Ichthys Acronym Image

The Image and Likeness of God

by Dr. Robert D. Luginbill

[from Bible Basics 3A: Anthropology]

According to the first chapter of Genesis, God created Man and Woman on the sixth day of restoration. After the heavens had been restored, and the earth refitted and replenished, when all conditions were suitable and everything marvelously in place, God gave life to our first parents, Adam and Eve, forming them and depositing them in a place of perfection:

Then God said, "Let us make Man in our image, according to our likeness, so that he may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the beasts and over the whole earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth". So God created the man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

As Genesis 1:26 indicates, the express purpose of Man's creation is his rule and oversight of the newly reconstructed earth (along with its creatures). This purpose is reemphasized at several points in the more detailed narrative of Adam's creation in Genesis chapter two:

Now Man did not yet exist to care for the land.
Genesis 2:5b

So the Lord God took Adam and placed him in the garden of Eden to care for it and to guard it.
Genesis 2:15

Now as we saw in Part 1 of this series, Satan was the first trustee of earth, the original Eden, where he held the prestigious position of "covering cherub", i.e., the guardian of the throne of God on the Holy Mountain of the primeval, as yet unblemished earth. It was this pristine earth of which he seized temporary control in his bid to lead the angels in revolt against the Lord Almighty. Placing Man on this same earth, now rejuvenated, with a mandate similar to the one which Satan had rejected, is a clear indication that God meant Man (and his progeny) to assume a role very similar to the one abdicated by Satan (and his followers): namely, faithful, obedient supervision of God's creation. Now as we have seen, while angels and men are quite different in some important respects (most notably in the qualitatively superior longevity, knowledge and absence of corporeality possessed by the angels), we do share one critical similarity: both species possess spirituality of a type that mirrors the image and the likeness of their Creator; both species are intelligent, sentient, morally responsible, capable of being put in a position of responsibility. But the most critical point of comparison in each case, for both Man and angels, is the ability, indeed the necessity, of making a conscious choice to serve faithfully. For the angels, the tangible test was continued allegiance to God or defection to the devil; for Adam and Eve it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen.2:16). But for both species there was a test and the corresponding ability of spirit to choose. Beyond all argument, God could have created innumerable beings to serve Him who would have been incapable of sin or rebellion. But God desires instead, creatures who will choose for Him of their own free will, who will love Him and serve Him and worship Him willingly (Jn.4:23). To be proper replacements for Satan and his followers, mankind had to possess a spiritual makeup that was essentially the same as the angels in two important respects: 1) the ability to make responsible and responsive choices (with the mental and emotional assets to support this quality), and 2) individuality (i.e., a personality unique and independent from all others in the species). Like the angels, Man is a creature capable of exercising and responding to authority within the parameters laid down by God, and, like the angels, every one of us must make these essential choices for ourselves. These two essential qualities of spirit (i.e., the ability to choose for God and the individual responsibility to do so) are referred to in the Genesis 1:26-27 description as the "image and likeness of God":(3)

Then God said, "Let us make Man in our image, according to our likeness, so that he may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the beasts and over the whole earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth". So God created Man in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

It is almost universally acknowledged that the purpose of the description "in our image, according to our likeness" is to mark out the similarities between Man and God. Naturally, the difficulty of comparing infinite God with finite Man makes any such analogy problematic, but as men and women of faith, we understand that God was well aware of this when He gave these words to Moses to pen. "Image and likeness", when properly understood, do in fact give us a wonderfully precise description of the ways in which this new creature would be like His Maker.

The first thing to understand about "image and likeness" is that the points of analogy between God and Man are entirely spiritual. And while it is true that more than one misguided theologian over the course of the millennia has attempted to bring Adam's physical shape somehow into the picture of "image and likeness", as Christians who believe in a God who made the universe and is Himself entirely spiritual, we must of necessity reject such fanciful notions out of hand.(4) Secondly, and this point is considerably more controversial, the "image" of God and the "likeness" of God, though both spiritual, are not identical. In an effort to make the best out of a bad argument, one often hears proponents of the "image only" school say that "image and likeness explain each other", or claims to that effect. But such pleas bespeak a clear embarrassment about the need to essentially explain away the second phrase "in our likeness". From the standpoint of those of us who believe in the economy and purposefulness of what the Word of God has to say, "in our likeness" on the face of it ought to be providing additional information. This is especially the case when we consider that the two words "image" and "likeness" are introduced by different Hebrew prepositions with quite different meanings.

In fact, the two phrases "in Our image" and "in Our likeness" describe two very distinct areas of spiritual similarity between God and Man. Throughout the history of the Church, scholars have struggled with this problem, and the roots of the solution (if not the solution itself) are to be found in the likes of Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and the Schoolmen, with the distinction (generally put) being between a general principle (image) and an individual application (likeness).(5) It has fallen to the lot of modern exegetes to move the discussion away from biblical ethics and back to biblical psychology (where it properly belongs). J. Laidlaw's insightful analysis that saw in image and likeness both (species-wide) self-consciousness and individual personality is very close to the mark.(6) Laidlaw, however, took image and likeness to represent this distinction collectively, and it falls to the great credit of R.B. Thieme to have first seen "image" as mankind's common spiritual essence (analogous to the divine essence which is common to all three members of the Trinity), and "likeness" as the individual personality of distinct human beings (analogous to the different persons of the three members of the Trinity).(7)

That this interpretation has hit upon the exact truth of what distinguishes the likeness and image is made all the more clear by the two Hebrew prepositions with which the two terms are introduced. Man is said to be made in the image of God, but according to the likeness of God. As many have affirmed (indeed, the point is obvious to all with even a rudimentary knowledge of Hebrew), the preposition be (ב), translated "in" above, ought by all rights to express a much closer relationship than the preposition ce (כ), translated "according to" above.(8) This contrast of usage corresponds nicely to the distinction we have affirmed: Man's spiritual nature is more closely parallel to God's image than to God's likeness. In terms of our common human essence, the essence of God provides a rather close parallel in terms of the points of commonality that are important for Man to be a sufficient replacement for the fallen angels in every way: like the angels, we have delegated authority which authority parallels the sovereignty of God, and the spiritual facets and abilities to make proper use of it, which facets parallel in a very finite way the infinite essence of God. In terms of our individual human personalities, however, the three persons of the Trinity offer a similar, though somewhat looser, parallel. Like the Trinity, mankind is composed of multiple members, each possessed of an identical spiritual essence; but unlike the Trinity, we are not so closely bound together as a species in terms of our essence so as to be "one" on anything like the level that is true of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore the difference in closeness of comparison to God between "image" and "likeness" is not just one of quantity (i.e., very many human beings, only three members of the Trinity), but also qualitative on two separate levels: 1) the obvious disparity between a Person of the Trinity and a human personality, but also 2) the qualitative difference between a spiritually unified Trinity and a multiplicity of human beings who, though sharing the same type essence, do not actually share the same essence in the way that the Trinity do.(9) Besides the obvious point that Man is not, nor will he ever be truly comparable to God, there is another very good reason for the disjunction between the individual "essences" of separate human beings: we shall all have to make our own individual choice about whether to answer God's call to follow and serve Him, and those who choose to reject Him will ultimately be separated from Him and from us (yielding a separation in human essences that could not nor will ever obtain in the case of the divine essence).

The Hebrew word translated "image" in Genesis 1:26-27 above is tselem (צלם); its Greek counterpart, also meaning "image" (as used in the Septuagint and New Testament), is eikon (εἰκών). Both tselem and eikon refer to Man's spiritual mirroring of God's essence. Although it is possible, as some have argued, that tselem is to be derived from tsel (צל), "shade" (and that the connection between the words would be felt by the Hebrew reader in any case), in scripture tselem means "image" in a fairly concrete sense; the word is often used for statues of pagan idols which, after all, are meant to be exact replicas of the god in question.(10) On this analogy (transferred to the spiritual realm), the image of God would seem to be a very clear reflection: Man acts for God (in paradise) and even as God in certain instances. God made us to serve Him, therefore when we are behaving properly we are indeed acting in His stead. We are el (אל), a "small g" image of the God (`elohiym: אלהים), "God with a capital G" (although in the Hebrew it is a question of a singular noun in the first instance, versus a plural "of majesty" used for God Himself in the second).

