The image of God

Since ideas regarding the image of God is crucial to GAE, I though I will link to an article that points to different ways that the image of God can be viewed.

And this paper gives a brief historical overview-

1 Like

So what is your summary of the different views?

To summarise, the views identify the image of God as

1 Intellect/ability to reason and will.
2. Relational - The image of God is revealed in relationships between man and God and between human being (I e both “vertical” and “horizontal” relationships)
3) Functional - Human beings represent God in governing the earth and hence present God’s image to those being governed.

The first one and variations on it are the most common views.
I personally think the second view is more true to scripture and logically more plausible.
And the third view is more prophetic and presents Jesus more than us.

1 Like

Those are the three camps. I’m sympathetic to your view, and actually propose a relational definition of Human in the GAE, but did you know you are an outlier? Most theologians fall in the other two camps.

1 Like

Ya I am aware of that.
I think the main reason for that is historical. Because of the prevalence and influence of logos theology to trinitarian doctrine, it became the standard understanding for the image of God. One of my favourite theologians Athanasius makes a beautiful case for seeing the image of God as the “logos” in his work about the incarnation.

I don’t see it as wrong. I just see the relational view as more correct and in line with biblical revelation.
IMO, a relational understanding of God in terms of love is crucial to God’s vision and purpose for humanity as revealed in the bible.

Another question to ask is whether our logos is qualitatively the same as the Logos of God. I am not particularly convinced it is so.

1 Like

It will be interesting to see your response to the solutions I lay out in my book.

1 Like

This is a very important question. I look forward to further discussion in this area and seeing how the understanding can become more clear. Thanks!



Do you think they are crucial? I just recently posted in a thread that it would seem understanding exactly what the “image of God” meant seems peculiarly irrelevant to GAE… because no matter how you slice the concept, it seems “Genealogical Adam” is compatible with each “image” scenario.

Let’s look at your list of three alternatives:

Can you see any real points of conflict here?

@Mlkluther, I would ask you the same question: which of these (or any other view) would you say causes “Geneal.Adam” the most difficulty?

Quite frankly, I am still trying to fully understand GAE. So, I am not much help to you here.

However, coming to some sort of understanding by what we mean when we say “the image of God” is essential in this space as it is essential to trying to sort out a number of other issues as well.

1 Like

It needs a specific understanding of Gen 1 and 2, where the “image of God” applies to the first humans who precede Adam and Eve by many many Generations.
Take intelligence as the sign for the image of God. This would mean that man has been bearing the image of God from atleast 200kya.
If you are opting for a recent Adam/Eve from 6000ya, then you are claiming that human beings have had intelligence for 195kya while not being able to tell Good from bad and hence were not responsible for their moral actions during that period.

Do you find something wrong with that picture?

1 Like

Since my understanding of GAE is fairly comprehsnive, I have yet to see any issue triggered by any version of God’s Image … except the erroneous conclusion that the Genesis 1 population doesn’t have god’s image (Genesis 1 is quite clear that it does).


Not if Genesis 1 is referencing a pre-Adam population. Genesis 1 references the image of God… it is Genesis 2 that says nothing about it.

Let’s look at your specific question below:

It seems you are quite determined to say pre-Adam populations, if they existed, do not have the image of God. But this is merely your corruption of a difficult concept. Genesis 1 specifically states that “humans, male and female” have the image.

Since I am inclined to favor the 6000 year scenario for the de novo creation of Adam and Eve, I am also inclined to see phrase “knowing Good from Evil” as something other than intelligence.

I find something is amiss with the whole Genesis 2 scenario: it never made any sense to me that someone would put someone through a moral testing before they were exposed to the difference between Good and Evil – unless, Adam and Eve

      were somehow more ignorant about good and evil than the pre-Adamite populations.

In short pre Adamite groups having the image of God (in this case intelligence) wouldn’t make sense unless the entire story of the fall is rendered meaningless.

If only Adam and Eve did not have any idea of Good and Evil, and the rest of humanity did, then you must claim one of the two -
a) Humanity had fallen long before Adam and Eve fell.
b) Humanity was righteous as they perfectly adhered to their knowledge of good and Evil in their actions.

