General Question

grimacebingers's avatar

"God made man in his own image"...what is God's Image?

Asked by grimacebingers (46points) October 5th, 2008

The bible says that God made man in his own image…but what is God’s Image? The continued debate of evolution or creationism? First, there is the assumption or agreement that God exists. If not, this question becomes a moot rant and not a question. I believe firmly in science as a primary source for answers. Where science cannot explain… I allow faith and God to be an answer.

While discussing this with a friend recently I shared this view point: The Bahai faith teaches that Science and Religion must both agree about the oneness of humanity. God’s faith should cause harmony not to discord.

My own interpretation leads me to this internal debate. When seeking to describe God, abstract ideas seem to always be used. God has no physical form per se…so there is no image to be referred. If humans are another creature on this planet what makes us different than other animals. Choice (and aposable thumbs). Humans can choose…we can follow our instincts or choose not. This is God’s image. Who would argue that God can’t choose?!!

If God’s image is choice, then both science and religion would agree. Choice being instilled, or inate within homospecies of animals (maybe others too), like a seed or dormant trait thousands of years ago. Evolution/ nature can occur as the fossil record shows or other scientic discoveries. For the human species, as we evolved so has our ability to choose. The ultimate ability. Choice.

All religions teach recognizing God or definitions of God. This is a Choice to or not to. What other animal can choose to recognize/ acknowledge an abstract concept as a valid existance of? This is God’s image.

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64 Answers

squirbel's avatar


G-d made man in his own image…....

What is G-d’s image?

Let me think for a moment here…

laureth's avatar

I’m not Christian. However, I found it hard to believe that they mean the physical image, since God is described as an entity rather than a material being. I would say that God is “consciousness,” though, the part of the universe that recognizes itself. Reading this creation story as metaphor, then, I would say that we are in posession of a consciousness – unlike what we perceive in the animals (although I think some, like elephants, come close).

Because it is people who are made in God’s image, and people who are an order of magnitude more self-aware than the animals, I would have to say that God’s image is consciousness itself. There is no physical image. And this is bourne out by reading into Jewish (and Islamic) law, which allows no “graven images” in their holy places. God is, to them, the antithesis of image – it is consciousness.

loser's avatar

Look around you…

shadling21's avatar

In my religion, God is an Invisible Pink Unicorn.

EDIT: I am in no way mocking the above question. Carry on, theists.

fireside's avatar

To me, God is like Jung’s Collective Subconscious or Objective Psyche

The objective psyche may be considered objective for two reasons: it is common to everyone; and it has a better sense of the self’s ideal than the ego or conscious self does.

The Ego can be likened to Man’s base instincts and associated with the body, because it is all about survival. The Conscious Self is the intellectual human mind. It is the reasoning side that attempts to order and categorize everything that it observes.

It is the Objective Psyche that can step back from those polar instincts to observe or engage/exit. The Objective Psyche allows us to tap into that deeper knowledge and gives us the sense of detachment that is so necessary for spiritual growth.

To me, God and God’s knowledge are like an Ocean and the deeper you wade into that ocean, the more connected you are with the collective subconscious, the more at peace you feel, the more you will be able to empathize and understand another person’s position, and the less you will have a need for the grasping desires of the ego or the intellect. When you get to that level, there almost is no choice…

So what is God’s image? I’m with Laureth that it is that conscious awareness of the connectedness of the universe.

To quote myself

Personally, I think that God is within and surrounding us at all times.
We just chose to connect with our spirit or instead stay focused on the mind or the body.

I guess God is sort of like the the Higgs Field in that respect.

The Higgs’ ability to fill space with its mysterious presence makes it a vital component in more ambitious theories of how the Universe burst into existence out of some initial quantum fluctuation, and why the Universe prefers to be filled with matter rather than anti-matter; that is, why there is something rather than nothing.

willbrawn's avatar

after reading a lot of ideas about god I think the reason there are a lot of athiests and people that have wavering beliefs is because they do not see god as someone personal. Or even anything like him.

