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THE IDENTITY, POWER, AND PURPOSE OF HUMANITY: A Brief Exegetical Study of Genesis 1:26-27.



INTRODUCTION

The Bible is God’s blueprint for creation. More specifically, it is the blueprint concerning the creation, redemption, and recreation of humanity. This article will investigate the first phase of this plan, the creation of humankind as presented in Genesis 1:26-27 in its original form and context, discuss its theological implications, and how they can affect the lives of people today. The canonical context[1] will be initially delimited within Gen 1:1 and Gen 5:3, and later discussed within the broader context of Scripture as it relates to other passages in the Bible.



SURVERY OF THE CONTEXT

“Genesis,” which means “beginning,” provides the account of creation pertaining to the origin of the universe, the earth, its lifeforms, and most importantly—human beings. “Genesis” is a transliteration of the Greek title given to the first book of the Bible in the Septuagint, from the Hebrew word bereshith, meaning “in the beginning.”[2] The book is written in “elevated prose,” a term coined by some scholars referring to the writing style that combines the metrical structure of Hebrew poetry with Hebrew prose.[3] Concerning its historical audience, Genesis was written to the Israelite people on a micro level to explain their national history, mission, and present situation; [4] respecting its universal audience, it was written to humanity on a macro level to explain their natural history, purpose, and spiritual situation of separation from God due to original sin.


According to Scripture, Genesis was authored by Moses, as testified by both the Old and New Testaments 3. In the nineteenth century German scholars produced a popular theory still held by many biblical critics today, which denies the Mosaic authorship of the Torah in favor of four separate sources from different time periods in Israelite history.[5] For Christian scholars, however, this theory is incompatible with their faith; rejecting the Mosaic authorship of Genesis would mean rejecting the Christ’s authority as well, since Jesus himself affirmed that Moses wrote the Torah (John 5:46-47) [6].


In favor of the infallibility of Christ, the Mosaic authorship of Genesis is placed in the fifteenth century BC as stated by Scripture (Judg 11:26; 1 Kgs 6:1). Nevertheless, there are varied beliefs amongst scholars on both sides of the spectrum ranging from as early as the thirteenth century BC to as late at the fifth century BC.1 These views are influenced by current archaeological findings and historical understandings of the ancient Near East. Irrespective of these positions among mainstream scholars, a recent documentary proposes a revision of historical and archaeological interpretations in conformity to the biblical accounts.[7]


SOURCE TEXT

Hebrew Text

Genesis was originally written in Hebrew, and later translated in Greek as a consequence of the Hellenization of Jewish society. Today, the Hebrew set of manuscripts known as the “Masoretic Text” are commonly used as the source text for translating the Old Testament into other languages. The Masoretes were a group of scribes known for carefully copying the Old Testament scriptures between 500 AD and 1000 AD. The accuracy of their copying skills were confirmed upon the finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which included fragments of every book of the Old Testament with the exception of Esther. The ancient manuscripts agree very closely with the Masoretic text, some being as far as 1000 years apart, with only minor variations.[8] Concerning Genesis 1:26-27, there are no textual variants within the available body of extant Hebrew manuscripts.12

Genesis 1:26-27 as found in the Hebrew Masoretic Text


26 וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֔ים נַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אָדָ֛ם בְּצַלְמֵ֖נוּ כִּדְמוּתֵ֑נוּ וְיִרְדּוּ֩ בִדְגַ֨ת הַיָּ֜ם וּבְע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם וּבַבְּהֵמָה֙ וּבְכָל־הָאָ֔רֶץ וּבְכָל־הָרֶ֖מֶשׂ הָֽרֹמֵ֥שׂ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

27 וַיִּבְרָ֨א אֱלֹהִ֤ים׀ אֶת־הָֽאָדָם֙ בְּצַלְמ֔וֹ בְּצֶ֥לֶם אֱלֹהִ֖ים בָּרָ֣א אֹת֑וֹ זָכָ֥ר וּנְקֵבָ֖ה בָּרָ֥א אֹתָֽם׃[9]


