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In the Image of God

One of the most important lessons of the Bible is that “mankind is created in the image of God.” Rabbi Jill Jacobs, in her book There shall be no needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law & Tradition, provides valuable insights into what this means.

The biblical story of Creation twice asserts that human beings are created b’tzelem elohiym – in the image of God. While the Bible itself certainly describes God often in anthropomorphic terms, rabbinic and later interpretations understand the concept of creation b’tzelem elohim not as a description of the physical likeness between humanity and God, but rather as evidence of the divinity inherent in each human being. Thus, procreation perpetuates the divine presence, and injury to a human being diminishes God’s presence. (p. 159)

The premium on human life translates also into the establishment of positive obligations to save life, even at the expense of other commandments. The assertion that human beings are created in the image of God serves as the theological foundation for the obligation to save life. If the destruction of life is viewed as a description of God, then the preservation of life can be understood as strengthening the divine presence by maintaining one more instance of God’s image in the world. (p. 161)

What would happen if Bible believers took this lesson to heart? Have you noticed that religions based on “having correct beliefs” produce conflicts and polarize people against each other? What would happen if the 33,000 Christian denominations declared that their divine mandate was to “save and preserve life on the earth – now?” Who would want billions of people spending their lives focused on the afterlife instead of “strengthening the divine presence” in the world today? Think about it!


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