Once you realize who he is and his characteristics then you will have greater faith.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

willbrawn, is there an answer to the question that was asked, anywhere in there?

willbrawn's avatar

*edit God is like us, that is the mystery of God, unlike us he is perfect and glorified.

PupnTaco's avatar

God has a hairy butt?

AstroChuck's avatar

You have it backwards. Man made God in his own image.

gailcalled's avatar

AC got it right. The OT text was written by a scribe. I just found this;

Si les triangles faisaient un Dieu, ils lui donneraient trois côtés. If triangles created a god, they would give him three sides.” Montesquieu, Charles, Baron de (1689–1755)

gailcalled's avatar

I remember this common scholarly view from a required Bible Class when I was a sophomore in college. The professors treated it as a great book, which made the class interesting.

“Although Moses has traditionally been considered the author of Genesis, modern scholars generally agree that the book is a composite of at least three different literary strands: J (10th century BC), E (9th century), and P (5th century). The interpretation of the book has led to many controversies. One of the most difficult problems has been distinguishing historical fact from symbolic narration intended to convey a religious message.”

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Gail, the book Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman is a modern update on that theory. It identifies at least six authors, J, E, P, R, DTR1 and DTR2. R is a redactor (perhaps Ezra) who synthesized the other sources together. DTR1, DTR2, along with E and P are believed to be responsible for Deuteronomy.

This is just for the Pentateuch alone.

What’s really interesting is that the author, Friedman, has actually gone through the bible verse by verse, and gives a chart at the end, which attributes specific verses to specific authors. And he included a few examples in the book, I remember the flood story in particular, where he put the story in the book with the two authors, P and J, in different typefaces, so you can actually go through it like a ‘chose-your-own-ending’ book and read it three different ways: the whole thing, just P, or just J, and all three of them make perfect sense! It’s incredible! It’s really a fascinating topic.

shadling21's avatar

Can I just take a moment to profess my love for you guys? You’re amazing.

susanc's avatar

I want to take issue with the notion that God is consciousness. God as portrayed in every holy book (not counting whatever Buddhists read, but then Buddhism isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy) as having a voice, therefore a voicebox. In the JudeoChristian Bible
God is also referred to as having “hands” and so on. So therefore, God is built like we are.
Talks like we do.
Perhaps walks like we do.
Loses His temper like we do.
Works and rests like we do.
Doesn’t, however, appear to have love problems exactly like ours. (Maybe is asexual.)

There IS an entity which appears to precede this particular God. It is called
“Thunder, Perfect Mind”. Its self-description was transcribed by an early early Christian and the manuscript hidden before the agents of the early church could destroy it along with the Gospel of Mary and all the other Gospels they thought early Christians wouldn’t be able to sort out (make the message simple and they will follow you).
“Thunder, Perfect Mind” (which you can find in the Gnostic Gospels) specifically states that It created the God we all talk about, as a simple, human-friendly version of Itself that we dopes could imagine. But that didn’t work. Poor old God had to make a golem out of actual flesh and put it down here where we could touch it and drink wine it made for us out of water and so on.
We are SO dumb.
I think they’ve given up now.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

Who is “they”?
I thought Christians were supposed to be monotheists?

queenzboulevard's avatar

We were created in the image of God.

laureth's avatar

@susanc: Have you ever read “When God was a Woman” by Merlin Stone? Your “Thunder Perfect Mind” reminded me of some things I read in WGWAW about the ancient worship of a mountaintop Thunder deity that eventually became YHVH.

seVen's avatar

God is a Spirit and he put his breath into mans’ nostril when he created first created man called Adam, check what “breath” means in Hebrew and Greek language and find out. C’mon do some homework yourself, it’s not that hard.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

What the heck does Greek have to do with it? Genesis was written in just one langauage – Hebrew.

fireside's avatar

Ok, Breath in Greek or Hebrew

In all traditions, Spirit means breath or wind:

Our word Spirit is derived from the Latin Spiritus, which means breath. For the Greeks, the Spirit is known as Pneuma, a term which also means breath. The Hebrew word Ruah is synonymous with wind. Yahweh is derived from the root HWY, which also means wind.

