“On Counting Gods” published in TheoLogica

December 13, 2016

My paper “On Counting Gods” has just been published by the new five-language philosophy of religion / philosophical theology / analytic theology journal TheoLogica. I would especially like to thank editors Alejandro Pérez  and Jean-Baptiste Guillon for their help. I got a couple of very good, helpful referee reports from anonymous reviewers here – thanks to those folks, whoever they are. I would also thank Carl Mosser, whose work on this topic was helpful. You can view (and download) the papers in their first issue here. I’m also grateful for feedback from Bill Vallicella, Andy Cullison, and my colleagues Neil Feit and Steve Kershnar.

This paper is about understanding the concepts of monotheism, polytheism (polydeism – see the paper), and atheism (and adeism). In my opinion, this is the most important philosophical work I’ve done, and I worked on it on and off for about five years. My aim is to clarify our thinking about competing religious worldviews. I argue that we need to replace the trichotomy monotheism-polytheism-atheism, which I claim is confused and confusing.

In short, the term “god ” is ambiguous; we must distinguish between concepts of a god, a (mere) deity, and an ultimate reality which is neither a god nor a deity. “Atheism” is best understood, as Cudworth and More thought, as denial of a god. Most atheists in the history of the world have believed in many deities. Present-day naturalists are adeists (no deities), which implies atheism.

Next Monday on the podcast, you can hear a recent presentation of the core of this material which I recently presented to philosophy graduate students at Boston College, who contribute a lot of excellent questions and discussion.

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.

32 thoughts on ““On Counting Gods” published in TheoLogica”

  1. I read your entire paper on this subject, Dale. Very well thought out. Clearly articulated and presented.

    One question: In looking at angels and demons, you’ve considered them deities. I was wondering, do they technically meet the third requirement (possessing some supernatural power) and what exactly their supernatural powers would be considered to be? They don’t create or destroy etc. as Yahweh is able to do.

    1. Hi Aaron,

      You said:

      “In looking at angels and demons, you’ve considered them deities. I was wondering, do they technically meet the third requirement (possessing some supernatural power) and what exactly their supernatural powers would be considered to be?”

      Dale can reply from his own perspective, but D.S. Russell summed up my own answer nicely:

      “?…it must be remembered that monotheism, for the Old Testament prophets, had a connotation very different in many respects from that which it has in modern thought. It is false to assume that the Old Testament writers, however exalted their conception of the Godhead might be, conceived of God as alone in isolated majesty over against men, the creatures of his will. There is ample evidence to show that this conception of monotheism was held in conjunction with a belief in a spiritual world peopled with supernatural and superhuman beings who, in some ways, shared the nature, though not the being, of God.” (The Method & Message of Jewish Apocalyptic), p. 235

      A number of expositor’s have argued that the “gods” at Ps. 82 were the Israelites at Sinai, who, according to Midrash, became “gods” when they became immortal for a time when the Angel of the Lord passed over them, yet they ultimately gave up this godlike/deathless state so that they would ultimately “die like men”. This shows that, in the ancient world, to be immortal (=deathless as opposed to un-killable) was to be “a god”. Such concepts would later influence the Christian doctrine of deification, i.e. that all Christians would become “god” in that they would share in His endless life.


      1. I agree Sean, that the OT writers viewed other spiritual beings as being real and also even called them “elohim” alongside calling Yahweh an elohim as well. I would say, however, that they clearly distinguish Yahweh as the eternal One who created the other heavenly beings.

        I believe in his book “The Unseen Realm” that Dr. Michael Heiser argues convincingly that the “elohim” spoken of in Psalm 82 are not men or judges but cosmic heavenly beings whom Yahweh charged as lesser magistrates over the earth but betrayed him and are going to undergo judgment and lose their contingent immortality. Heiser also argues that any being from the spirit world can potentially be referred to as an “elohim” (i.e. Samuel coming up from the earth to meet the witch of endor). He calls the world “elohim” a “place of residence term, which signifies that the being is not from here but from some place *over there.*” I find his argument for this pretty convincing.

