In Our Image, Part 1: Design

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In Our Image, Part 1: Design

Editorial Note: The following article is a chapter excerpt from Pastor Jason O’ Rourke’s Sex-U-ology: Origins: God, Gender, Marriage, and Intimacy.

What does it mean to be male and female to God?

What does our sexuality mean to God?

What does marriage mean to God?

What does it mean to be human?

What is our reason for existing?

What is God’s eternal purpose for us?

Scripture tells us that when God created humanity that we are made in God’s image and after His likeness. (Genesis 1:26) David tells us in Psalms 8:5-6 that God made us a “…little lower than the angels…” The word that is used here to describe angels is used in that way only once in the entire Bible. That word is Elohim which can be literally translated as “gods” or “divine beings.” In other words, David is telling us that humankind was made a little lower than the Godhead Them-self.

An ancient church father, agrees with this position. Justo Gonzalez, paraphrasing the theology of Irenaeus of Lyons, states that Irenaeus believed the following:

…the human creature was not made from the beginning in its final perfection. Like a true shepherd, God placed the first couple in Eden. They were not mature beings, but were rather “like children” with their own perfection as such. This means that God’s purpose was that human beings would grow in communion with the divine, eventually surpassing even the angels. The angels are above only provisionally. When the divine purpose is fulfilled in the human creature, we shall be above the angels, for our communion with God will be closer than theirs. The function of the angels is similar to that of a tutor guiding the first steps of a prince. Although the tutor is temporarily in charge of the prince, eventually the prince will rule even the tutor. Humankind is to be instructed, not only by angels but also by the “two hands” of God: the Word and the Holy Spirit. Led by these two hands, humans are to receive instruction and growth always with a view to an increasingly close communion with God. The goal of this process is what Irenaeus calls “divinization”—God’s purpose is to make us ever more like the divine. This does not mean, however, that we are somehow lost in the divine nor that we shall ever be the same as God. On the contrary, God is so far above us that no matter how much we grow in our likeness to the divine we shall always have a long way to go. From this perspective, the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is not the result of sin. On the contrary, God’s initial purpose included being united with humankind. In fact, the future incarnate Word was the model that God followed in making humans after the divine image. Adam and Eve were so created that after a process of growth and instruction they could become like the incarnate Word.[1]

Consider now the words of another author who wrote in the 19th century: “Man (-kind) was the crowning act of God’s creation”, and “designed to be the counterpart of God”[2]. Here the author calls us, humanity, the crowning act and the counterpart of God. These are very bold statements. This author is not finished. Consider the following:

All heaven took a deep and joyful interest in the creation of the world and of man. Human beings were a new and distinct order. They were made “in the image of God,” and it was the Creator’s design that they should populate the earth. They were to live in close communion with heaven, receiving power from the Source of all power. Upheld by God, they were to live sinless lives. The holy pair were not only children under the fatherly care of God, but students receiving instruction from the all-wise Creator. They were visited by angels, and were granted communion with their Maker with no obscuring veil between the mysteries of the visible universe; the wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge afforded them an exhaustless source of instruction and delight. The laws and operations of nature, which have engaged men’s study for six thousand years, were opened to their minds by the infinite Framer and Upholder of all. They conversed with leaf and flower and tree—gathering from each the secrets of its life. With every living creature, from the mighty leviathan that playeth among the waters, to the insect mote that floats in the sunbeam, Adam was familiar. He had given to each its name, and he was acquainted with the nature and habits of all. God’s glory in the heavens; the innumerable worlds in their orderly revolutions, the balancing of the clouds, the mysteries of light and sound, of day and night—all were open to the study of our first parents. God created man a superior being; he alone is formed in the image of God, and is capable of partaking of the divine nature, of cooperating with his Creator and executing His plans.[3]

I must admit that after being molested, I didn’t feel very special. While I was sinning I may have, but immediately after every act with every woman, or after every session of viewing porn, I felt very “un-special”. In fact, I felt as though no one was really interested in me at all. However, according to the above passages, humanity was an order of creation superior to all other beings in the universe, capable of conversing with plants and animals. What is it about humanity that is so special, so superior, aside from the apparent ability to talk to plants and animals? What was I missing? This author has more to say in the following passage:

