In the beginning...
These simple words from Genesis 1:1 alert us to the transcendent significance of what is to follow. Yet we don't begin to grasp how important this account of God's relationship to the world/the universe until we find these words...
26: Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after 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 earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Just so we don't miss the full significance, here, let's note that the original Hebrew uses (as we transliterate it) "Elohim" which is translated, here, as God. Yet, Elohim is the plural form of El, which is the old Canaanite version of our word, "God". This primitive reference to God as a pantheon rather than as one-and-only may be regarded, by historians especially, as a transitional form of reference to God that predates the eventual monotheism of the Israelite people. Nevertheless, since it is most likely the case that the bible was compiled from ancient (primarily oral) traditions and, in many cases, ancient texts, the preservation of the plural form is deeply significant.
Thus, "let us make" and "our image" has crucially important implications...
- God is simultaneously One and More than One.
- The inherent multiple-ness of God acting as One in creating is uniquely emphasized in the creation of man. [Note that "man" (in verse 26) is a translation from the Hebrew for "adam", and is intended as a generic for human kind.] Thus, it is humanity that is created in the image and likeness of God, so that, from the beginning, the image and likeness of the Godhead is reflected in humanity as a whole.
- Yet, today, this is generally understood in a much weaker sense, namely, that each individual human being is created in the image of God, with the likeness of God (also, presumably reposed in each individual) largely lost in the sin of Adam and Eve.
- Nevertheless, this intent is recaptured (even if not fully understood as such) in the Christian conception of the Mystical Body of Christ.
This reflection may lead us to an important realization, namely, that the sin of Adam and Eve didn't just damage our relationship with God, it also seriously undermined the very communion of Adam and Eve with each other.
To grasp how this is so, we need to review the second tradition of Adam and Eve, which is found in the narrative beginning in Genesis, chapter 2.