Well, I see I’m already late to the tribulation. I’m not too comfortable with making thorough critiques of another brother’s position on an open forum - especially when it will be easily to attribute the motive as pushing a position of my own! So I aim to question mainly methodological matters rather than conclusions, since the thread title compels me to say something or be impolite to mein host.
My overarching concern has been mentioned by others, and that is the lack of justification for controversial suggestions. That goes along with Guy’s talk of a “prophetic” view of authorial intent, which is all too common for any of us who take the Holy Spirit’s inspiration seriously. Neither is it entirely unfounded - the apostle John sees Christ in Gen 1, and I would see that as inspired exegesis rather than eisegesis. We, however, are not apostles and must take our lead from the whole Bible.
On the “justification” point:
In Gen 1 the text is describing things happening in both the supernatural and temporal realms on each day (except 5). Much of what is happening here is a copy or representation of what is happening above.
That assertion does not seem to arise obviously from the text, and needs more justification. Remember that “heaven” and “earth” is primarily a physical, not a spiritual, dichotomy. God chooses to presence himself in the heavens, though “they cannot contain him,” but all the created things associated with heaven are the birds and the astronomical lights, not the angels.
I share with Joshua concerns about the particular christological interpretation of 1:26-7. For a start, there appears the same lack of justification to change the historical understanding of the entire church by this:
God announces His intentions for humanity in 1:26, 1:27 is not just three comments about the one thing He did in order to ultimately fulfill His stated intent, it is a list of three things He did to fulfill that intent.
The first part of what He did was in heaven, this is where the anthropomorphic form of God seen in chapter two and the theophanies comes in, and the echo or copy of that was Adam on earth.
Who sez? This leads to the theological concerns about the person of Christ, and here I take my lead from that Johannine prologue, in the light of the other “cosmic Christ” passages such as Col 1. John quite clearly sees Christ as eternally involved in the whole creation as Logos, which at the simplest level implies he is the very word of power by which God speaks everything into being. He is begotten, therefore, and not in any sense created during the first week.
John is also quite clear about his physical involvement with mankind - “he took flesh and dwelt among us,” that is he became human at the Incarnation, and not before. I see insufficient justifcation to (a) assuming a Christ-theophany in the garden (where the text is highly figurative anyway, and the nature of theophanies is never spelled out in Scripture), nor (b) that ch 1 refers to such a theophany as an event in creation.
Of course, we must not forget that
Christ is the image of God…
and Mark is quite correct to note that “Christ is the image” (various NT scriptures) and man is “according to the image.” That’s a rich seam pointed out by mainstream scholars like Gordon Wenham, and explored in detail by others like Philip Edgcumbe-Hughes.
But whilst there may well be a “Christ-shaped hole” in the way image-language is used in Genesis, Christ has not yet been revealed, and Gen 1 clearly makes “in the image” and “after the likeness” a creation-specification for mankind, the text allowing either generic mankind, male and female, or Adam as the prototype from whom woman is derived. Neither phrase is equivalent to God’s actually creating the image, but only man after the image.
In other words, the image is within the Creator himself, not the created, and the NT revelation shows us that that image is specifically in the eternal Son by dint of his being only-begotten. This gives a very rich source for theologising on the nature of mankind in relation to God, but particularly in relation to Christ. It certainly makes our affinity with the Son more than simply our shared humanity because of the Incarnation, and may well cast light on what was going on relationally in the garden, Adam truly being intended to imitate and reflect the God he encountered there, Image impressing image.
But I don’t see how it follows that:
we cannot be “in the image of God” outside of relationship with Him. Not even Adam was “in the image” once he broke relationship, just the likeness, and became like the rest of his kind. Thus the “male and female” of the population outside the garden is not said to be in the image of God.
Whoever mankind is theologically, his being according to the image and likeness is creational, not additive. It is because we are in that image that sin is so heinous, and the solution so difficult. Therefore God would not be satisfied with effacing his own image by total destruction. And that is why the majority of theologians, historically, have spoken of the image being dimmed, or marred, by sin, but not effaced.
Their vocabulary is necessarily vague, because the issues are deeper than we are (the essence of the Godhead, for goodness sake!), but the persisting glory of man is seen, for example, in Psalm 8. Here mankind is in view, but paradoxically does not live up to the glory he is said to possess. Hebrews 2 points to Christ as the resolution of the paradox, but not just because the psalm is “all about Jesus”, but because through Jesus man’s true role is restored.
I see that, despite my intentions, I’ve critiqued the model whilst aiming to question the methodology - it does seem to me that the underlying weakness is excessive eisegesis. I’m reminded of a Messianic Jewish teacher, who when asked in a seminar where he got his counterintuitive interpretation of a particular passage, replied, “It’s right there - between the lines.” The problem is that “between the lines” there is as big a space as human imagination will fill, and reducing that to what may reasonably regarded as true requires not only the spirit-led knowledge of the whole Scriptures of any one person, but that of the whole people of God both before and after Christ.
The Lord, indeed “hath more truth yet to break forth out of His Holy Word,” and for better or worse we have to seek some of it when, as now, “science” has apparently weakened the conclusions of some of our godly forebears. But I think (as my opposition to innovative “evolutionary theology” shows) we need to be asking how those forebears would have dealt with the information we now have, rather than assuming that until now everybody has been getting things wrong. The Church, remember, has always been under the Project Management of the risen Christ!