Genesis 1:26 tells us what God wanted to do: "let us make man in our image and likeness". However in Genesis 1:27 man is only made in the image of God. But in Genesis 5:1 we are told that man was made in the likeness of God. Image and likeness are two separate ideas: image is tselem in Hebrew meaning a representative. Likeness is demuth meaning to be like,or similtude. I understand it like this: image is like a robot that looks (in appearance) like its creator and likeness is the way the robot moves and speaks that is similar to its creator.

Is the fact that Genesis 1:27 says man is created in God's likeness and Genesis 5:1 that says man is created in God's image contradictory? What is God telling us by using different words in each verse?

What is clear, is that man was NOT created in both image and likeness. It was God's intent that man should be both, but is only created as one.

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    Where is the word "only"? If I say I will make a big red car, and then make a red car, does that then mean my car is not big?
    – David
    Commented Mar 3 at 6:01
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    God did not say Let us make man in image likeness - He said in image and likeness - two separate things - as is obvious from the words in Hebrew. So your argument is nonsensical. Commented Mar 3 at 10:35
  • Why are quoting Genesis without citing a particular version, please? Why are you arguing about what's 'obvious from the words in Hebrew' without offering even any recognised authority's commentary, let alone your own? Since you're worried about the meaning of individual words, why do you give 'Likeness' a capital in the title but not in the exposition… what changed? How is any of that fair? Since 'It was God's intent that man should be both, but is only created as one' doesn't really work in every-day, let alone academic English, can you tell us your own native language? Commented Mar 3 at 21:56

6 Answers 6


In the same context, consider Genesis 1:22 where God created the fish and flying creatures with the blessing of "be fruitful and multiply..."

Would you say that these two words also refer to two different characteristics? In this case, the expression seems to function as an intensifier. Or it might refer to fertility and the resulting population expansion.

It might then be possible that "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness" also functions as an intensifier. Or it might refer to visual similitude and a concomitant spiritual component since we read in John 4:24 ESV, "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

If the expression used for creating humans is not an intensifier, but a description of two domains, visual and spiritual, and humans were referred to in Genesis 5:1 only in God's likeness, then one might argue that God considered the spiritual domain the primary differentiation.

Also notice that the first human's own son, Seth, was described as having both a human image and in human likeness. The same considerations then also apply to Seth.


I am not sure we can be so precise as to identify the exact difference between "image" and "likeness" in Gen 1:26, 27. However, can draw some definite conclusions based on the doctrine of soteriology and its function - to (inter alia) restore the image and likeness of God in mankind that sin destroyed.

Note the contrast between the creation of the animals and plants vs the creation of mankind:

  • Air, sea and land creatures were created “according to their kinds”, Gen 1:21, 24, 25
  • Mankind was created, “in our [God’s] image, according to our likeness”, Gen 1:26.

Note also that, unlike the air, land and sea creatures:

  • “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, Gen 2:7.
  • Mankind was blessed, Gen 1:28
  • Mankind was given vice-regent rulership of the earth, Gen 1:28
  • Adam was asked to name other creatures, Gen 2:19, 20, just as God had named other things before man was created, Gen 1:5, 8, 10.
  • Mankind was tested with a choice of allegiance, Gen 2:16, 17, and thus was given the freedom of moral choice requiring intelligence
  • Mankind had personal communion with God, Gen 3:8, 9.
  • Mankind was commanded to pro-create as the vice-regent of God on earth, Gen 1:28

Thus, mankind was fundamentally distinct from all other creatures and had many functions of God delegated to humans such as procreation, governorship, maintaining the world, etc.. As is well-known, this unique position of mankind was ruptured in Gen 3, whereupon, God immediately announced the plan of salvation with a coming Messiah (Gen 3:15) in order to restore mankind’s relationship with God and the image & likeness of God.

The effect of this ruptured relationship can be seen in the depraved sinful stated recorded by Paul in Rom 3:10-18, and by David in Ps 51:3-5.

Significantly, the genealogical record of Gen 5:3 says,

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”

Thus, the image of God appears to have been replaced with the image of fallen humanity, Adam, that knew “good and evil” (Gen 3:22) and had thus, lost their innocence. The ground was also cursed, Gen 3:17.

