Genesis i. 26-31.

June 25, 2010

And he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.  And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them.  And God blessed them, saying: Increase and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it, and rule over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and all living creatures that move upon the earth.  And God said: Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed upon the earth, and all trees that have in themselves seed of their own kind, to be your meat: and to all the beasts of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to all that move upon the earth, and wherein there is life, that they may have to feed upon.  And it was so done.  And God saw all the things that he had made, and they were very good.  And the evening and morning were the sixth day.

26-31. The completion of the work of ornation.  The sixth day (ii): the creation of man.

26a. “Let us make man to our image”

St. Chrysostom: “To whom was it said, Let us make man; and with whom did the Lord make this consultation?  It is not as if He had need of counsel and deliberation; far be that thought from us; rather, by the style of these words He wished to declare what excellent honor he was granting to man, whom He had fashioned.  What therefore do they say, who still have a veil upon their heart,[1] and do not want to understand any of the things that are contained here?  These things were said, so they say, to an Angel or an Archangel.  O madness, o vast ignorance!  And by what possible reason is it fitting, my good man, that the Angels should enter into consultation with the Lord, and creatures with their Creator?  For it is not the Angels’ place to give counsel, but to assist, and fulfill their ministry … Who, therefore, is he, to whom God said, Let us make man?  Who other than that Angel of great counsel, that wonderful counsellor, powerful, the prince of peace, the father of the world to come,[2] the only-begotten Son of God, equal to the Father according to substance, through whom all things were brought forth?” (ibid., 2, 3.).

St. Basil: “To whom does He say: to our image?  To whom else, I ask, than to the splendor of His glory,[3] and to the impression of his substance, Him who is the image of the invisible God?”[4] (Hexæmeron, ix. 6.).

St. Augustine: “What is said in the other works is not to be received indifferently: God said: Be it made; here, however: God said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: to insinuate, if I may say so, the plurality of persons, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  However, Scripture immediately warns us that the unity of the deity is to be understood, saying: And God created man to His own image; not the Father creating to the image of the Son, or the Son creating to the image of the Father; besides, it would not have been truly said, to our image, if man was made solely to the image of the Father or of the Son … This signifies that this plurality of persons does not mean, that we may say, or believe, or think, that there are many gods; no: the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and it is with regard to this Trinity that it is said to our image; but that we might accept the one God, it is said, to the image of God” (De Genesi ad litteram, III. xix. 29.).

St. Ambrose: “To whom does He speak?  Not to Himself at any rate, because He does not say ‘Let me make,’ but Let us make.  Not to the Angels, because they are His ministers;[5] and it is not possible for servants to have a share with their master, or creatures with their Creator.  No, He speaks to the Son: even if the Jews do not wish it, even if the Arians fight against it … Would He say to the Angels: Let us make man to our image and likeness?  Hear what Scripture says the image of God is: Who hath delivered us, it says, from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins; Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.[6] He is the image of God the Father, He Who always is, and was in the beginning.[7] Indeed He is the image Who says: Philip, he that seeth me seeth the Father also.[8] And how sayest thou, when thou seest the image of the living Father, Shew us the Father?  Do you not believe, that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?[9] The image of God is power, not weakness: the image of God is wisdom, the image of God is justice: but divine wisdom, and eternal justice” (Hexæmeron, VI. vii. 40-41.).

Cf. S. Beda, In Principium Genesis I. col. 28; In Pentateuchum Comentarii, col. 200; Peter Lombard, Sententiarum I. ii. 4.

26b. The difference between image and likeness.

St. Thomas: “It is to be said that, as Augustine says,[10] ‘where there is an image, there is necessarily a likeness; but where there is a likeness, there is not necessarily an image.’  From which it is clear that likeness is of the nature of image, and that image adds something above the nature of likeness, namely that it is expressum, copied and shaped, from something else; for an image is so called because it imitates another.  Whence an egg, however much it may be similar and equal to another egg, nevertheless because it is not expressum, copied and shaped, from it, it is not said to be its image” (ST. Ia q. xciii. a. i.).

