Image vs. Word II

(If you haven’t read it yet, back up and read the previous post)

The second phase of the biblical relationship between Word and Image is Incarnation. Ellul states that “there is no true theophany.” Instances like these [Gen 18:1-16, Gen 32:22-32, Judges 13, Daniel 3:24-25] are all difficult to discern in terms of whether the apparent theophany is God himself, an angel, or pre-incarnate Christ. In any case, Ellul also asserts that the only possible Image of God is man — because this is the only vessel in which God himself placed his own image:

Gen 1:26-27

Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

What is “our image”? The mystery of the trinity is entwined here, with Son, Father, Spirit mirrored by man’s body, soul, and spirit. I’m not sure how “male and female” relates to God’s image — since my God is all man, I think this last poetic line is affirming more that woman bears God’s image as much as man, rather than that God is androgynous.

Heb 1:3 — So when God decided to represent himself visibly on earth, it was necessary that he come as a man. Jesus is described in this verse by various translations as “the express image of his [God’s] person” (KJV), “the exact representation of his being” (NIV), “the very image of his substance” (ASV), “the exact representation of his nature” (NASB, ESV). Note that the very same verse also reminds us that the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”

John 1:1-14 — This most profound of passages beautifully expresses how the incarnation unites Word and Image.

v1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

v9: The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

v14: And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

What a mindblowing concept: Word become flesh; the immaterial clothed with material; God as man.

All four gospels testify that Jesus’ ministry was kicked off with a double sign of image (dove) and word (“This is my son, in whom I am well pleased”).

John 14:7-9 — Jesus in many instances like this (especially in the book of John) identifies himself with the Father, even visually: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

John 12:44-50 — Jesus transitions here seamlessly from talking about Image (sight/light) to Word (hear, word, speak, commandment).

Even though there was plenty of Image to verify Jesus divinity, it was never meant to be the primary or sole source of evidence. Jesus expressed dissatisfaction with those (like the Pharisees, or doubting Thomas) who demanded evidence in the form of Image. He knew (and warned his disciples) that the phase of Incarnation, in which Word and Image were unified, was only temporary; his current and future disciples would need to learn to get by without Image: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Next phases: New Covenant and Consummation.


2 Responses

  1. I don’t know if it’s Ellul’s or your interpretation on Gen 1:26 that we have a trinity reference, but here are the three views on the subject (from March 15 entry)

    Three views on the ‘let us’ in Gen 1:26

    1) Plurality in the trinity

    * Found at its earliest in the Epistle to Barnabas
    * Justin Martyr (Trypho)
    * Gordon Wenham “now universally is (should be) admitted that this is not what was meant by the author

    2) Plural of Majesty – polite speech

    * Kyle (of the Kyle and Dellich lex. fame)
    * Dillman
    * S.R. Driver (of the BDB dictionary)
    * Problem- this construction exists nowhere in Hebrew. The concept is, then, foreign to Heb. (even though it may be a real idea elsewhere)

    3) Plural in a reference or meaning about the heavenly council – God address his heavenly court

    * Philo, Von Rad, Menninger, and of course Kline
    * See these related verses
    o Is 6:18
    o G3:22
    o 11:7
    + read this against the backdrop of G18,19
    o Kline dominion aspect I&S pg. 22
    o W. Randall Garr “In His Own Image and Likeness”
    o angelic missiology
    o Roman Centurion – I have men under me as well
    o “I could call down legions of angels”
    o Dan 4 (who drenches Nebuchadnezzar?)

    And regarding a doctrine of man that describes a trichotomy (body, soul and spirit) and Heb. 4:12 notwithstanding, the safer approach is to see just a material and an immaterial aspect. The general idea is that in scripture the soul and spirit are used interchangeably. Again, I don’t know if you are referencing Ellul here.

  2. No a lot of this is not quoting, but dimly remembering through a darkened glass, as the book is currently loaned out, and I’m just kind of free-associating off of my earlier notes (just a set of verses)

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