I said, "You are gods, and sons of the Most High, all of you." However, you shall die in the manner of Man, and fall like any other [human] prince.
Psalm 82:6

Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law: 'I said, You are gods'?"
John 10:34

It makes perfect sense, therefore, to find this analogy of creatures called "mighty ones" (i.e., "gods") applied to the angels as well as to mankind, because by His delegation they too share in the authority of God (the Mighty One):(11)

I will praise You with all my heart. Before the angels (lit. "the gods") I will sing of You.
Psalm 138:1

Everyone who serves an idol will be put to shame, all those who praise images. Worship Him, all you angels (lit. "gods").
Psalm 97:7

What is Man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels (lit. "the gods"), you crowned him with glory and honor. You made him sovereign over all the works of your hands. You put everything under his feet, flocks and all cattle, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the skies and the fish of the sea, and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
Psalm 8: 4-8

This last passage, Psalm 8:4-8, is particularly apropos of our study because it provides a link between men and angels as God's delegates here on earth. The angels are described as "mighty ones", "gods" with a small "g", while Man, we are told, has been made "a little lower" than these entirely spiritual creatures who were the first to enjoy God's delegated sovereignty. Nevertheless, it is Man who has now been made sovereign (as God's representative) over the earth and everything that God has created on the earth (in place of earth's original angelic sovereign, Satan as we know from other scriptures such as Is.14:12-20 and Ezek.28:12-19).(12)

Now it is true that mankind fell (corporately, or "positionally") in Adam (Rom.5:12-21; 1Cor.15:21-22). It is also true that, as a result of Adam's fall, Satan is the present "ruler of the world" (Lk.4:6; Jn.12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1Jn.5:19). But the devil's usurped sovereignty has never gone and will never go unchallenged by God (Gen.3:15; Rev.20:10). God has used (and continues to use) the sons of men to challenge the devil's temporary sovereignty which was destroyed positionally (i.e., in principle) by the Son of God in His victory on the cross (Is.42:3-4; Matt.12:20; 1Cor.15:54-57; Col.2:15;  1Jn.5:3-5) and will be destroyed experientially (i.e., in practice) at His return (Ps.110:1; Rev.19:11-21). For it is Christ who is the exact image of the Father (Heb.1:3). And it is Christ who will rule over the earth in complete and perfect sovereignty as delegated by the Father (Is.9:6-7) until all His enemies have been crushed and the kingdom can be handed over to the Father (1Cor.15:24-28). Then we shall witness the Father's unchallenged rule over the new heavens and earth where "righteousness dwells" (2Pet.3:13), where there shall no longer be the slightest trace of evil (Rev.21:8; 22:3).

Psalm 8 thus describes Man acting properly in his capacity as a true servant of God, ministering in God's creation according to God's will. So it is not at all surprising to discover that this passage finds its ultimate prophetic fulfillment in the Last Adam, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

For it is not to angels that He subordinated the world to come (which is our present topic), but someone testifies at some point saying, "What is Man that you are mindful of him, or the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels, you crowned him with glory and honor. You made him sovereign over all the works of your hands. You put everything under his feet." For in subordinating the world to him, He left nothing that was not subordinate to him. However, we do not now yet see the world in subordination to him. But we do now see Jesus crowned with glory and honor on account of the death He suffered, even Him who became "a little lower than the angels" [for a brief span] so that by the grace of God He might taste death on behalf of us all.
Hebrews 2:5-9

All of the scriptures just considered refer to the idea we have discussed above, namely that the central point of the image of God in Man is the ability to exercise and respond to authority, to act sovereignly in God's place where He so delegates, and to be responsible to Him for our actions.(13) This key characteristic of spirit requires other obvious mental and spiritual aspects and assets (such as self-consciousness, mentality, conscience, etc.). But just as the sovereignty of God is the coordinating characteristic of His perfect character,(14) so the ability to judge and govern, and to be morally responsible (in terms of our own lives along with whatever God places in our charge) is the key quality of comparison between the essence of God and the essence of Man, between God as archetype and Man as His image:

Then God said, "Let us make Man in our image, according to our likeness, so that he may rule . . ."
Genesis 1:26a

The Hebrew word translated "likeness" in Genesis 1:26 above is demuth (דמות); its Greek counterpart, also meaning "likeness" (as used in the Septuagint and New Testament) is homoioma or homoiosis (ὁμοίωμα, ὁμοίωσις). Both demuth and homoioma/homoiosis refer not to our common mirroring of God's essence, but to the fact that we have an individual responsibility to seek, follow and serve God.(15) "Likeness" then refers to mankind's multiplicity in terms of many, unique and individual personalities. In this point, by analogy, we parallel the persons of Trinity (though even more loosely than we parallel His essence-image for the reasons discussed above). The fact that the pronouns in Genesis 1:26 are plural ("Us", "our image") makes it very difficult to exclude the Trinity from this passage.(16) We share the image of God on an overall essence basis, but the likeness of God relates to the fact that just as the Trinity is "We", so mankind is composed of many different members, each of whom shares the image of God (and the corresponding individual responsibility to seek, follow and serve Him). Although it is possible, as some have argued, that demuth is to be derived from dam (דם), "blood" (and that the connection between the words would be felt by the Hebrew reader in any case, and also with the words 'adam, Adam, and 'adamah, ground), in scripture demuth means "likeness" with no demonstrable connection to this admittedly important term and concept. It is also important to remember that the point of analogy for the likeness of God is the threefold personality of God, entirely spiritual in every way.

This is the account of the generations of Man: Throughout the period (lit., “day”) when God was creating Man, He made him (i.e., mankind) in His likeness. He created them male and female and He blessed them and He called their name “Man” on the day He created them. Now Adam lived 130 years and he fathered [a son] in his likeness, according to his image, and he named him Seth.
Genesis 5:1-3

The “day” or period discussed here includes not only the original creation of Adam and Eve but also all the time which has passed since as the phrase “the account of the generations of Man” makes clear. Therefore, as a summary statement which includes both original creation and the subsequent procreation of mankind (i.e., the “generations of Man” wherein every human being is given life by God; see section II.3 below, “The Human Spirit”), the phrase in Genesis 5:1, “He made [mankind] in His likeness”, can be explained as a deliberately conflation of dual phrase used in Genesis 1:26 “in our image, according to our likeness. This technique is no doubt used by Moses because more than the original man, Adam, are in view (so that the focus naturally shifts to the multiplicity of mankind, but with the “in” retained to recall the essential free will each individual possesses; note that in Gen.9:6 where the case is individual it is again in His image). And also in the case of verse three here, the wording, far from being a crux of interpretation on account of the reversal of the prepositions used with image and likeness (be and ce, “in” and “according to” respectively), actually helps to confirm the points just expressed. The critical distinction between Genesis 1:26-27 and Genesis 5:3, quoted immediately above, is that the subjects of the two passages are entirely different: in Genesis 1:26-27, the subject is God; in Genesis 5:3, the subject is Adam. Obviously, a comparison based on an analogy with Man will of necessity be quite different from one based on an analogy with God. This fact accounts for the reversal whereby we have in Genesis 5:3 “in his likeness” and “according to his image”. Between a man and a man, “likeness” or individuality is exactly parallel: all of us are human beings (contrasted with the comparison of Man to God in Gen.1:26). However in terms of “image”, when comparing man to man, the comparison becomes less exact here, because now we are not contrasting divine essence to similar (in principle) human essence, but we are instead comparing a whole man (body and spirit) to another complete person: without question Adam and Seth, though similar in terms of species, were at the same time very different, even to the naked eye (not to mention the differences of mind, emotion, aptitude – all the factors that make for differences in personality). Reversing “in” and “according to” is the only way to make clear, based on the pattern set in Genesis 1:26, this distinction between the “man to man” image-likeness relationship on the one hand, and the “Man to God” image-likeness relationship on the other.

We have already seen that mankind has been created for the glory of God (section I.3 above). While this glorification of God is primarily accomplished by what He does for us (most especially in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ on our behalf), we too have a role to play through the exercise of our will here on earth. Our image and likeness to God, that is, our self-determination and separateness, our ability to choose for God and the individual responsibility to do so, our limited sovereignty and its common disbursement (to a greater or lesser degree) to all members of our species, are aspects of spirit without which it would be impossible for us to participate in this glorification process (otherwise known as human history). Simply put, God is glorified by our obedience, by our response to His sovereign authority. Our will is not really "free" in the sense that we can choose the course of our lives without consequence. We really have only one choice: obey God. If we do, God is glorified by our obedience. If we do not, we suffer the consequences (and God still enjoys a measure of glory by dealing with us in justice, though He would have preferred to deal with us in love). No, we really do not have "free will" in the overarching sense of the phrase. Either we choose to do God's will, or we end up choosing to follow the present "ruler of this world" by default (Gal.5:16-17). Either we accept His sovereign authority over our lives, an authority He possesses by nature of being God, an authority He has underlined to an unimaginable degree by the price He has paid for us through the death of His only Son, or we reject Him for the usurped authority of the devil's world (1Jn.2:15-17). If we seek Him, if we follow Him, if we serve Him, if we obey Him, we will find that in our lives, in our spiritual gifts, in the production that flows from the ministries He assigns, we will be partakers in the delegated sovereign authority of God that was bestowed upon Adam so long ago. But instead of ruling over the perfection of Eden, our task is to manifest the glory of God by contesting whatever part of this battlefield called earth that the Lord has assigned to us. Whatever the spiritual gift, whatever the ministry, whatever the effect God has granted us, these are spheres of God's delegated sovereignty every bit as significant as Adam's charge over Eden. We serve at His pleasure, in His might and for His glory, demonstrating God's power at work in our hearts here on this alien domain, once the devil's charge (but spurned), once Adam's charge (but lost), now the arena wherein some of Adam's fallen seed do choose for God – because He first chose us – rejecting the devil's authority, accepting God's sovereignty, and glorifying Him in Jesus Christ.