        1. Hi Aaron,

          “I believe in his book ‘The Unseen Realm’ that Dr. Michael Heiser argues
          convincingly that the ‘elohim’ spoken of in Psalm 82 are not men or
          judges but cosmic heavenly beings whom Yahweh charged as lesser
          magistrates over the earth but betrayed him and are going to undergo
          judgment and lose their contingent immortality.”

          So, first, I should point out that I wasn’t endorsing the view that the ELOHIM at Ps. 82 refer to the Israelite’s at Sinai (I don’t subscribe to that view), but merely showing how, in the ancient world, ‘deathless’ beings could be referred to as “gods” for that reason.

          However, a Magistrate is a “Judge”, so to say that one is a
          Magistrate doesn’t necessarily mean that he/she is not a “Judge”. Most translators render the account in a way that shows that the ELOHIM were guilty, not of unjustly judging, but of judging unjustly, and so I take the ELOHIM to be Judges. Whether they were human or angelic is an open question, and the declaration that they would “die like men” may suggest that they were angelic beings.

          On the other hand, the charge that they would “die like men” may be idiomatically equivalent to the modern saying that someone “puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us”. In other words, “die like men” didn’t necessarily mean that the referents weren’t themselves men, but it may have meant that, despite their elevated status (and possibly their exaggerated opinion of themselves), they would die just as all other men die.


          1. I agree.

            When I said “judges” earlier I meant “mere human judges.” Of course, heavenly beings can hold that role and be appointed as judges as well. I was referring to the translations which use the word and point toward human judges.

            Great point about the “die like men” phrase.

    2. Aaron,

      It could be argued from the “us” and “our” language in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 3:22-24 that the angels carried out the creation of Adam and Eve. It’s also interesting to note that Paul associated “the angels” with the man and woman when he applied the “image of God” concept to the meeting of the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 11:8-10).

      Whether or not the ancient Hebrews considered the angelic visitors to be “deities” may be going a little too far, but there’s plenty of evidence in scripture that the angels supernatural capabilities. The historical accounts show them doing all sorts of things that are beyond natural human capabilities (e.g. knowledge, strength, beauty) and in control of natural phenomena (e.g. weather, disease).

      1. Yeah I suppose that one *could* argue that angels participated in a direct way in creation but it does not seem at all consistent with the overall message God has for us in the Bible when he says that He is the creator and the one who gives and takes life away. As I mentioned to Sean, Dr. Heiser makes a convincing argument that God was including them in the act in much the same way that anyone can be included in an act when they are present during the act although not directly performing the act. Silas was included in the greetings of some of Paul’s letters. Yet Silas was not a co-author but rather a co-sender of the letters. He was there by Paul when Paul was writing and so he was included in this way.

        “Whether or not the ancient Hebrews considered the angelic visitors to be “deities” may be going a little too far”

        Yes, but you have to read Dale’s paper “On Counting Gods” and see how he has carefully defined the term “deity” and made a distinction between “god” and “deity” for academic purposes. It is in light of these academic definitions that I am asking Dale about the classification of angels and demons. It is tricky because he says in his paper that wizards don’t count as deities (and I agree they should not) because they are tapping into things which already are and manipulating them to do their bidding. So angels are obviously able to do awesome things but it would seem to me that the blurry line is, at what point is an act or ability considered to be “supernatural?” Wizardry doesn’t count in his paper, and neither does the Flash running faster than warp speed. It gets a little fuzzy at times.

        1. Aaron,

          I think it’s easy to reconcile the apparent angelic involvement in creation with other passages that attribute it exclusively to God because naming God as the creator doesn’t preclude that others assisted Him.

          For example, in 1 Chronicles 22-29, we find God saying He is going to build a temple, and also saying that He was commissioning Solomon to build it for Him, and then Solomon actually enlisted slave labor to accomplish it (and certainly didn’t do all the work alone).

