Anthropology in Judaism and
When Jews think about Christianity, they are often struck by ideas and images fundamentally different from Jewish traditions. Icons, statues, incense, crucifixes, and even crosses create a physical environment radically different from Jewish worship; notions of trinity and incarnation form a mental universe equally bizarre to traditional Jewish concepts. It is with some degree of relief that Jews often turn to Christian ideas of humanity and society, finding common ground with Christianity precisely on the common ground of earth and human beings. The nature of human beings and of the human relationship with God affords at least a common theological language with which to think about the issues of human existence, the language of tselem elohim and imago dei: the image of God.
This language of the “image of God” has its source in the Hebrew Bible, in the first chapter of Genesis: “God created humanity in his own image; in the image of God he created him” (1:27). Genesis does not spell out the implications of the “image”; possibly there is a connection here with God's blessing, with fertility, and with “dominion” over the earth. In Mesopotamia and Egypt, kings erected statues of themselves at the farthest reaches of their empires to represent their dominion. In Akkadian, the word for statue is tsalmu, the same as Hebrew tselem (image). Furthermore, Assyrian texts describe the king himself as tsalam ili, “image of the god,” the representative of God on earth. In the same