Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so.
Who am I? What part of me is me, the real and true me?
If you’ve listened to certain songs or attended certain Sunday school classes, you might think that the real you is your spirit, which resides inside of your body like water in a water balloon, ready to escape. Perhaps you’ve heard someone referring to their body as a prison or an iron chain that they can’t wait to escape. “Like a bird from these prison walls I’ll fly. I’ll fly away!” This idea is present everywhere: “Mind over matter!” “Listen to your conscience!” The belief is that the mind or spirit is a separate entity from the body, and the body is almost always spoken of as something evil and temporary while the spirit is pure and true.
It’s an idea that has been around so long that we feel that it’s self-evident. Of course our bodies are evil! Look at how much Paul writes about the evil of the flesh!
The idea is old, but it is not timeless. Our understanding of the body and the spirit mostly comes from Plato’s philosophy of dualism, in which the former is evil and the latter is good. It’s hard to overstate how influential this idea has been in Western religion and philosophy. It is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to separate Plato from Christianity.
Reading scripture with this idea in our head gives the words different meanings than if we took the words at face value. We start to imagine that our bodies are purposeless, and the earth is irredeemable, and that God wants everything to exist on some sort of spiritual, metaphysical plane. But is that actually in scripture?
Let’s start with the very beginning of the Bible, in which God creates man and woman: body and spirit. It is God’s hands that formed us. “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Whatever our bodies are, they are in some way a replica of the Creator. That is not a statement to be taken lightly, nor is our understanding of what the body is: we are created in Imago Dei, the image of God. Now look at the rest of the passage: all of creation is made for the subsistence of the body: “I have given you every plant…every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have for food.” God created the world for bodies. Our bodies! Nowhere in the creation passages is there a division between spirit and body. God created all of me in his image.
This week we will be reading about who we are and how God wants us to view ourselves. Our first step is to remember that every man, woman, and child who has ever existed in some way reflects the body of YHWH.