Bible Question:

God made man in His image. What is God's image?

Bible Answer:

Genesis 1:26 tells us that God created man in God’s image, according to His likeness. That is, man was made in the image of God.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26 (NASB)

What Is God's Image?

Meaning of Image and Likeness

Four times we are told in the book of Genesis that man was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27; 5:3; 9:6). The Hebrew word for “image” is selem. This word has the idea of representing someone or something. In the Old Testament, the word was sometimes used to refer to images of idols.

The English form of the Hebrew word for “likeness” is dmut. It means “pattern, shape, or form.” This word is very close to the concept of image. It seems to be more specific, but Genesis 1:26 does not tell us in what way. So image and likeness are very close, and they tell us that man is not like the animals.

All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 1 Corinthians 15:39 (NASB)

Adam was like God in some way, but he was not a god because man is made from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). Adam was not another animal nor are we just another kind of animal as some in the world teach today. Men and women are very different from the animals.

What Does God’s Image Mean?

These words, image and likeness, tell us that Adam was like God not in his outward appearance but internally. After stating that man was made in the image of God, God immediately said that man would subdue and rule over the earth and animals (Genesis 1:28; Psalm 8:4-8).  That is, just as God ruled over His creation, man would be allowed to rule over the earth.

But man is also like God in other ways. We must remember that God is spirit (John 4:24). Scripture tells us that man has a spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 4:12). The image of God includes: will or the ability to make decisions, intellect, and emotions. For God makes decisions (Genesis 1:26), has intellect (Romans 11:33-34), and experiences emotions (Ephesians 4:30). Adam had intellect, will, and emotion. For example, 1 Timothy 2:14 reveals that Eve was deceived when she exercised her will when she made the horrible decision to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Adam then exercised his will when he knowingly ate the same fruit. The result was the human race became sinners (Romans 5:19). They demonstrated intellect, will, and emotion, but not wisdom. In summary, men and women have intellect, will, and emotion, but they are very limited compared to God.

In addition, man shares other attributes of God but to a greatly lesser degree. For example, man can display truthfulness, goodness, love, mercy, holiness, order, righteousness, jealousy, wrath, will, freedom, and power to different degrees. Just as God experiences relationships (Exodus 33:11; James 2:23), so man can have a relationship with others (Genesis 2:18, 21-24).  Just as 1 John 4:16 tells us that God is love and man loves too, but his love is inferior.

In the New Testament we are told Adam was made “in” the image of God.  1 Corinthians 11:7 states,

For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.  1 Corinthians 11:7 (NASB)

When the Greek text tells us that man ” possesses the image of God and glory of God,” the word “is” is translated from the Greek word hyparcho. That agrees with Genesis 1:26.

Jesus Is the Image of God

In contrast, 2 Corinthians 4:4 says that Jesus “is the image of God.”

. . . in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NASB)

This is only true of Jesus. Other New Testament passages also state this fact (1 Corinthians 15:45; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3) for Jesus is the second person of the Godhead. Jesus is God.


We are like God in many ways, but we are not God in any way. But there are two major areas that will send men and women to eternal punishment. They are called holiness and righteousness. When Adam sinned, he was no longer holy. As a result, every man and woman born into this world is going to an eternal punishment unless he or she repents of his or her sins and depends on Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Adam and Eve were perfectly holy and righteous until they chose to sin. Those who seek and desire that Jesus forgive their sins will someday know what it was  originally like for Adam and Eve. What a wonderful experience that will be. Thank you God.

Suggested Links:

Who was God talking to in Gen. 1:26?
Searching For God
Who Is God? – trinity, and His attributes