By: Luis Dizon

Dignity, Morality and the Image of God - Part Two

In Part One of Dignity, Morality and the Image of God, it was discussed how one’s view of mankind shapes how one would answer fundamental questions of human dignity and worth. Here we will look at Genesis and the significance of its narrative regarding the creation of man, and the initial questions posed.

To begin with, it is important to put the creation of man in the context of the rest of the creation account. Man was created on the sixth day, which is significant considering how much more space is devoted to the sixth day than any other of the days of creation. Consider that over 120 words are used as opposed to the 20-70 words used for each of the other days. Also, of all the creatures listed as being created on day six, man is placed at the end of the list (vv. 26-28); God literally saved the best for last. As has been pointed out, these verses “are intended to be viewed as the climax and crown of God’s creative work,”[1] and when God says “let Us,” this is meant to indicate that “something special is happening in this section.”[2] Professor Stephen Dempster notes:

“Thematically, as well as verbally, humanity is crowned the royalty of creation. Whereas other creations come about by the divine word in a predictable manner (‘Let there be . . . and it was so.’), there is a pregnant theological pause before the creation of humanity.”[3]

Next, note that when God said “Let Us make man,” He uses the term ’ādām. Although this is primarily a masculine word, Old Testament scholar Peter Gentry notes that this word “[is] a generic term for mankind as both male and female, is created as the image of God” This means that according to this passage, “[the] creation of mankind entails male and female,” hence why the verse states that “male and female He created them” (v. 27).[4] This means that men and women are equally made in God’s image, are equally the crown of creation and share the same dignity and benefits entailed by these facts.

In addition to this, it is necessary to look at the section where God states that man is made in His image and likeness, as this is the most important part of the passage. Here, the question arises of exactly which characteristics of man indicate that he is made in the image of God. This is a question that has many answers to it, and theologians have spent much time trying to pinpoint some characteristic or another which exemplify this image, be it man’s intellect, his sense of morality, his moral purity, his being created as male and female, or his dominion over the created order. However, the simplest answer is that being made in God’s image means that man resembles God, and this semblance entails all of the above qualities, plus other things, such as his sense of eternality (cf. Ecclesiastes 3:11). To put it in the words of John Calvin:

“God having determined to create man in his own image, to remove the obscurity which was in this terms adds, by way of explanation, in his likeness, as if he had said, that he would make man, in whom he would, as it were, image himself by means of the marks of resemblance impressed upon him…

…[T]he image of God extends to everything in which the nature of man surpasses that of all other species of animals.”[5]

This discussion will be continued in part three, where other relevant passages will be brought to bear on the Genesis account and how they shed further light on its meaning.

[1] Peter J. Gentry, “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image.” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 12.1 (Spring 2008): 23.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Stephen G. Dempster, Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 57.

[4] Gentry, “Kingdom Through Covenant,” 23.

[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008), I:15:3.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s