In a recent post, I discussed the problem of identifying exactly what it means to be made in the image of God. The problem associated with this task is in identifying or defining the image of God. Is it the image of God in the first 27 verses of Genesis? Does it include material beyond these verses? Do we include all the divine imagery of Genesis? Of the Hebrew Bible? Of the Christian Bible? The task is no doubt a difficult one. Something R. W. L. Moberly brings out in his article “Did the Serpent Get it Right?” concerning the text of Genesis 3 I think is helpful to us in reflecting on this question (though a well defined image will remain elusive). He writes:
While the story [of Genesis 3] is set in the context of the beginnings of human history, it is not actually told from that perspective but from the perspective of Hebrew life in the historical context of ancient Israel. This emerges most clearly through reflection upon the fact that the story is told in the mature language of classical Hebrew and embodies the developed concepts of classical Hebrew theology. Langauge is a social and cultural phenomenon which cannot exist in isolation, nor can there be reflective theological thinking without an approapriate langauge to express it. Classical Hebrew langauge and theology therefore presuppose developed Hebrew cutlure. Such culture could not have existed in the story’s own context, which is far removed from the Hebrew world of ancient Israel in both space and time. This has at least two implications. First, the story will of necessity illuminate primarily the cultural context within which it was written, rather than the primeval context in which it is set. Secondly, it will mean that it is appropriate to interpret the story in the light of a discriminating use of the rest of the Old Testament, as at least some of the rest of the Old Testament is presupposed by this story. (1-2)
Were we to know the precise cultural context out of which Genesis 1 were formed, we might have a more definitive answer to our question. Although at the same time, I hesitate to think that this image is one that should only be understood in terms of the image envisioned by the culture that produced this text. Such information would be helpful, but it would not be ultimate. In as much as God is a reality to which the text can only provisionally speak, this fullness of this image will always elude us. But we are not left to our own devices, as Moberly observes. Through a discriminating use of the Hebrew Bible, we are guided to concrete (though limited) significance. In many ways, verses 28-30 expand verse 27, and the story beginning in chapter 2 expands verses 28-30. But the question still remains, where does this lead us?
Moberly, R W L. “Did the Serpent Get It Right?.” Journal of Theological Studies 39, no. 1 (1988): 1-27.