Friday, November 30, 2012

Biblical Anthropology: Image of God or Imaging God?

Alice C. Linsley

What follows is the abstract for IMAGING GOD: A theological Answer to the Anthropologial Question? by Alistair McFadyen (University of Leeds). The full text may be read here.

Traditionally the central trope in Christian theological anthropology, ‘the image of God’ tends to function more as a noun than a verb. Whilst that has grounded significant interplay between specific Christian formulations and the concepts of non-theological disciplines and cultural constructs, it facilitates the withdrawal of the image and of theological anthropology more broadly from the context of active relation with God. Rather than a static rendering of the image a more interactionist, dynamic and relational view of ‘imag ing God’ is commended as a key anthropological term. Engaging with Psalm 8 suggests that, biblically, asking the anthropological question (what is humanity?) is tied to the answer to the theological question: who is God? This locates theological anthropology securely within the interactive context of being related to by God and suggests that theological anthropology might be a matter of performance, rather than definition: actively imaging God.

McFadyen's article is well worth reading.  He makes excellent sense of the theological context of this Biblical figure of speech - "the image of God" and he rightly asserts that the theological and the anthropological meanings are inextricably entwined.  He uses the term "anthropological" in a theological sense, i.e., as related the Biblical view of human nature, and this helps his argument.  On the other hand, he fails to explore the trope as an anthropologist would and that weakens his case. 

The weakness comes from failure to see that the structure of Psalm 8:4 is parallel to the structure of Genesis 1-4. Adam and Enoch are paralleled, as are the descendants of the First Man (ha-adam) and the descendants of the first ruler Enoch (ha-Noch).

Analysis of the diagram of the Genesis 4 and 5 data, along with understanding of the marriage and ascendancy pattern of Abraham's Proto-Saharan ancestors enables us to see that Enoch is the first ruler referenced in the Bible. His sons-in-law, Cain and Seth, were both rulers as well. Their lines intermarried (matrimonial moeity). In the ancient world marriage within the caste was the norm. Their descendants represent the oldest known ruler-priest lines, and it is from them that the Son of Man came in the person of Jesus Christ.

On the most fundamental level of meaning among Abraham's Kushite ancestors "imaging" God is ontologically possible only in the case of the deified ruler. To miss this is to lose sight of the connection between dominion and divine image, and to miss a significant Christological dimension. Christ is the icon of God the Father and this icon is not a static picture, but a living image.

I agree with McFadyen when he writes, "Because God’s relating – and therefore God – are already oriented towards the human; indeed, oriented and seeking the human in its fullest realization. Psalm 8 has a shorthand code whereby it rolls up the whole history and future directedness of God’s relating in its orientation towards human well-being, flourishing and consummation: God’s mindfulness (v.4). And it is in thecontext of wondering acknowledgment of the status that affords human beings that it articulates the anthropological question in a specifically and definite theological register."

Adam was made in the image of God and this expresses a God-Man relationship, but beyond that we must consider the claim of Abaham's ancestors that they are the royal descendants of Adam. In other words, they claim a historical link to the divine image through their ruler ancestors named in Genesis 4 and 5 and this constitutes their work as ruler-priests who are to image God.

Psalm 8 is one of the more significant Psalms for theological and anthropological or scientific understanding of the God-Man relationship. Psalm 8:4 reiterates the structure of Genesis. The first man Adam parallels the first ruler Enoch/Nok, the father-in-law of Cain and Seth (Seti). In this sense, Genesis poses two founding fathers.  Adam is the first father, the first to have dominion, and the first to die. Enoch/Nok is the first ancestor of the historical persons listed in the Genesis 4, 5 and 11 King Lists. He is the first ruler to be detected in Genesis and the first of his line to die (though one of his descendants by the same name is said to not have experienced death.)

The biblical figures, Enoch and Adam, are paralleled in Psalm 8:4:

What is man (Enoch/ha-noch) that you are mindful of him,
or the son of man (ben adam) that you care for him?

Psalm 8:4 connects the meta-historical Adam and the historical Enoch. Here the historical first ruler Enoch parallels the "son of man", Jesus' favorite description of Himself. There is a sacred mystery here concerning Christ that places Him at the nexus of the meta-historical and the historical. Both Adam and Enoch point to the fully Human Son of God, the very "image of God" shown to us in the person of Christ.

The Psalmist parallels two deified rulers: Adam and Enoch, and by extension implies the matrimonial moeity between their descendants. He regards both as "fathers" of the people, Enoch coming from Adam. The ruler-priest line of Enoch is therefore the priesthood of Eden. These priests are called Horim or Horites.
The lines of Cain and Seth intermarried, as did the lines of Ham and Shem. Abraham, King David and Jesus Christ are descendants of these great ruler-priests. Perhaps this is why Jesus' King-Priest identity was recognized in Tyre in Mark’s Gospel, not on a mountain, as in Matthew's account of the Transfiguration. For Mark, the Messiah’s appearing means the beginning of the restoration of Paradise. Mark likley had in mind this passage from Ezekiel 28: "Son of Man, raise a lament over the king of Tyre and say to him: Thus says the Lord God: You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and flawless beauty. You were in Eden, in the Garden of God; every precious stone was your adornment... and gold beautifully wrought for you, mined for you, prepared the day you were created."
Likewise Amos speaks of “him who holds the scepter from the house of Eden” (Amos 1:5).
The Image of God and Dominion
Genesis connects "image of God" with dominion over all the earth. Consider this from Genesis 1:26: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
Adam was to have ruled as the image of God, as were his descendants after him. If Adam is the first man in biblical parlance, Cain is the first explicitly named ruler as is evident from a study of what Cain symbolizes in Scripture. When Jude warns those who might abandon Christ because of their suffering, he uses three men as examples: Cain the ruler, Balaam the prophet, and Korah the priest. These were the three most sacred offices among Abraham’s people.
In the beginning, Adam did not have to work for his dominion. God bestowed it to him. The suggestion that Man is to enjoy status as a deified ruler who "images" the Ruler of the universe is quite evident. That this is a bestowed ontology is also evident.
The Fall did not remove the image and likeness of God, nor did it remove the responsibility to "image" God. Adam's descendants spread abroad and they ruled over territories from Africa to India and beyond. Wherever they went they took their religious practices and expectation that a Son would be born of their ruler-priest lines. He is called the "Seed" of God in Genesis 3:15. Of this Seed, Paul writes in Galatians 3: "Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy Seed, which is Christ… And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Jesus referred to Himself as the promised "Seed" when He foretold his death in Jerusalem. He told his disciples "Unless a seed fall into the ground and die, it cannot give life." (John 12:24)
The phrase "image and likeness" suggests a royal seal which holds the image or likeness of the king. There is a sense of divine appointment. Adam, Enoch, Cain, Seth and all appointed rulers after him are to "image" on earth the righteous rule of God. Yet all failed, save Jesus Christ beneath whose feet God will subject all things. 

McFayden writes, "Engaging with Psalm 8 suggests that, biblically, asking the anthropological question (what is humanity?) is tied to the answer to the theological question: who is God?  He misses that the question being asked in not simply what is humanity?  Psalm 8:4 does indeed speak of who God is, but it does so using parallelism of the metahistorical and the historical and it places the Son of Man there at the center.

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