          Likewise, it seems reasonable to think that this is how God himself took ultimate responsibility for things He said He was going to do but enlisted others to carry out the work (e.g. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 11:7). There are numerous examples in scripture of angels actually carrying out the will of God for Him (e.g. 1 Kings 22:19-21; Job 1:2).

          I agree with Dale’s “wizardry” example. However, I don’t think “satan” and “demons” in scripture refer to fallen angels. Rather, I think these terms were used more broadly. Whenever angels were involved, they heavenly ones serving the will of God (even bringing disease and destruction on His behalf).

          I don’t think the biblical evidence supports the idea that “satan” was the name of a particular individual evil angel or that he led any kind of heavenly rebellion against God involving other evil angels.

          1. Sure I will grant that God uses people and angels to do His will and many times says that He is the ultimate author of those things. I’m not convinced, however, that creation is one of those things. Solomon building the Temple and the other examples are all examples of work being done but not of creating new things. Solomon didn’t speak the stones into existence. However, the best possible case, I believe, for such a kind of creative agent who is not God Himself but carries out the creative work is made by those (nontrinitarians) who believe Jesus has a pre-existence (either an “Arian” or “Subordinationist” or “Logos” view etc). If “regular” angels create on God’s behalf then I’d say we simply don’t know about it as there aren’t any texts pointing us to believe this and we’d have to assume this view without much of any justification.

            You’re right about Satan in the Old Testament. It was not used as a name of one particular spiritual being. But it seems that by New Testament times the word “satan” was clearly meant to refer to the chief of those in rebellion from the heavenly realms and it was used to refer to this one on a few occasions.

            1. Aaron,

              What or who do you think the “us” and “our” were referring to when Genesis 1:26 speaks of the “creation” of Adam and his subsequent judgment (Genesis 3:22-24)?

              It seems that “satan’ was also flexible in the apostolic usage. For example, it refers an unidentified visitor in Matthew 4:10, but then refers to Peter in Matthew 16:23. In Revelation 20:7, it refers to a “dragon.”

              1. I believe “us” and “our” refer to heavenly beings in God’s divine council. The interesting point is that what follows in Genesis is the text saying so God created man in his own image using singular verbs and straighforwardly saying God did it and not angels. This is why I stated that he spoke to heavenly beings but did it himself. Just as we might say, “Let’s go to the store and get some apples.” Then we might all go to the store to get apples while what technically happens is I drive while everyone else rides and waits in the car out in the parking lot while I go inside and make the purchase.

                Revelation 20:2 “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…” (ESV Translation)

                1. Aaron,

                  Thanks. I’m assuming that you mean “angels” when you say “heavenly beings in God’s divine council” so we agree that they were active during the creation.

                  I don’t think the singular grammar is any issue in Genesis 1:27 because ALHYM is a collective plural noun in Hebrew. Thus, it can be used with singular or plural grammar and refer to the same thing. We also see in Genesis 18-19 that even the term YHWH could refer to multiple angelic visitors in a collective sense.

                  Another consideration is that the text says that Adam was to be “created in OUR image and OUR likeness” and then “male and female.” The Hebrew words “image” and “male” and “female” all denote visible shape or form. Since God himself is always “unseen” (1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18), the language in Genesis 1:27 has to be inclusive of the angelic beings.

                  What do you think “the image and likeness of God” was referring to?

                  1. I don’t think all heavenly beings are “angels” in the sense that they have wings or the exact same rank or even necessarily the same ontology. That is why I use the term “heavenly beings” at times (as the ESV does) because the Old Testament clearly refers to spiritual beings who are not Yahweh as “elohim” as well as “beney elohim” and so forth. “Angels” as it was originally understood in Hebrew might very well point to the lowest level of heavenly beings who were sent to deliver messages. I’m not dogmatic about this or anything, just giving my understanding. It’s not like we have a huge body of scriptural evidence about angels and the heavenly host. We have to put the puzzle pieces together and leave room for discussion.

