In the Image of God

And yet there is something in the world that the Bible does regard as a symbol of God. It is not a temple nor a tree, it is not a statue nor a star. The symbol of God is man, every man. God created man in His image (Tselem), in His likeness (Demuth). How significant is the fact that the term tselem which is frequently used in a damnatory sense for a man-made image of God, as well as the term demuth, of which Isaiah claims (40:18), no demuth or likeness can be applied to God — are employed in denoting man as an image and likeness of God.

-Abraham Joshua Heschel
from “Man the Symbol of God,” p.124
Man’s Quest for God

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

Colossians 1:15 (NASB)

Yes, I know. They don’t quite match. Heschel is talking about every human being as being made in the image (tselem) of God, even though that Hebrew word is typically used to describe detestable man-made images of gods. I’m hardly a language expert, so I have to wonder if Paul in calling Yeshua (Jesus) the “image of the invisible God” was thinking of the same word for “image” as Heschel mentions.

The reason I bring this up is that one of the more traditional Jewish arguments against Jesus-worship is that we are worshiping an “image” based on Colossians 1:15. Yet if each individual human being in general can be considered a symbol for and image of God, how much more can Messiah, the unique human presence on Earth, the mediator of the New Covenant, be considered the symbol for and image of God?

Kind of makes you wonder.

For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.

Psalm 33:9

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-3, 14

It is understood that God actually “spoke” the world into existence with His Word. In human terms, our words emanate from us, we generate speech and it exits our mouths. If others are around us, they can hear what we say. So I can only imagine that the Word emanates from God, but in His case, His Word does so much more than just make sound or even language.

I really don’t have that much more to say on the topic. I’m wrapping up the last few notes I took while reading Heschel’s book (I have to get it back to the library) and wanted to make sure I didn’t lose track of the information. It’s part of my continuing process of trying to “get a handle” on the nature of Messiah and also on the nature of man.

And in this sense, Hillel characterized the body as an “icon” of God, as it were, and considered keeping clean one’s own body an act of reverence for its Creator (citing Leviticus Rabba 34, 3; also see Midrash Tehillim, 103).

-Heschel, ibid

And what is more, Biblical piety may be expressed in the form of a supreme imperative: Treat yourself as a symbol of God. In the light of this imperative we can understand the meaning of that astounding commandment: “You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

-ibid, p.126

This may add some dimension to another equally astounding commandment:

Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:48

To be holy and perfect because our Father in Heaven is holy and perfect. It doesn’t seem like such a tall order if we are to consider ourselves symbols for God and images of God. The “Word became flesh” and sojourned among us so that he could be perfectly human and yet the perfect image of God, a living example, our High Priest, but only in the Heavenly Court, who was tempted but did not sin.

Not that we can perfectly refrain from sinning ourselves, but we can be better symbols and images of our God, just as the Master illustrated.

But all may be guided by the words of the Baal Shem: If a man has beheld evil, he may know that it was shown to him in order that he learn his own guilt and repent; for what is shown to him is also within him.

-Heschel
from “The Meaning of this Hour,” p.148

If what we are shown is also within us, what if we’re shown good and not evil? What if we’re shown a perfect symbol and image of God in seeming contrast to our own imperfection as symbols and images? If being shown evil teaches us to repent, shouldn’t being shown good inspire us to draw nearer to the Source of that good?

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 4:17

Inner lightI don’t think we can accept any longer the argument that Yeshua is not worthy of glory, honor, and devotion because he is considered the “image” of God, because we too are “images”. Each human being is, in some sense, representative of our Creator, and in a greater sense, Messiah is even more representative. How all this works is highly mystical and as such, I can’t explain it, but the “imagery” (pun intended) is compelling.

Our Master is the living embodiment, encased in flesh and blood, of what we should be or at least of what we should be attempting to be: holy and perfect representations of our Creator in human bodies. To do that, we must be in a constant state of repentance before God for nothing that is holy is compatible with sin.

Good Shabbos.

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13 thoughts on “In the Image of God”

  1. Good-morning James 🙂

    James said: It’s part of my continuing process of trying to “get a handle” on the nature of Messiah and also on the nature of man.

