What is the Image of God?

Now that I think about it, Robert may have a testable hypothesis about a single landmass at the start. Not the REDEYE Express tho, because there would be detectable consequences. :slight_smile:

Dr. Turner, could you expand on what “the image of God” means to you? No wrong answers here, I just like to understand the scholarly view.

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While most (systematicians, philosophers, popular) think of imageness in ontological terms (i.e., an attribute humans share with God, e.g., rationality, creativity, free will, ability to communicate), or the faddish relational terms, most in my field (OT exegesis, biblical theology) sees the emphasis in functional/vocational terms (i.e., to rule on God’s behalf over his creation). This is based on (1) the meaning of the terms for “image” and “likeness” in cognate languages; (2) the immediate context of Gen 1:26-28; and (3) the rest of the biblical data that shows that humans as divine image-bearers (a) is the one thing that separates humans from non-humans; (b) that all humans are equally images; and (c) that the status of image remains 100% in tact after the Fall. I’d be happy to unpack any of this. (BTW, I think the ontological and relational categories can be “smuggled in” as the things God gives us in order to function as God’s images, but the pride of place in definition is in the functional/vocational role.)


Thank you. Let me chew on that a bit before I ask you to unpack anything. :slight_smile:


I asked John Hilber this question at the ASA workshop last July and he referred me to a paper by D. J. A. Clines as representing the dominant consensus in the field of OT studies. I haven’t had time to read it in full though.


while old, that paper is still relevant and essentially sums up the view I hold.


I have to go with:

“Standing” (meaning immortality)
“Upright” (Virtuous and Just)

I think thats just enough word play to make it true!

I should admit that not everyone in my field is in agreement. Jack Collins, e.g., still focuses more in the ontological direction. But I’ve not read any specific reason why.

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As an aside, the functional view makes it much easier to allow for human evolution, because it allows for a point in time for God to designate a specific creature (human) as his image-bearer. Not all ECs see it this simplistically, but it makes it more acceptable/understandable.


I’m sure in evangelical Christian churches everywhere, forever, they understood image to mean the soul.
so our soul is eternal, intelligent(like God in wisdom, understanding, knowledge,) and understanding morality (except the original good/evil ignorance before the fall). In short as my paster said We are mini-Gods.
we really our. This also is why we have so much value. unlike animals etc.
Yes our bodies are just copys of primates because our gloriouds image could never be represented in the biology spectrum. Animals are their biology. We are not. We uniquely are renting another body. Not evolved but the best one for fun and profit. (Flying is cool but interferes with driving or keyboard punching)

You are completely ignorant of facts and logic.


It’s interesting that a 1965 paper can actually still accurately summarize the consensus of a field, especially in the humanities. Is this because the Image of God is regarded as a “solved problem” that everybody agrees upon, or there just hasn’t been much research interest in it in the last few decades?


As I said, not everyone agrees, but it remains the majority opinion. i’m not sure how to fully answer the question(s) except to say that there’s logically a limited number of options. The evidence from cognate languages hasn’t changed much in 50 years, so there’s not much extra data to take into account (for those who even care or are aware of this angle). The biblical data itself is fairly sparse. IMO, the tricky thing is figuring out the distinction between “image of God” (which we are) and “image of Christ” (which we are growing into or progressing toward).


@deuteroKJ, so what do you make about articles like this one, that Dr. Rana from RTB just published (ping @AJRoberts)?

Comparisons of human and hominid brains highlights our exceptional nature, strengthening the scientific case for the image of God.

Linking to: Blood Flow to Brain Contributes to Human Exceptionalism - Reasons to Believe

It seems that they are taking a very strong structuralist view. Do you know why RTB would down that path?

I don’t know RTB’s biblical basis for image of God. But I’m generally disappointed in the exegetical stuff Ross produces. When he talks astrophysics, I’m mesmerized. Not so much on other topics. The writings I’ve read on Genesis and Job make me wonder if he ever consults standard commentaries and other scholarly material.


I’m curious what you make of Genesis 5:3. Seth is made after Adam’s image? If the text is intentional, not implicit, simply saying there is a link to the image of God through Adam is unsatisfactory.

“When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”

With Hebrew: https://biblehub.com/text/genesis/5-3.htm

This goes back to the discussion about Koonin’s article. Given the ambiguities how specifically are you using “structuralist” here, and in general? Quite a rabbit hole, so easier if I familiarize myself with your usage.

OK, so I wasn’t expecting a photograph, but the discussion here demonstrates this topic goes a lot deeper than I expected.

Can I (unfairly) summarize that it has to do with human thoughts and actions, rather than physical attributes?

Structuralist in this context just means that The Image of God is associated with human uniqueness, and attributes that humans share with God, and these things arise at least in part because of our biological “structure.” It is not just that we have an immaterial soul, it is also that something in our actually biology is links us to these qualities.

As I understand it, at RTB they are concerned about common descent undermining their view of the Image of God. They take a structuralist view of the Image of God and identify it uniquely with Adam and his descendants. This is why “Humans” have to be Homo sapiens, and all Homo sapiens must descend from Adam, and Neanderthals must therefore by beasts.

Because the Image of God is so tightly aligned with biological form, it is hard to even grant that Neanderthals would be just a “different type of human”, and this is a different category than “beastiality”. I wonder if they fear such a move would undermine the their conception of the Image of God. (@AJRoberts, am I getting this right?).

I’m not sure your objection (as unsatisfactory) of seeing this as continuing the image of God. I’d think any view of “image” this would link back to image of God in Gen 1. How does Gen 5:3 change/narrow the possibilities on the meaning of “image” and “likeness”?

Why, then, do other YECs (e.g., Todd Wood) not follow RTB’s categorization of these other hominins? @Joel_Duff has discussed this discrepancy among YECs before.