Family religion is a wonderful power. The conduct of the husband toward the wife and of the wife toward the husband may be such that it will make the home life a preparation for entrance to the family above. Hearts that are filled with the love of Christ can never get very far apart. Religion is love, and a Christian home is one where love reigns and finds expression in words and acts of thoughtful kindness and gentle courtesy. Religion is needed in the home. Only this can prevent the grievous wrongs which so often embitter married life. Only where Christ reigns can there be deep, true, unselfish love. Then soul will be knit with soul, and the two lives will blend in harmony. Angels of God will be guests in the home, and their holy vigils [watchful guarding] will hallow [sanctify] the marriage chamber. Debasing sensuality will be banished. Upward to God will the thoughts be directed; to Him will the heart’s devotion ascend.”[4]

Why had no one ever read this to me? No one in my church had ever told me that intimacy was something angels guarded when I got married. Why? What is it about human sexuality that we have overlooked, misunderstood, and/or ignored? Why are angels allowed to watch and made to guard the activities of the marriage chamber? How can one be sexually intimate with one’s spouse in the marriage chamber and the thoughts ascend to God? How do the actions in the marriage chamber equal heartfelt devotion, or emotionally desirous worship? I submit that the answers to these and many other questions can be found in the Genesis 1-3 account of God creating His image: Man.

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Image and Likeness

Our search takes us to Genesis 1:26-27:

And God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.

This text speaks to the equality of man and woman. Each is made in the image of God, and together they are the image of God. One is no more the image of God than the other. The two together, man and woman constitute the image of God. Genesis 5:1-2 even goes so far as to say that, “…God blessed them and called their name Adam.” This adds force to the previously made statement, for both their names were Adam. Together they constituted Adam. One is no more Adam than the next.

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Psalm 139:14 states “I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well”. How fearfully and wonderfully made are we? What does all that entail? Why didn’t I feel as marvelous as King David was claiming I was?

It is important that we understand the notion of image for a moment. Again, Genesis says “let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” “Image” is defined from the Hebrew word tselem which carries the meanings of “to shade, a phantom, or illusionary resemblance, a representative figure.” “Likeness” is translated from the Hebrew word demûth which means “resemblance, model, shape and similitude.” It comes from the primitive Hebrew root dâmâh which means “to compare, liken, think, mean, and devise.” When these terms are considered together, what we see is that humanity was made to be God’s image as in an illusion, a phantom-like model similar to God, like a simile is used in poetry. The purpose of this image was to spur the inhabitants of the universe to think about God in certain ways when looking at humanity. The universe was to understand God based on the meaning and actions of the image presented.

The Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary definition of image is twofold: there is the noun, and then there is the verb. The English word image comes from the Anglo-French, and is short for the word imagene. It is derived from the Latin root imagin-, or imago, and is possibly related to the Latin word imitari, meaning to imitate.

The definitions for the noun of image are as follows:

1) a reproduction or imitation of the form of a person or thing, an imitation in solid form,

2) the optical counter part of an object produced…, a visual representation of something…,

3) exact likeness, a person strikingly like another person,

4) a tangible or visual representation,

5) a mental picture or impression of something, a mental conception held in common by members of a group and symbolic…,

6) a vivid or graphic representation or description,

7) figure of speech: a form of expression as simile or metaphor used to convey or heighten effect often by comparing or identifying one thing with another that has a meaning or connotation familiar to the reader or listener,

8) a popular conception projected (of a person, institution, or nation) using the mass media.

The verbal definition of image is as follows:

1) to call up a mental picture,

2) to describe or portray in language especially in vivid manner,

3) to create a representation of, or to form an image of, representing symbolically,

4) to reflect, mirror, or project.