Thus Man, as a replacement for Satan and the fallen angels, had to have the image and likeness of God, i.e., he had to be capable on an individual basis of exercising authority (as delegated by God) in order to reflect His glory by acting as His faithful steward (in place of the rebellious usurper: Eph.2:2), and of responding to divine authority (through faith in Christ after the fall). Since His victory at the cross, Christ is now our immediate authority, our "head", all power and authority on heaven and earth having been granted to Him (Matt.28:18; Col.2:10; cf. Matt.9:6; Jn.5:27; 17:2; Eph.2:20-23):

Any man praying or prophesying with [hair] hanging down from his head dishonors his Head (i.e., Christ: cf. v.3). And any woman praying or prophesying with her head uncovered (i.e., hair torn and unkempt as a sign of mourning) dishonors her head (i.e., husband: cf. v.3). For then she is one and the same with her who has been shaved [as a sign of disgrace]. So if a woman is not keeping her hair in order [through styling, pinning, braiding, etc.], let her be shorn. And if it is a shameful thing for a woman to be shorn or shaved [and it is], then let her wear her hair properly arranged. For a man ought not to wear adorned hair [an effeminate mark of submission] since he is the image and glory of God. A woman, on the other hand, is the glory of her husband.
1st Corinthians 11:5-7

And everyone of us, if we reflect the Lord's glory with no "veil" obscuring our faces (i.e., with unsullied Christian witness), is being transformed into the same image (i.e., become more Christ-like) so as to reflect an ever greater degree of glory – exactly what is to be expected with the Lord's Spirit as the agent of our transformation.
2nd Corinthians 3:18

A comparison of the use of the word "image" in the two passages above reveals an apparent (though only apparent) contradiction: in 1st Corinthians 11:7, Man still bears the image, while in 2nd Corinthians 3:18, the fact that we Christians should be in the process of being transformed into "the same image" has seemed to many to suggest that we do not at present possess the image of God (or at least that it has been marred in some way, and so needs to be repaired).(17) The root cause advanced for this putative "defacing" or "erasing" of the image of God is Adam's fall. But at the heart of all such theories is inevitably the misconception that the image (usually undistinguished from the likeness) is, at least in part, related to the body of Adam. In fact, as we have argued above, both the image and the likeness of God are entirely spiritual.(18) Since the fall, our bodies have become subject to corruption and infected by sin, but our spirits retain the same two critical facets bestowed upon them by God on the sixth day of re-creation: 1) the capability of exercising and responding to authority ("image"), and 2) the responsibility for our own individual personalities ("likeness"). 1st Corinthians 11:7 clearly states that Man is still the "image and glory" of God (exercising and responding to God's delegated authority as appropriate). And on closer examination, moreover, it becomes clear that 2nd Corinthians 3:18 is talking about something quite different. In that passage the "same image" which we as Christians are being enjoined to emulate is that of Christ (cf. Eph.4:24; Col.3:10). Christ is the exact image of the Father (Heb.1:3), and our ultimate role model who followed the Father's will in perfect obedience (e.g., Matt.16:24; 1Cor.11:1). The "image and likeness" which is our common heritage as human beings is spiritual – but we are born in sin (Rm.7:18 & 24). As human beings, we have the potential to seek, follow and serve God, to willingly strive to transform ourselves into His Christ-like followers, but this requires obedience and response to God's authority in first believing in and then following Jesus Christ. Only in this way can we fulfill the potential of His "image and likeness" and bring the glory to God for which He created us, then re-created us in Jesus Christ (Jn.3:3).(19)

The Creation of Adam: The overview of the creation of Man (Adam and Eve) in Genesis 1:26-27, therefore, deals with general principles: 1) we are all made in the image of God (i.e., we share an identical type of spiritual essence whose most salient feature is our ability to understand, exercise and respond to authority for the purpose of being obedient and faithful stewards of God on earth, living and working for Jesus Christ); 2) we are all made in the likeness of God (i.e., we are all unique personalities with an individual responsibility to respond to God's authority). In Genesis 2:7, however, we find a more detailed description of the actual event of God's creation of the first human being, Adam:(20)

And the Lord God formed the man (i.e., Adam's body) from the dust of the ground, then blew into his nostrils the life-giving breath (i.e., his spirit), and [thus] the man became a living person.
Genesis 2:7

It is important that we have this description of Adam's creation in addition to the Genesis 1:26-27 passage, for while that first passage tells us about Man's spirit, this verse describes for us the creation of Adam's body and God's quickening of that body by infusing it with a human spirit.

The agent of Adam's creation is "the Lord God" (yhvh `elohiym:  יהוה אלהים). Although all three members of the Trinity are called Lord, the Father's representative and agent of creation is our Lord, Jesus Christ, the very one who has been chosen to lead the fight against the devil and ultimately to replace Satan as world ruler (Jn.1:3; Col.1:16; Heb.1:2).(21) When He does, it will be as the God-Man, a genuine human being, body and spirit, in eternal union with undiminished deity. God's creation of a body for Adam, the first member of the species that was to replace Satan and his followers, must have sent a seismic shock through the diabolical rank and file, given the importance of possessing bodies in the Satanic platform.(22) In fact, everything in this passage emphasizes the true materiality of Adam's body: 1) he is created from the dust (or loose dirt), emphasizing his material origin; 2) he is "formed" (the Hebrew verb yatsar, יצר), emphasizing the plastic nature of the process and often used of the potter at work (e.g., Is.29:16); 3) the very name Adam ('adham, אדם) is closely related to the name for ground ('adhamah, אדמה, emphasizing the man's close connection with the earth from which he was made.

Significantly, the material, plastic, earth-connected creation of the body, in and of itself, does not result in life – life occurs only after the Lord God puts a "living spirit" into the newly formed body. Moreover, it is only as a result of God's breathing of a human spirit (the “breath of life”, i.e., “life-giving breath”) into the first man, that Adam becomes a “living person”.  This process, observed by angels and recorded for all of Adam's posterity, makes it abundantly clear that 1) Adam is both a spiritual and a material being; 2) neither the human spirit nor the human body is meant to exist without the other:

For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.
James 2:26

For we know that if our earthly tent-dwelling (i.e., our physical body) be struck, we have an abode [that comes] from God, a dwelling made without human agency, eternal in the heavens. For indeed we do groan in this one, desiring to put on our habitation which comes from heaven. And even if we do put off this present one, we will not be found naked (i.e., our spirits will not be "body-less" at death because we shall receive an interim body ; cf. Ps.141:8).
2nd Corinthians 5:1-3

3. The Human Spirit: Adam's creation serves as the pattern for us all. It goes without saying that our bodies are now formed indirectly through natural procreation, not directly by the immediate creation of God. Nevertheless, the pattern of body formed first, life-giving spirit introduced by the Lord later, obtains now as it did with the creation of the first man:

The God who created the world and everything in it, this is He who as Lord of heaven and earth does not dwell in temples made by human hands nor is He tended to by the hands of men – as if He were in need of anything – He it is who gives life and breath and everything else to all [of us].
Acts 17:24-25

The passage above is reminiscent of Adam's creation. Working backward in the process of creation, in Acts 17:24-25 Paul enumerates the same three elements in God's construction of Man that are found at Genesis 2:7:

•1) life (the living person – life resulting from the fusion of body and spirit occasioned by God's implantation of the human spirit into our bodies at birth).

•2) breath (i.e., the human spirit).

•3) everything else (i.e., our bodies and what is necessary to sustain them in the world).