The consistency in these different terms in not fortuitous. It results from the intuition of the Unconscious, which makes clear that to know the Spirit is to know the breath of God. This reminds on of the passages in the New Testament which describes the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost:

“Suddenly a sound came form heaven

Like the rush of a mighty wind

And it filled the house where we were sitting”

In India, this breath is known as Brahmachaitanya, the Breath of God. In the tradition of the Vedanta, the Prasana Upanishad(commented by Shankaracharia) declares: “in the heart resides the Atman, the Self. It is the centre of a hundred and one little channels….In these moves…the breath”.

Still in India, the Spiritis also associated with prana, a term which, in Sanskrit, means breath. TheMundaka Upanishad explains that this breath has its source in the Atman. The Kausitaki Upanishad tells us several times that the Atman (Brahman) is breath. And one of the oldest Sanskrit scriptures, the Atharva Veda, states that “whosoever be driven by the breath of life, he will be reborn”.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I have to disagree.

YHW (Yahweh) does NOT derive from HWY. From the point of view of a biblical hebrew scholar, no, that doesn’t make any sense at all. The reason is that in hebrew, most words come in roots of three consonants. so words that are related have the same consonants in the same order. the vowels are what distinguish noun from verb, singular from plural, that type of thing. since these are merely the same vowels, but not in the same order, there is really no evidence that they are related.

The origins of the name Yahweh are the subject of MUCH debate, yes, but I have NEVER heard of HWY as an antecedent.The most commonly accepted root is another YHW, the hebrew for “to be”, as in Exodus 3:13–15, when God gives his “famous response” to Moses. Moses asks, “Here I am coming to the children of Israel, and I say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they will say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” ..

“God responds, “I am what I am”. (The Hebrew root of these words is the same as the root of the name Yahweh”)”
-Biblical scholar Richard Elliot Friedman

fireside's avatar

I should add that i was just doing seVen’s research and was waiting for them to come back with a point. Thanks for the counterpoint, chica.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

No problem, it’s what I do.

gailcalled's avatar

@La chica: Thanks for the Friedman reference. I will add his work to “my books-to-read,” which is getting, unfortunately, unmanageable. But winter and the snow is coming…Can you read the biblical Hebrew? (no vowels, I understand.)

PupnTaco's avatar

For some people, it’s their Way or the HWY.

drhat77's avatar

My understanding of that conept has always been we’ve been given the ability to care, to understand the consequences of our actions, and the ability to create.

kinda cheesy and touchy-feely, i know. someone bust out the guitar, let’s sing kumbaya.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

LOL pupntaco, audible chuckles. for real.

wundayatta's avatar

I’d wager that the development of a concept of the image of god was a complex process. All people seem to feel they are the special people. Back, 2000 years ago, or more, when these things were being discussed and developed, and you come up with an idea of this rather Patriarchal figure—strict; dealing out harsh punishments; capable of controlling everything; and you believe this god has very specific ideas for how humans should behave—then how are you going to picture this entity?

It’s a little tricky, because you can’t make images of this picture you have in your head, then how can you think about it? And yet…. it is your god. And you are the chosen people, so doesn’t it make sense that, as the chosen, we are like god? (Which of course implies the reverse, god is like us). And in fact, god is, very much in character, like the characters of the leaders of the time.

Well, even if we’re talking a spiritual kind of thing (which reminds me, “chi” also means breath—it is almost universal that breath is the start of things of the bodily kind), not everyone is capable of comprehending higher level abstract concepts. So some, certainly, will understand this to mean that god looks like humans physically. Whether this is a proper conception or a misconception, this idea naturally travels through history.

I think it makes sense for humans to be local-centric. They love themselves, then those related, then those living near by, and then… well, not clear whether the Others can be trusted. They don’t speak the same, or eat the same, or have the same beliefs…

So, anyway, in this vein, it is natural, if you are going to come up with a god, to have it look like you. Then, in order to make it magical and awesome, you reverse the idea, and make it seem like god came up with you, instead of the other way around.

