And God said,
Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.
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Ambrose of Milan
But let us define more accurately the meaning of the phrase “to the image of God.” Is it true that the flesh is made “to the image of God”? In that case, is there earth in God, since flesh is of earth? Is God corporeal, that is to say, weak and subject like the flesh to the passions? Perhaps the head may seem to you to be made in the likeness of God because it stands aloft, or the eyes because they observe or the ears because they hear? As to the question of height, are we to consider ourselves to be tall just because we tower a little over the earth? Are we not ashamed to be thought of as like to God merely because we are taller than serpents or other creeping creatures or even than deer, sheep or wolves? In that respect, how much taller are elephants and camels in comparison with us! Sight is important to us in order to enable us to behold the things of the world and to have knowledge of what is not reported by any person but is grasped by our sense of sight. How significant, in fact...
Yet the love of God for humanity is such that by grace He becomes Father of those in relation to whom he had previously only been Maker. He becomes their Father when created beings receive ‘into their hearts the Spirit of the Son crying out, ‘Abba, Father’ [Gal 4.6]., as the apostle says. These are the ones who, by receiving the Word, receive authority from him ‘to become the children of God’ (John 1.12). Being creatures by nature, they would not become ‘sons’ except by receiving the Spirit of the natural and true Son. So it was in order to bring this about and to make humanity receptive of divinity that ‘The Word became flesh’ (John 1.14)… Accordingly, the Father calls ‘sons’ those in whom He sees His own Son and He says, ‘I begot’ since ‘begetting’ signifies ‘sons’ while ‘making’ is indicative of the works. Therefore we are not begotten first but made [created], for it is written, ‘Let us make humanity’ [Gen 1.26]. But when we later receive the grace of The Spirit, we are henceforth ...
For God said, “Let us make man in our image and likeness”: a little later, however, it is said “And God made man in the image of God.” It would certainly not be correct to say “our,” because the number is plural, if man were made in the image of one person, whether Father, Son or Holy Spirit. But because he is made in the image of the Trinity, consequently it was said “in our image.” Again, lest we choose to believe in three gods in the Trinity, since the same Trinity is one God, he said, “And God made man in his image,” as if he were to say “in his [own triune] image.” .
For why the “our,” if the Son is the image of the Father alone? But it is on account of the imperfect likeness, as we have said, that man is spoken of as “after our image,” and so “our,” that man might be an image of the Trinity. This image is not equal to the Trinity, as the Son is to the Father, but approaching it, as is said, by a certain likeness; as in things distinct there can be closeness, not however in this case as if a spatial closeness but by imitation. .
Not everything that among creatures bears some likeness to God is rightly called his image, but only that than which God alone is more exalted. That is directly drawn from him, if between himself and it there is no interposed nature. .
Does not the light of theology shine, in these words, as through windows; and does not the second Person show Himself in a mystical way, without yet manifesting Himself until the great day? Where is the Jew who resisted the truth and pretended that God was speaking to Himself? It is He who spoke, it is said, and it is He who made. Let there be light and there was light. But then their words contain a manifest absurdity. Where is the smith, the carpenter, the shoemaker, who, without help and alone before the instruments of his trade, would say to himself; let us make the sword, let us put together the plough, let us make the boot? Does he not perform the work of his craft in silence? Strange folly, to say that any one has seated himself to command himself, to watch over himself, to constrain himself, to hurry himself, with the tones of a master! But the unhappy creatures are not afraid to calumniate the Lord Himself. What will they not say with a tongue so well practised in lying? Here,...
For “the image of God” is his Word (and the divine Word, the light who is the archetype of light, is a genuine son of Mind [the Father]); and an image of the Word is the true man, that is, the mind in man, who on this account is said to have been created “in the image” of God and “in his likeness,” because through his understanding heart he is made like the divine Word or Reason [Logos], and so rational [logikos].
All men are made in God’s image; but to be in his likeness is granted only to those who through great love have brought their own freedom into subjection to God. For only when we do not belong to ourselves do we become like him who through love has reconciled us to himself. No one achieves this unless he persuades his soul not to be distracted by the false glitter of this life.
After Moses spoke about the reptiles, the cattle and the beasts that were created on the sixth day, he turned to write about the creation of that man who was fashioned on the sixth day, saying, "And God said [Let us create man. . .]" [ Gen1:26 ] But to whom was God speaking? Here as well as in every place where He creates, it is clear that He was speaking to His Son. The Evangelist said about Him that "everything came to be through Him and without Him not one thing came to be." [ John1:1 ] Paul also attests to Him saying, "In Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, all that is visible and all that is invisible." [ Col1:15 ]
"And God said, 'Let us make man in our image." [ Gen1:26 ] According to what has been said up to this point, he is able, as it pleases him, to interpret for us: Moses explains ["in our image"] as follows "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds, and over the cattle, and over all the earth." [ Gen1:26 ] It is the dominion t...