                    The image and likeness of God seem to refer to the rule and reign that man has in the physical realm over all creatures. It has been argued that the heavenly beings also bear this image as rulers in the spiritual world. Hence, Yahweh said to the heavenly beings, “Hey let’s make some creatures on earth who also fulfill this role and rule there.” I don’t think this means they directly participated in the act all though they were witnesses. The strangest part about suggesting angelic involvement in creation is that the statements of Jesus’ involvement in creation are more abundant and certainly more clear and widely held historically (this does not mean I am endorsing those interpretations) but you reject them while accepting the weaker argument of angelic involvement in the direct act of creation?

                    1. Aaron,

                      Good points about “heavenly beings.” Sometimes they were seen in visions with unusual characteristics, but most of the time they were messengers who appeared in the same form as human “men” (and were able to do things like eat and wrestle, Genesis 18, 32). Perhaps this is where much of the Anthropomorphic language originated in scripture.

                      What concerns me about interpreting “the image and likeness of God” in terms of “reigning” or “ruling” is that the Hebrew terms for “image” and “likeness” are never used that way elsewhere in scripture. Rather, they always refer to the physical shape or appearance of something (e.g. idols as engraved “images” of something). Also, where it says “let them rule …” in the second clause explicitly accounts for that concept (without the need to associate it with the “image and likeness” in the previous clause).

                      My understanding of the references to things being “created through” Jesus Christ (e.g. Colossians 1:16-18; Revelation 3:14) and the “new creation” (e.g. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19) is that Paul spoke of what resulted from the death and resurrection of Jesus (i.e. reconciliation) and what took place in Genesis 1-2. Thus, I don’t think there is any issue with angelic participation in the original creation of Adam and Eve.

                      Do you think that Jesus preexisted or participated in the creation of Adam?

                    2. Okay I understand what you’re saying about your concern with the word “image.” However, my concern with what you’re saying is that if God truly is invisible and unseen then what you’re saying about the word “image” and our creation suggests that God does have a physical image and can be seen. In fact, he must look pretty much like we do in most ways. This is problematic and seems to contradict scripture. Perhaps though, based on passages such as Ezekiel 1 you could argue that this is indeed the case.

                      As to your last question, I am currently reading a lot about this. Traditionally I of course have affirmed this to be the case. I am learning a lot about the denial of this view.

                    3. Aaron,

                      I agree that God the Father is always invisible and unable to be seen by any human being (1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18). Thus, we need to consider “the image of God” to be referring to something that can be represented visually.

                      My understanding is that “the image of God” was related to the use of ALHYM to refer to the angelic visitors (“us”, “our”, Genesis 1:26) because they were visible heavenly beings who had the same physical form as Adam (e.g. Genesis 18:1-3). In that sense, Adam was created in the image of God (which is consistent with the fact that the angelic visitors were always perceived as “men” and not women).

                      Another consideration is that Paul’s commentary on Genesis 1:26 in 1 Corinthians 11:8-10 expliciltly associates “the image of God” with Adam (male) in distinction from the woman (female). He also indicates that their difference in appearance was “for the sake of the angels.” Maybe this is the key to understanding how the apostles understood the Hebrew text.

                      What stuff are you currently reading?

                    4. Rivers,

                      “Another consideration is that Paul’s commentary on Genesis 1:26 in 1
                      Corinthians 11:8-10 expliciltly associates “the image of God” with Adam
                      (male) in distinction from the woman (female).”

                      So, in your view, does that mean that if our eyes could see a spirit being, and we beheld God, he would look like a man?

                      If not, then I’m having trouble making sense out of your argument.


                    5. Sean,

                      The apostles understood that “no man has ever seen God, nor can see Him” (1 Timothy 6:16). The ALHYM and YHWH that appeared to the Patriarchs were the angelic “men” (e.g. Genesis 18:1-3; Genesis 32:24, 30; Acts 7:35).

                      Adam was created in their image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). They were the ones that Adam and Eve heard “call” and “walk” in the garden (Genesis 3:8) and the ones who sent away from the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).

                      It seems that even “unclean spirits” who “fell down” and “shouted” in the presence of Jesus required the functions of a human body (e.g. Matthew 3:10-11).

