2.2.3 Men and women as created ‘in the image of God’

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Unit 2 Contents

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Given that this module is about what it is for human beings to live life to the full, we have to consider how Christianity understands human beings.  Of definitive importance here is the statement in the first chapter of the Bible that humans are made in God’s image.

Genesis 1 is a stunning, poetic narrative in which God creates the universe in six days.  It is the first of the two episodes in the biblical creation story, the second being Genesis 2:4-25.  The next reading is the part of Genesis 1 in which humans are created.

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Reading (2pp)

Genesis 1 vv 24-31 in the two English translations recommended in Unit 1 (1.1.2):

In the NAB, here

In the NRSV, at http://bible.oremus.org/ – on this site you need to navigate to Gen. 1.

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Reflection

From reading this text, what do you think it means that human beings are, uniquely among all the animals, made “in the image of God”?

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During the history of the Church several contrasting interpretations of what it means that humans are in the image of God have been offered, and you have the opportunity to study some of these in Unit 3.  Most biblical scholars now agree that among what is entailed by this statement in Genesis are two things:

(i)  The text portrays God as making human beings to be the creature which, uniquely, is given “dominion” within his creation.  It is God who, of course, ultimately has dominion or authority, but God takes a vast risk in making them – that’s us – representative of him.  God creates humans to live “in his image” within the good creation, and therefore to exercise dominion on God’s behalf or, we can say (as Unit 3 shows), stewardship.  If this interpretation is correct, the text portrays God as entrusting humans with an immensely daunting role within the “very good” creation (v. 31).

(ii)  With what scholars see as a mysterious first person plural, “Let us make” (v.26), the text presents God as creating both male and female in his image.  Therefore it is as male and female together that God makes humankind in his image.  It is as though God makes humans at the very beginning as an elementary human community of male and female to represent him in creation.

Many biblical scholars agree on these two aspects of the meaning of Genesis 1’s account of humans as made in the image of God.  While you can give more attention to this in Unit 3, we need at this point to recognize one fundamental principle of CST which flows quite directly from such an understanding of men and women.

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End of 2.2.3

Go to 2.2.4 Human dignity

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