Septuagint Translation

The oldest translation of the original Hebrew manuscripts is the Septuagint, or LXX, which includes a near complete translation of the Old Testament from Genesis to Malachi. The LXX predates Christ by over two centuries,[10] is quoted in the New Testament, and was commonly used by Jews and Christians for hundreds of years. Considering that the Old Testament was not translated into another common language until many centuries later,[11] it offers the oldest point of reference as to how Hebrew was understood through the lens of another language. While there are many significant variations between the Hebrew and Greek Old Testaments, no variations have been noted in relation to Gen 1:26-27.[12]

Genesis 1:26-27 as translated in the second century BC Greek Septuagint


26 καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός Ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατʼ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθʼ ὁμοίωσιν· καὶ ἀρχέτωσαν τῶν ἰχθύων τῆς θαλάσσης καὶ τῶν πετεινῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ καὶ τῶν κτηνῶν καὶ πάσης τῆς γῆς καὶ πάντων τῶν ἑρπετῶν τῶν ἑρπόντων ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς. 27 καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον, κατʼ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς. [13]


MEANING OF THE TEXT

Literal English translations of both the original Hebrew and the Greek texts will suffice to convey the meaning of the passage. A word for word, exegetical study is outside the scope of this paper; therefore, only three key terms will expounded upon herein, and are emphasized in the passages below.


Literal Translation of the Hebrew Text


Genesis 1:26-27 translated in the New Revised Standard Version


26Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” 27 So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.[14]


Literal Translation of the Greek Septuagint


Genesis 1:26-27 translated from the Greek Septuagint


26And God said, Let us make man according to our image and likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the flying creatures of heaven, and over the cattle and all the earth, and over all the reptiles that creep on the earth. 27And God made man, according to the image of God he made him, male and female he made them. [15]


The first term of significant importance in this passage is the Hebrew word elohim,[16] translated “God” in English, and theos in Greek. Elohim is a plural word whose multiplicity is reinforced through the explicit dialogue within the divine consortium in Gen 1:26, where God says “let us make humankind in our image.” Jewish authorities vary in their opinions about this phrase, which appears to violate the shema from Deut 6:4, which asserts the singularity of God. This seems to be “corrected” by the translators of the Septuagint, who translated Elohim into the singular theos. Jewish interpretations of this divine dialogue vary between God conversing with himself in self-deliberation, and God conversing with the creation.[17] Many Christians, including the Church Fathers, believe that the plurality of elohim implies the triune nature of God, and that Gen 1:26 is a dialogue between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.[18]


The second key term in this passage is the Hebrew word adam, translated more accurately as humanity in English, and anthropos in Greek. Both the Hebrew and Greek words are inclusive terms for the human race as a species, inclusive of both the male and female sexes. This is suggested by the syntax which omits the article denoting adam as an individual rather than a race. This is supported by the immediate context, where the plurality of adam is confirmed through extrinsic references to “them” being both “male and female” (Gen 5:1-2). This inclusive nature of the term alleviates the archaic misconception that only the male figure “Adam” was made in God’s image and likeness.


The third term, translated “dominion” in English from the Hebrew word yirdu, means to tread upon, subdue, and rule over.[19] Other passages in Scripture show that this word is used almost exclusively in reference to a forceful, militaristic type of domination by an enemy force (Lev 26:17; Isa 14:6). Similarly the Septuagint translation renders archo from yirdu, which frequently refers to positions of power and influence throughout the LXX. [20] This is an important term which sheds light on the initial mission of the human race, which was to serve as God’s viceroy on planet Earth. The nature, extent, and execution of this authority implies a potentially aggressive subjugation of the world.

THEOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS

The relationship between God, humanity, and the domination of the earth described in Gen 1:26-27, has massive theological implications. Firstly, the similitude between God and people points to their familial value in God’s estimation. This is illustrated in the parallel, paternal imagery used between Adam and Seth, and God and adam (Luke 3:38). In Gen 1:26, it says that man was created in the image and likeness of God; in Gen 5:3, it says that Adam “begot a son in his own likeness, after his image.”[21] Moreover, the triune nature of people described by Paul in the New Testament reinforces the triune nature of God reflected by humanity (1 Thes 5:23; 1 Cor 12:3-6). These congruencies between the Creator and the created ultimately suggest a higher purpose for their lives.


Such similarities in nature between God and His “image,” imply similarities in power as well (Psalm 8:5). This is attested by a score of scriptures concerning the power of words (Prov 18:21).[22] Jesus himself made many statements that allude to this power,[23] including the most controversial verse which He quoted from the Old Testament which says, “…You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6).[24]


In light of the first human beings’ genetic lineage and God given powers, their initial mandate was not limited to only dressing the Garden of Eden aesthetically—but to also defend and govern it militaristically (Gen 2:15). This bolsters support for the Genesis “Gap Theory,” which posits that a pre-Adamic world was catastrophically destroyed between Gen 1:1 and 1:2[25], due to Satan’s rebellion and fall[26] (Gen 1:2; Jer 4:23-26). The planet was later regenerated in Gen 1:3, and life was reestablished on the earth. God’s adversaries, however, were to be subdued and resisted until their day of judgment (Mark 1:24, Matt 8:29). Unfortunately, Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan in his rebellion to be like the most high, and like the Devil, they too fell into sin (Psalm 107:10-11). Gen 1:2-3 foreshadows the eventual restoration of humanity’s heart through the new birth as revealed in 2 Cor 4:6, suggesting that like fallen humanity, the earth had fallen into darkness as well.


The Gap Theory doctrine, as supported by Gen 1:26-27, satisfactorily explains the source of sin, evil, and suffering in the world, and should be considered seriously for further study for the sake of Christian apologetics, and more importantly—the gospel.


PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS

Grace is multiplied to those whose knowledge of God is increased (2 Pet 1:2). What has been implied theologically in the Word, must be applied practically in the world. While the first adam was created in God’s image and likeness, the second adam was born with it. Every born again believer carries the incorruptible DNA of Jesus Christ, and has the potential to work His works in the world today (John 14:12). Not only does the body of Christ possesses the earthly dominion that the first Adam forfeited to Satan, but also the heavenly dominion that Christ won by conquest (Luke 4:6; Matt 28:18). This dominion must be exercised by the church for the salvation of all peoples before the Lord’s return (1 Tim 2:1-2). It is only through the name of Jesus, the name above every name, that Christian dominion will be effectively exerted on the earth (Phil 2:9; John 14:14). Like in the days of old—the world will be turned upside down—when Christians become aware of their true identity, power, and purpose on this earth.


BIBLIOGRAPHY


Books

Brenton, Lancelot Charles Lee. Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Translation. London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1870.

Croone, Angela. Lucifer’s Reign & Satan’s Fall Genesis 1:1-2. United States: Trafford Publishing, 2011.

Earl, Ralphe. How We Got the Bible. United States: Beacon Hill Press, 2010.

Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.

New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

Tan, Randall K., David A. deSilva, and Isaiah Hoogendyk. The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint: H.B. Swete Edition. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012.

Van der Merwe, Christo. The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2004.

Vyhmesiter, Nancy Jean, and Terry Dwain Robertson. Quality Research Papers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014.

Commentaries

Cohn-Sherbok, Dan. “The Hebrew Bible.” Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. ed. Pat and David Alexander, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

Dockery, David S., ed. “Genesis.” Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Mathews, K.A. Genesis 1-11:26, New American Commentary, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996.

Encyclopedias

Archer, Gleason L. “Pentateuch.” New International Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982.

Elwell, Walter A. and Barry J. Beitzel. “Genesis, Book of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988.

Articles

Pope, Marvin H., Elimelech Epstein Halevy, David Kadosh, Adela Wolfe, Bernard Heller and Helen Rosenau. “Adam.” Encyclopedia Judaica. 1, 2nd ed. Edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Detroit: Keter Publishing House, 2007.

