Listening or seeing – which is more important?
How are we made in the image of God?
Last week we left it on a cliff-hanger ...
"Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." (Genesis 1:26)
This verse has provoked much debate, to put it mildly, in both Jewish and Christian circles, as well as in areas where these circles overlap. The key point of interest is the fact that God talks in the plural, "let us make man in our image". Who on earth (and heavens) is He talking about? On one extreme, some early Jewish translators even purposely mistranslated the words "let us" to "let me" . Others have suggested that God was referring to a "heavenly court" of angelic beings or that He was talking to Himself in a sense of chewing over an issue, or that He was using the royal "we", as in the "we are not amused" of Queen Victoria. The Targum Neofiti, commenting on the next verse (verse 27), says:
"And the Memra of the Lord created the man in his (own) likeness."
Although there is also debate as to what exactly is meant by "likeness" in the above two verses, it is consistent that Jesus, the God who became Man in his incarnation, would have, at the moment of Creation of the first man, provided the template for the physical as well as the spiritual form of human beings.
In other words, the mystery is not God taking the form of man when Jesus was born to Mary in Bethlehem, but rather that Adam took the form of Jesus, when God formed him from the dust of the ground. Just a thought. Interesting, eh?
One last word on the creation of Adam. Here is the second time it is mentioned in Genesis, in the next Chapter.
"the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being." (Genesis 2:7)
The Hebrew word used for "formed" is unusual in that an extra letter is added to the word used later on in the Chapter dealing with the formation of the animals (verse 19). The letter is a yod and, in the "formation of man" verse, it appears twice, but only once in the "formation of animals" verse. In the Midrash on Genesis, this is explained by the fact that Adam was created with a dual nature, a soul as well as a body, whereas animals have a single nature, a body, but no soul.
So, you would agree that knowledge of ancient Jewish writings can enhance our understanding of the Scriptures. It's one thing blindly accepting the fact that Jesus, the second member of the Trinity, was somehow involved in Creation, but another thing marveling how the Aramaic Targums, written in Biblical times, can fill in the gaps. Added credibility is given when you realize that the last thing that Jewish scholars would want to provide is a Christian apologetic, yet they have. The fact is that the role of the memra seems to square up more with Christian theology than the rigid structures of Judaism. There is a ring of truth about all this that warms the soul and encourages us to want to know more. So let us do so.
Before we move on, a quick word of explanation for the pedantic ones amongst you. When I earlier posed the question how involved was Jesus in the Creation of the Universe? there was a semantic oddity implied. In plain English something didn't quite scan. "Jesus" is our familiar name for the Son of God, though it wasn't a flesh-and-blood "Jesus" who was present at the Creation of the Universe, it was the memra. So when I refer to Jesus (or Yeshua) in these articles, I am merely using, for convenience, the name that we know best for the Son of God. I hope that is now clear and next week we will move on in our story and see what happened next, as our story continues in the pages of the Old Testament.
(This is an abridged extract from Steve's book 'Jesus Man of Many Names')