The point, then, is that God’s image is anything the people making up that god want it to be. And however you conceive of that image (spiritually or physically), that’s how it is, if everyone else goes along with you. And why wouldn’t they? You’re the religious official. You know these things.

For me a question like this is further problematic, because the way it is stated, it implies there is one correct answer. In fact, if what I say is correct, there is a correct answer for every single person, and no two of those answers are the same.

susanc's avatar

@lachica: The “they” I was talking about was the chain of increasingly concrete models of the One God we’re so monotheistical about. When I say “I think they’ve given up now”,
I mean the Design Department, which has striven – there’s a good King James Bible word for you – to embody this One God in a way that we’ll find comprehensible and
convincing – since we’re quite dense…..

fireside's avatar

I would agree with you daloon.
The individual perception of God is far less important than the teachings of God.

As we grow into a more complex and intertwined global system, it is important to focus on the messages of love and kindness that are consistent across the major religions because otherwise we run the risk of continuing the scare tactics of segregation and division.

Ultimately, I think humans are like adolescents in their spiritual growth and still have a lot to learn but have begun to move beyond the simple dichotomies that were used thousands of years ago. Children only understand Yes/No, Good/Bad, Heaven/Hell. It takes a more mature viewpoint to see the degrees within the continuum rather than just seeing the end points.

susanc's avatar

Exactly. We’ve needed increasingly simple imagery as the God-thingy has been working out how to teach us about Itself, starting with something pretty difficult, yet true to Its nature, and working backwards till we got to what I called a “golem”, that is, a representation of God which looked so familiar, so normal, so human, that the people around him wanted to wash his “feet”, stick their fingers in his “wounds”, and so on. He was “made flesh”. How much more concrete can we expect our God to be?

Of course the message is the point. But
the medium is the message. And the Design Department has been looking for the
medium that will carry the message in a way we adolescents can receive it. Do you
think it’s working?

fireside's avatar

I think the message has been conveyed in a variety of different mediums throughout the ages, precisely because of our tendency to disregard truths found by others rather than ourselves. I recently read The Seven Valleys by Bahá‘u’lláh. Wiki has a synopsis. I feel that collectively, we are in the Valley of Knowledge.

Yes, on the whole, i do feel that it is working. We have pretty much wiped out Cannibalism globally and the world opinion seems to be turning against terrorism as a means of political expression. We are recognizing the interconnectedness of the global community now with the economic crisis.

It is obviously a very long road and there are many opportunities for us as humans to stray from the path (possibly causing our own demise) but I think that as a whole we are becoming more attuned to each other.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

There is a part in the Bible that describes what god looks like. Whether or not it’s supposed to be literal… Who can say? This is what it says:

…“and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and His hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire. His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”

There’s also another part in the Bible that mentions something about god having a tattoo on his upper right thigh, which is, I think, why people are not supposed to have them.

XrayGirl's avatar

not physical “image”..God is a Spirit and has no physical image. The “image” we mirror in God is: love, creativity, success, joy, kindness, power above evil, ability, etc. God is good and we were made “to be good” but we chose the other way.

gailcalled's avatar

The god of the Old Testament was judgmental, fierce, vindictive, and sometimes really angry. He was a complex myth because there were so many authors in so many different time periods. A few examples;Jonah, Job, Noah, Lot, Ruth, Esther, David and Absolam, Abraham and Isaac, Moses ( getting so close and let not being allowed into the promised land – after all that traveling).