                    6. Ok, so are you saying that man was not created in the image of YHWH, but in the image of the angelic ELOHIM instead? Don’t worry about presenting a list of Scriptures with words in quotation marks as though your view just naturally follows from that. Just tell us very clearly in your own words:

                      a. What “image” were Jesus, Adam, and others are made in, the image of angels or the image of YHWH. Or is the image of angels equivalent to the image of YHWH on your model?

                      b. What do you understand that image to be? If it’s physical appearance (unlikely, IMO), then what is that appearance?

                      c. Many Christians believe that in the resurrection they will get to see YHWH. Do you agree? If so, what will YHWH look like? A man? Something else?

                    7. Sean,

                      Here’s my response to your points:

                      A). It seems that the apostles understood that God himself is always invisible and impossible to “see” (1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18). Thus, YHWH himself cannot have an “image.” Maybe it’s more reasonable to think that ALHYM in Genesis 1-3 included the angels who had human functions and appeared as “men” (to whom the appearance of Adam resembled).

                      B). The Hebrew term translated “image” always meant the visible shape or form of something (or someone). Since the angels were visible, and always appeared in a human (male) form, I think it’s likely that this is what “the image of God” was referring to. Paul also seemed to apply this “image and glory of God” language in the context of males and females in the church maintaining a distinction in appearance based upon the order of creation (1 Corinthian 11:3-10).

                      C). It seems to me that Paul understood that “no man can ever see God” (1 Timothy 6:16) and thus I don’t think Christians will see Him either. Jesus mentioned seeing “Abraham and the Prophets in the Kingdom” (Luke 13:28) and the apostles were looking forward to seeing Jesus “as he is” (1 John 3:2) but I don’t think there’s any indication that they were going to “see” any more of God the Father than what the human Jesus revealed to them (John 14:9-10).

                      What do you think “the image of God” meant in Genesis 1:26?

                    8. Rivers,

                      “A). It seems that the apostles understood that God himself is always
                      invisible and impossible to ‘see’ (1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:18). Thus,
                      YHWH himself cannot have an ‘image’.”

                      1 Timothy 6:16 says (according to the NASB):

                      “16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen.”

                      Why do you believe that this verse is referring to an eternal condition of being unseeable, rather than a temporary condition that can be altered if God chooses to do so? It also says that God *alone* possesses immortality, yet we know that he will grant immortality to those judged worthy at the resurrection.

                    9. The problem that I see then, Rivers, is that we aren’t made in the image of God if your interpretation of “image” is to be held and God is himself without such an image. Who was talking in Genesis 1?

                      A second problem is that “male and female” are both said to be created in God’s image, yet you’ve stated that men only are created in God’s image? This seems strange and unheard of.

                      I have read Alvan Lamson’s larger and more notable work (The Church of the First Three Centuries) and Samuel Clarke’s book (The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity). Reading varying forms of Unitarian interpretation written by modern-day adherents or by those since the Reformation is valuable and this is widely available but I have concluded that reading the Pre-Nicene Christian writings is probably what is most important. It is not so much that I overestimate their knowledge or piety as it is that if there is a theological interpretation which was unknown to them it becomes hard to support said view(s). The “Logos” view was quite popular for almost 300 years in early church history and “Arianism” came along later and gained a foothold but both views were Unitarian. What I would call “proper Unitarianism” (what Dale calls “Humanitarian Unitarianism”) did exist in some form early but was rejected and overtaken by the Logos Christology of the early fathers. These views were Unitarian, though. All such views, even modalism, were Unitarian. This is important stuff we should not ignore.

                    10. Aaron,

                      I think it makes the most sense to understand that ALYHM in Genesis 1-3 includes the angels. That is why the “us” and “our” appear in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 3:22-24 and there are human functions (“calling” and “walking”) attributed to “God” in the same context (Genesis 3:8).