Most important for the purposes of our current discussion is that just at it was at Genesis 2:7, so in the Acts 17:24-25 passage "life" is the result of God's gift of "breath" (i.e., a human spirit). Only after God places the human spirit into the body does life occur, and apart from this infusion of spirit, there is no life. Other passages of scripture confirm that human life is the result of God's imparting of a human spirit, without which the body would be dead:

1) The human spirit is given by God:

Then [at death] the dust (i.e., the body) will return to the earth whence it came, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.
Ecclesiastes 12:7

Thus says God the Lord, who creates the skies and stretches them out, who fashions the earth and its produce, who gives breath to the people upon it, even a spirit to those who walk upon it.
Isaiah 42:5

2) The human spirit's entrance into the body results in life:

Thus says the Lord God to these bones, "Behold, I am about to put a spirit into you so that you may come to life. And I shall place sinews on you, lay flesh upon you, and put skin over you. And I shall put a spirit into you so that you may come to life and know that I am the Lord.
Ezekiel 37:5-6

Then He (Jesus) took [the dead child's] hand and spoke to her, saying, "Child, wake up!" Then her spirit returned [to her], and she immediately got up.
Luke 8:54-55a

And after the three and one half days, a living spirit from God entered into [the bodies of the two witnesses who had been slain by the beast], and they stood up on their feet.
Revelation 11:11

3) The human spirit's exit from the body results in death:

If [God] should so purpose in His heart, and gather His spirit and breath to Himself, then all flesh would expire together, and Man would return to the dust.
Job 34:14

Then Jesus shouted out again in a loud voice and exhaled His spirit.
Matthew 27:50

Then they began to stone Stephen while he called out and said "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 7:59

The Hebrew words used for the human spirit are ruach (רוח), literally "wind", and neshamah (נשמה), literally "breath". The Greek word for the human spirit is pneuma (πνεῦμα), used for both wind and breath. A point that Hebrew ruach and Greek pneuma have in common is that, in addition to the human spirit, they are also used in scripture to refer to the Holy Spirit or to literal wind, a fact that makes even more sense than is apparent at first glance as we shall see below in section II.4 "Dichotomy". What is clear at this juncture is that wind and breath are largely invisible phenomena, though both are very real phenomena. Breath-wind thus makes a perfect analogy for the immaterial, unseen part of Man which quickens the body and results in life upon implantation, that is, the human spirit:

    a) The human spirit is who we are: The human spirit is more than just a life-force that animates the body; the human spirit is essentially "who we are". Our will and self-determination, our conscience, our understanding and mentality, our consciousness and self-consciousness are, while not independent of the body, essentially aspects of the particular, individual human spirit that is us. Below is a list of scripture passages touching on the human spirit in its facets, qualities and functions. Taken together, they paint a vivid picture of what the human spirit is in the Bible, namely our "inner person", the real "us". The spirit is the place of


The spirit of Man is the Lord's lamp, searching out the inner chambers of his heart.
Proverbs 20:27


For who among men knows the things of Man except the spirit of Man within him?
1st Corinthians 2:11a



And Jesus, immediately recognizing in His spirit that they were reasoning thus to themselves, replied to them.
Mark 2:8


And in my encouragement, I rejoiced all the more over the joy Titus felt because his spirit was refreshed by all of you.
2nd Corinthians 7:13


But there is a spirit in Man, even the breath of the Almighty which gives him understanding.
Job 32:8


The spirit is eager (i.e., to do God's will), but the flesh is weak (i.e., so as not to follow through).
Matthew 26:41


After these things had occurred, Paul determined in his spirit to pass through Macedonia and Achaea, then proceed to Jerusalem.
Acts 19:21a


For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, how I continually make mention of  you . . .
Romans 1:9


[For I have already decided, i]n the name of our Lord Jesus, when all of you are gathered together with my spirit by the power of our Lord Jesus, to hand such a one over to Satan for the destruction of his body so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
1st Corinthians 5:4-5


For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays but my [fleshly] mind is unproductive. What should I do then?  I shall pray with my spirit, but also with my mind. I shall sing [praises to God] with my spirit, but also with my mind.
1st Corinthians 14:14-15


(22) [For you have learned the truth] that in respect to your previous behavior you have put off the old Man, the one that is being destroyed by deceptive lusts, (23) and that instead you are being re-made in the spirit of your mind, (24) and that you have put on the new Man, the one created in righteousness and sanctity of the truth according to God's standards.
Ephesians 4:22-24


For the Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God's children.
Romans 8:16


For God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit (i.e., the human spirit responding to the Holy Spirit) and in truth.
John 4:24


The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Philippians 4:23

When we die, our bodies return to the ground, but, as believers in Jesus Christ, our spirits (i.e., we ourselves) enter into the presence of God (cf. Rev.7:9ff.), temporarily clothed with an interim body (2Cor.5:3 [Greek]; Rev.6:11), to await resurrection and their (i.e., our) entrance into a new, permanent and highly superior home, the "resurrection body".(23) That the spirit so housed is really "us" is clear from Jesus' story of Lazarus and the rich man (though the pre-cross believers in the story have now been transferred to the third heaven: see Part 1 of this series). In Luke 16:19-31, we see an Abraham, Abraham's spirit, who though temporarily clothed in this pre-resurrection state seems in every aspect to be just as he was in life (except without toil and tears). This is also true of Lazarus, and even the rich man (except for the torments he now endures). The loss of our bodies will not change the essential facts of who we are, and, since God made us as creatures who possess both spirit and body, we will never be "naked" (i.e., without any covering for the spirit: 2Cor.5:3), and the day will come when we shall receive our eternal body for which we so eagerly hope (Rom.8:23).  Our bodies are important (1Cor.6:13), but rather than being who we are, they are more properly tools for who we are, that is, for the use of our spirits to be employed in the service of God for His glory which is our purpose (cf. Rom.6:20; 2Tim.2:20-21):

Therefore I entreat you by God's mercy, brothers, to dedicate your bodies as a living sacrifice, well-pleasing to God – [this is] your "priestly-service" spiritually performed.
Romans 12:1

Don't you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you (whom you have from God), and that you don't belong to yourselves? You were bought at a price. So glorify God with your body.
1st Corinthians 6:19-20

Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:24-27

For we must all stand before Christ's tribunal, so that each of us may receive recompense for what he has accomplished through this body, whether it be good or worthless.
2nd Corinthians 5:10

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision that comes from the Spirit of Jesus Christ, in keeping with my expectation and hope that I will in no way be put to shame, but that now as ever, holding nothing back, Christ will be magnified by means of this body of mine, whether through my life, or through my death.
Philippians 1:20

After the fall of Adam and its consequent corruption, however, the body often influences the spirit (i.e., "us") for ill. So, as believers in Christ, we find ourselves caught between the body's (now) pernicious influence and the divine influence of the Holy Spirit. Our spirits (i.e., "we") thus face the choice in this life of whether to follow the Holy Spirit in service of God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord, or instead to give in to the desires, cravings and lusts of our sinful bodies:

The Spirit is what gives life. The flesh doesn't benefit you at all.
John 6:63

Don't offer up your [bodily] members to sin as weapons of unrighteousness. But rather offer yourselves up to God as those now alive from the dead, and [offer up] your [bodily] members to God as weapons of righteousness.
Romans 6:13

I know that nothing good dwells in me – that is, in my flesh. For to will what is good lies in my power, but to carry it out does not.
Romans 7:18

So then, brothers, we are under obligation – but not to the flesh to live by its rules. For if you are living by the rules of the flesh, you are destined to die. But if by the Spirit you are putting to death the practices of the body, you will live.
Romans 8:12-13

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no plans for carrying out the lusts of the flesh.
Romans 13:14

But I tell you, walk in the Spirit and you will not carry out what the flesh lusts for. For what the flesh lusts for is contrary to the Spirit's will, and the Spirit is opposed to what the flesh desires. Since these are diametrically opposed to each other in this way, what you are doing is not what you yourself choose.
Galatians 5:16-17

    b) The human spirit is created by God: In six days, God re-established and refurbished the heavens and the earth. But the seventh day of rest is not to be interpreted to mean that from this point forward, God no longer creates, only allowing (as some would have it) His creation to roll along entirely on its own momentum. Our Lord, speaking about His own miracles (performed on the seventh day) addressed this matter directly:

Then Jesus answered them, "My Father is working right up until this present day. And I am working too".
John 5:17

The human spirit is not passed down biologically through natural procreation (traducianism), nor was it "pre-made" in eternity past, then deposited in a heavenly storehouse for later implantation (pre-existence). The human spirit is the immediate creation of God (creationism):

Then they fell upon their faces and said, "O God, God of the spirits of all flesh (i.e., mankind), shall one man sin, and will you be angry with the entire congregation?
Numbers 16:22

For I will not contend eternally, nor will I be angry forever. For [Man's] spirit would faint away before Me, even his breaths (i.e., human spirits) which I have made.
Isaiah 57:16

