Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 2

The first chapter centers on the topic of man’s image, a concept which is fundamental to understanding deeper issues such as how man relates to God (covenentally). To know in what sense God made man in His own image, Fesko begins by first seeking to understand a little bit about the context of the statement, specifically by understanding the nature of God as it was presented in Genesis 1-3.

Most notable is the use plural form of the verb in Genesis 1:26. After careful examination of two alternatives, Fesko claims that this is an adumbration of the Trinity. This fits the progressive facet of divine revelation Fesko has elsewhere stressed. The plural cannot be a reference to God and the heavenly court, because the Hebrew word for “create” in verse 27 is only used in reference to direct creative acts by God. The other suggestion, that the plural represents God’s majesty, does not fit well with the facts that the passage was viewed by Jewish interpreters as an oddity in need of resolution and that the next explicit of the plural in this way is not seen until Ezra 4:18.

Fesko rebuts objections to this interpretation in the following way: The author may have been unaware of Christ’s involvement in creation just as he may have been unaware of how the proto-evangelium would come to pass, but neither possibility suggests the respective passages do not in fact convey meaning relevant to those doctrines which are made explicit in the New Testament. Genesis 1:2 mentions the involvement of the Holy Spirit, so it would not be inconceivable for the author to have some idea of the Trinity which we now know with clarity, and it is in any case a mistake to assume what the prophets knew (e.g. Jude 14). Moreover, considering the whole of Scripture, we know God is Triune. That God would plant seeds of this truth in His early revelation should not come as a surprise.

Regardless because we are made in God’s image, it is to be expected that we analogously possess plurality and unity. As the Larger Catechism states, “God endued [Adam and Eve] with living, reasonable, and immortal souls [and] made them after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness…” (Genesis 1:27-28, 2:7; Ephesians 4:20-24; Colossians 3:10). In what sense we were made in God’s image can be further understood by the following points:

- “Image” and “likeness” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture.

- “Image” cannot refer to physical qualities, because God is incorporeal (Deuteronomy 4:15-16).

- Man’s image must be understood with respect to his given tasks as well as the capacities used to fulfill said tasks: man’s task was to have dominion over earth as God does in heaven, to relate to God, and to create in analogical fashion; man’s capacities included untainted spiritual and intellectual faculties such as righteousness, personality, and reason (Genesis 1:26-29, 2:15-25, Psalm 8:3).

- Historical background indicates that, in the near East, monarchs were regarded as demigods in the image of the gods over their regions of rule. Because man was given dominion over all the earth, the implication is that Yahweh rules all the earth.

- The unity in male and female reflects the communal nature of the Trinity.

- Man, as male and female (cf. Genesis 1:27), is the apex of creation, as no other created thing is said to possess the image of God.

Because the first Adam fell, man’s image was corrupted. In addition to looking at in what way we are renewed, it is necessary to look to the incarnate Christ, the second Adam, as the indefectible image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4, Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3) in order to understand completely what it means to be in the image of God (1 Corinthians 15:48-49). Jesus represents what man ought to be, and so the goal of sanctification may be neatly summarized as perfect Christ-likeness (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Ultimately, Fesko makes the interesting point that Christology defines anthropology, and this must be kept in mind when considering Genesis 1-3 and man as the image of God.

1 comment:

Ken Hamrick said...


Some things are so obvious for so long that we miss what is right in front of us. Would you not agree that---by far---the most profound manifestation of the image of God in man (as opposed to animals, which are not in His image) is that man is a spirit being as well as a physical one? Having that spirit is what makes us most like God. God is spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Because of our spirit, we are conscious, we are rational, we can understand truth and discern error, we can worship and commune with God, we can perform whatever tasks God gives us, and we transcend the physical creation in a way very similar to how God transcends both the physical and spiritual creation.