“God Has No Body” Part 4.3

Find Part 1 here.

In Part 4.1, I challenged the first premise. The premise originally stated that the purpose of Genesis 1 was to differentiate man from the animals. I argued that this was incorrect, or at the very least incomplete. Rather, the purpose of Genesis 1-3 is to teach us about the character of God, and Genesis 1 specifically teaches us that he is omnipotent and logical. The consequence is that we should not be looking for implied differences between God and man.

In Part 4.2, I challenged the second premise. The premise originally stated that the difference between man and animal was a rational soul. I argued that the veracity of this claim is more or less irrelevant, for the idea is philosophical, not scriptural. Thus, we should not put faith in it the same way we would put faith in Biblical teachings. As a side note, I showed that this was a good example of how Christianity was influenced by Greek philosophy, or Hellenized.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The purpose of the Creation story is to teach man about the character of God, and Genesis 1 showcases God’s almighty power and pragmatism
  2. The traditional philosophical difference between man and animal is a rational soul, but the scriptures do not support this idea; on the contrary, it originates with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, who lived 300 years before Christ.
  3. Thus, philosophy, and not scripture, suggests that instead of a physical body (which animals also have), the image of God found in man is their rational soul (which animals do not have) (2)
  4. Thus, when Genesis 1:26 speaks of man being made in God’s image, it does not refer to a physical, tangible body (3)
  5. Thus, God may be incorporeal (4)

The Third Premise

Because premise 3 is affected by both premises before it, changing premise 1 and 2 also requires that we adjust premise 3 so that it logically follows. While we can still claim that the “image” of God found in man is a rational soul, and this is the reference made by the author in Genesis 1:26, it must be admitted that this idea is not scriptural. This idea, on the contrary, is philosophical.

This weakens the premise substantially, and consequently weakens the entire argument as well. And yet it is appropriate to challenge this premise in another way. I’ve claimed that the scriptures are silent on this issue of a rational soul. What do the scriptures have to say, then, about this matter of “image”?

For this discussion, because I am no Hebrew scholar, I take my comments from FAIR’s response to this same premise. It is paraphrased, if not mostly copied directly, from them.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image [Hebrew tselem], after our likeness [Hebrew demuth]”. Christians claim that this should be interpreted figuratively, in the sense that humans have “rational souls,” which set us apart from the animals. However, just a few chapters later the author of Genesis repeats “God created man, in the likeness [Hebrew demuth] of God made he him” and then adds some interesting commentary about the birth of Adam’s son Seth: “And Adam lived an hundred thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness [Hebrew demuth], after his image [Hebrew tselem]; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:1-3).

Adam was created in God’s image and likeness, and one of Adam’s sons had Adam’s image and likeness. Exactly the same words were used to describe both scenarios by the same prophetic author only one verse apart; thus, the words must have been used in the same way, and to describe the same things. Either Adam looked like God (as Seth looked like Adam), or Seth was the only one of Adam’s sons who possessed a “rational soul,” being the son made in his image.

If there is a good reason to interpret one passage in one way, and the other in another way, the critics must provide it.  As it stands, I can see none.

The argument can be adjusted as follows:

  1. The purpose of the Creation story is to teach man about the character of God, and Genesis 1 showcases God’s almighty power and pragmatism
  2. The traditional philosophical difference between man and animal is a rational soul, but the scriptures do not support this idea; on the contrary, it originates with the pagan philosopher Aristotle, who lived 300 years before Christ.
  3. Thus, philosophy, and not scripture, suggests that instead of a physical body (which animals also have), the image of God found in man is their rational soul (which animals do not have); alternately, scripture suggests that image refers to a physical, corporeal likeness.
  4. Thus, when Genesis 1:26 speaks of man being made in God’s image, it is unlikely that such a reference is to a rational soul.  Rather, it is much more likely that (even if a rational soul is included) the reference is to a physical, corporeal body (1) (2) (3)
  5. Thus, if God’s “image” refers to a physical body, God is corporeal (4)

Continued at Part 4.4.

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