Thus says the Lord, who stretches out the heavens and lays the foundations of the earth, who forms Man's spirit within him.
Zechariah 12:1b

I charge you before God who gives life to all things . . .
1st Timothy 6:13a

At that time we had those who fathered our flesh to discipline us, and we respected them. Shall we not all the more submit ourselves to the Father of our spirits and live?
Hebrews 12:9

The immediate creation of the human spirit by God at birth apart from the corruption of the flesh along with its close affinity to the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom.8:16) give us every reason to suppose that, analogous to the Holy Spirit, the human spirit is entirely spiritual exactly as its name suggests. For the Greek word for Spirit and spirit in both of these cases is identical (pneuma, πνεῦμα). This principle of essential spirituality can also be seen in the introspective function or "consciousness" of the human spirit (likewise analogous to the role of the Holy Spirit):

For who among men knows the things of Man except the spirit of Man within him?  In just the same way no one has known the things of God except the Spirit of God.
1st Corinthians 2:11

    c) The human spirit is implanted by God at birth: Adam, of course, was not born.(24) His body was formed by the Lord from the dust of the ground. Immediately thereafter, the Lord breathed into his nostrils the "life-giving breath", and as a result of this implantation of the human spirit, Adam became "a living person". After our first parents, however, it is physical birth that has been the means of producing and providing bodies for us all. So it is that physical birth forms the first of the two natural termini of human life that scripture takes for granted from Genesis to Revelation (Gen.4:1; Job 3:11; Eccl.3:2; 7:1; Rev.12:2).(25) Therefore birth is for us what the Lord's formation of Adam's body was for him, that is, the point at which our life begins, when the Lord breathes into us our human spirit. The case of the first Adam (our common forefather) was unique; he is the only person whose body was formed by the Lord from the dust of the ground. In the case of the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, the taking on of true humanity by undiminished deity is the most unique event that has ever transpired in the history of the universe. His conception was also unique, for He was virgin born by the power of the Holy Spirit. But He came to share in our humanity so as to rescue us from the common fate of wrath that was our lot through our descent from Adam, and so His birth was after the pattern which we all have in common.  He entered the world in the manner of us all, that is, by normal human birth and the reception of a genuine human spirit at birth (cf. Ps.22:9-10):

Therefore as [Jesus Christ] was coming into the world (i.e., at His birth) He said, "You [Father] did not desire sacrifice or offering, but you have prepared a body for Me".     Hebrews 10:5

At that time (i.e., His birth) He [Jesus Christ in His deity] said, "Behold, I have arrived (i.e., been born) – in the scroll of a book it is written of Me – to do your will, O God".
Hebrews 10:7

Though His body was conceived by the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ entered the world when we all do: at birth.(26) This explains why at Matthew 1:20-21 the angel can tell Joseph "that which has been engendered in her is from the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a Son", and why at Luke 1:35 Gabriel can tell Mary "the Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; for this very reason that which is being born will be called holy, the Son of God". Both the grammar of these passages (Greek neuters: "that which") and the prophecies here which are both primarily concerned with the birth of Christ (as is the case in all the Messianic prophecies; cf. Jdg.13:7; Is.7:14; 9:6-7; Lk.1:15), make it clear that it is not His conception, but His birth that is our Lord's point of entrance into the world after the pattern by which we have all entered it: the physical birth of our bodies followed by God's breathing into us of our human spirit. The star of Bethlehem and the angelic chorus that herald His arrival are celebrating not His conception but His birth (Lk.2:8-20), the point when He first drew breath as a human being (albeit the only divine One: Phil.2:6-7; Heb.2:14), for that is the point at which the Father brought His Son "into the world":

And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him."
Hebrews 1:6  NIV

The Spirit of God made me, and the breath of the Almighty gave me life.
Job 33:4

So once again we return to the analogy of breath, a function of our physical life that only occurs after birth and ends with death.  Breath, a manifestation of physical life which (while not synonymous with it) is coterminous with that life, is therefore the perfect symbol and analogy for the life that begins at birth, when God puts our human spirit into our body. This is why Jesus, to explain our need for eternal life, told us we must be born again, not "conceived again", for birth is the point where life begins by means of an act of God, whether it be the first or the second birth (Jn.3:3).(27)

Thus it is the human spirit (eternal if we follow Christ to eternal life) that is all-important, not this flesh that profits nothing because it will not long endure in its present form. But the body is the battleground whereon this battle we wage against the "principalities and powers" of Satan is being fought out (Eph.6:12). We have seen that the human spirit (i.e., "we") will of necessity follow either the sinful flesh (influenced by the devil's world and all that is in it) or the Holy Spirit, but in order to grasp the mechanics of this process, we must first consider a subject that we have so far deliberately avoided: the so-called "soul".

4. The Dichotomy of Man: In non-technical (and non-scriptural) discussions of this sort, the word "soul" is often employed much in the same sense in which we have used "[human] spirit" above. Probably no concept has been responsible for greater misunderstanding of what the Bible actually has to say about the constitution of Man ("anthropology" in most systematic theological treatments) than that of the soul as a supposed third element in that constitution. According to a proper understanding of the scriptures, Man is not a trichotomous being (i.e., tripartite, composed of body, soul and spirit), but rather a dichotomous one (body and spirit being the only two discrete elements of his nature).

    a) Definition and Etymology: The word "soul" is of Germanic extraction, part of our common Anglo-Saxon heritage that forms the oldest stratum of the English language. All other things being equal, "soul", our word for something spiritual, immaterial and animating, would not be a bad translation for the Greek pneuma or the Hebrew ruach (both of which we have translated as "spirit" above). The problem is that while "soul" could be a synonym for the human spirit, it most definitely is not an additional element in Man's constitution.

When the Lord first breathed a human spirit into Adam's newly formed body, the result was that he became a "living being" (Gen.2:7). But beginning in the 3rd Century B.C., the Hebrew word nephesh (נפש – properly translated "being" above) began to be translated into a very loose Greek equivalent: psyche (ψύχη). The task of rendering this particular Hebrew word into Greek was, to be sure, not a simple one. Ancient Greek notions of "anthropology" (the human constitution) were flexible, to say the least. But psyche was a particularly unfortunate choice, because the word much more closely patterns what we should call the human spirit.(28) This initial precedent was then perpetuated throughout the Septuagint, by and large, and then followed by the writers of the New Testament, who naturally built upon the conventions of their day. Understand, their words were most certainly written under divine inspiration – it is the subsequent interpretation of them with which we are here finding fault. And correct interpretation is not an issue as long as one realizes that psyche in the New Testament means the same thing as the Hebrew word nephesh (i.e., "being", not soul or spirit). But most English versions incorrectly identify psyche as "soul", taking their cue from Greek literature rather than from the Hebrew semantic exemplar. Worse to tell, these same versions also generally impute the error backwards, taking nephesh to mean "soul" as well, because it is translated by psyche in the New Testament! To be fair, the error is an ancient one, and the Latin Fathers who made use of Platonic and other philosophical distinctions (which have no place in biblical interpretation) often translate psyche as animus and pneuma as anima, that is, taking "soul" and "spirit" as "immaterial person" and "animating principle" respectively (which nearly reverses the true state of affairs). No matter how such concepts may appeal to us (because of our preconceived notions about possessing both a spirit and a soul), it is well to remember that the Bible needs to be our guide on these matters rather than conventional wisdom, no matter how comfortable. That said, we need to return briefly to Genesis 2:7 and reexamine the critical passage that divides true dichotomy from false trichotomy:

And the Lord God formed the man (i.e., Adam's body) from the dust of the ground, then blew into his nostrils the life-giving breath (i.e., his spirit), and [thus] the man became a living person (nephesh).
Genesis 2:7

Two elements are clearly present here: 1) the body, formed from the earth; 2) the spirit, breathed into the body by the Lord. The result of the combination of body and spirit is that the first man "became a living nephesh" (the word we are translating "being" in contradistinction to the erroneous "soul"). Notice that the verse does not say that the Lord also created a soul/person as some third, distinct element. Quite the contrary. When the two true elements of Man's constitution combine, he (i.e., in his entirety) becomes a soul/person (nephesh), so that beyond all argument, nephesh in this most critical of all anthropological passages represents the whole person (i.e., the combination of body and spirit into one living person, and not some third, discrete part). That is why where the word nephesh is used in the Old Testament, and where psyche is used in the New Testament, almost inevitably one can substitute "person" or "individual" or "self" (or some other personal pronoun) for these words which are often (misleadingly) translated "soul" (compare the K.J.V. renderings of the following: Prov.19:8; Is.32:6; Acts 7:14; 1Pet.3:20):

