Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

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Are women made in the image of God?

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5 minutes to read Both Genesis 1:26–28 and 5:1–2 are plain in ascribing the image of God to mankind in the plural: male and female. Men alone cannot order the world in a way that fully represents God, and women alone cannot either. Only together can they completely carry his rule into creation by both subduing and filling.

Reader Sharkly, who comments at Dalrock with enough frequency and profanity for me to remember his name, takes me to task for holding that women are made in the image of God. You can read his whole comment here; I will quote only part, as it’s fairly long:

Sharkly If you read from a non-gender-neutered Bible it appears that man(Adam) was created in God’s image. Women were just created by God, without mention of bearing God’s image.

Genesis 1:26 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 creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;
2 Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
3 And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:
4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:

Again God created Adam in his image, and created both male and female. Seth was also mentioned as being in Adam’s image, but the daughters were not mentioned to be in Adam’s image.


I don’t see a single thing in the Bible that implies that women are in God’s image. Ariana Grande is blasphemous and wrong! Don’t join her error.


Once you conceptualize that only men are in God’s image, so much more of the Bible and men and women’s relations makes sense. Try it.

This is some wicked incompetent exegesis. The very passages Sharkly cites directly refute his view.

Look at the thought sequence of Genesis 1:26–28: God determines to make “man” in his image. The term in Hebrew, as Sharkly notes, is adam; but what he appears not to have grasped is that adam is not (necessarily) a proper noun. It is equivalent to English “man” as a collective noun—grammatically masculine but with a neuter denotation. This is how it is frequently used throughout the narrative of Genesis. If you follow the Hebrew closely and notice the pronouns, the question of who has the image of God is absolutely clear:

And God said, “Let us make adam in/as our image and in/as our likeness, so as to rule over the fish … the birds … the cattle … over all the earth and every moving thing that moves on the earth.” So God created adam in/as his image, in/as the likeness of God of he created him/it, male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish … the birds … and over every animal that moves upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26–28

Who is to rule in this passage? The same ones who are made in God’s image—namely adam, man. That is why God makes adam in the first place. Should we understand this word, here, as a singular noun with masculine denotation? We can easily check by looking at who is given rule in this passage: it is both male and female; the text is explicit that God blessed them, and gave them rulership. So adam here cannot refer to the man only; it must be a collective noun with a neuter denotation (i.e., “mankind”). If the image and the rulership have anything to do with each other—and they surely do—both male and female are made in God’s image here. The symmetry of the passage requires it.

By the same token, the passage explicitly describes the recipients of the image as adam, created “male and female.” You have to be completely blinded by misogynistic prejudice to not see this; it’s obvious in any translation.

Genesis 5:1–2 shows the same thing. Even in the English it plainly contradicts Sharkly’s claim, but in the Hebrew it’s even clearer. Literally:

This is the record of the generations of adam. In the day God created adam, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them, and he called their name adam when they were created. Genesis 5:1–2

When the passage switches to the plural form, the referent remains the same: adam. Both male and female are explicitly called adam here—“man”—and are said to be in the likeness of God. This is why many translations render adam as “humankind.” Sometimes the “gender-neutered” translations aren’t actually a liberal conspiracy. Sometimes it’s conservative Bible-believing scholars rendering gender-neutral terms in Hebrew as equivalently gender-neutral terms in English in an effort to keep bad readers like Sharkly from drawing bad conclusions that are just a mirror image of feminism.

God made men and women to image his dominion in the world. It seems that both feminists and extreme patriarchalists tend to think of dominion in terms of “high-profile use cases” like rulership over society—and since the Bible denies this to women, they therefore see it as treating women like beasts of burden with no place for dominion.

But Eve is pointedly not a beast of burden (Gen 2:20), and rule is pointedly not confined to authority over others. In the first chapter of Genesis, God carefully shows us what exercising dominion looks like:

Exercising dominion is ordering the world rightly.

