Sunday, July 09, 2006

The imago Dei

John W. Loftus said:

“I argued that the burden of proof is upon the conservative so-called Bible believing Christian, given the nature of the Biblical statements themselves as interpreted within their particular Zeigeist.”

Of course, Loftus is coming to the text with his own agenda. His Zeitgeist (did he misspell the word because he doesn’t know German?) is secular humanism. So let us not labor under the illusion that Loftus is offering the reader disinterested exegesis.

“You have the burden of proof here, to show that ancient Hebrews did not take these verses literally. God walked in the garden of Eden in the cool of the day? Come on. tell me more. Exegete thees passages properly in their cultural setting.”

As you wish. What we have in Gen 3:8 is an angelophany or theophany of judgment.


The judgment scene opens with the “sound” (qol) of the Lord’s coming…the expression “the sound of the Lord God” (qol yhwh elohim) is common in the Pentateuch, especially Deuteronomy (5:25; 8:20; 13:18; 13:18; 15:5; 18:16; 26:14; 27:10; 28:1-2,15,45,62; 30:8,10). Where—along with the verb “to hear/obey” and the preposition…it is the common form of expression for the Lord’s call to obedience. It can hardly be without purpose that the author opens the scene of the curse with a subtle but painful reminder of the single requirement for obtaining God’s blessing: “to hear/obey the voice of the Lord God” (cf. v8).

Also, the coming of the Lord at the mountain of Sinai is foreshadowed in this scene of the Lord God’s coming to the first disobedient couple. In Deut 5:25 & 16:16 (cf. Exod 20:18021), when the Lord came to Sinai, the people “heard the sound of the Lord our God”. The response of Adam in the garden was much the same as that of Israel at the foot of Sinai. When the people heard the sound of the Lord at Sinai, they were afraid “and stayed at a distance and said…’Do not have God speak to use or we will die;’” (Exod 20:18-19). So also Adam and his wife fled at the first sound of the Lord in the garden.

In light of the general context of the picture of God’s coming in judgment and power, the “wind” (ruach) that the author envisioned resembles that “great and powerful wind that blew on the mountain…of the Lord” in 1 Kgs 19:11. Thus the viewpoint of the narrative would be much the same as that in Job 38:1, where the Lord answered Job “out of the storm,” J. Sailhamer, EBC 2:52.


For a more detailed defense of this interpretation, making use of comparative linguistics (Akkadian, Ugaritic), as well as intertextual data, cf. J. Niehaus, God at Sinai (Zondervan 1995), 155-59.


“The ‘image of God’ in Adam & Eve was also a physical image! To them God had a physical body just like the other gods.”

Is that a fact? Hmm.

Actually, it denotes the role of man as God’s viceregent on earth:


The nonphysical resemblance of image and object represented should be kept in mind. ANE modes of representation are highly metaphorpic and symbolic. Thus, the same Egyptian god can appear as a human figure, in the form of a hieroglyph, or as an animal, and queen Hatsepsut can be the image of a male deity (Clines, 72-73). Thus, the image of the god is not a matter of physical resemblance, but of power and prerogative, often connected with expressions like “under the feet” (Lichthim, AEL 2:36-37; cf. Ps 8:6b).

According to Clines…since God has no form, humankind is not made in God’s image, but rather as God’s image; thus, humanity is his representative and agent here on earth. The expression “likeness” guarantees that humans will be a faithful and adequate representative of God on earth. Humans, thus, embody “God’s lordship over the lower orders of creation” (Clines, 101).

The meaning of image, thus, does not lie in the mere terms used, but in…the priestly tradition’s understanding of representative kingship.

Humans are forbidden to make solid or graphic representations of God (Exod 20:4; Deut 5:8) or of pagan gods. These representations would inevitably be based on some creature (Exod 20:4; Deut 4:15-19,23,24; cf. Rom 1:23) and, thus, misrepresent the invisible Creator. For on Mt. Sinai Israel heard God speak but saw no form (Deut 4:12).

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis 4:643-47.


As well as:


Thus in Ps 39:7 (Eng. 6), selem parallels hebel, “vanity”: surely man “moves like a phantom [selem]; the riches he piles up are no more than vapour [hebel]” (NEB. In 73:20 selem parallels “dream” (halom): “Like a dream [halom] when a man rouses himself, O Lord, like images [selem] in sleep which are dismissed on waking” (NEB)…[selem] may be used for purposes other than describing the physical imitation of something. Here image would be something conveying the idea of emptiness, unreality, unsubstantiality.

V. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis (Eerdmans 1991), 134-35.


“Exegete. Exegete. Exegete.”

Be careful what you ask for, Loftus!


  1. From Exodus 33:
    18 Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”
    19 And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
    21 Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. 22 When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”

    The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (Ex 33:12-23). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

  2. Exegete that, and while you're at it please explain the phrase There is a place near me. Tell me once again how ancient people would have viewed this whole passage.

  3. Simple: it's an angelophany.

    BTW, notice that Loftus is changing the subject. I answered him on Gen 1:26 and 3:8, so now he goes casting about for another prooftext.

  4. Loftus, old man. It is bad form to shift from one text to another. Not to mention giving the appearance of a man swimming from one sinking ship to another, or fleeing from a creeping barrage.

  5. I'm not switching my argument. I'm merely asking for a consistent exegesis of all the relevant texts.

  6. A compilation of most if not all our posts on the topic of graven images and the second commandment can be found here.