    For one to get an understanding of the nature of the Messiah, one needs to examine what the Jewish scriptures explains about the Messiah and his role in G-ds plan. Once one has examined the source of the Messiah, then one can cross examine to see if the writers of the NT accurately portrayed jesus as G-ds Messiah or botched it.

    The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines. – Proverbs 18:17

    I don’t think we can accept any longer the argument that Yeshua is not worthy of glory, honor, and devotion because he is considered the “image” of God, because we too are “images”.

    I’m not against jesus (yeshua), let that be know, or christians / messianics. But consider the evidence, in which the writers of the NT claim He’s the Jewish Messiah. If you set aside religion or affiliations and examine the Tanach in what it says the Messiah will be like and do and then examine the NT claims, you will see holes, out-of-context scripture quotations, and tampering of the Jewish scriptures found in the NT.

    Also consider this James, what you do is a type of journalism, and a good journalist examines reports and claims to make sure what they [the journalist] reports is truthful. Out of respect for good journalist in the journalism communities and readership you have a certain standard to uphold when it comes to sharing information accurately.

    You seem like a really cool dude, who’s looking for some solid answers in which the NT doesn’t provide, but the Jewish scriptures do provide.

    My example post yesterday https://mymorningmeditations.com/2015/01/15/saving-israel-after-the-fullness-of-the-gentiles-has-come-and-gone/#comments shows how when evidence is properly presented the argument in discussion becomes either valid or non-valid (in yesterdays case non-valid).

    When someone who has the “truth” gets defensive or dismissive when there “truth” is examined, that shows they have doubts about the truth that they hold onto.

    🙂

  2. All of us being made in the image of God is wonderful. Worshiping a fellow human being as god, not so much – it’s idolatry, be it deified pharohs, emperors, Jesus, Buddha, Kim Jong Un or whoever else G-d also created in His own image.

  3. Good morning, gentlemen. I hope you’re both doing well today. I see you have returned to challenge my commentary. Welcome. 🙂

  4. LOL 🙂 oh James

    “Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.” — Annie Besant

    I will answer a question you had in your comment;

    James said: “Yes, I know. They don’t quite match. Heschel is talking about every human being as being made in the image (tselem) of God, even though that Hebrew word is typically used to describe detestable man-made images of gods. I’m hardly a language expert, so I have to wonder if Paul in calling Yeshua (Jesus) the “image of the invisible God” was thinking of the same word for “image” as Heschel mentions.”

    According to Franz Delitzsch translation and Ginsburgs of the NT they says paul uses that same word Tzelem for image in the colossians 1:15 passage http://bitflow.dyndns.org/hebrew/Bible/Hebrew-The_New_Testament_Salkinson_Ginsburg_Unpointed_20051117.pdf

    Jump to page 329 and you’ll see Tzadi-Lamed-Mem Sofit …. I hope that helps you.

  5. Hey James,

    The image of G-d in Shaul’s language is connecting Yeshua to Adam haRishon (the first man). Shaul says that the Mashiach (Yeshua) is the second Adam. To understand the greatness of this term one needs to understand the greatness of Adam haRishon and how highly exalted he was before the sin. But i can tell you it has nothing to do with worshipping Yeshua as i don’t believe we should – the apostolic Scriptures never sanctions it, we worship G-d. Certain N.T translations, the word for worship can be translated as reverence or honor etc… but not worship like one does so HaShem (Ex.20 the commadments). This can be proven because at times a king or a prophet is being prostrated to, but it doesn’t mean he is being worshiped. What we get in most N.T translations – english or other languages is Christian theology not what the actual meaning is. Especially in light of Jewish understanding of these words, and theology.

    “…for the FATHER is greater than I.” (John.14:28)

    Back to Adam haRishon: Adam haRishon was created with a tremendously high spiritual level. The Talmud tells us that “the first man extended from earth to sky and from one end of the world to the other,” (Hagigah 12a) meaning that the spiritual content of the whole universe was concentrated in him. So overwhelming was his sanctity that the very angels wished to hail him as holy (Sukkah 52b). For Adam was made in the “mold” (Image) of G-d. So bright was this light that Adam’s heal outshone the globe of the sun; how much more so the brightness of his face. The reason that Adam’s face shone so brightly is that G-d created Adam in His own image’ (Gen.1:27). As explained above he was so glorious that the angels mistook him for G-d Himself (Midrash Rabbah). So the Image of G-d like the first Adam was is where Shaul is hinting to, a very unique individual was Adam haRishon – and so is the Mashiach (the 2nd Adam).

