Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought

By Martin Sicker | Go to book overview

6

Man in the Image

The infinite value attributed to human life in Judaic thought is given dramatic expression by the biblical text in its characterization of man as having been created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27). Its intent in the use of this highly significant and evocative metaphor should be estimated in light of the language in which the text was originally composed. Biblical Hebrew is inherently constrained by a limited capacity for giving direct expression to abstract ideas. The text therefore articulates the radical conception its author wishes to convey through the use of an anthropomorphic metaphor, which should be taken in a figurative rather than a literal sense. To do otherwise, as has sometimes been the case with certain interpreters of the biblical text, is apt to lead one to gross misconceptions and misunderstandings. 1 It should be noted in this regard that the traditionally accepted Judaic approach to the literary use of such anthropomorphisms and other metaphors follows the teaching of R. Ishmael, that “the Torah employs human phraseology.” 2 That is, the principal concern of the biblical author is to make the text comprehensible to all and he strives to achieve this through the use of commonly understood forms of expression which, therefore, need not always be taken literally. In essence, Plotinus took this same approach as he wrestled with the difficulty of discussing the attributes of The Good. He asserted that “failing more suitable terms, we apply to it the lesser terms brought over from lesser things and so tell it as best we may: no words could ever be adequate or even applicable to that from which all else—the noble, the august—is derived.” 3

According to this interpretive approach, when Scripture speaks of man being created in the “image of God” its intention is that this expression should be treated as a figure of speech and not as an assertion of literal fact. But, to what

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Between Man and God: Issues in Judaic Thought
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • 1 - The Judaic Conception of God 1
  • 2 - The Temporal or Prophetic Paradigm 21
  • 3 - The Experience of the Divine 41
  • 4 - Man, the Universe, and the Creator 57
  • 5 - The Meaning of Human Existence 75
  • 6 - Man in the Image 89
  • 7 - Man and Providence 97
  • 8 - Man’s Moral Autonomy 109
  • 9 - The Good and Evil Impulses 129
  • 10 - Divine Omniscience and Moral Autonomy 149
  • 11 - Resolving Rabbi Akiba’s Paradox 165
  • 12 - The Question of Divine Justice 189
  • 13 - Theodicy in Judaic Thought 201
  • 14 - Divine Justice and Human Justice 229
  • Bibliography 239
  • Index 255
  • About the Author 261
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