All of these definitions, when taken together, present a huge picture of what God had in mind when He made us. I will try to consolidate the different meanings into one thought. The Godhead was interested in creating a reproduction or imitation of Themself in solid form so strikingly like Themself, a tangible and visual representation of Themself, that it would create in the minds of the rest of the universe a mental picture, impression, and conception of Themself. I am purposefully using Themself to demonstrate the mystery of God’s singularity and plurality.

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Humanity was to be the universal figure of speech when referring to the Godhead, the simile used as the universal reference point from which the concept of the Godhead could be conveyed and heightened. Humanity was to be the mass media project of God to convey the concept of Themself to the universe. Being the image of God, we were created to call up a mental picture of the Godhead for everyone else in a vivid manner, symbolically reflecting, mirroring, and projecting the concept of the Godhead to the universe. However, since nothing can truly stand for all that God is, we were simply, as the Hebrew puts it, an illusionary shadow and a phantom of the reality that is God, designed to get the universe thinking and imagining about God. Our very existence was to bring glory and worship to God. We were Their graven image, Their mirror image, Their living image, and yet a virtual image. Universal beings were to look at us and worship God because of how mysterious and great They are, when they beheld Their illusionary phantom-like resemblance: humanity. This was a definition that I was not living up to. This was a purpose I had never known. I am not even sure I would have even wanted it had I known of it. However, as God began to teach me, the more I wanted to become this type of man. The problem is I didn’t know where to start. It was God who showed me the starting point, and it is found in Genesis chapter two.

“It is not good…”

In Genesis two, God declares that man should not be alone. It was after God gave man boundaries that God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a help-meet for him.” Let us look at the word good in the Bible as being an attribute of God: “O taste and see that The LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” (Psalm 34:8)[5] According to the text, God is good. We cannot begin to understand how a person can be good. For us, good is an attribute of an individual; almost an attachment that a person uses or doesn’t use. With God, however, good is His individual nature. Good is God’s state of being; it is God’s being. If these texts are correct in their depiction of God, then one can properly replace the word “good” in Genesis two with the word “God.”

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Substituting “good” for “God” in the text it reads: “It is not God [Elohim] for man to be alone…” That is to say, it is not a full or complete representation of the Godhead to be alienated in pure singularity. It cannot be, for God said on the sixth day “…let us make man in our image after our likeness…” Some do not like this plural understanding of God, but every time the word God is used in Genesis 1-2 the word is Elohim or gods, from the dual construction of the Hebrew word. It then goes on to say that God made man in His image, that is He made them plural (Genesis 1:27-28; 5:1-2), and called their name Adam. Therefore Genesis 2:18 says, “And the Lord [YHWH, singular] God [Elohim, plural] said, it is not good for man [singular] to be alone [remain singular], I [subject, singular] will make [verb, future tense] a help [noun, direct object] meet for him [verbal action clause].”

The Help-meet

In Genesis 2:18, the word “help-meet” is actually the phrase “…a help meet for him.” That phrase “help-meet” is a combination of two words. The first is the word help, or ezer, meaning “an aid,” which comes from the word azar, meaning: “to surround, protect, help, and succor.” Davidson states that ezer never means a subordinate helper. “In fact, of the twenty-one occurrences of ezer in the Hebrew Bible, sixteen employ ezer to describe a superordinate—God Himself as the “helper of Israel”. The other three occurrences outside of Genesis two denote military allies.”[6]

To this is added the phrase ‘meet for him’, or neged, which means: “a front, a counterpart, over against, or before.”[7] It comes from the word nagad, which means: “to stand boldly opposite, to manifest, to announce, and more specifically to expose, to praise, to explain, to predict, to denounce, to declare, to certify, to profess, to expound, to show forth, to speak, to tell, to messenger.”[8] We have seen this relational construction before…in John 1:1-5. There the Word was with God, was God, and yet is distinct from God (the Father). Later on we see that the Word comes from the bosom (dare I say the rib) of the Father (vs.18). The Word has always been the mouthpiece of the Godhead to the rest of creation, and is the actual medium of creation. Therefore, if humanity is in the image of Elohim, then the God-Word Relationship is imaged in the man-woman relationship. God the Father is imaged by the man; God the Word is imaged by the woman.