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

if as someone said up there, that things that are self-aware, have consciousness, then not only are elephants, dolphins, whales, and other primates self-aware, but according to recent research, magpies are self-aware as well. Of course, I would think that we are made in God’s image in much the same way that if cows worshipped gods, their idols would look like cows. I might be wrong, because the last time I asked a cow anything, all I got was a mournful MOO. Anyone around here speak cow by chance?

kullervo's avatar

It is refering to our receiving God’s qualities. That of a inherent sense of Justice, Love and compassion and free will etc.
These are things that were not given to the animals.

fireside's avatar

…spiritual and not material truth; it is faith, knowledge, certitude, justice, piety, righteousness, trustworthiness, love of God, benevolence, purity, detachment, humility, meekness, patience and constancy. It shows mercy to the poor, defends the oppressed, gives to the wretched and uplifts the fallen.

SeventhSense's avatar

Excellent synopsis. I would only offer that the aspect of consciousness which is inherent in both is the capacity for creation. God and man are both creative and God is said to be the creator but man shares this trait because there is no separation. So like Astro pointed out that God Created man in his own image or man created God in his own image are really the same thing. The idea of independent arising is only a product of the ego. Apparently the collective is God.
That describes Jesus in the book Revelation. Of course any imagery will always be highly simplistic but how can you capture the sun in a jar. Actually in the bible the Son precedes from the Light and no one can look upon God directly. It’s like a centillion suns.

You should check out more of Alex’s grey’s work at his website. He did work for the band Tool’s cover art. Very cool stuff.

oratio's avatar

@susanc Interesting that you call Buddhism a solely a philosophy. It has most element a religion has, how to live and the concept of afterlife and reinkarnation. How do you decide what is a religion or not? Does a religion have to have a creator deity? Interesting subject.

fireside's avatar

@oratio – there was a great discussion on Religion that delves specifically into your question. Harp offers some fantastic insights.
check it out

oratio's avatar

@fireside Right. Thank you, I will.

Zen's avatar

Homer Simpson?

CMaz's avatar

Look in the mirror. He is all things to everyone.

tynkerbella's avatar

hope he got the answer the the question what is faith

SeventhSense's avatar

All of creation.

LTaylor's avatar

Read the Bible to get a full understanding of God’s image.

SeventhSense's avatar

You have it backwards. Man made God in his own image.
So that makes you God?
we’re in trouble

laureth's avatar

@LTaylor – many of us probably have read the Bible.

SeventhSense's avatar

Brilliant answer on consciousness. I think any thinking person who believes in higher intelligence is fairly certain that it’s not confined to a physical form.

Nullo's avatar

I think of the image of God being similar in concept to an *.ISO file. That said, there may be some structural similarities in the heavenly variant of the physical.

meagan's avatar

I’m thinking David Duchovny.. ;)

SeventhSense's avatar

No he’s convinced he’s God though. He just spins in his own orbit.

kess's avatar

We are indeed created in the image of God.

So then the answer to the question lies in not merely in trying to figure out who God is…

But in knowing who you are…

Then the knowledge of God will come.

So Who are you?

Cat4thCB's avatar

it does not mean that humans resemble God in a physical way, but that we have the ability to reflect God’s personality traits. man has been implanted with qualities and personality traits that mirror God’s: a moral nature, love and compassion, justice, spirituality, joy, dignity, mercy, the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, a conscience

we can appreciate the things that God enjoys and appreciates such as beauty, speaking, reasoning, and other behaviors of the mind and heart that are part of our make up.

Aster's avatar

. Man being made in his image refers to man being more than just animal, but having a spirit or soul as well.

saint's avatar

If it is true, then one would expect God to complain alot and be overweight.

basstrom188's avatar

an old bloke with a beard

Carol's avatar

All religions teach recognizing God or definitions of God. This is a Choice to or not to.

If a particular religion ascribes to the recognition of god as a fundamental principle, is it a choice to believe in god if you ascribe to that religion?

CWOTUS's avatar

I’ll bet she has really great… um… assets. Yeah.

GrandmaC's avatar

He gave us the ability to reason, love, and create and appreciate various forms of art. God is loving, just, and appreciates music, poetry, drama, paintings, etc. God is quite an artist himself.

kritiper's avatar

Correct quote, but the supposed logic is flawed.
Man created God in his own image, therefore, if there was a “God” and/or if you wanted to believe there was, he would look like a man.

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