Jill Middlemas, «The Prophets, the Priesthood, and the Image of God (Gen 1,26-27)», Vol. 97 (2016) 321-341
This analysis considers aniconic rhetoric in Hosea, Second Isaiah, and Ezekiel, in order to assess commonality and difference with respect to prophetic and priestly perspectives of the divine image because interpreters draw on the prophetic literature in discussions of the thought of Gen 1,26-27. There is greater similarity in thought between Second Isaiah and Gen 1,26-27 as well as greater tension between Ezekiel and the first imago Dei passage than accounted for previously, and almost no commonality with Hosea. Furthermore, the prophets diversify the number and type of divine images as a means to resist idolatry.
THE PROPHETS, THE PRIESTHOOD, AND THE IMAGE Of GOD 339
Genesis, where the Priestly Writer sets out at the beginning of his his-
tory that the closest approximation of the divine image is humanoid in
form. The divine image can be made, but only by God.
The prophets also evidence the divine without form or with rela-
tive formlessness, as we found in Hosea and Ezekiel. The divine im-
age is diversified in these contexts. In Hosea the deity is never repre-
sented as a human. Moreover, a gender specific deity was emphatical-
ly rejected, “for I am God (la) not a man (vya)”. In Ezekiel, the deity
could be represented by a general human form (~da), but other form-
less images appeared as well — the fire and the rainbow. Divine form-
lessness is where there is tension between the prophets and the Priestly
Writer in Genesis 1. This study suggests that the tension many have
noted in attitudes and approaches to the divine image in Second Isaiah
and Genesis, as well as the seeming commonality between Ezekiel and
the Priestly Writer, are not entirely accurate. Indeed, the perception
that there is greater commonality between Genesis 1 and Ezekiel than
between the Priestly Writer and Second Isaiah needs to be rethought
in light of the analysis presented here. Like Genesis, Second Isaiah
conveys the divine image with a humanoid form, whereas Ezekiel rep-
resents more variability. In addition, a significant amount of tension
exists between conceptions of the divine in Hosea and Genesis, and
this tension should be more fully explored.
finally, let us come back to interpretations of the imago Dei itself.
The prophetic literature sheds new light on what is commonly thought
of as an anthropomorphic representation of God in the Priestly Work.
The rhetorical strategy of multiple imaging suggests that more than one
symbolic representation is employed to avoid stabilizing the mental pic-
ture of God — in other words, diversification. Even Second Isaiah, who
compared the deity only with human examples, drew on both genders.
Just so, the Priestly Writer employed two genders in the projection
of human beings in the god shape (theomorphism) 66 in Gen 1,26-27, in
that male and female were said to have been created in the image of God.
In this way, an idolatrous form is rejected because an idol is essentially
the stabilization of the divine image, whether in the physical form of a
statue or in the mental image of the divine in a particular shape. New re-
search on descriptions of God in the Old Testament by Aaron Schart 67
M.S. SMITH, “Divine form and Size in ugaritic and Pre-Exilic Israelite
Religion”, ZAW 100 (1988) 426-427; DE MOOR, “The Duality of God and Man”.
A. SCHART, “Die ‘Gestalt’ yHWHs: Ein Beitrag zur Körpermetaphorik
alttestamentliche Rede von Gott”, TZ 55 (1999) 26-41.