Rule is about establishing right order. This is certainly imposed through an authority hierarchy (e.g. 1 Cor 11:3), which is why Paul can emphasize man as the image of God, with woman as the glory of man (1 Cor 11:7). But mere authority does not exhaust dominion, and fulfilling the creation mandate is something that the man is explicitly not fitted to do alone (Gen 2:18). He needs a “helper opposite to him,” as the Hebrew puts it. This carries the connotation both of facing him as a reflection, but also of inversely corresponding to him; “helper” is ezer, meaning one who does for another what he cannot. Separately they are complete in themselves, and in their intended manner of imaging God; but that intended manner is incomplete with respect to completely ordering the world as God desires. Adam can subdue, but not fill; Eve can fill, but struggles to subdue. Together, they supply what the other lacks, and perfect the other’s natural virtues, duties, and abilities, to bring right order to every sphere of life.

 9 comments

Sharkly

Bnonn,

Firstly let me congratulate on an awesome website. I have read a good number of your lengthy and insightful posts, and I always enjoy getting your intelligent perspective on matters. I also think the layout is pretty cool and original, and I really liked the iconic artwork for this post. I’ve been thinking of starting my own blog, and yours is a great one for me to aspire to emulating in my own unique way.

My view of women not being in the image of God was shared by the early church fathers. Here is how Augustine describes his view:

But we must notice how that which the apostle says, that not the woman but the man is the image of God, is not contrary to that which is written in Genesis, “God created man: in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them: and He blessed them.” For this text says that human nature itself, which is complete [only] in both sexes, was made in the image of God; and it does not separate the woman from the image of God which it signifies. For after saying that God made man in the image of God, “He created him,” it says, “male and female:” or at any rate, punctuating the words otherwise, “male and female created He them.” How then did the apostle tell us that the man is the image of God, and therefore he is forbidden to cover his head; but that the woman is not so, and therefore is commanded to cover hers? Unless, forsooth, according to that which I have said already, when I was treating of the nature of the human mind, that the woman together with her own husband is the image of God, so that that whole substance may be one image; but when she is referred separately to her quality of help-meet, which regards the woman herself alone, then she is not the image of God; but as regards the man alone, he is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman too is joined with him in one.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Sharkly, I appreciate the kind words.

I’m not disputing that church fathers held your view. It’s just that what they thought is not a question on my radar when I’m hashing out an issue like this. The church fathers are interesting, but I’m not a historical theologian, nor am I a Catholic or EO that I am compelled to submit myself to their opinion. They got a great deal wrong, both for reasons of tradition, and because they were often working with incomplete manuscripts or in Latin rather than the original languages. A question like the nature of the imago Dei can only be answered by God himself, so I’m interested in contextual exegesis of Scripture rather than of Augustine.

Moreover, what Augustine says here is nonsense. Not only does he misrepresent Paul, who never says “the woman is not so,” but rather says nothing on that point at all, but the larger point is prima facie incoherent. If the imago Dei is found in the combined nature of man and woman, then it stands to reason that the man in isolation is no more or less the image of God than the woman in isolation. If the man in isolation is the image of God, then what does the woman lack that she in isolation is not, yet is simultaneously able to add enough that Augustine can say “the whole substance may be one image”? If the image is divisible, and the image is seen in their combined nature, then her nature must reflect that image as much as his. How can a sufficient part of it be expressed in the man to count, but not in the woman?