    I am actually writing an article on this so i don’t want to give up all my goodies! lol 😉

  6. @Gene: Touché. 😀

    Bruce said:

    “Refusal to believe until proof is given is a rational position; denial of all outside of our own limited experience is absurd.”

    —Annie Besant

    My response:

    “I don’t have to attend every argument I’m invited to.”

    -Anonymous

    Just because I don’t have nifty answers to your questions off the top of my head, doesn’t mean the answers don’t exist. As I said elsewhere, I don’t always have the time or the inclination to enter into these debates. If you want to declare yourself the “winner” now, you are at liberty to do so.

    Cheers.

  7. Rey, the relationship between the apostles and disciples and how they saw the Master, particularly post-resurrection and ascension and on through the first and second centuries, is rather complex and I probably don’t have the skill sets necessary to articulate the matter.

    For many years now, there has been a lively debate among such New Testament scholars as Casey, Dunn, and Hurtado as to just when believers first began to worship Jesus. As you might guess, there’s no consensus, but I tend to find Larry Hurtado’s research rather compelling. He maintains a blog and a quick Google search came up with the following:

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/did-the-first-christians-worship-jesus/

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/review-essay-did-the-first-christians-worship-jesus/

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/early-jesus-devotion-critical-engagement/

    https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/10/08/did-jesus-demand-to-be-worshipped/

    If you’ll take a look at the other comments in this blog post as well as over here, you’ll see that you’re not the only one challenging me on my conclusions and even my faith, so you’re in good company. 😉

  8. Bruce said:

    My example post yesterday https://mymorningmeditations.com/2015/01/15/saving-israel-after-the-fullness-of-the-gentiles-has-come-and-gone/#comments shows how when evidence is properly presented the argument in discussion becomes either valid or non-valid (in yesterdays case non-valid).

    This is just an assumption from what I’ve seen James say and do in the past, but he likely will not reply. He views this as his playground and at any point he can pack it up and take his toys home, so to speak.

    I disagree with that viewpoint.

    In that case, he shouldn’t be writing a “social” blog site.

    When you write something, you’re inviting people to engage and discuss what you’ve written. If he only wants to surround himself with a bunch of “Yes men,” then maybe he should consider a closed group forum. He doesn’t have to agree with everyone, but at least engage in conversation with them and consider their posts. That’s what he expects traditional Christians to do, so that he can “teach” them the Messianic viewpoint. There shouldn’t be a double standard.

    All in all, James, you got to take the good with the bad (not that Gene and Bruce are bad). You want a social site, well then, be social and engage in conversation. I’m not saying to the point where you’re just talking to a brick wall, but at least give it a go. I see your site as a classroom with an open door that invites others to come in and listen and participate. But in doing so, you can’t just up and decide to ignore the people in the classroom who don’t agree with you.

  9. “If you’ll take a look at the other comments in this blog post as well as over here, you’ll see that you’re not the only one challenging me on my conclusions and even my faith, so you’re in good company. ;-)”

    James, perhaps it is either a sign from G-d for you to stop worshiping a man or may be it is the Christianity’s version of the Devil tempting you to leave Jesus and lose your salvation:) Now, how to figure out which one it is…

  10. Nice meme, but it fails. Your calling Bruce’s comments arguments. They are not. They are a start of a conversation. You or Bruce have the decision to make it into an argument. You’ve skipped the conversation phase and went right to a defensive, “It’s an argument” stage. You’re not shining a very good light on yourself right now. You may think posting that meme is cute, but it proves my point.

  11. I am closing comments on this blog post as no useful dialog seems to be occurring. I have attempted to be gracious but there seems to be a tendency for folks commenting here to continually throw down the gauntlet and expect that I must respond to them.

    I’ve made some minor edits to my Comments Policy page to address the matter. Please take note of items 1 and 7 in the numbered list on that page.

    Thank you.

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