Therefore let us hold that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are by nature one God; neither is the Father the one who is the Son, nor the Son the one who is the Father, nor the Holy Spirit the one who is the Father or the Son. For the essence, that which the Greeks call the ousia, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is one, in which essence the Father is not one thing and the Son a second thing and the Holy Spirit still a third thing, although in person the Father is different, the Son is different, and the Holy Spirit is different. All of this is demonstrated for us in the strongest fashion at the very beginning of the Holy Scriptures, when God says, “Let us make human beings in our image and likeness.” When, using the singular number, he says “image,” he shows that the nature is one, in whose image the human being was made. But when he says “our” in the plural, he shows that the very same God in whose image the human being was made is not one in person. For if in t...
Moses says what was said by God: “Let us make man according to our image and likeness.” God says that. He says “let us make” to a cooperator, necessarily to Christ. And he says “according to the image.” Therefore man is not the image of God, but he is “according to the image.” For Jesus alone is the image of God, but man is “according to the image,” that is, image of the image. But he says “according to our image.” Therefore both Father and Son are one image. ..
Let us make man to our image. This image of God in man, is not in the body, but in the soul; which is a spiritual substance, endued with understanding and free-will. God speaketh here in the plural number, to insinuate the plurality of persons in the Deity. (Challoner)
Some of the ancient Jews maintained that God here addressed his council, the Angels; but is it probable that he should communicate to them the title of Creator, and a perfect similitude with himself? (Calmet)
Man is possessed of many prerogatives above all other creatures of this visible world: his soul gives him a sort of equality with the Angels; and though his body be taken from the earth, like the brutes, yet even here the beautiful construction, the head erect and looking towards heaven makes St. Augustine observe, an air of majesty in the human body, which raises man above all terrestrial animals, and brings him in some measure near to the Divinity. As Jesus assumed our human nature, we may assert, that we bear a...
He who said Let us make man in our image and with the plural indication manifested the Holy Trinity would not have referred to the image in the singular, if the models were diverse the one from the other. For it would not be possible to indicate a unique image of beings that do not coincide between them. But if the natures were different, He would certainly have been principle of different images, creating the image that would correspond to each [nature]. - "On The Making of Man, PG 44, 140"
Scripture informs us that the Deity proceeded by a sort of graduated and ordered advance to the creation of man. After the foundations of the universe were laid, as the history records, man did not appear on the earth at once, but the creation of the brutes preceded him, and the plants preceded them. Thereby Scripture shows that the vital forces blended with the world of matter according to a gradation; first it infused itself into insensate nature; and in continuation of this advanced into the sentient world; and then ascended to intelligent and rational beings…. The creation of man is related as coming last, as of one who took up into himself every single form of life, both that of plants and that which is seen in brutes. His nourishment and growth he derives from vegetable life; for even in vegetables such processes are to be seen when aliment is being drawn in by their roots and given off in fruit and leaves. His sentient organization he derives from the brute creation. But his fac...
God creates man for no other reason than that God is good; and being such, and having this as his reason for entering upon the creation of our nature, he would not exhibit the power of this goodness in an imperfect form, giving our nature some one of the things at his disposal and grudging it a share in another: but the perfect form of goodness is here to be seen by his both bringing man into being from nothing and fully supplying him with all good gifts. But since the list of individual good gifts is a long one, it is out of the question to apprehend it numerically. The language of Scripture therefore expresses it concisely by a comprehensive phrase, in saying that man was made “in the image of God,” for this is the same as to say that he made human nature participant in all good; for if the Deity is the fullness of good, and this is his image, then the image finds its resemblance to the archetype in being filled with all good.
“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” We possess the one by creation; we acquire the other by free will. In the first structure it is given us to be born in the image of God; by free will there is formed in us the being in the likeness of God…. “Let us make man in our image”: Let him possess by creation what is in the image, but let him also become according to the likeness. God has given the power for this. If he had created you also in the likeness, where would your privilege be? Why have you been crowned? And if the Creator had given you everything, how would the kingdom of heaven have opened for you? But it is proper that one part is given you, while the other has been left incomplete: this is so that you might complete it yourself and might be worthy of the reward which comes from God. .
If, therefore, Scripture tells us that man was made last, after every animate thing, the lawgiver is doing nothing else than declaring to us the doctrine of the soul, considering that what is perfect comes last, according to a certain necessary sequence in the order of things…. Thus we may suppose that nature makes an ascent as it were by steps—I mean the various properties of life—from the lower to the perfect form.
This same language was not used for (the creation) of other things. The command was simple when light was created; God said, “let there be light.” Heaven was also made without deliberation…. These, though, were before (the creation of) humans. For humans, there was deliberation. He did not say, as he did when creating other things, “Let there be a human.” See how worthy you are! Your origins are not in an imperative. Instead, God deliberated about the best way to bring to life a creation worthy of honor. .
Let us add that [man’s] creation in the image of the nature that governs all demonstrates precisely that he has from the beginning a royal nature. Following common usage, painters of portraits of princes, as well as representing their features, express their royal dignity by garments of purple, and before this image one is accustomed to say “the king.” Thus human nature, created to rule the world because of his resemblance to the universal King, has been made like a living image that participates in the archetype by dignity and by name. He is not clothed in purple, scepter and diadem, for these do not signify his dignity (the archetype himself does not possess them). But in place of purple, he is clothed with virtue, the most royal of garments. Instead of a scepter, he is endowed with blessed immortality. Instead of a royal diadem, he bears the crown of justice, in such a way that everything about him manifests royal dignity, by his exact likeness to the beauty of the archetype.