Sharkly

Bnonn,
Yes, I am with you, in that I don’t hold the early church leaders up as infallible, or as proof. I was just pointing out that back closer to the time the Apostle Paul wrote his epistle, those who studied it usually saw in it what I saw also. I too saw that logically “the woman is not so,” because she is comanded to do the opposite while the only reason given for the man to keep his head uncoverd was because he is the image and glory of God. Likewise when I read Genesis it seems to me God goes out of His way to tell us that Adam was made in the image of God, while only saying that God made both the male and female, but not that He made the male and female both in his image.
We are never actually told exactly what the image of God is. Everybody’s got a theory, except me. However it might lie in something only males possess. I don’t think the image is found in the combined nature, any more than it is found in the masculine nature of both God and man. God has no feminine-only traits. I am not aware of any Godly positive personality trait that only females can have. I believe all human mental and personality traits are often held by members of both sexes. The God of the Bible “gave bitrth” to nothing. He spoke things into existance, or made them. Effeminizing God is a blasphemous offense.(Ariana Grande is now doing it) Some churches are even so apostate that they claim God has a feminine side. Jesus once said:
Mathew 23:37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
However, Jesus only said He wanted to gather His children, even as a hen. He didn’t say he was a chicken. And that metaphor, comparing disparate things, is as close as anything in the Bible ever comes to ascribing feminine characteristics to God. God is always referred to and pictured in the masculine, by His choice. God is always the Father, never the mother, always the Son, never the daughter, always the Spirit, never the siren.

If the image is divisible, and the image is seen in their combined nature, then her nature must reflect that image as much as his. How can a sufficient part of it be expressed in the man to count, but not in the woman?

I didn’t say the image was divisible.(although it could be) I imagine it like this: The man is created in the image of God. Image =1. As Paul indicates the woman is not in the image of God. Image = 0. When you add them together you’ve still got exactly the image of God in the couple. Male + Female Couple = one flesh in the image of God. Thus a male homosexual couple is an abomination defiling the image of God. While dykes may be abominable, and unnaturally refusing to serve their purpose, God’s image, however, is not directly being sullied by them. Imagine I bought a Norman Rockwell painting. And imagine I bought a beautifull glass case to house it in, and I hung my painting in the case on my wall. The Norman Rockwell “image” is like the man. The helpful accessory is like the woman. If you ask to see the image, I wouldn’t pull the image apart from its case to show it to you. I’d just say; “you can see it perfectly fine through the glass”.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Sharkly, none of that interacts with the exegetical evidence I’ve given, nor with the clear contextual evidence and ANE usage for the image viz dominion.

Despite what you say, you do make assumptions about what the image of God is, because you say there is no godly personality trait that only women can have. This is only germane if you construe the image of God purely in terms of personality. Since the Bible doesn’t do that, however, it’s a red herring (although of course, men and women do have different cardinal virtues that reflect God in different ways).

Bringing the image back to what we actually see God himself doing in Genesis, he subdues the earth, then fills it. In the creation mandate, he tells the couple to fill the earth and subdue it. Later, Adam calls his wife Eve because she is the mother of all living. Later, John tells us that in God is life. There is a clear biblical theology of female imaging, down to the repeated reversals of barrenness, and Paul’s comment that women will be saved through childbearing directly after speaking to the issue of male authority.

Sharkly

Sharkly, none of that interacts with the exegetical evidence I’ve given…
adam is not (necessarily) a proper noun. It is equivalent to English “man” as a collective noun—grammatically masculine but with a neuter denotation.

Wow! How do I interact with all that evidence? Uh, no. I still don’t believe you’re correct. What more do you want as far as interaction? I’m neither a native Hebrew or Greek speaker.

As the early church fathers believed and noted, your view does not square hermeneutically with what the Apostle Paul said. I see the Genesis passages differently than you. I see them making clear repeatedly that “Adam” was created in the image of God, and that both the male and the female were created by God. The verses are meticulously careful to never state that womankind is in God’s image, while repeatedly stating that “Adam” was created in the image of God.

… Adam calls his wife Eve because she is the mother of all living. Later, John tells us that in God is life. There is a clear biblical theology of female imaging …
LOL Is that more of your “exegetical evidence”? So God is your mother? Hmmmm. I’m going to have to “interact” with that evidence the same way: By stating; I just don’t believe it. God tells me he is our Father, and I don’t have the desire to find “female imaging” in God like you apparently do.

