Was Adam Anatomically in God’s Image?

Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo

God is human in the New Testament

God the Father, which is the divine soul, is non-material, and therefore does not have a physical body made out of physical matter as we do.

God the Son, which is the divine body, did become material and take on a physical body just like us, and rose from the tomb with his entire body.

That body was not made of matter, because it was able to pass through locked doors (see John 20:19) and could appear and disappear (see Luke 24:31). However, it was not a spirit either, since it could directly interact with matter, such as by eating some fish (see Luke 24:36–43).

When Jesus ascended up to heaven (Luke 24:50–53), he ascended in his familiar human form, visible to his disciples.

And when John later saw him in heaven (see Revelation 1:12–16), he also saw him in fully human form, wearing a robe and a sash, with hair, a head, eyes, feet, a right hand (and presumably also a left hand), a face, and a tongue—though it is described as being like a “sharp, double-edged sword.” That sword-like tongue is the only detail of John’s vision of Christ that is not fully human in appearance.

John also saw Christ in other forms, such as that of a lamb who had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6). However, the common experience of the Apostles, and of people in general right up to today when they have visions of Christ, is to see him as a human being.

God is human in the Old Testament

The Bible’s descriptions of God as human are in no way limited to the New Testament and to descriptions of Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God is described not only as having all different human thoughts and emotions, but also as having all the parts of the human body. God has:

This list could continue. These and many other passages show that in the Old Testament, as in the New Testament, God is described as human, with all of the body parts of a human being.

Yes, all of these body parts of God are commonly interpreted as figurative of God’s thoughts, feelings, and power to act. And yet, the fact remains that all of the body parts that we think of as making up a human being anatomically are also attributed to God in the Bible.

So when God created humankind in his own image (Genesis 1:26–27), it’s clear that even the parts, limbs, and organs of our physical anatomy reflect corresponding parts, limbs, and organs in God.

We are human because God is human

Since God is a divine being rather than a material being, God’s parts are made of divine substance rather than physical matter. But according to the Bible, God does indeed have all of the body parts that we do, even if God may have them in a way and at a level of reality that we cannot fully grasp or conceive of because God is infinite, but our minds are finite.

The primary way that we humans are made in God’s image is that we have finite versions of all the infinite parts and qualities of God’s mind and heart, such as love, wisdom, compassion, understanding, knowledge, and so on.

But even when it comes to the anatomy of our physical body, based on the Bible’s descriptions of God, the answer is yes, even anatomically Adam, Eve, and every other human being are all created in the image and likeness of God.

(Note: This post is a slightly edited version of an answer I originally wrote and posted on Christianity StackExchange. You can see the original question on StackExchange here, and the StackExchange version of my answer here.)

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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4 comments on “Was Adam Anatomically in God’s Image?
  1. larryzb says:

    In Hinduism (Vedic philosophy), this is touched upon and the conclusion is that we humans have theomorphic bodies.

    • Lee says:

      Hi larryzb,

      Interesting. As ancient as it is, Hinduism seems to go back to the period that Swedenborg calls “the ancient church,” which stretches from late pre-history to the time of the Exodus from Egypt and the giving of the Ten Commandments in the biblical narrative. Though Hinduism, like other religions, got corrupted over the centuries and millennia, it still does have some relics of that ancient wisdom.

  2. Interesting idea. What do you think are the implications for our physical likeness to God?

    As a thought experiment, if God has a form other than the human form, wouldn’t the authors of the Bible still have used terms that they and their audience would understand (ie. human anatomical terms) to describe God?

    • Lee says:

      Hi Alexander,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Good questions!

      First and foremost, from the perspective of Swedenborg’s theology, everything in the material universe reflects and expresses, or “corresponds to” something in the spiritual universe, which, in turn, corresponds to something in the nature of God. Another way of saying this is that Creation reflects and expresses the nature of the Creator—and not just in general, but in detail.

      This means that our physical likeness to God is not arbitrary. Each part of our physical body reflects and corresponds to something specific in spiritual reality, which, in turn, corresponds to something specific in God. Our arms and hands, for example, are the means by which we get things done, or express power physically. So they correspond to spiritual and divine power. This is the meaning of such biblical phrases as “the arm of the Lord” and “the right hand of God.” Every other part of the body has a similar correspondence to something specific in our spirit, and to something specific in God. In this way we are made “in the image and likeness of God,” as it says is Genesis 1:26–27.

      The human form in its divine essence is not arbitrary, so that God would have something other than a human form. The human form is an expression of divine love, wisdom, and power, which are intrinsic and irreducible essentials of God. However, theoretically, if God had some other form, yes, we’d likely put God in our anatomical terms anyway. Similarly, many things in the Bible are expressed in particular cultural terms, but point to greater universals about God and spirit. (See: “How God Speaks in the Bible to Us Boneheads,” especially the section titled, “Divine tablets vs. human tablets.”)

      But as I say in the above article, I believe that we are human because God is human. Yes, sometimes we “create” God in our own image, such as attributing negative human emotions of anger, jealousy, vanity, pettiness, and so on to God. But ultimately, we are created human in God’s image, not the reverse.

      Having said that, the human form can encompass many variations, some of which we might not initially recognize as human. I find it fascinating that most science fiction aliens are humanoid in form, regardless of whether they are pictured as evolving from reptiles, birds, mammals, or something else. Is a “humanoid” human? Science fiction generally treats them as human as long as they have what we think of as the basic human psychological characteristics of reason and free will. Even non-humanoid-shaped aliens who are sentient, rational beings with free will are commonly treated as having the same standing as humans.

      Among humans on earth, some individuals and groups have unusual features, such as six fingers instead of five. This doesn’t make them any less human than those with more common anatomical features. And of course, males and females have distinct reproductive systems, but are both fully human. I suspect that “the human form” can encompass even more variety than we have encountered or imagined here on earth.

      This is a huge subject, which I can’t do justice to in a brief comment. If you want to look further into the spiritual side of human anatomy, here are a couple of books you might enjoy:

      1. Correspondences of the Bible: The Human Body, by John Worcester. Originally published in 1889 as Physiological Correspondences. This started out as a course for teens on the spiritual meanings of the human body, and was then published as a book. It is therefore fairly non-technical, but fascinating nonetheless.
      2. Emanuel Swedenborg: The Universal Human and Soul-Body Interaction, translated by George F. Dole. This includes Swedenborg’s commentary on the correspondences of the human body extracted from his major work Arcana Coelestia. It’s a steeper hill to climb, but gives the primary source material from which Worcester drew the material in the previous book.

      Meanwhile, feel free to continue the conversation here if you like.

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Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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