What is the Image of God in Man?

What is the Image of God in Man

William Bucanus (-1603)
Institutions of Christian Religion
pp. 99-103

Of the Image of God in Man.

What is an Image?

It is the portraiture or representation of some thing, and that both in the soul of man—to wit, in the mind or faculty of knowledge, and it is called of the Philosophers an Idea, namely, a form of something conceived in the mind—and also out of the mind. And it is a similitude and fashion either real, of the substance and qualities together, as when Adam is said to beget men after his own image (Gen. 5:3), or else of certain adjuncts alone, as Luke 20:24, a penny hath Caesar’s image. Or else it is some vain shadow and figure.

What difference is there between an image and a similitude?

A similitude hath a larger signification than an image. For where there is an image there is also a similitude, but not of the contrary. For one egg is said to be like another egg, and yet one egg is not the image of another egg. But in this disputation of the image of God in man, this word of similitude or likeness is added to the word image in way of exposition, as Phil. 2:7.

Was man made after the image of God?

He was. For “God created man in his own image” (Gen. 1:27); and Paul saith the man ought not to cover his head because he is the image of God (1 Cor 11:7), and  “the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:10).

Was man only the image of God, or made after his image?

1. Christ is the natural, true, and most perfect image of God the Father, both as he is the eternal Son—For he is begotten of the substance of the Father, not made, and therefore is called the character of his person (Heb. 1:3)—as also, as he is manifested in the flesh, because the whole disposition, perfection, and as it were the face of the Father is beheld in the Son, being made visible by the flesh. Moreover, lest we should be overwhelmed with the clear beholding of God, the Son being clothed with flesh is instead of a glass to us, wherein the Father doth set before us that his infinite majesty, goodness, wisdom, truth, justice, to be seen and beheld of us. Therefore he that seeth me (said Christ) seeth my Father (John 12:45).

2. The Angels also are made after the image of God, because they also are called the sons of God, and they were created spiritual, immortal, and just. And Christ teacheth plainly, that we shall be truly blessed, and therefore like to God, when we shall in heaven be made even as the Angels of God (Mat. 22:30).

3. Man is called the image of God (1. Cor. 11:7), and he is said to be made after the image of God, not only Adam but also Eve (Gen. 1:26). But each of these latter images of God in Angels and men is of God’s free mercy.

Why is man called the image of God?

Because of the true likeness which he hath with God.

Why after his image?

Because of the imperfection of this likeness, in that he did not perfectly represent God, as Christ doth perfectly represent the Father.

Was whole Adam as well in soul as in body made after the image of God?

He was, to wit, wholly, not considered according to the parts. For in Moses, God speaks of the whole man when he saith, “Let us make man (not the soul or body of man) after our image” (Gen. 1:26). Which appeareth by the contrary to the image of God, which is sin, for it hath not only being in the soul but also in the body. And therefore the image of God was not in the soul alone, or the body alone, but in the whole man. Nay this appears by the renewing of this image by sanctification, which is in soul and body.

Moreover, God forbidding man to kill, bringeth this reason, because he is the image of God (Gen. 9:6). And therefore the image of God is to be understood of the whole man, which image of God notwithstanding did first of all chiefly and especially shine in the soul, yet so as the sparks of that image should appear in the body.

What was the image of God in man, and how many parts of it?

The image of God is considered in man: first, in regard of the substance of man, and especially of his soul.

2. In respect of the gifts and qualities, but yet so as they be distinguished from the essence thereof.

3. In respect of the attributes or dignity, superiority, lordship and excellency above the other creatures.

Why is man called the image of God in respect of the substance of his soul?

1. Because the soul which God puts into man is a nature spiritual, and intelligible; not bodily, but an immortal and invisible essence, which in some small measure doth represent the nature of God.

2. There being but one only soul in man, endued with many faculties—as memory, imagination, will—is such a mystical sign (as Augustine thinketh) which sheweth the unity of the divine essence and the plurality of persons.

Why in respect of the gifts?

Because God in the beginning did kindle in the mind of man a spark of heavenly wisdom, whereby he did truly know God, and his will revealed unto him. And also all the works of God, and the natures of all things with their properties; as it may be gathered from that, that when as Adam was awaken out of sleep he did know Eve whence she was taken, saying, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23), and he gave names to all living creatures according to their natures (v. 19).