                      Since the Hebrew word “image” always refers to the visible shape or form of something, I think it’s reasonable to consider that the writer meant that Adam was created in the appearance of the angels (who were always “men” when they appeared).

                      The difficulty with simply taking both “male and female” as “the image of God” in Gneesis 1:27 is that it’s not consistent with how apostle Paul interpreted and applied the text in 1 Corinthians 11:8-10. Moreover, the “image and likeness” language is immediately associated with a male child in Genesis 5:3.

                    11. If your interpretation is held to be consistent then the implications are that we aren’t made in the image of God and God did not create us (even indirectly, arguably) and was not the speaker in Genesis.

                      I believe I have seen this error concerning what you are saying with the word “image” before. Insisting on a singular usage and meaning without any flexibility or semantic range, especially across multiple languages and thousands of years, is not a good way to interpret words or what authors meant by them in unilaterally. Certainly “image” and “glory” can’t be completely synonymous given your definition of “image” but they seem to be used in a synonymous or at least largely overlapping way in Paul’s writings. Similarly, “image” and “likeness” are used in conjunction in other areas and seem to bear synonymous or near synonymous meanings.

                      Genesis is clear and direct about both male and female being created in the image of God. This seems to eliminate the possibility of Paul thinking or intending to convey the idea that you’re putting forward from him. It can’t be a problem in light of Paul but rather your interpretation of Paul is problematic in light of Genesis 1, which would have to be disregarded or made to mean something very strange given the direct statement of “…male and female he created them.”

                      In any case, I don’t expect your view will change, at least not immediately anyways. Thanks for talking with me. I always enjoy it. Take care. Hope to talk again soon.

                    12. Aaron,

                      Why would you conclude from an explanation of the meaning of “the image of God” that someone doesn’t think Adam was actually made in the image of God? I’m simply pointing out that the Hebrew titles ALHYM and YHWH were not used exclusively to refer to one being (hence, ALHYM is plural).

                      What you’re missing about “semantic range” is that you must demonstrate it by considering the usage of the Hebrew terms. Claiming that a particular word must have a different meaning because you don’t like the implications inherent in its ordinary usage is the wrong approach. The reason translators use the word “image” in Genesis 1:26 is because that is what the Hebrew term meant.

                      In the case of TsLM (“image”), there are only about 15 uses in the Hebrew scriptures (spanning Genesis to Amos) and the term always refers to the physical shape or form of something. If we had evidence of usage that fits your interpretation, then we’d have a wider semantic range to work with. The term DMTh (“likeness”) occurs a little more often, but is used almost as a synonym (as you pointed out).

                      I’m also concerned that you are dismissing Paul’s commentary on Genesis 1:26-27 in 1 Corinthians 11:8-10 (where he explicitly drew a distinction between male and female with regard to Adam being made “in the image and glory of God”) and simply insisting on reading Genesis 1:27 a certain way. I think it makes better sense to include all of the evidence and understand that the clause “male and female he created them” is not related to “the image of God” in the previous clause. Rather, “male and female He created them” is just referring to the two different genders.

                      Another consideration is that your own insistence on the singular pronoun “his” in Genesis 1:27a referring only to one person (YHWH) as the creator should also indicate that the “him” in Genesis 1:27b should be taken as a singluar reference to the “man” (Adam). How do you account for this inconsistency in your approach to interpreting the passage?

                      Thanks. My understanding of things in scripture changes quite often (since I’m always interacting with people who have different perspectives), but not unless there is substantial evidence to warrant taking a different approach to the text.

                    13. Rivers,

                      I would conclude from what you’re saying that man is not made in the image of God because you’ve stated that “image” must refer to physical form and that God has no physical form. This is simple, I think? You’ve stated that the angels created (or at least could have created) Adam and that they appear as men, hence he is created by them in their image. This means God is without image and man therefore is not made in his image, because he has none and therefore could not be speaking or creating man in Genesis 1. Someone who had an image must be creating and speaking. Evidently, this was not God and men aren’t made in his image.

