Genesis 1.26-27A great deal has been written about the theological significance of humans being created "in the image of God." Recently, in reading Wes Howard-Brook's Come Out, My People! I was struck by a particular perspective on this subject.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Specifically, the claim that all human beings are images of God was a radical anti-imperial claim. Consider images during the time of the biblical writings. Whose images were made and why? In the Old Testament images were made of "gods" like Pharaoh or the Babylonian kings. In the New Testament images were made of "sons of god" like the Caesars. Common people did not have their images made. They did not see their images on coins or in public statuary. Being "the image of god" was something only rulers, kings, Caesars, and emperors could claim.
And into this milieu Genesis speaks a subversive word. All human beings--men and women--are images of God. More, these same images "rule," just like the Caesars and Pharaohs!
Here was a universalizing and democratization of the image of God. And one can only imagine the affront this caused ruling elites--the blasphemy!--and the effect it must have had on the self-perceptions of the downtrodden listening to the stirring and subversive message of Genesis 1.