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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: Is There a Difference between Image and Likeness of God?

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Don Stewart
The Bible says that man was made in the image and likeness of God.

Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Genesis 1:26).

Should we see a distinction between image and likeness?

Different Meaning

The Bible does make a distinction between these words. Image means idols, statutes, or some artistic representation of things that are physical. Likeness has the idea of some type of representation.

Hebrew Parallelism

While it is true that each of these words may have a different dictionary definition, we should not expect to find two different meanings in this passage. This is an example of a common device in Hebrew literature known as parallelism. The two words are actually synonymous. The Hebrews would often emphasize something by stating the same thing in two different ways. This seems to be what we have here. There is no real difference between image and likeness. For example the psalmist said:

Hear my prayer, O LORD; let me cry for help to come to you (Psalm 102:1).

Prayer and cry are two different ways of saying the same thing. This literary device is used for effect.

Like God In Some Sense

Therefore, in Genesis, the text basically means that God, in some sense, has made humanity like Himself. Like we saw in the previous question, we have many things in common with God. We are stamped with God's ownership.

Therefore we should not attempt to find any difference between these two terms.

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