I was wondering if I could share some thoughts with you that have caused me some stress, confusion and difficulty regarding the image of God. Maybe you can help me find some clarity. I really appreciate your time and effort.
I think it’s important to understand Adam as the image of God in the ancient near eastern context of the Hebrew bible. And one of the things I focused on in the past was what it meant for God to be both invisible and manifest, spirit and transcendent. There’s a tradition that the pre-incarnate Logos/the Kabod (glory) in second temple Judaism, being the image of the Father, had the form/outline of a macrocosmic man of light/fire. And Adam’s form was a microcosm, made according to that image. With sin, Adam lost glory, and the image became marred and broken, subject to death.
Discovering this made me so happy. But when I came into the catholic church (I never had a magisterium before!), I had reservations from my past about the influence of philosophy, and what it did to the manifest aspect of the God of the Bible. When I heard Catholics talk of God being pure spirit, and a divine simplicity, I assumed I had to go to the other extreme, and force myself to abandon the Semitic understanding. This tension has really made me struggle insofar as how this tension is resolved.
Well, I’ve discovered a dissertation from Marquette by an eastern orthodox deacon on the noetic divine anthropos, and it made me so happy, because if this info is correct, I don’t have to abandon the truth I’ve held so dear - the Semitic understanding - and the Greek philosophical tradition doesn’t oppose it. Each clarifies the other.
The whole thing is free online. It’s amazing. Teritullian, Origen, Hippolytus, clement of Alexandria, and others taught that before the incarnation, the logos had a form like a man, but light. And when they say He is invisible, they mean human eyes are incapable (too weak to stand; our constitution isn’t fit or able) of seeing the divine glory. In that sense, we can’t see him so he is invisible to us, due to our limitations and frailty.That’s why context is so important. They mean something else by invisible than we assume; we assume “form-less.”
I was shocked to find this and pleasantly surprised, because it confirms the church’s continuity with the Hebrew Scriptures and worldview; and just as Christ makes Jew and Greek one new man, the Greek and Hebrew traditions, when rightly understood, inform and deepen each other in the one deposit of faith.
This is also a great connection with the OT theophanies where God/the Logos manifests as a man of glory; it is a reflection of the macrocosmic image of the Logos and it points to the fullness of time when he would become man in the likeness of the one in whose image man was made, to save and restore his image on earth and recaptulate creation to a glorious Eden.
Here is a link to the paper:
Statements from the fathers are illuminating, as well as the discussion of what “formless” or “incorporeal” meant to them, vs the assumptions we might read into those terms.
God bless guys! I could really use help here!