The image of God is both male and female.
That's really an odd sentence, and it's horribly confusing if you stop and actually think about it. The key is that it is not God Who is both male and female, but God's image - us. God is neither. Male and female are attributes of physical beings, while God is Spirit.
So, if we step back in light of that distinction, and look at the image of God again we must be looking at men and women. It takes (unfallen) men and women together to represent God in the way He intended. When God was deciding how to form a physical image of His Spiritual perfection, He settled on creating mankind male and female. God, as Spirit, is and does things He centered in males. He also is and does things that he centered in females. Why? I don't know, but it's a beautiful picture that He has created.
I would love to jump into applications of this fact, except that Paul says:
1 Cor 11:7
A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
Paul has made what sounds like a solid declaration that the woman bears the image of the man, and not of God - that she is an image of the image of God.
I cannot say that I know anyone who truly believes that the image of God is not borne by women. Maybe by this time tomorrow, that will have changed, but I am starting here as a possible point of common ground. Hopefully, we all will see this in a reasonably similar way. My objectives are two-fold. One, I hope that we will all agree that the image of God cannot be properly represented by males alone. Two, I hope that we will all agree that Paul's statements are not always clear.
If I am going to take a look at the image of God, and see how it is borne, I am going to look at two things, the first mention of His image, and what we know about Him.
The First Mention of the Image of God
And 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 creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
(That's pretty cool - when I cut/paste from Crosswalk, the lexicon entries still work.)
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
Check this out. Click "man" in the 7th word of the first passage. You will go to a page that tells you about ~da, which is Adam. If you then refresh this page, you will note that "Adam", the 8th word from the end of the second passage is purple (or whatever color displays for visited links.) This is because the word for "man" and the word for "Adam" in Hebrew are exactly the same word, so when you visited the word for "man," you also visited the word for "Adam."
So, when God created Adam, He created man. This word also means, "mankind." So, the writer of Genesis has gone out of his way to tell us that mankind was created in the image of God as male and female.
Score one for the image of God being properly represented by a plurality of people including both male and female.
What We Know About God
If we know God to be and do things that we would understand as male and female attributes, then we can logically conclude that His attributes could not be completely represented by only male or female. We all accept that God does things typically interpreted as masculine. Is God and does God do things typically interpreted as feminine?
1) El Shaddai is often interpreted as God Almighty. It is readily accepted by many, though, that this could better be interpreted as God our Nurture/Supply. This is because shad, in the Hebrew, is breast. If God the Nurturing Breast is a reasonable interpretation of El Shaddai, then we have a solid reference to a feminine attribute of God.
2) The Spirit was a Mother Bird over all the earth.
Gen 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown
[This the text from Crosswalk.com]
the Spirit of God moved--literally, continued brooding over it, as a fowl does, when hatching eggs.
[This is the text from the bound version of the same commentary]
moved on -- Our English version does not give the meaning correctly; for this word does not convey the idea of progressive motion, but that of brooding over -- cherishing -- the act of incubation which a fowl performs when hatching its eggs.
[Fascinating how different the two texts are. I wonder who made the changes?]
as the hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and hovers over them, to warm and cherish them, Mt. 23:37,—as the eagle stirs up her nest, and flutters over her young (it is the same world that is here used), Deu. 32:11. Learn hence, That God is not only the author of all being, but the fountain of life and spring of motion.
[Baker's Evangelical Dictionary lists this verse as a reference on sexual immorality. That's a kick.]
I'm reasonably sure we could find lots of references for the Spirit's brooding over the face of the deep as a feminine act.
3) Let me quote a number of verses all neatly aggregated for us by Christians for Biblical Equality at their page, What Language Shall We Use? There is a lot on this link that I have not quoted here for those who are interested.
Deuteronomy 32:18: “You deserted the Rock, who bore you. You forgot the God who gave you birth.”
Hosea 13:8: “Like a bear robbed of her cubs, I will attack them and rip them open.”
Isaiah 46:3–4: “[Y]ou whom I have upheld since you were conceived, and have carried since your birth. Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Isaiah 66:13: “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”
Job 38:29: “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens... ?”
Psalm 90:2: “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world . . .”
Hosea 11:3–4: “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love; I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them.”
Also from this page, let me quote:
Holy Spirit (in Hebrew is feminine, ruah...)
4) The Lord does "women's work" for us.
Gen 2:18 And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
The word "meet" in that verse, as in "help meet", is "ezer" in Hebrew (as you will see if you click on the link.) It appears 21 times in scripture according to Crosswalk's count, and the overwhelming majority of times it appears describing what God is to us. Here it describes what the woman is to be to the man. I'm cool with either seeing this as elevating the role of the wife to be like that of God toward us, or simply describing the work of God as the same as the work of a wife. Either the woman is doing something distinctly unfeminine here, or God is doing something feminine in the Psalms.
Send thee help from the sanctuary, and strengthen thee out of Zion;
Our soul waiteth for the LORD: he is our help and our shield.
But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O LORD, make no tarrying.
Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.
O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.
Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth.
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Paul and the Image of God
On the human side, we have seen that from the beginning, God made all of mankind the bearer of His image, and that this mankind includes male and female. On the heavenly side, we have seen that God is not ashamed to ascribe to Himself feminine attributes and actions. The obvious conclusion is that the masculine and feminine sides of mankind both show forth (glorify) crucial portions of the Godhead.
So, what is Paul's take on all this? It seems pretty negative so far!
Paul uses the Greek word for, "image," 7 other times according to Crosswalk.com.
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Of those 7 other times, Paul refers to idols 1 time, all of us being made like Christ 4 times, and Christ Himself bearing/being the Image of God 2 times. When Paul refers to us being made like Christ, it is clear that he is refering equally to men and women, but he is not refering to the likeness of God that we bear. Neither is he refering to this likeness when he talks about idols.
That leaves us with 2 verses that say Christ is the Image of God, and one verse seeming to say that all males are the image of God. Paul has left us with precious few guideposts to interpreting his statement about males being the image of God. We have even fewer guideposts regarding women being the image of men.
This verse is an island in the scripture. It speaks truth, but we only have negative clues so far as to its meaning. That declared, I am content to say that the negative evidence is overwhelming. Whatever Paul meant, it was not that only men bear the image of God. When Paul speaks of the Image of God, he is going to capitalize the noun, and be speaking of Christ. That is not the case here, so it must mean something else.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, I hope that everyone agrees with this analysis. (Who'm I kidding - I hope that everyone agrees with all my analyses. ;-P] Do you agree with the basic idea of looking at a verse in this way? If you find its common interpretation to be out of step with the rest of scripture, do you agree that looking for some stronger interpretation makes sense?
Next, we have to go to the positive meaning of 1 Cor 11:7. What *is* the truth Paul is speaking here? For that we need to go to the internal context of 1 Corinthians, and I fear I have already gone on long enough with this post. So, until some time later this week...