“In the Beginning” and the Imago Dei

According to Scripture, in the beginning God created everything “very good.” The original Hebrew word טוֹב (tove) is an adjective translated as “good” in most English translations of the Bible. According to Bill Mounce, this Hebrew word means, “…good or well; it describes goodness, beauty, and moral uprightness. … The entire creation is inherently valuable, it is well done, and God is satisfied with what he has made.”[1] The addition of the original Hebrew word, מְאֹד (meh-ode’) means “very, much, greatly, exceedingly.”[2] In other words, God’s creation is not just ‘good,’ it is exceedingly good, or perfect. There is nothing God has not made that was not good in the beginning. Since God is perfect and free from sin and corruption, he cannot create anything that is not perfect. It is his holy nature to create only beauty. As the pinnacle of his creation God has created mankind in his image ‘very good,’ but with mankind’s disobedience sin entered God’s creation and distorted God’s original plan.

Yahweh’s Original Design for Mankind in the Imago Dei

            Genesis 1:31 indicates humanity was first created ‘very good’ along with all of God’s creations. However, there is a unique difference. Mankind was created uniquely in the imago Dei. The phrase imago Dei is Latin for ‘image of God.’ When God created mankind (Adam and Eve) he created the human race in his ‘image.’ Genesis 1:26-27 states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. …’ So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Expounding upon the meaning of “image of God,” Forlines says mankind is “patterned”[3] after God in a rational and moral likeness. Moreover, Forlines makes the observation that both rational and moral likeness are summed up in one word, “person.”[4] A “person,” Forlines argues, is one “who thinks, feels, and acts.”[5] In other words, since God is a personal being, man is a personal being.[6]

            Another aspect of being created in God’s image is the express command to mankind to exercise ‘dominion’ over the earth as trustees. Under God’s overarching directive to carry out dominion are the sub-commands to work and procreate. As Wong and Rae posit,

Adam and Eve worked the garden to put it to productive use and reap its fruits. In doing so, they were fulfilling the dominion mandate of Genesis 1:28. Procreation is another means used to fulfill this mandate, thereby establishing a human community to serve as trustees over creation. …God establishes both work (Gen 2:15) and procreation (Gen 2:24) as the primary means by which the dominion mandate would be carried out. Procreation provides the “people power”…, and work provides the direction for fulfilling one of God’s principal tasks for human beings. That is, work is one of the primary ways that God had in mind for human beings to do what he commanded them to in the world.[7]

Conclusion

            The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever [sic].”[8] This classic catechism, or teaching, captures the essence of what it means to be created in the image of God. God created humanity to glorify and serve him and him alone. As the “crown of God’s handiwork”[9], Adam and Eve were expected to fulfill this high purpose. However, with the entrance of sin this all changed.


[1] William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 300.

[2] Mounce, Mounce’s, 765.

[3] F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest for Truth: Theology for Postmodern World (Nashville: Randall House Publications, 2001), 136.

[4] Ibid, 138.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Kenman L. Wong and Scott B. Rae, Business for the Common Good: A Christian Vision for the Marketplace (Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2011).

[8] Westminster Assembly, The Westminster Confession of Faith: Edinburgh Edition (Philadelphia: William S. Young, 1851), 387.

[9] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 160.

One response to ““In the Beginning” and the Imago Dei”

  1. […] 3. While God’s image or the imago dei was broken and maligned, it was not lost on humanity. (Read Matt’s post on the Imago Dei to learn more.) One goal of redemption is to restore Shalom between humans and […]

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