Does Genesis 1:27 tell us that “God created both man and woman equally in his image” as we are so often told by Christian Feminists, Egalitarians and even many conservative Bible teachers? Does this passage or the surrounding passages show that God split his attributes between man and woman – so that only together do they form the true image of God?
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Every Word of the Bible is important, that is one of the tenants of our faith. I don’t want to lose you with technicalities, so we will look at the two most important words in this key passage of Scripture which will help to set the tone for this discussion. The words are “man” and “him”.
A Quick Bible History Lesson
The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language. One of the words translated as “man” comes from the Hebrew word “adam”. “adam” is both the name of the first man, as well as a word used to reference all of mankind (all humanity, men and women). In Genesis 1:27, the Hebrew word here is “adam”.
Is the “adam” of Genesis 1:27 referring to “mankind” (all human beings) or is it referring particularly to Adam, and the male gender of humanity?
The exact Hebrew phrase here is eth haa-‘adam. “eth” literally means “this same”, and “haa” is similar to our English word “the”. Literally this phrase could be “this same man” or “the same man”. In any case, it refers very particularly to Adam, not mankind in general. This is why it is correct that that translators accurately add the phrase “created he him”. The “him” here, refers to a particular person – to Adam.
But What About “male and female created he them”?
The phrase “male and female created he them”, refers to the fact that God created both man and woman. It does not mean that he created them at the same time or that he created them both in his image. We can clearly see that this is not the case from Genesis chapter 2 when Eve was created from Adam’s rib.
Woman Made in the Image of God But is Not the Image of God
God gave the following command to Noah after the flood as part of his Noahic Covenant:
“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” – Genesis 9:6 (KJV)
This passage is different from Genesis 1:27 in that there is no qualifier saying this is talking about about a particular man – that being Adam. The context of this passage indicates that “man” in this passage represents all people, all of mankind which includes both men and women. So while Genesis 1:27 does not specifically say woman was created in God’s image, Genesis 9:6 does in say she was.
If this was the last revelation from God on how he created men and women then we might conclude that man and woman were created in God’s image in the same way or equally.
However, in the New Testament the Apostle Paul is given divine commentary from God on the Genesis account where he states:
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.” – I Corinthians 11:7 (KJV)
The Greek word translated as “man” in this passage above is “male”. So it in its most literal form it is saying “For the MALE indeed out not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God, but the FEMALE is the glory of MALE”.
Genesis 1:27 says the particular man, Adam was created in God’s image and that God made both male and female human beings. Genesis 9:6 says that God created all mankind in his image, including men and women, and this is why it is wrong to murder and this is why all human life has special value to God. But then I Corinthians 11:7 states that the male is the image and glory of God but the female is the glory of the male. So how do we harmonize all of these statements about men and women being created in the image of God?
The answer is the word “is“. Look Genesis 9:6 and I Corinthians 11:7 again compared side by with the special emphasis I show below:
|Genesis 9:6 (KJV)||Corinthians 11:7 (KJV)|
|“Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God MADE he man.”||“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he IS the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”|
Both man and woman were MADE in the image of God, but only man IS the image God. that is a fundamental truth of the Scriptures. But what is this difference that the Scriptures are communicating between “made” and “is”. I think the best way to describe this is to look at the table below illustrating the characteristics of God’s image in both men and women.
The word “characteristic” can be used as both a noun and an adjective. When used in as a noun a characteristic describes something that is a distinguishing trait or something that is an integral part of something or someone. When used as adjective is refers to something that is typical of something or someone.
So if we look at the characteristics of God in the above table we can see in the middle the characteristics that both man and woman share with God. These characteristics of self-awareness, speech, creativity, morality and emotions are what separate man and woman from the animals.
So when God says in Genesis 9:6 that mankind, both men and women, were made in the image of God it is these shared attributes of humanity to which God is referring. And it is these attributes of God’s image that gives value to every single human life.
But if you look at the chart above again you will notice something else.
While male human beings do not have all the characteristics of God in that they lack God’s deity characteristics there is nothing that is characteristic of Man that is not also characteristic of God. The same cannot said for female human beings. There are many traits that are characteristic of women that are not characteristic of God.
