Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Genesis 1:26-31

26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Whew. You could write a book about these verses. You could make understanding their impact on history your life's work. For an enlightening compare and contrast, see my earlier post about the Peacemaker of the Ho De No Sau Nee:

His view was very different from the view of Jews and Christians . . . about the relationship between humans and the creator. He did not believe that the creator had given humans dominion over the earth. On the contrary, "The principle of righteousness demands that all thoughts of prejudice, privilege or superiority be swept away, and that . . . the creation is intended for the benefit of all equally, even the birds and animals, the trees and the insects, as well as the humans. . . . Nothing belongs to humans, not even their labor or their skills, for ambition and abilities are also the gifts of the creator. Therefore all people have a right to the things they need to survive, even those who do not or cannot work, and no person has a right to deprive others of the fruits of those gifts.

I will leave the Peacemaker's idea as the last word on that particular issue for now, although we will no doubt come back to the implication of these verses very often.

Then there is the interesting assertion that humans are made in God's image. I have to presume that the Hebrews meant this literally -- that God has two legs, two arms, a penis and an anus, that he burps and farts, wipes his mouth on his sleeve, the whole thing. (That's what the Greeks thought about their Gods, so why should the Hebrews be any different?) Perhaps he has exceptionally refined manners, but on this the Bible is silent. Of course we also note that he is male.

If the phrase is not meant literally, then what does it mean to say that we are made in God's image? Obviously we don't share the powers of God, and we certainly don't share the mind of God -- Christians often say, in fact, that it is unknowable. Perhaps a reader has a suggestion.