Skip to main content

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

Comments

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Addictive Power of End Times Speculation

The mighty Rhett Snell has picked up his blog again (I wonder how long he'll last this time), check out his theory on why people get so into annoyingly unbiblical end times nonsense.

I think that where codes-and-calendars end times theology is dangerous, is that it can give a sense of false growth. We read a theory online, or hear it from some bible teacher, and we come to think that we have mastered an area of our faith. A bit like levelling up in a computer game, or Popeye after he’s eaten some spinach. At worst, we begin to believe that we’ve taken a step that other Christians have not; that we’ve entered an elite class of Christianity.

The false link between suicide and mental illness

One characteristic of human society is the tendency to keep doing something over and over again despite it not working. One example would be our approach to incarcerating criminals to punish them instead of rehabilitating them, compounding their trauma and making it harder for them to live productive law-abiding lives when they get out. But this is the "common-sense" approach, the intuitive human response to the failings of others, punish them and they wont dare do it again. It has never worked, ever, but let's keep doing it. Secular society is screwed because it cannot comprehend that its vision is blurred by sin and therefore knee-jerk, common sense solutions are usually destructive and counter-productive.

So it is with our response to suicide. To kill yourself must be the response of the weak minded and sick - so the thinking goes - so to combat rising suicide we treat individuals medically. Yet suicide is a perfectly rational response to a world as broken as ours and…

Wars and Rumours of Wars

I write in the morning after the USA 2016 Elections, which featured the historic election of Donald Trump. Apart from my personal interested as a resident of planet Earth at this time, it is interesting to note some of the apocalyptic language emerging in discussions of what this means. Even archaeologists are turning to the medium of prophecy. Hear the word of Tobias Stone,
So I feel it’s all inevitable. I don’t know what it will be, but we are entering a bad phase. It will be unpleasant for those living through it, maybe even will unravel into being hellish and beyond imagination. Humans will come out the other side, recover and move on.  Stone suggests that future historians will be able to draw clear lines from Brexit to Trump to the 3rd World War, or something equally bad. Mind you, just because historians can draw those lines doesn't mean they are here.

Then there is the word of Thom Hartman who is more interested in the domestic fallout than the fallout shelter. 
The last …