Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Paul, Philo, Adam and the Imago Dei

Earlier I commented that it is a puzzle why Paul never seems to draw on Gen 1:1-2:4.  The answer may be found in Philo, a Hellenistic Jew and important contemporary of Paul.  In an excellent HTR article* Horsley makes the case that in Philo we can see a type of status disctinctions based around the wise/perfect/good people and those who are foolish/bad/evil, with a third category, the infant, in the middle being pulled in both directions. It is, he argues, these status distinctions that Paul is attempting to combat in 1 Corinthians.  Horsley makes a convincing case that this then informs our understanding of the pneumatikos-psychikos terminology in 1 Cor 2 and 15.  However what is really interesting is how Philo, and Horsley argues that this is not his innovation but representative of a Hellenistic Jewish stream, sees in Genesis 1 and 2 two different types of human being.  The heavenly who are stamped with the image of God (Gen 1) and the earthly who are made out of clay (Gen 2).**  For Philo bearing the Imago Dei was a feature of a spiritual elite, a group of special status, compared to the rest of humanity who were merely made of clay (Adam).  Perhaps this is one reason why Paul stays clear of Genesis 1, because in his context it was used not to argue for the inherent worth of all humanity but to argue for the priviledged status of a select few.  Instead he focuses on Adam as the ancestor of all humanity, who thus need redemption, and on Christ as the true image of God.  For Paul, then, one can only claim to bear the image of God as far as one can claim to bear the image of Christ.

* R.A. Horsley, “Pneumatikos vs Psychikos: Distinctions of Spiritual Status among the Corinthians,”  Harvard Theological Review, 69, 1976, p269-288.
** Philo, Legum Allegoriae, 1:31