Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Emphasis of the Image of God

In the previous post, I was discussing poetry, chiasms, and interpreting in Genesis. Continuing on the same topic, I want to post another example of a chiasm to show what a chiasm is and the significance of the structure when interpreting Scripture.

This example is found in Genesis 1:27, which says,

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

In the English versions, one can sense there is probably some structure issue present here. It flows like poetry. But, that is not proof. When one looks at the Hebrew, notes the word pairs in the passage, and diagrams the passage, it looks something like this:

(note the "X" in the background, which shows how this poetical form received its name)

While this is a little more intricate than Genesis 9:6, it is still a chiasm and still is worth considering. Several things are noted when the structure of this passage is analyzed. First, the issue man being created sandwiches this whole passage. While not the emphasis of the passage, there is no doubt that the author knew the origins of humans was a creative act of God.

Second, there is something that looks out of place in this whole passage. The third and fourth words in this passage stand out as not parallel to anything. This is indicated in the visual aid as "SDO man." "SDO" is short for "Sign of the Direct Object" which means that man was the direct object, or receiptiant, of God's creative act. Whenever something seems out of place or stands out in a parallel structure, that is also a clue to an important part of the passage.

Third, this is really two chiasms working as one, but they have the same emphasis or point. Specifically, the issue of the image of God is the focus of this passage. Yes, God created humans but He made them special. He made them in His own image. The second, bottom, chiasm shows something interesting about that image of God. God made humans with a plurality to them. This is like God, who has a plurality to Him in the Trinity. In His image He created humans and He created them male and female.

This, again, shows the impact structure has in interpreting a scripture passage. The past two previous posts were introductory material to discuss a larger passage in Genesis where the structure is critical for the proper exegesis of the passage. My next post will address this story, its structure, and the structural impact on interpreting that story.


Mark said...

This is intriguing to me. Since I haven't had Hebrew yet, I would have difficulty researching this. Would you look at Ezekiel 2:3 and let me know if there is anything there? You can email me instead of going through blogger.