Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Genesis 1:26,27 - Man in God's Image

Genesis 1:26,27 - God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in his own image. In God's image he created him; male and female he created them. -- World English Bible version.
Many read into this verse that since man is in God's image, then man is immortal. However, they reason that since the body dies, that it is not the body that is immortal, but rather they claim that it is the "soul" or "spirit" in man that is immortal. John Wesley wrote: "God's image upon man, consists, in his nature, not that of his body, for God has not a body, but that of his soul. The soul is a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God, the Father of spirits, and the soul of the world. In his place and authority." This kind of theology is called "dualism", the belief that man is a spiritual and material being at the same time, different from the animals and other material objects, and that in man is an immortal soul that cannot be destroyed, and which can exist as a conscious being aside from the human body.

Having assumed from this scripture that the soul is immortal, and thus cannot be destroyed, the idea is that this immortal soul must spend eternity somewhere, and from this it assumed further (based on Judaic/Hellenistic philosophy) that the soul of the righteous go to paradise, a compartment of sheol, at death, and the soul of the wicked, being immortal, indestructible, must go to some "compartment" of sheol, either in limbo, purgatory, or the inferno, etc. In actuality, there is nothing in these verses that even hints of such a dualistic theory. The idea of dualism comes from Hellenistic philosophy, and has to be read into this scripture.

In what way, then, was man created in the image of God? We know that man is separate from other animals due to his ability to reason, speak languages, etc. We can also reason that man was created in God's image in that he was endowed with moral qualities like that of his Creator, but with the ability to choose to do what is right, or to do what is wrong. In this sense man was "crowned with the glory of God", but after disobeying, he became short of the glory of God. (Psalm 8:5; Romans 3:23) However, the scripture itself points to the fact that to man was given a dominion. That is, that just as God rules over all the universe, so he appointed to man a dominion, to have all things on earth put under his feet. (Psalm 8:6-8) At present, due to man's fallen condition, all things are not now under man's feet. (Hebrews 2:8) But in the age to come this dominion will again be restored to mankind.

However, in the Bible, the Hebrew and Greek words that are often rendered "soul" are not only applied to human, but they are also applied to the lower animal creation. Indeed, just as an animal is a living soul, so is man a living soul, only on a higher plane of ability to think and reason. Thus, only man was given the dominion of the earth.