                      If, based on verse 7 of 1st Corinthians 11, you’re concluding that man *only* is created in the image of God then it becomes problematic. He states that man is “the image and glory of God” and woman is “the glory of man.” What does it mean that man is the “image and glory of God” and that woman is “the glory of man.” ?? If man being the image and glory of God means he is like God in some way and woman is the glory of man in some way then don’t we have to conclude that woman is like God? Or, to put it differently, if I build a house based on a model and then someone builds a second house based on my house (which was based on the model) wouldn’t that make the second house also based on the model? (Sorry if this is a confusing example). In other words, aren’t we forced to conclude that even by your interpretation of the word “image” that women are made in the same image that men are?

                      If we agree that men are made in God’s image (although it doesn’t appear we do) and we agree that God is invisible and unseen, then the possibility that “image” in Genesis 1 refers to God’s physical image becomes an impossible interpretation. Besides, as Dale has pointed out, one may use the word “bat” 1,000 times to refer to a wooden stick used in baseball. This says nothing to the 1,001st time when it is used to refer to a winged creature living in a cave.

                      “Him” does refer to one person. “Them” refers to two or more. “Man” (or “adam”) can most certainly be seen as referring to both Adam and Eve together just as “mankind” or “man” can be used of a collective whole including both sexes. The text states that God made “him” in “his” image. Then restates saying both of them were created in such a way.

                      Question: What does it mean that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God”? This was also written by Paul.

                    14. Aaron,

                      I think you’re missing my point about the term ALHYM being inclusive of the angelic host. Since they appear as “men” that is what the “image and likeness of God” was referring to. Thus, ALHYM had a physical (male) form. They are the “us” and “our” speaking in Genesis 1:26-27; Genesis 3:22-24; Genesis 11:7.

                      It seems that Paul drew the distinction between “the image and glory of God” (Adam) and “the glory of the man” (Eve) because he understood that the woman was given the “glory” of her “long hair” to differentiate her appearance from the man (1 Corinthians 11:15-16) and as “authority” on her head (1 Corinthians 11:10). Paul understand from the Hebrew scriptures that the woman originating from Adam was the reason she was not to be considered equal to him (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:33-34; 1 Timothy 2:5-9).

                      Yes, I agree that “him” is singular and “them” is plural. However, in the context of Genesis 1:26-27, there is only one “man” (Adam). Thus, there’s no reason to take Adam as a collective term. If there wasn’t the second singular “him” in Genesis 1:27b, I think your reading would be plausible. But, there was no reason for the writer to insert the second “him” (singular) unless he was referring only to the “man” in Genesis 1:27a as one person (i.e. Adam). This is the distinction that Paul is bearing out in 1 Corinthians 11:8-10 as well.

                    15. Ok I understand I think. I do continue to see some big problems for this view.

                      What does it mean that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” ?

                      Why does James say that we should not curse men who have been made in the likeness of God (theos)? Why doesn’t he use “angeloi” since really men are made in the image of angels? Why doesn’t Paul use the word “angeloi” in his epistles when talking about men being made in their image? According to what I’ve seen from you, there is no possibility that “theos” could mean the angels in these passages in the New Testament. You reject even that “the god (theos) of this world” in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 could be satan or a demon and state this it must mean the one true God. So isn’t it impossible to see James and Paul as understanding the image from Genesis 1 as the image of angels?

                    16. Aaron,

                      Those are good questions.

                      1. My understanding is that the “image of God” language associated with Jesus by the apostles pertained to his glorified body (Philippians 3:21). When Jesus was exalted, he attained “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3) which was something Paul saw when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:13-15). I think this glorified body is probably what “the form of God” referred to in Philippians 2:6 as well.

                      In Colossians 1:16, “the image” (Christ) is contrasted with “the invisible (God). This suggests that the way Christ is seen (i.e. radiant glory) is what represents the God who cannot be seen and dwells in “blinding light” (1 Timothy 6:16). This is also evident in 2 Corinthians 4:4 where “the gospel of Christ” is figuratively associated with “light” and Jesus is called “the image of God.”