When viewed together we are presented with a very different picture of woman than what we may have been taught prior to now. Woman was the bold, beautiful mouthpiece for the man, and it was her specific function to speak with and for man. She was to be his messenger, his word to the rest of the creation. She was to declare him, to expound him, to praise him, to predict, and expose his will and personhood to the rest of the creation. Since she was him, as the Divine Word is the God, whatever she spoke of him she spoke of herself. Whatever she revealed of him, she revealed of herself, for she spoke for them. Since the word nagad is a verb, it is not an exaggeration to say that she was to be his acting arm, his right hand. Woman was the action that all of creation was to see, even as the Word is the one by whom God created all things. “Eve is a power equal to the man”[9]. If the two of them were to do anything, they were to do it through woman.

It should be noticed that woman was formed from the rib of the man. This is significant in bringing us closer to an understanding of her role. Notice that God put man in a deep sleep, “and He took one of his ribs” The significance of the rib is that it protects the vital organs of the body, so woman was to protect the vital interests of the man. However, as the rib is of man, so man must protect her as he would any other part of himself. Consequently, the word rib can also be translated as the entire side.[10] In line with this “whole side” concept, Weems states that, “God created Eve and blessed her with attributes that made her attractive to Adam. He gave Eve a large amount of estrogen to make her feminine and opposite of Adam, and a small quantity of testosterone so that Adam would be attracted to his second self that he saw in Eve. Similarly, God gave Adam a large amount testosterone so that he would be masculine and opposite of Eve, and a small portion of estrogen so that Eve would be attracted to her second self.”[11] Each couple is designed by God to look at their spouse and see themselves, and yet something mysteriously different and beautiful. They, like the Godhead, are and are not the other.

Consider this: the image of God is created at the end of Genesis one, signifying that it is the culmination of or the goal of the creation, while in Genesis two the image of God is at the beginning and the end of creation. It is as if God is saying that all of creation is held up, held together, sustained, or supported foundationally by these two pillars: man and woman, the image of God. That is to say, if the image is corrupted then the rest of the creation falls apart, the pillars of God’s image upon which creation leans have been removed. Continuing on, please notice with me what happens in Genesis 3.

Woman is talking to the serpent, and what are they talking about? They are talking about the boundaries given to Man in chapter two verses 16-17. How did Woman know about the boundaries? The Bible mentions nothing about God or man explaining anything to her about the home, job, animals, or boundaries, but there she is talking about them. How does she know about them? It is because she is Adam (mankind). When God made man, He also made woman. Remember that Woman was not created but formed, built up, or fashioned from the rib. In the Genesis 2 account you will find that God didn’t even breathe into Eve. Why…because she had the breath given to man already in her. Woman was not created; she was manifested. She wasn’t on the stage prior to her formation, but she was there, inside man. She has the same identity man has (which is God-ward), the same home, the same job, the same beings to care for and/or rule over, and the same boundaries. This is an important point to understand. Their mission, means everything about them is identical, and yet different for complementary reasons. When God was giving man his home, job, boundaries, and ministry, Eve received hers. They are one and the same, but different. She is woman.

This idea of the Oneness of the two, of the singular entity before the rib was taken, is reflected in the following statement:

Then Moses said, “male and female he created them,” to make known that Eve was already inside Adam, in the rib that was drawn out from him. Although she was not in his mind she was in his body, and she was not only in his body with him but also in soul and spirit with him, for God added nothing to that rib that he took out except the structure and adornment. If everything that was suitable for Eve, who came to be from that rib, was complete in and from that rib, it is rightly said that, “male and female he created them.[12]

In order for man and woman to reach each other, they come through God, or meet in God. It was their being in God that made them one flesh. They could not even see each other except through God. Apart from God they are not one flesh, but fallen humanity. “Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6).

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“She shall be called woman…”

“And Adam said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” (Genesis 2:23:) This is the climax of the chapter. The image of God has been completed. Does man recognize her? Man knew the animals, their characters, abilities, and values and called them what they were? What will he see with this new creature God is bringing to him? What is his response? Man is asleep, but God wakes him up, and introduces him to someone else. Man takes one look at her, and with exuberant joy declares his recognition of her identity, value, and character: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”. He recognized her completely, and is now filled with delight and anticipation. However, man did not name woman.