I’ll see if I can try out some of your exegetical style here: John tells us that “God is love” The band Nazareth sang “Love Hurts”. The Hurts Donut Company makes jelly donuts. Therefore “Gott ist ein berliner” Which I believe implies that God could be originally from Berlin. Which means in all likelihood God is of Germanic tribal origin, So I may not just be part of the master race after all, but instead I’m one of God’s divine kinfolk, being both God and man. And since I am your “Gott”, Bnonn, I command you to leave off of your Feminist foolishness,(God is not a woman, or feminine in any way) and if you do, I will humble myself condescending to behave towards you as just a mere mortal masculine man(nonetheless intrinsically in God’s image) taking upon myself fallibilities like your own, to share in your challenges and trials, through my divine humility. Thus saith Sharkly.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

I don’t see a point to continuing this dude. By your own (sometimes tacit) admission, you lack the exegetical and biblical-theological chops to be taking the stand you’re taking.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Sharkly, I’ve been working through Genesis with my family, and today we read Genesis 9 and immediately thought of you.

In Genesis 9:5–6, God establishes the principle that murder is a capital crime, and gives the reason: that man is made in the image of God. To kill a man is to destroy God’s image, to efface his representation. The term used throughout the passage is consistently adam.

By your logic, this should mean that it is only a capital crime to murder men. A man who murders a woman should not be executed, since the term used is adam—which means man—and the justification used is that adam is made in God’s image—and woman is not made in God’s image.

Conversely, if murdering a woman is a capital crime, then the logic flows the other way: in that case, adam cannot be a gender-specific term here, and woman must be made in the image of God.

There is, of course, a simple way to know which option is right: look at the rest of God’s law. For instance, Exodus 21 standardly speaks of men killing men, by which you might assume it isn’t intending to refer to women at all, and these laws don’t apply to them. Yet then you have verses like Ex 21:20, 28, which are direct applications of Genesis 9:6, 5.

What say you?

Sharkly

By your logic, this should mean that it is only a capital crime to murder men.

LOL I guess you want me to stop murdering women now?

Actually your logic is just weak there. Jumping to conclusions based upon my statements is not the same as logic. I may “lack the exegetical and biblical-theological chops” to lecture on grammar in Biblical languages, but I might be able to help you with logic. Just because murdering a man is a capital crime for murdering the image of God, does not mean that murdering a woman can’t also be a capital crime for some other reason. It would seem to make for less confusion. The murderer says “I’m innocent, I thought the dude was a chick. He fought like a girl! And it was dark.” Making all murder a capital offense also might teach men to respect women as joint heirs of the grace of God.
A logical conclusion is one that must be, because of the “givens”.

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head … For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

Fill in the blank:
The man must not, dishonor his head with a covering during prayer, because he is in the image of God. The woman however must cover her head during prayer, because she is ___ in the image of God.

The word “not” goes in the blank logically. You have to really want Feminism to be true, and women to be an equal vessel, to illogically force the word “also” into that blank.

Augustine, Tertullian, and others, had more exegetical chops than I, but I don’t think it is my lack of chops that keeps you from seeing what we all saw in the Bible. You want to stuff equality into where God has not created men and women both equally in His image. That’s a more modern Feminist eisegesis.
Holy Sarah was commended for calling Abraham “Lord”. Women are all to submit to their husband’s as unto the Lord.(Ephesians 5) So, the man functions as a representation of God in his wife’s life. Hmmmm. And yet no man is ever asked to call his wife “Lord”. Clearly one is made lower than the other. Feminists aren’t envious of men for nothing. Bnonn, you, as all men, exclusively bear the responsibility of being created in the image of an exacting God, before your wife, whether you or she want to admit that or not. And she owes you her reverence & submission due to God’s imparted image and glory and the responsibilities you alone bear because of it.

 


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