Thursday, November 09, 2006

Struggling Over the Imago Dei, Part 2

For the preceding post in this series (on the meaning of the Imago Dei in Holiness Theology), click here. In this post I turn to the thinking onThe Image of God! the "Image of God" in Reverence Theology, my other major priestly theology (the PT section of the P strand and Isaiah 40-66).

In Reverence Theology, nothing on earth or in heaven holds a candle to God. But God in God’s mystery does raise up an unlikely imago Dei on earth. God installs frail, mortal humankind to represent God’s majesty. This decision of God to ennoble humanity comes to fruition in the Suffering Servant archetype sketched in the poems of Isa 40–66.

For today's post on this, let's turn to the PT source, where God creates humanity with the following intention: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness [דמות]; and let them have dominion” (Gen 1:26; cf. Gen 9:6). The term dominion unlocks the verse’s meaning. In the Near East, the expression “image of God” referred to the status of kings as representatives or viceroys of the gods.

The Tukulti-Ninurta epic from thirteenth-century Assyria calls the king “the eternal image of Enlil.” A Neo-Assyrian letter calls both King Sennacherib and King Esarhaddon “the very image of Bēl.”

For PT, the “image” and “likeness” granted to humanity by God is no visual trait, relating to humanity’s appearance or form. Ezekiel’s sense of the term is not at issue. No, the significance of the imago is God’s choice of humanity to represent and channel divine majesty. Mortals are to be humble and reverent creatures; that is paramount. Obedient to the Sabbath’s tutelage, however, they will discover royalty as their paradoxical destiny.

Series to be continued. Comments welcome.


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