                      2. It seems that James is picking up on the “image of God” concept from early Genesis 1:26; Genesis 9:6 that is related to human beings and angels.

                      3. It wouldn’t be necessary to use the term “angels” because the concept of “God” (ALHYM) in the Hebrew scriptures is inclusive of the angelic host. This is less apparent in the Greek scriptures because “God” usually refers to “the Father” after Jesus was born, and he becomes the preeminent as a human being.

                      In what sense do you think Christ was “the image of the invisible God”?

                    17. Hey Rivers,

                      Okay I understand and agree partially. However, I do find it hard to see the “form” (morphe) of God phrase of Jesus in Philippians 2 as referring to his glorified body since he didn’t receive a glorified body until after he had emptied himself and became a servant. However, whatever the “form” is that Jesus had, he set aside and lived humbly before he had a glorified human body. This is true regardless of one’s Christology.

                      I believe that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” in that he fully embodies the rule and reign of God which is displayed and executed through him to the world. I would also agree that we see the full radiance of the glory of God in Jesus and for that reason Paul also called him “the image of the invisible God.” Anyways, the point is that whatever we think about this passage, in either case it is not tied to God the Father having a physical form. This means that we don’t have to interpret the word “image” in this way in each instance that we encounter it in the Bible. It is tied to Jesus reigning and God reigning through Jesus which hearkens back to God’s rule and reign over the creation via Adam and Eve in Genesis 1.

                      About your point #3. Yes I understand but James appears to us in Greek and not Hebrew, as you stated. So if “theos” is used in the passage then this seems to be saying men are made in the image of God (i.e. the Father) not in the image of angelic host. “Elohim” can be used of various beings and has a wider semantic range than “theos” which seems to be used nearly exclusively as the Father and certainly does in this case as used by James.

                    18. Aaron,

                      Thanks again for the detailed reply. Here is a clarification and some thoughts on your perspective:

                      1. In Philippians 2:6, I don’t think it is necessary to insist that Jesus was in “the form of God” before he “emptied himself” because “existing in the form of God” is a Present Participle (UPARXWN) as opposed to all of the subsequent verbs in Philippians 2:6b-8 which are Aorist. Thus, it is plausible to take “existing in the form of God” to be referring to the condition of Jesus at the time Paul was writing the letter (i.e. after he already was exalted and had a “glorified body”, Philippians 2:9-11; Philippians 3:21).

                      From this perspective, the Present Participle in Philippians 2:6a would follow from the use of the Present Imperative (FRONEITE) in Philippians 2:5 rather than being dependent upon the Aorist verbs.

                      2. I’m still skeptical about how you seem to be giving the word “image” (EIKON) the connotation of “ruling.” As I noted before, Genesis 1:26 has a different word for “let them rule” and in Colossians 1:16 it is associated with “creating.” Moreover, “image” is a noun and not a verb.

                      3. We agree that the “image of God” language doesn’t infer that God the Father has a physical body or form. That is why I think the “us” and “our” in Genesis 1:26 must be inclusive of the angelic host. It’s also interesting to note that Jesus didn’t use either EIKON or MORFH when he referred to seeing “God’s form (EIDOS)” in John 5:37.

                      4. I agree with you that ALHYM had a wider semantic range than QEOS. My point about “the image and likeness of God” (Genesis 1:26) being related to the physical form of Adam is predicated upon the fact that ALHYM can be inclusive of the angels (who appeared as “men”, Genesis 18:1-3).

                      5. I think we also need to take into account that the Hebrew term TsLM (“image”) and the Greek term MORFH (“form”) have a very limited semantic range in scriptural usage and always refer to the visible (physical) shape of something. Thus, when those terms are used Genesis 1:26 and Philippians 2:6, it seems that a corporeal implications is unavoidable.

    3. Hi Aaron – I wouldn’t think that being able to pull off creation ex nihilo is required for having supernatural power. I’m just thinking things like instantly showing up and disappearing, glowing gloriously, or really in any way affecting the physical cosmos, not being physical.

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