Further, because in his will God had adorned man with perfect justice and holiness, whereby he did lively represent as it were in a glass, and imitate the justice and holiness of God. He had furnished him also with strength fit for the performance of every good duty. Lastly, with a body most beautifully framed to obey the soul which moved it most readily and without all weariness. Whereupon Paul saith, “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24), and “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col. 3:9).

Why is man said to be made after the image of God, in respect of his dignity and lordship?

Because that by his rule and authority which he hath over all living creatures, and over all the creatures of this earth, he did represent God himself, the sovereign Lord of all things upon earth. For he saith: Bear ye rule (to wit, the man and the woman) “over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). “Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands” (Ps. 8:6). To which belongeth that Adam by his authority and preeminence given by God, did in the beginning summon all living creatures before him, to which calling of his, they did obey (Gen. 2:19-20). And this image belongeth to the external appointment of God.

Whence also by reason of his authority over his wife and over his whole family, man is called the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7). For in that preeminence whereby the man doth excel the woman, the glory and image of God is seen in some sort, as in all other superiorities. And the woman was not made after this image, but it is peculiar to the man, which is gathered both from the very order and end of the creation: for the woman was made of the man, and for the man’s sake, but not of the contrary (1. Cor. 11:8-9).

Did Adam loose by his sin all those part or degrees of the image of God?

The two extreme and last parts, in respect of some small shadows and remnants remained in man. Wild beasts do suffer themselves to be ruled and to be tamed, that they may obey man, or at least may not hurt him. The middle also in respect of the understanding, and some part of the will remaineth, otherwise we should be no longer men, but altogether brute beasts. But in regard of the true knowledge of God, righteousness and holiness, it is utterly erased by the means of sin, yet in the regenerate it is renewed daily through Christ, and shall be perfected in the life to come.

How doth the image of God shine in man’s body?

1. Not in respect simply that it is a body and endued with such a form, but so far forth as the body is joined with a reasonable soul, carrieth with it some part of the image of God, and doth in some sort comprehend it in the whole world. Whereupon also man is called a little world, wherein shineth the builder and master workman of the whole world.

2. Because the diverse members of the body, eyes, ears, mouth, tongue, hands, do represent the spiritual parts of God, that is to say, his spiritual perfections, wisdom, power, and the rest of God’s attributes, no otherwise than the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, the table, vessels and sacrifices were representations of heavenly and spiritual things (Heb. 8:5, 9, 24 & 10:1).

3. Because the gifts of the mind do make the body shine, even as the light of the candle doth make the skin of the lantern to shine. And the very righteousness and holiness of the soul did redound to the very body, and to the members of the body. And so by that means man did exercise, by the body, that sovereignty and excellency upon all inferior creatures, and carried in his countenance a certain sovereign majesty, by means whereof the beasts also did acknowledge him for their Lord (Gen. 2:20).

Why and to what end did God create man after his own image?

1. That God who is in himself and in his own nature invisible, might make his essence and nature in some sort visible in man, as it were in a glass, and so by this means might offer himself to be known of man. For the proper end and use of a picture is that he whose picture it is might thereby be known.

2. To the end that God being so acknowledged of man, he might love, worship, and glorify him, for every like loveth his like.

3. That God himself might of the other side unite man unto himself, as being like unto him, unto eternal happiness.

4. To the end that men being made after the same likeness of God, might not only love and reverence God, but one another, both in this life, and that which is to come.

5. That the reprobates, being made after the image of God, might be without all excuse.

What things are against this doctrine?

1. The heresy of the Manichees and of the Anthropomorphites, who feigned God to have a body, who should frame the body of Adam after the image and likeness of his own body.

2. The dotage of Osiander, who taught that the body of man was framed after the shape or idea of that body which Christ should afterwards assume.

3. Also of Flaccus Illyricus, who affirmed that the image of God, that is, his holiness and righteousness, was of the essence of his soul.

4. Of the Schoolmen, who affirmed that the image of God was nothing else but a certain accessory and outward decency.


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