When man saw the animals, whatever he called them was its name “thereof”. If he had invented names for them, the King James translators would have said that whatever man called the animals was its name “thereafter”. The implication is that the animals were already named by God, and man as the image was simply demonstrating that as the image he knew what God knew.

With this new creature, man called her “…bone of (my) bone and flesh of my flesh.” He speaks of himself using the first-person, personal pronoun, “my”, saying that she is just like him, and that is all man can say. There is nothing left for him to call her, because she has not been given a name by God yet. Man doesn’t even recognize her as “she”, but as “this”. Since there was no human female in existence until this point, Man plausibly had no reference point from which to identify himself as male and no counterpart to compare against. Consider the rest of the verse: “…she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Notice how man is referred to. He is called man in the third person sense, as if someone is talking about man, and not man talking about himself. In the first part of the verse, he refers to himself as “my”, a personal pronoun not a proper noun. Why in the end would he suddenly refer to himself as man? It is as if he went from a kid excited over receiving the best toy on Christmas to being an inventor giving designation to what one has just made.

God is speaking. Man has described her as much as he could, and has proclaimed all that he could about her. However, the right to name her does not belong to him. He is not her Creator, and thus he is not her Lord. It is God who says “she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” God gave man his name, and so God gives woman her name. Man may joyfully recognize woman, may celebrate the woman, may enjoy woman, may become one with woman, but he is not Lord of the woman. The giver of identity, purpose, and value is the Creator of the man and woman.

Click Here to Read the Rest of this Series.

Editorial Note: The following article is a chapter excerpt from Pastor Jason O’ Rourke’s Sex-U-ology: Origins: God, Gender, Marriage, and Intimacy.

______

Notes.

[1] Gonzales, Justo. The Story of Christianity, Vol. 1. Pg. 68

[2] White, Ellen G. Counsels of Diets and Foods, Ch. 2, Para 5

[3] White, Ellen G. Sons and Daughters of God, Pg. 7

[4] White, Ellen G. Adventist Home, Pg. 94, Para 3

[5] “Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.” (Psalm 73:1); “For the The LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5); “Praise the LORD; for The LORD is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.” (Psalm 135:3); “The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.” (Psalm 145:9); “The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the LORD of hosts: for The LORD is good; for his mercy endureth forever: and of them that shall bring the sacrifice of praise into the house of the LORD. For I will cause to return the captivity of the land, as at the first, saith the LORD.” (Jeremiah 33:11) “The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.” (Lamentations 3:25); “The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” (Nahum 1:7).

[6] Davidson, Richard. The Flame of Yahweh. Pg. 29

[7] Concordance, Strong’s (E-sword)

[8] Ibid.

[9] Davidson, Richard. Pg. 30.

[10] Linafelt, Tod. “The Arithmetic of Eros.” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology. Pg. 246

[11] Weems, Howard. Families in the Last Days: A Step-by-Step Theological Guide to Get Families Through Troubled Times. Pg. 40

[12] Cotter, David W. Berit Olam: studies in Hebrew narrative and Poetry. Pg. 30

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About the author

Jason O' Rourke

Jason O’Rourke is a district Pastor in the Netherland Union Conference. He is the author of “Sex-U-ology: God, Gender, Marriage, and Intimacy”, a book reconsidering the Genesis 1-3 narratives, and has done numerous seminars on relationships, manhood, sexuality, and addiction. Jason has also authored several articles on race and religion in Spectrum magazine, most notable “Toward a Seventh-day Adventist Theology of Social Justice.” Jason is a trained hospital chaplain, with 10 years ministerial service at Florida Hospital. He is married to his lovely wife of 7 years, Melissa Gail. Together they minister through their ministry, “Ready, Set, Renewed” to help couples address deep rooted issues and find biblical healing. Jason and Melissa have two beautiful daughters, Abrielle Joy and Myla Grace.