Any person (nephesh) who sins unintentionally . . .
Leviticus 4:2

Therefore, "soul" (nephesh-psyche) is the term used in the Bible to make clear that the whole person is in view. We are not just body, nor are we only spirit. As we have suggested above and shall revisit in greater detail immediately below, the human spirit is, at present, limited in its capabilities because of the limitations of our present bodies – it has to work through the sinful body (which is constantly struggling against the human spirit's will). It stands to reason, then, that the writers of scripture would, more often than not, refer to people in terms of the whole person, in which case the word "soul" (nephesh-psyche) is often the term of choice, but it is critical to understand that by "soul", the entire human being, body and spirit, is meant – the one thing that "soul" (nephesh-psyche) does not mean in scripture is the immaterial part of Man exclusively.(29)

This principle actually helps to clarify passages of scripture which are often erroneously taken as supportive of the trichotomist position:

For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even to the point of being able to divide the spirit from its earthly life (lit., the "soul") and the marrow from its bones; [The Word] acts as a judge of the thoughts and intentions of our heart.
Hebrews 4:12

Just as the marrow cannot normally be separated from the bone without destroying life (especially from the 1st century A.D. perspective), so the spirit is, for all practical purposes, one with the life it enjoys in the body – only the Word of God, the most penetrating force in the world, could make such a distinction.

And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you in every part, and may your spirit, life (lit. "soul"), and body be preserved completely intact and without blame at the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1st Thessalonians 5:23

"Life", or "soul" is here sandwiched in between the spirit and the body, because "life" (or "soul") is the result of body and spirit being combined by the Lord (Gen.2:7). Only in this union of spirit and body, complete and intact, can there be a "living soul":

For this reason it has also been written of the first Adam: "The man became a living person (nephesh)"; [but] the last Adam[, Christ, became] a life-giving spirit.
1st Corinthians 15:45

For Adam and for us, the body is psychikon, i.e., attuned to the "soul" or earthly "physical life" we now lead in these present bodies of corruption, but when we follow Christ in resurrection, it will be pneumatikon, i.e., attuned to the human spirit and to the eternal life that we shall live with Him forever. In the verses that precede and follow 1st Corinthians 15:45, Paul explains this principle, and so it is worth our while to quote the passage at length here:

So it is with the resurrection of the dead. The body sown is corruptible, the one raised incorruptible. The body sown is dishonorable, the one raised glorious. The body sown is weak, the one raised powerful. The body sown is suited to physical life, the one raised to spiritual life. If there is a physical body (and there patently is), then there is also a spiritual one. For, so it has also been written: "Adam, the first man, became a physical being (nepesh), possessing life, but Christ, the last Adam, became a spiritual being, bestowing life." However it is not the spiritual body, but the physical body which comes first, and the spiritual body follows. The first man was earthly, being taken from the ground. The second Man is heavenly. And as was the earthly man, so also are we of the earth. And as is the heavenly Man, so also shall we be when we too take on heavenly form. For just as we have born the image of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the image of the heavenly Man.
1st Corinthians 15:42-49

The body is a home for the spirit, and this body we now inhabit is more "soulish" (i.e., more attuned to the physical life we now lead), while the resurrection body will be more attuned to our spirit, giving it much greater rein than we can now even imagine for our service to and appreciation of the Lord:

For at the present time our perception [of heavenly things] is like [viewing] a dim reflection in a mirror. But then [when we meet the Lord] we will see [Him] face to face. Now I have only partial knowledge, but then my knowledge [of Him] will be complete, just as He has always known me.
1st Corinthians 13:12

    b) The heart: interface between body and spirit: The word "soul" is not the only biblical word that refers to the whole person, i.e., a spirit and a body which together constitute a living human being. The word "heart" (Hebrew: lebh, לב or lebhabh, לבב; Greek: kardia, καρδία) likewise refers to the human being as a unity, but with a special twist: scripture uses the term "heart" to refer to the whole person from an internal point of view, focusing on and encompassing all the facets of the inner life (e.g., mentality, volition, emotion, conscience, etc.):

Many are the plans of a man's heart, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established.
Proverbs 19:21

The "heart", then is the Bible's word for the interface between the body and the spirit. That is to say, when scripture mentions the "heart", it is referring to the inner spiritual, mental and emotional functioning of our person, of our human spirit thinking, planning, emoting, deciding, all through the apparatus of the body (via the brain, the mind, etc.). In our present constitution, the body is a tool for our spirit's expression, but a delimiting one. For example, genetic, developmental and environmental factors have a great deal to do with our current capacity for thought and memory, for emotional control and expression, in a way that will not be true of our resurrection body (which will be pneumatikon, i.e., designed to give our spirit full expression: 1Cor.15:45). It will be recalled that a central plank in Satan's appeal to his potential followers was the promise of a body to give these angelic spirits sensual expression (cf. Lk.24:39: "a spirit does not have flesh and bones"). What we have, they crave, and what we shall have (a body perfectly attuned to our spiritual life) is something that at present they marvel at as they behold the first One to possess such a magnificent "home" for the human spirit, the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

When that great day of our resurrection arrives, we shall no longer be subject to the limitations and the temptations of the home we now inhabit. But as things stand now, here in this present body of corruption, the limitations are severe, and the temptations intense. "It has not yet appeared what we shall be[come]" (1Jn.3:2), but what we are now, who we really are now deep inside is best summed up by the "heart" in its scriptural usage, for "heart" is the essence of our inner selves, where only God can know our true thoughts, our true motives:

For the heart is more inscrutable than anything else and beyond curing [of its duplicity]. Who [among men] can [really] know [what] it [is thinking]? "I am the Lord, the One who probes the heart and tests [a man's] motives, to repay everyone according to the path he [walks], in fitting recompense for [all] he does".
Jeremiah 17:9-10

As to the term heart, in Hebrew, Greek and English, it does refer in secular usage to the physical organ that pumps life-sustaining blood throughout our physical bodies. Its selection as the "pith" of who and what we are as individuals is, therefore, no accident. As the queen among our bodily organs, at the center of our physical being, and inextricably bound up with the circulation of the blood, a fluid recognized from earliest times as essential to our continued physical existence, the "heart" was a natural choice for this prime designation. "Blood is the [symbol of] the life-soul" after all (Deut.12:23) – physical life, that is, and it is in the heart that for literary (if not medical) purposes that we imagine this to be concentrated. This is why Old Testament scriptures connect the blood with the nephesh, the "soul" (Gen.9:4): when the blood flows out, so does the physical part of life, just as when the breath-spirit departs, so does the spiritual part of life. We see the end of physical life, the blood upon the ground, but the spirit departs we know not where:

Who knows whether a man's spirit rises upward or whether the breath of the beasts goes down to the earth below?
Ecclesiastes 3:21

In spite of its corrupted sin nature (Rom.7:18), God has demonstrated very clearly through His superintendence of its development (Job 10:8-12; Ps.119:73; 139:13-16; Is.44:2, 21, 24) and His loving provision for it (Matt.5:25-34) that He is "for" this body we now possess (1Cor.6:13). We are the human spirit, not the body (2Cor.10:2-6), but we live in the body, and the battle we fight for the Lord, we fight out on the battleground of the heart, endeavoring to make our entire life, inner and outer, well-pleasing and acceptable to Him:

For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but are powerful for God, for the destruction of strongholds, destroying sophistries and every presumption that raises itself up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought prisoner so as to obey Christ.
2nd Corinthians 10:4-5

But I perceive another law in my bodily members, waging war against the law in my mind and taking me prisoner – [a prisoner to] this law of sin that dwells in my body.
Romans 7:23

By this we know that we are of the truth, and before Him we persuade our heart, that if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart and knows everything.
1st John 3:20

    c) The word "soul" used as a synonym for "heart": Finally, it is necessary to point out that there are times when instead of "heart", the center of the "living being" we now are (thanks to the union of our spirit and our body), writers of scripture employ "soul" as a synonymous term. This development is common enough in literature. The specific literary figure involved is called synecdoche, the whole being substituted for the part. In the case of the use of "soul" for "heart", the whole of our "living person" is substituted for the nucleus of that person (where all thoughts, emotions, decisions and pangs of conscience occur). This substitution has parallels in English: “my very being longs for thee”. Problems of interpretation only arise if one mistakenly takes this common literary use to mean that somehow the "soul" is a separate entity of our makeup (rather than the entire "being" we have seen it to be, encompassing our body and spirit in a living union):

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul (i.e., your whole person) and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:5

As a man thinks in his soul (i.e., his "heart"; cf. KJV), so he is.
Proverbs 23:7