This was to show that he could call into being not only a nature akin to himself but also one altogether alien to him. For akin to Deity are those natures which are intellectual and only to be comprehended by mind; but all of which sense can take cognizance are utterly alien to it, and of these the furthest removed from it are all those which are entirely destitute of soul and power of motion. Mind, then, and sense—thus distinguished from each other—had remained within their own boundaries and bore in themselves the magnificence of the CreatorWord, silent praisers and thrilling heralds of his mighty work. Not yet was there any mingling of both, nor any mixture of these opposites, tokens of a greater wisdom and generosity in the creation of natures; nor as yet were the whole riches of goodness made known. Now the CreatorWord, determining to exhibit this and to produce a single living being out of both (the invisible and the visible creation, I mean) fashions man; and taking a body from ...
In previous times man, it is true, was said to have been made according to the image of God, but he was not revealed as such. For the Word according to whose image man was made was still invisible. Therefore also man easily lost the likeness. But when the Word of God was made flesh, he confirmed both image and likeness. For on the one hand he truly showed the image by becoming what his image was. On the other hand he firmly established the likeness by the coassimilation of man to the invisible Father through the visible Word. .
Placing him in the midst of all the brothers, he inquired as to how the Catholic churches throughout the East interpreted what is said in Genesis: “Let us make man according to our image and likeness.” Then he explained that the image and likeness of God was treated by all the heads of the churches not according to the lowly sound of the letter but in a spiritual way, and he proved this with a long discourse and many examples from Scripture, showing that nothing of this sort could be the case with that immeasurable and incomprehensible and invisible majesty—that it could be circumscribed in a human form and likeness, that indeed a nature that was incorporeal and uncomposed and simple could be apprehended by the eye or seized by the mind. –.
Some others base themselves on our arguments by asserting that God possesses an image in common with us, but they do not understand correctly what has been said. We did not speak about an image of being but about an image of command, as we will explain below. In fact, as a proof that divinity has no human form, listen to Paul’s words: “But for a man it is not right to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.” This is why—he says—“she must wear a veil on her head.” And in truth, in this passage he has called “image” this absence of difference of form with regard to God, and man is called image of God because God also possesses this figure: in their opinion, therefore, it should not be said that man only is the image of God but the woman as well. For man and woman have in common a single figure, character and resemblance. Why then is man called image of God, while the woman is not? Because Paul does not mean the image appearing in the ...
To begin, it is worthwhile to ask why God did not say, when the heavens were created, “Let us make the heavens” but instead, “Let there be a heaven…. Let there be light,” and similarly for each other aspect of creation. “Let us make” suggests deliberation, collaboration and conference with another person. So what is it whose pending creation is granted so great an honor? It is humanity, the greatest and most marvelous of living beings, and the creation most worthy of honor before God…. There is here this deliberation, collaboration and communion not because God needs advice—God forbid saying such a thing!—but so that the very impact of the language of our creation would show us honor.
Since this is so, God created man out of visible and invisible nature with his own hands according to the image and likeness, forming the body from the earth and through his own breathing upon it giving it a rational and intellectual soul, which we call the divine image. That which is “according to the image” is manifest in the intellect and free will. That which is “according to the likeness” is manifest in such likeness in virtue as is possible.
In order that the unity itself of the threefold majesty and imprint should encounter our understanding, the invisible majesty itself states so: “Let us make man in our image and according to our likeness.” Look! He has demonstrated what we believe. God has engraved his image on the face of the human and has said “in our image.” The knowledge of Father and Son is impressed upon the face of man; and the very features of his face, by means of the clay by which we are formed, revealed in the human original model how the Father and the Son were, so that man could admire God in man. –.
If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, "Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness;" Genesis 1:26 whereas He ought to have said, "Let me make man in my own image, and after my own likeness," as being a unique and singular Being? In the following passage, however, "Behold the man is become as one of us," Genesis 3:22 He is either deceiving or amusing us in speaking plurally, if He is One only and singular. Or was it to the angels that He spoke, as the Jews interpret the passage, because these also acknowledge not the Son? Or was it because He was at once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that He spoke to Himself in plural terms, making Himself plural on that very account? Nay, it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also...
Let us make man to our image and likeness: Man is said to be after the image of God, not as regards his body, but as regards that whereby he excels other animals. Hence, when it is said, "Let us make man to our image and likeness", it is added, "And let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea" (Genesis 1:26). Now man excels all animals by his reason and intelligence; hence it is according to his intelligence and reason, which are incorporeal, that man is said to be according to the image of God.
But equality does not belong to the essence of an image; for as Augustine says (QQ. 83, qu. 74): "Where there is an image there is not necessarily equality," as we see in a person's image reflected in a glass. Yet this is of the essence of a perfect image; for in a perfect image nothing is wanting that is to be found in that of which it is a copy. Now it is manifest that in man there is some likeness to God, copied from God as from an exemplar; yet this likeness is not one of equality, f...