“As a good can be compared to some specific thing as as a preamble to it, and as subsequent to it, just as it designates some perfection belonging to it; in the same way also is the comparison of likeness to image.  For good is a preamble to man, in that man is a certain particular good; and again good is subsequent to man, in so far as we say a specific man in particular to be good, because of the perfection of his virtue.  And likewise, likeness is considered as a preamble to image, in so far as it is more common than an image, as was said above; it is also considered as subsequent to image, in so far as it signifies a certain perfection of the image; for we say that an image of something is similar or dissimilar to that of which it is an image, in as much as it perfectly or imperfectly represents it” (ibid., a. ix.).

28. The nature of man’s likeness to God revealed by God’s blessing.

St. Augustine: “After God had said, to our image, He immediately added, and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and of the other animals lacking reason: clearly so that we might understand that man is made in the image of God in respect to that, in which he surpasses irrational animals.  And this is reason itself: whether it is called mind, or intellegence, or some other more suitable word.  Whence the Apostle says: Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man,[11] who is renewed unto knowledge, according to the image of him that created him:[12] sufficiently showing where man is created to the image of God: not in the features of the body, but in a certain intelligible form of the illuminated mind” (De Genesi ad litteram, III. xx. 30.).

St. Chrysostom: “God makes clear to us by the words he adds, in what sense He has used the word image.  For what does he say?  And let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth.  Therefore He said image with regard to power and dominion, not with regard to anything else: for indeed God made man ruler[13] over everything that exists on earth; and nothing on earth is greater than man, but all things are under his power” (Homiliæ in Genesin, viii. 3.).

30. The blessings given to man.

St. Bernard: “Let us give thanks, brethren, to our Creator … The first thing He granted to us, is that we are ourselves: since He made us, and not we ourselves[14] Lest anyone be content with this gift, granted that it is so great, He who caused you to be when you were not, also pours forth for you things by which you, who already were, can subsist.  Nor has He done this less generously, than He did the first wondrously.  Let us make, it says, man to our image and likeness.  And what afterwards?  And let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of the air.  Already it had taught that even the heavenly elements were created for your use.  For you remember that they were made for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years.  For whom, do you think?  No one but yourself.  All the other creatures either have no need of all these, or do not understand them.  How plentiful He was in this second blessing; how very generous He was!  How great are the things He lavished on you for your sustenance; for your instruction; for your consolation; for your correction, and also for your delight!  Truly these two blessings are given to you without cost, and He made them doubly without cost.  What do I mean, doubly without cost?  Without merit on your part, without effort on His.  For He spoke, and they were made[15] (Sermones de Tempore, In Psalmum xc., XIV. 1, 2.).

31. “They were very good”

St. Augustine: “And you saw, God, all the things you made, and, behold, they were very good.  In the different varieties of your works, when you spoke, that they might come into being, and be made, you saw that this and that were good.  Seven times I counted it written[16] that you saw that what you made was good; and this is the eighth time, and you saw all things that you made, and behold they were not only good but even very good: just as, as it were, all things together.  For separately they were only good; together, though, all things are very good.  Every beautiful body also declares this: for the body that consists of all the beautiful members is much more beautiful than the members themselves separately – by whose most orderly coming together the whole body is completed – however beautiful the members may be on their own” (Conf., XIII. xxviii. 43.).

[1] 2 Cor. iii. 15.

[2] Is. ix. 6, LXX (5): καὶ καλεῖται τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ μεγάλης βουλῆς ἄγγελός, θαυμαστὸς σύμβουλος, ἐξουσιαστής, ἄρχων εἰρήνης, πατὴρ τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος.  Vulgate/DR: And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.

[3] Hebr. i. 3.

[4] Col. i. 15.

[5] Ps. xiii. 4.

[6] Col. i. 13-15.

[7] John i. 1.

[8] John xiv. 9.

[9] ibid. 9-10.

[10] QQ. 83, qu. 74.

[11] Eph. iv. 23-24.

[12] Col. iii. 10.

[13] Gr. ἄρχοντα.  PL translates principem, “leader, chief.”

[14] Ps. ic. 3.

[15] Ps. xxxii. 9.

[16] According to the LXX and the corresponding Old Latin.


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