Monday, November 13, 2006

Struggling Over the Imago Dei, Part 3

For the immediately preceding post in this series, click here.

A few more words are in order about the connection between the Image of God and the theme of Majesty or Royalty, which is the connection that the Reverence Theology of the Bible advocates. Prof. Dexter Callender has a nice discussion of the biblical complex of texts that supports this idea on pp. 29-31 of his book, Adam in Myth and History (Harvard Semitic Studies 48). Let me cite a bit of his discussion.

Callender argues that the ancient world was familiar with a royal dimension to traditions of the creation of humans, and that this royal aspect or motif manifests itself particularly in Gen 1:28; Gen 9:1-7; and Psalm 8.

Genesis 9 echoes the primordial blessing of Genesis 1 ("be fruitful and multiply," v. 1) and then goes on to introduce the theme of majesty or rule in v. 2, but in a different form than in Gen 1:28. Genesis 9:2 speaks of the animal kingdom "delivered into your hand." The Hebrew here, נתן ביד, "routinely expresses the idea of domination, political and otherwise (e.g., Deut 1:27; 1 Sam 14:37; 17:47)," according to Callender.

Psalm 8, reflecting on the nature of mortals and their place in existence, presents a similar understanding of the God-given royal position of humanity (vv. 5-8). God has crowned mortals with "glory and majesty" (v. 5). God makes them "rule" over the works of God's hands (v. 6a). "All things you have placed under their feet" (v. 6b).

I am aware that the theology of the Imago outlined in this blog is subject to much abuse, and that there is a body of literature on this. As the series of posts continues, however, I want to argue that Reverence Theology cannot be construed to support abusive exercises of human power. The virtue of reverence stands in absolute contradiction to any abuse of creation and nature.


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