Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.”1 [Genesis 1:26]
God made man in His image. Likeness means similitude or resemblance, which, indeed, speaks to the external appearance of one person compared to another. Seth did look like Adam, his dad. “Seth was, [in turn?] in [Adam’s] own likeness, after his image.” [Genesis 5:3] If this, however, means a father-son relationship could be established in their genomes (and indeed it could) the Biblical terms “image” and “likeness” must be expanded2 to explain Adam in God’s image because “God is a Spirit.”[John 4:24] If I may paraphrase the rest of the Savior’s words: We relate to Him, to God, on a spiritual—not a physical—level. If you want to stroke His face, it is done in intercessory prayer not in a physical sense.3
The word “image” is spoken of painting4 and sculptures.5 Adam was made in God’s image, as if God formed him from the dust of the earth while staying true to the details of His own image [Genesis 1:27]. (Abortion is a dangerous practice for which some will give answer! “Whoever sheds human blood, by humans his blood will be shed, for God made humans in his image.” [Genesis 9:6])
According to Athanasius of Alexandria:6
Man is “..the impress of His [God’s] own Image, a share in the reasonable being of the very Word Himself, so that, reflecting Him and themselves becoming reasonable and expressing the Mind of God even as He does….”
Man was made for fellowship with each other and God, therefore, God equipped him with a “reasonableness” or the ability to have such fellowship.
So, what is the comparison being made in Scripture between God and us? We used to maintain that unlike animals, we have a soul. But Paul even seems to attribute a soul to the animal world claiming they, too, are “groaning together with labor pains until now.” [Romans 8:22]7
There was one difference, though: Adam and Eve were capable of comprehending a “knowledge of good and evil.” [Genesis 2:9] In direct terms, we, who are made spiritually “like” God, are conscious of righteousness and sin. Some animals may experience attrition, like fido, when his master catches him tearing into a sofa cushion. But Fido doesn’t feel contrition nor can Fido repent. There is something about us that has a built in consciousness of right and wrong even if we deny it. It is this simple condition of the heart that makes us capable of understanding and appreciating God and His holiness. And Holiness is the ultimate “likeness” God is working toward in us. [Romans 8:28-29]
Sadly society might be proposing an evolutionary redefinition of who we are. “Perhaps the greatest sin in the world today,” says Bishop Fastiggi of Sacred Heart Seminary, “is that men have begun to lose the sense of sin.”
2cp. Isaiah 13:4 “Listen, a commotion on the mountains, like that of a mighty people .” where “likeness” is simply “like referencing anone aspect of comparison—in this case the level of noise. It is within the meaning of this word to make a comparison between God and Adam on another, non-physical-level,
3Exodus 32:11 CSB: “sought the favor of the LORD his God:” Hebrew: “to stroke the face (in flattering)” The BLB.
4Ezekiel 23:14 “male figures carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans”
51 Samuel 6:5 “images of your tumors and of your mice “
6On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria (The original writing of this work is public domain. Athanasius of Alexandria (2012-11-27T22:58:59). On the Incarnation . Blue Letter Bible. Kindle Edition. )
7cp Genesis 1:21 where the word “creature” is the word “soul.”