Reiss, Moshe. "Adam: created in the image and likeness of God." Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 3 (2011): 181-186. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (February 12, 2015).

Lexicons

Gesenius, Wilhelm, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003.

Kittel, Gerhard, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–.

Other Sources

Lucas, Ernest. “Understanding Genesis: A Biblical Scholar’s View.” Faraday Schools. 2011. http://www.faradayschools.com/re-topics/re-year-12-13/understanding-genesis-a- biblical-scholars-view/ (6 February 2015).

Patterns of Evidence. Thinking Man Films. 115 min, 2014. Digital video.

Stewart, Don. “Who Wrote the Book of Genesis?” Blue Letter Bible. 2015. https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_676.cfm (16 February 2015).

[1] Nancy Jean Vyhmesiter and Terry Dwain Robertson, Quality Research Papers. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014), 12.


[2] Walter A. Elwell, and Barry J. Beitzel. “Genesis, Book of.” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 852.


[3] Ernest Lucas. “Understanding Genesis: A Biblical Scholar’s View.” Faraday Schools. 2011. http://www.faradayschools.com/re-topics/re-year-12-13/understanding-genesis-a- biblical-scholars-view/ (6 February 2015).


[4] David S. Dockery, ed. “Genesis.” Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 7.


[5] Dan Cohn-Sherbok. “The Hebrew Bible.” Zondervan Handbook to the Bible. ed. Pat and David Alexander, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 69.


[6] Gleason L. Archer. “Pentateuch” New International Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 46.


[7] Patterns of Evidence, Thinking Man Films, 115 min, 2014, digital video.


[8] Ralphe Earl, How We Got the Bible, (United States: Beacon Hill Press, 2010), 49-52.


[9] Christo, Van der Merwe. The Lexham Hebrew-English Interlinear Bible. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2004), n.p.


[10] Douglas Mangum, The Lexham Glossary of Theology. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2014), n.p.


[11] F. L. Cross, and Elizabeth A. Livingstone, eds. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 1189.


[12] Rick Brannan and Israel Loken. The Lexham Textual Notes on the Bible. Lexham Bible Reference Series. (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2014), n.p.


[13] Randall K. Tan, David A. deSilva, and Isaiah Hoogendyk. The Lexham Greek-English Interlinear Septuagint: H.B. Swete Edition. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, n.p.


[14] Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), n.p.


[15] Lancelot Charles Lee Brenton, The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament: English Translation. (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons, 1870), n.p.


[16] elohim and theos are transliterations from the original Hebrew and Greek languages.


[17] Moshe Reiss, "Adam: created in the image and likeness of God," Jewish Bible Quarterly 39, no. 3 (2011): 181-186. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (February 12, 2015).


[18] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, New American Commentary, 1 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 164.


[19] Wilhelm Gesenius, and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles. “רָדָה,” Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 759.


[20] Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds. “ἀρχή,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 482.


[21] The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982, n.p.


[22] Pat and David Alexander, “Proverbs 10-31,” Zondervan Handbook to the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 397.


[23] Mark 11:22-23; Matt 17:20; Luke 17:6.


[24] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Ps 82:6.


[25] Angela Croone, Lucifer’s Reign & Satan’s Fall Genesis 1:1-2, (United States: Trafford Publishing, 2011), 1.


[26] Ezekiel 28:11ff; Isaiah 14:12ff; Luke 10:17.

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Me.

Writer, artist, freethinker. I love to travel and live life, making the best of what I have and helping others achieve the same. I am passionate about all things beautiful, that goodness that traverses the triune axes of human existence--mind, body, and spirit. Through my education and experience I endeavor to present my opinion on issues from an informed perspective, relishing in the humility of uncertainty in favor of truth and objectivity. While none of us are free from the worldviews which shape our sight--we should never be afraid to test the assumptions that build them. This is the stuff of true faith. Selah.

 

 

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