5. The Creation of Eve (Gen.2:18-24): Up until now we have been speaking of mankind in the generic sense, "Man" with a capital "m", comprising both genders of our species. Before we move on to the original status of our first parents in the garden of Eden along with their temptation, fall and judgment, we must first consider what the Bible has to say about the creation of Eve and its implications. To appreciate the nature of Satan's attack on Adam and Eve and the consequences of their sin to all subsequent relations between men and women, it is first necessary to understand, by way of preface, that the status of the relationship between the first man and the first woman in paradise before the fall was very different from what would obtain when they had been expelled from the garden of Eden after the fall:

Then the Lord God said [immediately after giving Adam instructions not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in verse 17], "It is not a good thing for the man to be alone. I will make for him a helper compatible with him". Now the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky from the dust of the ground and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever he called any living thing, that became its name. So Adam gave names to every beast and to all the birds of the sky and to every wild creature, but he did not find [one that could be] a helper compatible with him. Then the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and when he was asleep, He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh behind it. And the Lord God sculpted the rib which He had taken from the man into a woman, then He brought her to Adam. And Adam said, "This now is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman, because from man she was taken". For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, for the two will become a single body.
Genesis 2:18-24

As it was with Adam, so the creation of Eve's body is unique. Neither of our first parents were born, Adam's body being formed from the dust of the ground and Eve's constructed from part of Adam's. In terms of her inner essence, however, that is to say her human spirit, we have no additional information given in the passage above. What we do have, however, is the statement in Genesis 1:27 that delineates the creation of the spiritual essence of both Adam and Eve:

(26) Then God said, "Let us make Man in our image, according to our likeness, so that he may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over the beasts and over the whole earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth". (27) So God created the man (i.e., "Adam") in His image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26-27

The shift from "Man" (no definite article in the Hebrew) to "the man" (with the definite article in the Hebrew) is highly significant. On a collective basis, verse 26 applies to all human beings (i.e., "Man"), so that we may say that all mankind in a corporate sense must possess the image and likeness of God, and, consequently, the mandate to respond to God's authority. In verse 27, however, the switch to the singular means that the focus has shifted from the general (all human beings) to the specific (Adam in particular), and here the scripture is careful to attribute the image of God to Adam, but not to repeat this attribution when "male and female" come into view at the end of the verse. This apparent (but only apparent) contradiction is repeated in the New Testament where Paul can write in 1st Corinthians 11:7 that a man is the "image and glory of God", but that, on the other hand, a woman is "the glory of her husband", and yet say in a second epistle to that same church (2Cor.3:18), that all of us (clearly men and women alike) are being "transformed into the same image (i.e., becoming more Christ-like)".

What are we to say then? Do women share in the image of God or not? Genesis 1:26-27 is the beginning of the answer to this question, for in spite of carefully avoiding a positive answer, neither is a negative reply forthcoming in that passage. In fact, these two verses supply no basis for finding any spiritual differences between men and women. The only distinctions to be found are the two already mentioned:

    1) male and female are separate categories. However, from the collective statement of verse 26, the conclusion seems unavoidable that the basis for this distinction is not spiritual, since no spiritual distinction is mentioned in this statement of the corporate creation of mankind (and we should expect something here if indeed men and women were to be distinguished spiritually). It must be assumed, therefore, that the human spirits of men and women are essentially the same, and that the mention of male and female categories in the following verse is a reference to our respective bodies (see below).

    2) verse 27 makes no specific positive attribution of the image of God to Eve – but this is a far different matter from denying the image altogether.

The first point given above is easily buttressed by scripture. In Christ, a spiritual relationship, there is "no male or female" (Gal.3:28); men and women are equally "fellow heirs of the gift of eternal life" (1Pet.3:7); and, in eternity, both are relieved of the institution of marriage with its respective biblical roles (which is at the root of the apparent dilemma with which we are now dealing: Matt.22:30). We may also make a persuasive "argument from silence" and add that in all the passages of the Bible that speak of our hope, our resurrection and reward, one searches in vain for any evidence of significant distinction between men and women in eternity based on gender.

The second point given above is also conditioned by our current, earthly circumstance. Less so in the garden of Eden, but much more so after the fall, the relationship between husband and wife turns on the issue of authority. As co-heirs in Christ, women clearly must share in the image and likeness of God, partaking of the exact same spiritual essence men enjoy. But just as the male role was altered by the fall (Satan's usurpation of Man's rulership over the earth and the replacement of perfection with toil and hardship), the female role was also changed dramatically in respect to authority relationships (see section IV below). As a result, scripture is careful neither to deny woman's spiritual equality, nor to minimize the authority of the husband by stressing that equality. For before God we are all equal, but in this present corrupt body, we are all under various forms of authority, all ultimately delegated by God, and our proper response to that authority is intimately connected to the spiritual conflict that now rages unseen all around us (Eph.6:11-12). In Eden, just as the bodies of Adam and Eve were distinct from one another, so were their roles. However, in the perfection of paradise, this distinction did not have the authority implications that would later obtain after the introduction of sin (which makes the exercise of authority in human relationships at all levels absolutely essential):

For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Moreover, man was not created because of woman, but woman because of man. For this reason, a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head (i.e., properly arranged hair) because of the angels. However, in the Lord, woman does not [have priority] over man, nor does man [have priority] over woman. For just as women are begotten by men, so men are birthed by women. But everything comes from God.
1st Corinthians 11:8-12

This passage clearly affirms what we have suggested above, namely, that there are two ways of looking at this issue which are only superficially contradictory. Creation teaches both principles that Paul outlines above: 1) the precedence of Adam in the order of creation; 2) the equality of men and women before God. It is important to note that it is only after the fall that this precedence in the creation order has authority connotations, because the authority relationship in marriage is a result of the fall and the judgments of Genesis chapter 3. In the passage above, Paul switches the order in which these two principles are treated in Genesis 1:26-27. He first reproves the Corinthian woman for tearing and disheveling their hair in mourning after the pagan manner (a practice that shames our hope in the resurrection: cf. Deut.14:1; Mic.1:16). Using the priority of creation as an argument for their obedience on this point, Paul argues that such a practice dishonors their husbands by effacing the symbol of respect they are due by this priority of creation (cf. 1Tim.2:13). However, having established the obligation for the Corinthian women to respond to their husbands' authority on this point of abuse, he is quick to anticipate the false conclusion that men are somehow "better" than women in the eyes of God. In truth, he tells us, we are all equal "in the Lord", with absolutely no advantage accruing to the male gender, nor any disadvantage to the female gender. This lesson too, Paul reminds us, is taught by the natural order of creation: since neither men nor women can exist without the other, it stands to reason that God does not place a premium on either gender. And in fact, all things originate from the creative hand of God, so that neither gender has any grounds for boasting – all of us are subordinate to God's authority. This last point – that "everything comes from God" – is the most crucial. Whatever authority a husband has over a wife, an employer over an employee, a government official over a citizen, a pastor over a member of his congregation, all these forms of authority have been delegated by God for His own wise and sovereign purposes and it is well to remember that there is no man, no woman who is not subject to many forms of God's delegated authority as long as he or she be in this present body. The predominate reason for the current distinction in authority between the sexes is the marriage relationship and the obligations it places upon both parties, but in eternity, there will be "no marrying nor giving in marriage" (Matt.22:30).

The present status quo of authority distinctions in the institution of marriage will not obtain in eternity, where there will be no corruption and no marriage. The relationship between the first husband and wife in Eden, however, occupies a middle ground between our present circumstances and our future hope. There was marriage in paradise (and certain central points of the marriage relationship continue today as they were in the beginning: Matt.19:3-9). But the specific delineation of the husband's authority over the wife which we find stated in principle in Genesis chapter three (and spelled out in detail in the New Testament epistles: Eph.5:21-33; Col.3:18-19) was apparently lacking for the simplest of all possible reasons: it was unnecessary (see section III, immediately following).