And this is why we can rightly say based upon the Word of God that while both man and woman were MADE in the image of God that only man IS the image of God.
Some may contend that that God can demonstrate some of the qualities of the feminine human nature as well. For instance God will sometimes act in empathetic ways. Others will point to Christ’s submission to the Father or Christ’s gentleness in some situations.
But if we look at men, can even the most masculine man sometimes act in ways that are more typical for feminine behavior? Do men sometimes show empathy? Yes. Do men sometimes cry as women do? Yes. Can men be gentle and caring as women are sometimes? Yes. But the question is this – is this behavior typical for men or characteristic of men? The answer is no.
In the same way God may act in more feminine ways at times but this is the exception and not characteristic or typical of his behavior.
The truth of God’s Word is that while man and woman were both made in the image of God, it is the masculine human nature which more closely represents the image and character of God.
Why Does This Matter?
Some will continue to reject what I have shown here from the Word of God, even though it is plainly in front of them. They will reject 99 percent of references to God in the masculine sense, and cling to those 1% of references to God that seem to be indicating a feminine sense.
But others who may accept this on face value, still might ask – “why does it matter if God’s image is more accurately represented in “masculine humanity” than in “feminine humanity”?
We don’t teach this belief to belittle women, or to say that men have more value to God than women. If any person is reading that into my words here, I have said no such thing. Every human being, whether they are male or female, have equal value to God. In fact in I Peter 3:7, men are commanded to honor their wives as “the weaker vessel” and we are told in Ephesians 6:2 to honor our mothers.
But understanding that God’s image is best reflected in that of masculine humanity, and not as well in feminine humanity is very important.
Today masculinity has come under massive attack because of modern feminism and egalitarianism, men are constantly called to be more like women. But would any Christian leaders today have the courage to say women ought to try and emulate men more?
How Should Women Try to Emulate the Image of God in Men More?
By “emulate men more”, I don’t mean women need to start dressing or acting exactly like men – we already have way too much that today! What I mean is that women ought to try and emulate the sense of duty that many men have, rather than living their lives completely by their feelings.
- Do your duty toward God, even when you don’t feel like it, or don’t feel his presence.
- Do your duty toward your husband, even when you don’t feel like it, or perhaps don’t feel an emotional connection with him.
- Do your duties as mother toward your children, even when you do not feel like doing them, and even when you don’t feel appreciated by your children.
- Do your duties toward your home, and keep up your home even when you don’t feel like it.
God’s Love is More Often Seen as a Love Founded in a Commitment of the Will, a Duty
When the Bible famously says in I John 4:8, that “God is love” it is literally saying God is “Agape”.
Agape love is a love of the will, of duty and commitment, and this is the way that God’s love is most often described, it is not a love based in emotion. It is the strongest kind of love, and an unconditional kind of love. The emotional type of love, Philia love, is used far less to describe the kind of love God has towards us, or that we are to have toward God.
This is another way in which women should try to emulate men more. Women most often love based on feelings, or how others make them feel. Men more often love from a sense of will, duty and commitment, this is the driving force of how God loves us. A woman should try to emulate this Agape love that men usually possess more naturally than women often do.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying women need to become exactly like men, God created women with the natures they have for a reason. God purposefully made woman both emotionally weaker and physically weaker (“the weaker vessel”) so that he could demonstrate his strength in woman’s weakness.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I Corinthians 12:9(KJV)
Just as God made all of humanity(both men and women), weaker than him, so that he could demonstrate his strength and glory in us, so too woman was made weaker than man, so that man could exercise the image of God within him, by being a strength for her.
I hope as both men and women, we will all seek to emulate God more each day in our lives. The battle with our sin and pride will never end until God takes us out of these sin cursed bodies. As Christians, we ought to honor true and Biblical masculine qualities, and not belittle them or engage in the misandry(hatred of all things male) that we too often see today in our TV shows, books and schools. But in our honoring of true Biblical masculinity, we ought never to dishonor women, but continue to honor them as the “weaker vessel” as the Apostle Peter commanded us to do.