St. Diadochus of Photiki - the Image of God

Some mormon acquaintances in a recent mormon religious doctrine class stated that the early church fathers believed that man is made in the physical image of God. This was used to back up the mormon claim that God has a body of flesh and bones. To support this they stated that St. Diadochus claimed this. I am in the process of seeing if they will reveal their source to me. But in the interim does anyone know of a quote from the good Bishop (Diadochus) that can - with any integrity - be interpreted as such?

The only quote I could find is as follows:

“Divine grace confers on us two gifts through the baptism of regeneration, one being infinitely superior to the other. The first gift is given to us at once, when grace renews us in the actual waters of baptism and cleanses all the lineaments of our soul, that is, the image of God in us, by washing away every stain of sin. The second – our likeness to God – requires our co-operation. When the nous begins to perceive the Holy Spirit with full consciousness, we should realize that grace is beginning to paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us. Artists first draw the outline of a man in monochrome, and then add one color after another, until little by little they capture the likeness of the subject down to the smallest details. In the same way the grace of God starts by remaking the divine image in man into what it was when he was first created.” [St Diadochos of Photiki, On Spiritual Knowledge, 89]

Certainly this does not support the mormon view.

Many thanks for any help that you can give.


No, it does not support the Mormon view. One must first accept the presupposition that God the Father has a body of flesh and bone before reading it into the ECF’s or scripture.

I don’t know if it is possible, but I would suggest changing the title of your thread to something like “Do the Early Church Fathers support Mormon doctrine” or something like that. I think you’ll get a lot more hits and that is really the question you are asking.

Wouldn’t that be weird since the LDS believe the Church became apostate when all the apostles died off?

No, because he cannot be reasonably construed as having said this.

It is conceivable that their error comes from carelessly reading ‘On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination’ 4: “All men are made in God’s image, but to be in His likeness is granted only to those who through great love have brought their own freedom into subjection to God.” St Diadochos’ differentiation between the image and the likeness could, with sufficient enthusiasm, be misunderstood as meaning that the image is physical and the likeness spiritual.

However, St Diadochos goes on to say, “We share in the image of God by virtue of the intellectual activity of our soul” (‘On Spiritual Knowledge and Discrimination’ 78): i.e., the image itself is intellectual, not physical. Then, in the passage which you quoted, he refers to “the lineaments of our soul, that is the image of God in us”, and then, “When the intellect begins to perceive the Holy Spirit with full consciousness, we should realise that grace is beginning to paint the divine likeness over the divine image in us”: again, the image is intellectual, not physical, and he presents more fully that differentiation between the image and the likeness.

After all, Evagrios the Solitary describes the intellect as the image of God (‘On Discrimination’ 20) about sixty years before St Diadochos, and St Diadochos borrows from Evagrios (qv. ‘Introductory Note’ to St Diadochos in vol.1 of the Palmer, Sherrard, and Ware translation of the Philokalia).

Of course, both Evagrios and St Diadochos depend upon Scripture, which states “ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:9-10).

This all leads to Nikitas Stithatos in the C11th saying, “Only in ignorance would one claim that man is created in the image of God with respect to the organic structure of his body. He is in the image of God by virtue of the spiritual nature of his intellect” (‘On Spiritual Knowledge, Love, and the Perfection of Living’ 4).

As for God being recognised by the Early Church more generally as Spirit, not body, see also Augustine, Tractates on John 15.24 and Chrysostom, Homilies on John 33.2, because of John 4:24, “God is Spirit”.

So, to return to the short answer, no.

Inconsistencies do not bother Mormons. They have the unique ability to hold contradicting beliefs simultaneously with no apparent problem.

God does have a body of flesh and bones - Jesus Christ.

Diadochus of Photike speaks much about image and likeness, but it is not a physical image and likeness, but the image of the soul. His words about image and likeness refer to the virtues. To coopt it to mean a physical likeness to a physical God shows at a minimum, a complete ignorance of the scope and meaning of his work.

Most of Diadochus’ work has been lost. He is best known for the work which is cited in the original post, often titled “Discourses on Judgement and Spiritual Discernment” or “100 Gnostic Chapters.” It is a deep spiritual work about the battlefield of prayer, discernment of spirits (good vs evil) and how the soul moves from the image of God to the likness of God - what the eastern Churches call divinization.

The best translation is by Cliff Ermatinger in "Following the Footsteps of the Invisible". His introduction to the life and spirituality of Diadochus is worth the price of the book itself.

This is one of my favorite spiritual books. I have read it several times and go back to it often. The likeness about which he speaks is our soul’s resemblence to divine love.


Perhaps because we don’t see contradictions in our understanding of our own beliefs. This would be no different than various non-Catholics that see certain aspects of Catholic belief as inconsistent or irrational (characterizations obviously Catholics would disagree with). discusses some the spirituality of Diadochus, including his idea of image and likeness, including this wonderful post from fhansen.

***Just recently (today) I was reading about the Eastern concept of image and likeness in a book by Timothy Ware. According to him, ‘image’ indicates rationality and freedom, attributes we share in common with God and which separate us from the animal creation and makes us a person, ,which gives us kinship with God, while ‘likeness’ indicates ‘assimilation to God through virtue’. This speaks of the potential in us for deification/ divinization/theosis, the ability to become gods -without being God, of course-which is said to be God’s plan for man. ***

It is the idea of divinization/deification/theosis which I believe, may be misunderstood by the group in the original post.


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