‘like the noise of a crowd…’);

Son 7:7(8); Eze 1:5, 10, 13, 16, 22, 26, 28; 8:2; 10:1, 10, 21-22; 23:15; Dan 10:16; Hos 12:11; 2 Chr 4:3 – in every of these passages the term always indicate a visual ‘outline’.

Num 33:56; Psa 58:4(5) - about some specific physical/emotional outlines (> derivative outcomes).

Judges 20:5; Est 4:13; Psa 17:12 - about some forma mentis (namely, a mental outline).

Psa 102:6(7); 144:4, Jer 6:2 – about some purely analogical outlines (the ‘psalmist as a pelican’, ‘a man as a breath’, ‘Israel as a delicate woman’).


Conclusion: דמות (dmut) – a derivative noun from the TM conceptual root דמה (dme), ‘to be comparable’ – has to do with some terms of comparison, or similarity, whether they are included in bodily or mental spheres (analogical comparisons included).

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