Therefore, the plan of salvation's purpose is to restore the image and likeness of God in mankind:

  • Christians have “the mind of Christ”, 1 Cor 2:16
  • Converted Christian are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, Rom 12:2
  • Christians are to be like God and “follow God’s example”, Eph 5:1, by being loving, V2.
  • By beholding the Messiah, Jesus Christ, 2 Cor 3:18. We are “transformed into His image”
  • Jesus’ final instruction to the disciples was to go and make more disciples, Matt 28:19
  • Followers of Jesus are called, “Christians”, = “like Christ”, Acts 11:26
  • When Jesus returns, we will “be like Him”, 1 John 3:2
  • The highest attainment of a follower of Christ is to “know the Lord”, Heb 8:11.

APPENDIX - The Imitation of Christ

Here is a sample of the huge amount of material available on this subject of the imitation of Christ.

  • Be imitators of God. Eph 5:1.
  • 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, 4:14, 5:8, 9.
  • 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 baptised (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21, 22) and so should we be baptised, 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 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. See also the many instances where Jesus prayed earnestly such as Heb 5:7, Matt 14:23, 26:36, 39, 42, 44, Mark 1:35, Luke 3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 11:1, 22:32, 41-46, John 17, etc.
  • 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. John 14:15, 15:10.
  • Abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. John 15:4.
  • Jesus is the “beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13) and Jesus is the beginning and end of our faith (Heb 12:2).
  • We are co-heirs with Christ of glory. Rom 8:17.
  • 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 so are His followers (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 (Matt 5:14-16, Phil 2:14)
  • 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.
  • Jesus, by His sacrifice on the cross, reconciled sinners to God (Rom 5:10, Col 2:16, 1:20, 22, 2 Cor 5:19), and we must also be involved in the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18, 19) as “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20).

There is much, much more.

  • +1 to cancel the seemly obligatory down vote that lacked any explanatory comment. But you also made some good points including that Seth was born in the image and likeness of the fallen Adam. Also appreciated was the survey of scriptures that convey concepts regarding God and man, highlighting God's original concept of a hybrid of flesh with a spark of divinity. Thank you.
    – Dieter
    Commented Mar 3 at 19:31

Image” means a representation of who God is in external form. You are a representation of God, you are a description or portrayal of God in a particular way being of His nature, a portrait or representation. “likeness” means the fact or quality of being alike. We have Gods qualities such as reason, goodness, love, righteousness. We are like Him. likeness means we are like God in His ways and nature and our image (could also be what ppl will see) often times we are seen (image) but are NOT functioning in righteousness, but we are made with the ability to do so because we are created like our Father (likeness) a representation of His righteousness.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 3 at 12:57
  • And welcome to the BH forum, V.P. See my comment to Brigitte A.S. below.
    – Dieter
    Commented Mar 3 at 19:39

“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!!

Did Adam lose this physical image at the Fall?

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”.


My answer is in the form of a question. If GOD created man in His image and likeness, then why was Jesus created in the likeness of man. Man was already the image and likeness of GOD. Jesus is God.

I explored this by using the Strong's reference. Genesis 1:26 is translated "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: ..."

asah: accomplish Original Word: עָשָׂה Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: asah Phonetic Spelling: (aw-saw') Definition: do, make

is translated "Let us make"

tselem: an image Original Word: צֶלֶם Part of Speech: Noun Masculine Transliteration: tselem Phonetic Spelling: (tseh'-lem) Definition: an image

is translated "in our image"

demuth: likeness, similitude Original Word: דְּמוּת Part of Speech: noun feminine Transliteration: demuth Phonetic Spelling: (dem-ooth') Definition: likeness, similitude

is translated "in our likeness"

Why? Why insert those pronouns that are absent in the original language?

I read it differently, that God created Adam in the image and likeness of Man.

Then it makes sense that Jesus was created in the likeness of man, as stated in Philippians 2:7. The translation from the original language agree quite literally.

There is no contradictions in the Bible. Translation is the weak link.

Not understanding is suffered throughout the word.

Praise God!



  1. The state, quality, or fact of being like; resemblance.
  2. similar appearance; a semblance.
  3. pictorial, graphic, or sculptured representation of something; an image.

Two words describing the same. No human IS God.

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    Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Mar 3 at 12:56
  • And welcome to the BH forum, where we have to provide evidence for our perspectives. This evidence can come from supporting scriptures, different translations including Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic, scholarly works, and logical analysis. This can be tedious, but I've found the extra work to be valuable in understanding why I believe what I believe or, on some occasions, to change my mind regarding some of my opinions.
    – Dieter
    Commented Mar 3 at 19:36

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