Both ideas do serious damage to the doctrine of Sin and sorteriology (i.e the doctrine of Salvation)


Again… you will have to explain what makes your version more meaningful.

If Adam and Eve are given special knowledge of God’s rules … or of the nature of interacting with God… then they provide a crucial insight to the rest of humanity… no matter how intelligent the rest of humanity is.

I view the image of God as relational. I.e the image of God is seen in loving relationships in communities (especially marriage) and in the relationship between man and God.

I view only Adam and Eve as having the image of God.

Should solve all the problems… might even work well with a recent Adam and Eve. Though not as well as an earlier one :wink:


Ah… well… you have contrived a meaning of “image of God” that specifically challenges GAE.

I forgot about this possibility.

And I would say your understanding of the “image of God” is not only bad because it conflicts with the GAE, but also because it doesn’t seem to fit anything we learn about the image of God in the various texts, nor does it fit what even you would expect to find:

Genesis 2 is clearly the one that introduces Adam & Eve as having a relationship with God… and yet it doesn’t remind the reader at all that Adam and Eve have the image of God.

And Genesis 9, which defines why murder is wrong, seems to be including all sorts of future generations of humans who are particularly devoid of a relationship with God.

So… good luck with your new found definitions.


How can the pre-Adam human population be guilty of “The Fall” if God has issued no commandments to them?

@jongarvey is certainly quite clear on that matter.

Not my definition.
It’s actually Karl Barth’s approach. I just find that it makes sense.

The Answer to that would be that Genesis 1 also refers only to Adam. (And it does. The word translated as “man” is Adam.)

The image of God was damaged in the fall… so there is a potential for a relationship with God which is restored to fullness in Jesus Christ.

The same way someone from the time of Adam to Noah is guilty.
No law for them, yet God says they did evil. This is because they violated the law written in their conscience.
A knowledge of good and Evil is the same as a Law.

Romans 2: 11 For there is no partiality with God.
12 For as many as have sinned without the law will also perish without the law. As many as have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
13 For it isn’t the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law will be justified
14 (for when Gentiles who don’t have the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are a law to themselves,
15 in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience testifying with them, and their thoughts among themselves accusing or else excusing them)

He is probably referring to this -

Romans 5: 12 Therefore as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin; so death passed to all men, because all sinned.
13 For until the law, sin was in the world; but sin is not charged when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those whose sins weren’t like Adam’s disobedience, who is a foreshadowing of him who was to come.

I see Paul as making the point that even though the people from Adam to Moses were not violating a spoken law like Adam, they still suffered the consequences of Sin.

This can be explained in two ways -

  1. Through the concept of original guilt- I e though no Sin was charged to these people, they were considered guilty for Adam’s Sin and thus punished.

  2. Accept verse 2s claim that All sinned and hence died. Meaning that they violated some law. We find this law in the reference to the law written in the conscience mentioned in Romans 2.
    I hold to the second interpretation as it is in line with Romans 2 which teaches that all people are charged with Sin irrespective of whether they were under the Law or not. And this is connected to the conscience.

That’s not really an answer, @Ashwin_s, unless you are computer programmer.
The Bible typically expands on topics when it encounters relevancy to the topic.
In this case, you are proposing that a mysterious quality “image of God” is introduced in Genesis 1 (with virtually no explanation)… but that the explanation for it is made clear in Genesis 2, which mentions it not at all.

That is hardly the usual Biblical approach. For example, male and female being united as one triggers a discussion of marriage (oddly, but nevertheless, it does). If the scribe used your proposed methodology, the reference to marriage would be in another chapter all together.

As for your abuse of the Hebrew term “adam”… the word means “human”… and in the special case of Genesis, it is applied as a “given name” to a special human. I once had a conversation with a Rabbi about the coincidence that Aaron would be spelled and sounded so closely to the word for “Ark”. I pointed out that it could have easily arisen from the phrase “Sons of the Ark” morphing into “Sons of Aaron”.

The Rabbi immediately agreed with me, and said that the scribe must have had a special pleasure in that word play, much like Jesus derived pleasure from referring to Peter as his “rock” (i.e., petros). He said he could not decide whether “Aaron” became his nickname while he was alive, or later after he had died. And then he said something quite marvelous: "I suppose we will never know what his first name was originally!"