The doctrine of creation in six literal days is foundational to the Christian faith. God the Creator of all things has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of Creation. He made “the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1), and all living things upon the earth in six days and rested on the seventh day of creation week. The first man and woman were made in the image of God, as the crowning work of creation, and given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.
The Psalmist said: “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Ps 33:6, 9).
Scientists and science are at their best when dealing with current issues that are taking place in the world. However, when it comes to “religion,” the “origin of man,” and the “matter of life,” we go beyond the limits of the scientific method. The book of Hebrews states: “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3). Because it is impossible to prove scientifically how and when the earth originated, it is “through faith” that we discern the hand of God in Creation.
Grace Aguilar said:
We need faith, to discern the workings of an eternal Love and infinite Goodness in the History of Man, Past and Present; to mark through the evil which is often alone visible, the furtherance of that Divine Will and Perfect Good, which runs as a silver thread through the darkest web, and links this world with heaven—man with God.
Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things. The author of Hebrews states that “he made the worlds” (Heb 1:2b). He also made mankind in “the image and glory of God” (1 Cor 11:7). The word translated image is tselem in Hebrew. The word is used frequently of a three-dimensional representation, a hewn or carved statue, such as an idol (e.g., 1 Sam 6:5; Num 33:52; 2 Kgs 11:18). In a few instances, it means a two-dimensional object such as a painting (e.g., Ezek 23:14). Thus, the image is not just the physical body of man; man in his totality was made in the image of God.
The basic word for image (tselem) appears without the word demuwth (likeness) in Genesis 1:27. In this sense, the verse emphasizes what God did; He [God] created the image. The exact meaning is determined by the broader context, which includes Genesis 1:26–28. For instance, in the past, the image has been understood in the light of prevailing anthropology. Saint Ambrose (Bishop of Milan) saw it as the soul in man. Charles Hodge in his book Systematic Theology, writes that Augustine saw the word image as the
cognito veritatis [learning the truth], and likeness to amor virtutis [love power]: the former [relates] to the intellectual, and the latter to the moral faculties. This was the foundation of the scholastic doctrine that the image of God includes the natural attributes of the soul, and the likeness our moral conformity to the divine Being.
Therefore, the word image can be thought of as consisting of the following:
1. Man’s outward form and inner character as explained more closely and made more precise by the word “likeness,” which implies similarity but not identical representation.
2. The functional but not the conceptual male and female role as parallel to the I–Thou in God.
3. The possession of the divine spirit (breath).
The apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus (17:2, 3, 6, 7, 10, Authorized version) says of the creation of man:
[He] made them according to his image, and put the fear of man upon all flesh, and gave him dominion over beasts and fowls. . . . Counsel and a tongue, and eyes, ears, and a heart, gave he them to understand. Withal he filled them with the knowledge of understanding, and showed them good and evil. . . . And the elect shall praise his holy name.
More complete descriptions of God’s love and warning of Satan’s deceptions are provided by Ellen White as follows:
Adam was crowned king in Eden. To him was given dominion over every living thing that God had created. The Lord blessed Adam and Eve with intelligence such as He had not given to any other creature. He made Adam the rightful sovereign over all the works of His hands. Man, made in the divine image, could contemplate and appreciate the glorious works of God in nature.
Adam and Eve could trace the skill and glory of God in every spire of grass, and in every shrub and flower. The natural loveliness which surrounded them reflected like a mirror the wisdom, excellence, and love of their heavenly Father. And their songs of affection and praise rose sweetly and reverentially to heaven, harmonizing with the songs of the exalted angels, and with the happy birds who were caroling forth their music without a care. Our first parents were not left without a warning of the danger that threatened them. Heavenly messengers opened to them the history of Satan's fall and his plots for their destruction, unfolding more fully the nature of the divine government, which the prince of evil was trying to overthrow.
The word used for likeness (demuwth in Hebrew) most likely represents the appearance or resemblance to something (e.g., Ezek 1:5, 10). It does not emphasize the three-dimensional aspect as referred to in the case of tselem. It is more abstract. Von Rad has suggested that rather than demuwth referring to an entirely different aspect of man, it places a limit on both the concrete and plastic understanding of the word tselem.
Image and Likeness
The implication for a correct understanding of this passage is:
1. The nobility of man. Man is not a product of chance or evolution processes, but a product of God’s creative ability. Not only was he made by God, but he was made in the image of God. Thus, we must place a high value on man—all men—slaves, free, kings, and masters.
2. But man was only created. He is not God. He is not to be worshipped. He is not self-existent. He has limitations. He is also only an image, not God Himself. God is the wholly other.
3. The high status that man has gives him a dynamic responsibility—a relationship of rulership of the earth by means of God's principles and methods. In every respect, man must represent God, for man was created in the image of God.
Created to be the “image and glory of God” (1 Cor 11:7), Adam and Eve had received endowments not unworthy of their high destiny. Graceful and symmetrical in form, regular and beautiful in feature, their countenances glowing with the tint of health and light of joy and hope, they bore in outward resemblance the likeness of their Maker. Nor was this likeness manifest in the physical nature only. Every faculty of mind and soul reflected the Creator’s glory.
