A Biblical Theology of the Imago Dei

I finished Stephen Dempster’s Dominion and Dynasty today, which is a great little book for understanding the Old Testament as one, continuous story. The greatest thing it helped me to see is that creation in God’s image is not discarded after Genesis 1-3, but continues to develop along with the Old Testament storyline. Dempster is especially helpful in showing how the responsibilities associated with creation in God’s image in Genesis 1:26-28 are picked up on later in the Old Testament to describe the activities of the Davidic Messiah.

I’ve been reflecting in the last week or so about how the Imago Dei is picked up also in the New Testament, not only in that the image of God is identified as Christ himself (Colossians 1:15, II Corinthians 4:4), but also in that God’s image is spoken of as the goal of redemption for believers:

II Corinthians 3:18:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

Colossians 3:9-10:
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator.

So creation God’s image is not merely a category of creation; its also a category of redemption. It doesn’t merely entail respect for all people; it also informs the trajectory of Christian sanctification. God’s purpose in creating humans beings was to fill the earth with other persons who are like him, who would reflect his character and mediate his benevolent rule over creation. God’s purpose in redeeming human beings may be more, but is not less, than this original creational function. The church, therefore, is where Genesis 1:26-28 will be finally and most meaningfully realized.

There is a lot more to explore here!! I want to do a fuller study on a biblical theology of the Imago Dei. I’m convinced its woven throughout the whole canon.

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  1. Dempster's book is a great one. I'm teaching OT Theology next year and will use it. Also, on your recommendation, I'm finishing Resurrection and Redemption – and noticing how Paul read Gen 1-2 as entirely fully of eschatological hints – I'm thinking especially of the "living being" in Gen 2.7 and the "life giving Spirit" in 1 Cor 15. But, also with regard to the image, it is Christ, the second Adam, who is the Image – and we, who have God's image defaced, are being renewed in Christ's image.

  2. That's cool, Eric. It reminds me of Rom. 8:29, where Christ is said to be the "firstborn among many brothers." I am glad you are reading Gaffin – I found that a landmark book for me. I've been thinking through the I Cor. 15-Gen. 2 connection, too, which is really an amazing example of NT use of the OT!