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What does the "image" of God mean?

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The Bible uses the word for image in many ways, including denoting a statue, an idol or a copy ( Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words , 1985, “Statue”). Barnes' Notes  says, “'Image' is a word taken from sensible things, and denotes likeness in outward form, while the material may be different” (notes on Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
).

Likeness means “the original after which a thing is patterned” ( Vine's , “Likeness”). “'Likeness' is a more general term [than image], indicating resemblance in any quality, external or internal” (ibid.).

The creation of all living creatures was introduced with the repeated phrase “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:21 Genesis 1:21And God created great whales, and every living creature that moves, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.
American King James Version×
, 24-25). The introduction of man seems to break the pattern, as it does not say, “The earth will bring forth man according to his kind.” However, the pattern isn't broken at all. Rather, in verse 26 God announced, “Let Us make man after Our image, according to Our likeness”—to resemble God.

Additionally, He endowed man with the ability to think, to create and to dominate the rest of creation. These are godlike qualities, superior to any other creature.

In its notes on Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×
Matthew Henry's Commentary  says, “Man was not made in the likeness of any creature that went before him, but in the likeness of his Creator; yet still between God and man  there is an infinite distance ” (emphasis added). True, there is an infinite difference between God's original creation making humans in His form and shape, with godlike abilities, and His incredible plan to make us of His substance, along with His holy, righteous character. Then the children of God, forever thankful and submissive to the eternal God, will be completely in the image and likeness of our Father (1 John 3:1-2 1 John 3:1-2 1 Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not. 2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
American King James Version×
).

For more information, please read our booklet Who Is God?

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