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What is The Image of God?

The first clue the ancient text provides about this mysterious image is found in two words of Genesis 1:2 – “RUACH ELOHIYM.” RUACH is defined as breath, wind or spirit; ELOHIYM is the word translated God. They are traditionally translated as “Spirit of God.” But, since they are in a “construct state,” this means they are so closely united that “together they constitute one compound idea.”1 It is important to know where the RUACH ELOHIYM is located in the account – “It was hovering above the surface of the waters.” The ancient text makes it clear that everything created has its own specific place and that requires a map. Words you take for granted mean very different things in this account, beginning with “Earth.”

Everything Has a Place

1. Humans live on the dry thing named “Earth.”

2. Water creatures live in the Seas.

3. Winged creatures fly beneath the Heavens.

4. Sun, moon and stars are set in the Heavens.

5. Nothing is said about the waters outside the Heavens.

6. The space above the surface of the waters of the primordial ocean is the domain of RUACH ELOHIM.

RUACH ELOHIYM constitutes one compound idea; a great, unformulated, latent theological principle that can only be expressed by implication:

God is to be assigned neither to the realm of nature nor to the realm of spirit. God is not nature and not spirit either, but that both have their origin in him.2 RUACH ELOHIYM is not to be split unbridgeably into two separate things. Its meaning must include a “spiritual meaning” that is connected with “concrete physicality.3

A more accurate 21st century option for translating RUACH in this context is “energy.” Visualize an “energy of God” hovering above the surface of the waters which has the power to transform the concrete reality beneath it. In the space beneath the Heavens the “energy of God” reveals its presence as “moving air.” This may be experienced “as gentle as a peaceful breath” or as “comforting as the air beneath the wings of an eagle hovering above its nest and feeding its young” or as a “violent God-storm so powerful it can destroy the entire creation.”

Unlike other religions, the revelation about “the image of God” in this account requires those who believe in this God to include this belief in Realities -- the presence of the RUACH ELOHIM is with every human.

● The presence of the RUACH ELOHIM is with their tribal members.

● The presence of the RUACH ELOHIM is with outsiders.

● The presence of the RUACH ELOHIM is with their friends.

● The presence of the RUACH ELOHIM is with their enemies.

The Jewish Scriptures contain the successes and failures of the different generations of humans that have tried to incorporate this revelation in real life situations. However, there was something else that God gave humans than His image that you must understand too – His Blessing.

Humans are creatures made with the image of God and empowered by His blessing.

We will discuss the blessing in the next blog.

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1 A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew (Second Edition) by J. Weingreen © 1959 Oxford Press, New York, NY; p. 44.
2 Scripture and Translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig (translated by Lawrence Rosenwald with Everett Fox); © 1994 Indiana University Press, Indianapolis, Indiana; p. 15.

3 Scripture and Translation; pp. 86-87.


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