Eden, whose very name means "delight" in Hebrew, was a place of perfection; nothing was lacking that could contribute to Man's legitimate happiness, nor was anything present that might make life bitter. God placed Adam in charge of the garden, making him God's delegated authority, God's "regent" on earth (Gen.1:26-30). The duties that fell to Adam's lot as a result of God's charge seem to have been entirely satisfying and enjoyable, while at the same time none too taxing or onerous:

The one want Adam had, God remedied almost immediately, that is, his need for companionship. The elimination of this deficiency is, after all, God's stated reason for creating Eve: "It is not a good thing for the man to be alone" (Gen.2:18). Obviously, the Lord was aware of this fact before He created Adam (a point emphasized by the mandate in Gen.1:28 to "be fruitful and multiply"). But Adam was a human being, the exact same divine mix of body and spirit that each one of us are, so that God did not deem it appropriate to merely supply him with a mate in the manner of animals. Adam is instead allowed to discover his need for companionship through a heuristic process of observation (Gen.2:19-20), with the result that he can appreciate both his own need and God's gracious gift of Eve to him (Gen.2:23):

I will make for him a helper compatible with him.
Genesis 2:18b

The verse above is crucial to our understanding of the point we are now discussing, namely that things were different in the garden. Eve is not to be a servant, but, literally, "a help" (Hebrew: עזר, 'ezer). Secondly and critically, she is to be "someone who corresponds to him" (Hebrew: כנגדו, ceneghdo), that is, someone who complements and fulfills him in all compatibility. The closeness and intimacy of the relationship between our first parents foreshadowed in this verse is underscored by Eve's creation. The Lord's formation of Eve's body from one of Adam's ribs adds the physical dimension to the spiritual one outlined in Genesis 2:18b above. In short, it would have been impossible for Adam and Eve to have been any closer, body and spirit, and still have been two distinct people. When the Lord presents to Adam this wife who was in every way an answer to his search for companionship, his words bespeak not only gratitude, but an appreciation for this God-given relationship of exceptional intimacy and closeness:

And Adam said, "This now is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She shall be called woman, because from man she was taken".
Genesis 2:23

Ideally, based on the pattern in paradise, the marriage relationship should even now continue to be what it was then: closer than the closest of all other human relationships, the parent-child relationship:

For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, for the two will become a single body.
Genesis 2:24

Scripture, then, while emphasizing the closeness of the union between Adam and Eve, does not provide many specifics on the issue of authority between the first man and woman prior to the fall. We know that Adam was created first (cf. 1Tim.2:13), and that Eve was created for Adam, not the other way around (cf. 1Cor.11:8-9). However, neither the Genesis account, nor the New Testament references intimate an authority structure between husband and wife similar to the one instituted in Genesis chapter three by the Lord as a result of the fall of that first couple (Gen.3:16b).

The reason for this absence, as we have suggested above, is that such an authority structure was unnecessary in paradise. For instance, Adam and Eve had no monetary and no sexual problems. Given the extremely high percentage of marital difficulties today attributable to these two factors alone, one can appreciate immediately that this first marriage was operating on a much different "battlefield" than every marriage since. Furthermore, and perhaps more to the point, our first parents were sinless before they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Neither Adam nor Eve was initially capable of being selfish or hurtful, self-centered or insensitive. The garden was a world full of intriguing possibilities, all of them perfectly legitimate – with one exception. As long as our first parents abstained from the forbidden fruit, nothing was withheld from them, nothing was lacking for them, no personal ambition or desire that they could in innocence conceive was denied them. In short, there was essentially no area where authority might even have any opportunity to function between the first man and the first woman, for it was completely unnecessary. There was no occasion for Eve's will to bump into Adam's, because there was nothing that Adam could or would tell Eve to do or not to do, even if such a thing had occurred to him or to her (and that is doubtful given their innocence and their perfect surroundings). Indeed, the only negative prohibition was the command to abstain from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and this command came from God Himself and was equally applicable to both Adam and Eve. As long as they both followed God's will on this point, marital problems were an impossibility, and, therefore, the issue of "who was in charge" was an entirely moot point.

In status quo in the garden of Eden, then, God had provided this new species of spiritual creatures who, unlike the angels, possessed physical bodies, every means for complete fulfillment of their lives (both spiritual and physical). Adam and Eve (and their progeny, had it come to that) had the opportunity to experience the never-ending bounty of God's provision in paradise, perfect in every way, yet completely apart from sin. Even the short span of time that this state of perfection did continue was sufficient to demonstrate to the fallen angels the futility of their own designs and the hollowness of Satan's promises. For the perfect mix of spirit and body which God provided for our first parents was undeniably superior to any creature-possession that the devil could ever hope to engineer. Satan, of course, did not waste time in analyzing the situation, and soon found a devious method to induce our first parents to throw paradise away. But before we cast too wistful a glance back to the garden, we should consider that this fiasco too was anticipated by God's plan, and that the ultimate state of redeemed humankind will be even more glorious than Adam and Eve could ever have imagined in the garden, on that blessed day when we rise incorruptible in the new bodies that God has preordained for us who love Him and His Son.

Continued at "The Fall" in part 3 of the Satanic Rebellion Series


3. J.E. Hartley in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R.L. Harris, G.L. Archer, B.K. Waltke edd. (Chicago 1980) v.2 p.768, points out that tselem and demuth are immediately explained by Man's rulership over the creatures.

4. F. Delitzsch, A System of Biblical Psychology (Erlangen 1855) 78-87, points out that the Church Fathers generally saw the image and likeness in a spiritual sense.

5. See Trench's discussion in Synonyms of the New Testament (London 1880) 49-53.

6. The Biblical Doctrine of Man (Edinburgh 1895) 160-175.

7. R.B. Thieme Jr., Adam's Rib (Houston 1973) 5, et alibi. Laidlaw [supra n.5] had also insisted that the Trinity was the model in these phrases for distinct, human personalities, 170.

8. See for example Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, R.L. Harris, G.L. Archer, B.K. Waltke edd. (Chicago 1980) v.1, 438.

9. See Part 1 Bible Basics: Theology: The Study God. section II, “The Persons of God: the Trinity”.

10. e.g., 2Ki.11:18; Ezek.7:20; Rev. 13:14ff.  This point can be clearly seen from Heb.10:1, where eikon (as something fairly precise: the good realities to come) is specifically distinguished from the "shadows" of the law.

11. Additionally, angels (like men) are called the "sons of God" (Gen.6:1-4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps.29:1; 89:6-7).

12. See Parts 1&2 of this series: Satan's Rebellion and Fall and The Genesis Gap respectively.

13. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Princeton 1871) v.2, 99, says of Man "he is a spirit, an intelligent, voluntary agent; and as such he is rightfully invested with universal dominion".

14. See Part 1 Bible Basics: Theology: The Study God, section I.B.4, “God is Sovereign”.

15. For example, James 3:9 uses homoiosis for "likeness of God" because mankind in general (i.e., a generic plurality) is in view.  This also explains why in Genesis 1:27 we have only "creating Adam in God's image" while making Man in the "likeness of God" is not repeated:  only Adam created at that time, not the entire human race. 

16. As Laidlaw points out so effectively: 1895 [n.6. supra] 168ff.

17. See L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids 1949) 202-210, for a thorough synopsis of the varying views on this subject.

18. See section I.3 below.

19. The common human potential for seeking God is taught, for example, in Eccl.3:11; Ps.19:1-4; Acts 17:26-27; Rom.1:19-20; 2:14-16.

20. Genesis 2:4 is a summary of the seven days of re-creation; Genesis 2:5 begins this more detailed account (contra NIV et al.). See part 2 of this series, The Genesis Gap.

21. See Part 1 of Bible Basics: Theology: The Study God, section II, C: "The Trinity in the Old Testament". For the roles of the Trinity in creation, see part 2 of this series, The Genesis Gap, section III: Creation and Re-Creation.

22. See part 1 of this series, Satan's Rebellion and Fall, IV, 3, b.

23. See Peter #20 for a detailed development of this doctrine.

24. Eve's body too was formed by the Lord (from one of Adam's ribs). See section II.5 below.

25. The other, of course, being physical death (the natural consequence of the fall of Adam).

26. This is not at all to imply that for this reason the fetus has no worth in God's eyes. Quite to the contrary, the unborn are highly valued in scripture (Ex.21:22; Job 10:8-12; Ps.139:13-16; Is.44:24; 49:4-5). Further we may note that in the Bible children are considered a great blessing (cf. 1Sam.2:1-11 and Lk.1:46-55), with infertility seen as a curse (Hos.9:14; cf. Gen.38; 1Sam.1:11), and pregnancy as a blessing and occasionally even a means of vindication (cf. Num.5:11-31 and Lk.1:25).   Whereas, on the other hand, the sacrifice of children is an abomination (Lev.18:21; Deut.12:31; Ps.106:37-38).

27. For more detail on the principle of the new birth, see Peter #19.

28. When Odysseus visits the underworld in the tenth book of the Odyssey, for example, he and his men see the psyche of Achilles (among others).

29. Generally speaking then, the word "spirit" refers to the "inner Man" (as opposed to the body), and "soul" to the whole person (a human spirit in a live body). The significant exception is when "soul" (nepesh-psyche) is used as a synonym for the "heart", i.e., the whole person with and emphasis on the inner person as we are now constituted (i.e., pre-resurrection). See section II.4.c.

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