The Image of God
In 1000 BC, in a world of slaves and warlords, where life was often nasty, brutish, and short, it would have been hard to imagine that humanity could ever be anything else.
There was no evidence, no indication, no reason for thinking that humanity could ever change. The rule of violent warlords would extend forever, slavery would never end. Whatever situation you were born into, that would be the situation when you died.
In this world, it would make sense to write a mythology in which you were created as a subservient creature, made for slavery, locked into your fate by the gods themselves.
This is exactly what the Babylonians did.
I will take blood and fashion bone.
I will establish a savage, ‘man’ shall be his name.
truly, savage-man I will create.
He shall be charged with the service of the gods
That they might be at ease!
But for some inexplicable reason, the Jews wrote something else.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” …
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
If you lived in that world, why would think such a thing? Why would you dream that you were like the gods, that you had that kind of potential?
But the Jews did dream. The Jews, against all reason, claimed that humanity was capable of far more than they had ever experienced.
A friend of mine has compared the Genesis account to a song - the kind of song that after a lifetime in prison, would fill your heart with hope, telling you of a world beyond the walls and bars of your reality.
Against all hope, they sang of hope.
And we have found them right. We have discovered worlds beyond the wildest imaginings of anyone living in their time. We have found human nature capable of things they could never have dreamed.
In the long and checkered history since that time, we have created brilliant works of art, we have probed the mysteries of creation, we have descended to the depths of the oceans, and ascended to the skies. We have walked on the moon. We have out-raced sound. We have peered into the beginnings of time, and peeled back the layers of reality.
And that’s not all. We have built civilizations that are concerned about compassion at a level never before seen. We have made great sacrifices and seen beautiful acts of kindness. Great individuals have shone as lights of profound selflessness in the midst of prejudice and oppression.
Our lives are a reality that no human should have thought was possible.
But the ancient Jews did. They gave us that hope - that no matter what our current reality, something grander and more beautiful and more profound was possible.
And that remains true today. We have only seen the beginning of what they knew we had in us.
The only question is:
how did they see it?