So God created adam (people, humankind)
in his own tselem (image, likeness, idol)
—Genesis 1:27a (NIV, bold and parentheses mine)
God created all humanity—adam—as idols made in God’s own image and likeness. This status as an idol separates the human being from other created beings. The human being created in God’s image resembles God as one who can think, communicate, make moral decisions, be creative, experience relationships, and more. Most importantly, it means that humans are like God not only in these ways but also in our function and purpose.
We were created to partner with God, to take on a God-like function in this world created and ordered by God. We, too, are tasked with creating, cultivating, and carving out an ordered space in the wilderness of chaotic disorder.
In the ancient world, an image was thought to carry the essence of that which it represented. People worshipped idols made of stone or wood because those objects were believed to hold the essence of the deity. The idol's power was not in its physical form—not because it looked like the deity—but because it was believed to be a “container” of its power, presence, and authority.
We, too, are designed to hold in us the presence of Christ and the essential essence of God — love, faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, creativity, and power.
in the tselem of God
he created them (people, singular);
—Genesis 1:27b (NIV, bold and parentheses mine
The first line of verse 27 is repeated, but this time in reverse order. The greater emphasis now is on a foundational essence of all humankind—“in the image of God. The line then ends with a singular “them,” reminding us that all humanity is together with one identity. We are adam, a singular creation of God, with a unique purpose and mission within this created realm. Somehow and someway, as a collection of diverse humanity, we have within us a faint shimmer—a remnant perhaps—of God’s likeness.
male and female
he created them (people, plural).
—Genesis 1:27c (NIV, bold and parentheses mine)
The second repetition of “he created them” ends with a plural “them,” reminding us that humanity is a community—male and female—and that neither, on their own, represents the full image of God. We are individuals with personal uniqueness, each carrying within us a reflection of God’s image (blurry from sin, though it may be). Still, the full image of God is fully known only when we are united in fellowship, purpose, and mission.
Written from within a patriarchal society, this final line carries great power and meaning. Both female and male:
- are God's special, unique, and wonderful creation.
- are God-breathed.
- are the representative tselem of God
- are created equally in God’s image and likeness with God-like function and purpose!
Paul, writing to the church in Galatia, reminds us of this—
There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female…
Galatians 3:28a (CEB, bold mine)
There is no distinction, no difference.
In Christ, the divisions caused by the brokenness of sin are once again removed, taking us back to the reality of "adam" in the garden.
There are no ethnic, social, economic, or gender privileges to be had in God’s original creation or in our new creation in Christ...for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28b).
We are created--each and every one of us--in the image of God.