The Bible teaches that we were created to be the sons and daughters of God, fully accountable to Him for preserving the original perfection. God created Adam and Eve in His own image, with the capability of enjoying fellowship with Him.
After God created Adam and Eve, they were placed in the Garden of Eden. Both creatures had the power of choice or the gift of free will. The freedom to make choices is essential to developing a righteous character, as explained by God to ancient Israel (cf. Deut 30:15–19). The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the first test of stewardship; the exercise of the freedom of choice was evident in the decision to eat the fruit or in refusing to succumb to temptation. By instructing Adam and Eve to obey Him, God was saying that I am your Creator, who made you in My image. Unfortunately, using their God-given free will, Adam and Eve chose to disobey and ate of the forbidden fruit.
God could have made His creatures like robots, but we would have ceased to be humans. God wanted Adam and Eve to show love by freely choosing to obey Him. One can argue that a free will, on the other hand, leaves the possibility of a wrong choice. Norman L. Geisler is correct in saying that “true love never forces itself on anyone. Forced love is rape; and God is not a divine rapist. He will not do anything to coerce their decision.” Since Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the tendency to sin was passed on to every man and woman (cf. Rom 15:12; 1 Cor 15:22).
Evil became actual (palpable) when man decided to live independently of God. “Whereas God created the fact of freedom, humans perform the acts of freedom. God made evil possible; creatures make it actual.” However, God is not to be blamed for the sin of the world.
Despite the fact that Adam and Eve fell into sin, God promised to redeem them and their offspring. First, God allowed them to kill animals as a substitute and reminder of their dependence on outside help to pay the penalty for their sin until the Messiah came and died for the world. The book of Genesis (3:15) records the first promise of salvation. The accounts in the book of Genesis develop from a typology of first things to soteriology (salvation). Second, God promised that one of Adam’s seed (singular in Hebrew)—Jesus—would come and die for Adam and his offspring. Genesis 3:15 was the first indication of hope for Adam and his descendants. This inspired verse teaches mankind that Jesus Christ is the glorious Seed of the woman.
I like how Ryan M. McGraw explained Genesis 3:15. This he did, not merely from a contextual point view (Gen 3), but by tracing its significance throughout the Bible. He identified four parts: “first, the prequel to Genesis 3:15; second, the promise of Genesis 3:15; third, the progress of Genesis 3:15; and fourth, the fulfillment of Genesis 3:15”
In the first, you either belong to the seed of the woman or that of the serpent. Christ is the Seed of the woman. Unless you have faith in that Seed, then you belong to the seed of the serpent.
Second, Genesis 3:15 gives a unified message, evident throughout of the entire Bible, where Jesus Christ gained victory over sin, death, and all of the effects of the fall for His people. When believers read this passage (Gen 3:15) with these facts prominent, they will read well and profitably.
Third, consider that every promise of the gospel has included believers and their children (or seed). The purpose of the genealogies, as in Matthew 1, is to trace the line of the Seed of the woman. Genealogies ought to be read from the viewpoint of God’s overreaching redemptive plan.
Fourth, its fulfillment comes to a climax when the New Testament proclaims that Christ’s coming fulfilled God’s oath to Abraham and His promise to David (Luke 1:73, 69). Matthew 1:21: says, “and she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” This is the glorious fulfilment of Genesis 3:15.
When God created the world, He was not dependent upon pre-existing matter (Heb 11:3). Jesus Christ, the eternally self-existent God, created the universe. When the progenitors of the race yielded obedience and allegiance to Satan in Eden, which belonged to the Creator alone, the harmonious relationship between God and humans was broken. Life can only take on true meaning when we allow God to re-create us.
When one accepts Christ as his personal Savior; his experiences would be elevated into “a new creation” in Christ. (cf. 2 Cor 5:17a). The sinner is transformed into a new creature, altogether foreign to human experience; consequently, the new supernatural element introduced to him at conversion, man will die to sin and will be born again. Hence, man is created anew in the likeness of Christ; he/she becomes a son/daughter of God. The new creature is Christ’s love for humankind exhibited in the re-creation process and is the greatest evidence that special creation took place as recorded in Genesis.
Arthur Newell Strahler, Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University, 1999), 75–76.
Grace Aguilar, The Women of Israel (New York, NY: Appleton, 1851), 2:269.
Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (New York, NY: Scribner, 1872), 2:96.
Ellen G. White, Confrontation (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1970), 10.
Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1890), 52.
Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1952), 20.
Norman L. Geisler, “God Knows All Things,” in Predestination and Free Will: Four Views of Divine Sovereignty and Human Freedom (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), 69.
Ravi Zacharias, Norman L. Geisler, Who Made God?: And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 36.
Ryan M. McGraw, Christ’s Glory, Your Good: Salvation Planned, Promised, Accomplished, and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage, 2013), 34–50.
Youssry Guirguis is an Old Testament scholar with a special interest in the area of Islamic studies at the Asia-Pacific International University in Thailand and the Andrews MAR (extension site) program director for the Asia-Pacific International University. He is an adjunct professor in Middle East University’s Master in Islamic Studies Program and has conducted research in the areas of biblical studies, Islamic studies, and biblical rituals.
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