The Imago and Imitatio Dei Essay

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The first biblical passage that speaks of man practically shouts that he is created in the image of God. Evangelical scholarship on the image of God has mainly concentrated on the Genesis texts, which has often led to speculation about the ontological identity of the image. However, there is a much richer reading which does not care so much to ask, “What is the image of God?” but “What does it mean to carry the image of God?” This reading draws from the witness of both the Old and New Testaments, discovering that the restoration of the image becomes a central theme in the New Testament, taking on eschatological significance.
Genesis introduces the idea of the imago Dei in the creation narrative. The six days of creation culminate in
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The principle is that the original man somehow reflected God.
The context does not concern itself with defining the nature of the image, but rather describes the natural role of the image, that is primacy over the earth. Middleton identifies four possible Ancient Near Eastern parallels to the image of God in man: 1) In the Gilgamesh Epic Enkidu is described as an image of Gilgamesh the king; 2) two poetic references in Egyptian literature describing the creation of man as the images of a god; 3) the practice of Egyptian and Mesopotamian kings placing statues of themselves throughout their kingdom; and 4) Egyptian and Mesopotamian references to kings as the image of gods. Curtis concludes, “It seems likely that the image of God idea was introduced into Israel through her contacts with Egypt… and used to express the apparently uniquely Israelite idea that all persons, not just the king occupy a prominent place in the created order.” This proposal is strengthened by the use of רדה, rendered ‘have dominion’ (ESV) which is a word with royal significance. In conclusion, Genesis presents mankind as the image of God, and because he is God’s likeness on earth man has the authority to rule over the earth and subdue it.
However, all did not remain well. Genesis 3 records the fall of man, his disobedience to God. Creation, which had been declared ‘very good’ (1:31), became tarnished. The question now becomes, How does sin affect the imago Dei? Three passages
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