Image of Man, Image of God

By Jeffrey Havennner

Editorial Note: This material, written by Jeff Havenner, was actually written for Advent. However, we considered it too good to wait most of a year to share. Hope you enjoy.

In the season of Advent, followers of Jesus look back on the coming of God’s Son in human image, as a human child, born of an earthly mother in the humble setting of a stable long ago. His birth itself looked back on another event much longer ago, which was God’s creation of man in his own image. The account in Genesis depicts God speaking from heaven saying, “Let us make man in our image and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on earth” (Genesis 1:26).  We are told in passages that follow that both male and female human beings together carry the imprint of God’s image and bear his stamp of authority on the earth. Why is this of importance?

Elamite Head of an Ruler, Iran - 2300-2000 BCE Flickr/Mary Harrsch

Elamite Head of an Ruler, Iran - 2300-2000 BCE Flickr/Mary Harrsch

Dr. Richard Pratt, Professor of Old Testament studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL made the analogy to the practice of kings in the ancient world. When kings wanted to demonstrate their control over territory they would erect statues of themselves to emphasize their control to any forces that might contest their power. Normally these would be tall impressive statues of stone that projected the intimidating power of the king. Dr. Pratt said the creation of man was similar, only instead of creating stone statures of imposing size, God made more modest images of clay. God thus intended to declare his rule over the territory of earth that was in rebellion against him at the time of his creation of man.

Dr. Gregory Boyd, in his book God at War, argues that the rebellion on earth was manifest in the Serpent's presence in the garden. Eden was established as a beachhead from which to liberate the earth from Satan who was already present. By creating and filling the earth with his image, God was announcing his claim to the earth and putting Satan on notice that he did not even need to use his own power directly. Rather God would use just little clay images of himself.

The serpent broke those images by inducing man to disobey God's command about forbidden fruit and probably thought, "That was easy."  God however said, “I shall put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He shall crush your head and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Genesis 3:15).  In effect God told Satan that a struggle would continue between him and the broken clay images of God. God would gain the ultimate victory and Satan's powers would be held up to ridicule. So Advent prepares us for the coming of the seed of the woman in the likeness of broken clay images.  He will be bruised on His heel but deal the serpent a mortal blow to the head and restore the universe completely under the rule of God.

Jeff Havenner is a retired microbiologist who worked at the Frederick Cancer Research Center and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Posted on February 25, 2015 and filed under Third 30, Blog.