Avraham Gileadi, PhD., Old Testament Lesson 3
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Lesson 3 – In the Image and Likeness of God
The story of how God made the heavens and the earth and created Adam and Eve often remains at the kindergarten level in our minds when in actuality the Bible is replete with data that fills out the sparse account of the creation narrative. This is particularly true of the theology of Isaiah, who identifies a series of spiritual levels that greatly impacts our understanding of Adam and Eve and of anyone else in his or her relationship to God. Just as a knowledge of the Old Testament is key to understanding the New Testament, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, etc., so a knowledge of the words of Isaiah is key to comprehending the Old Testament itself and, indeed, all scriptures.
Isaiah informs us, for example, who it is that qualifies for Paradise and that God hasn’t stopped creating. God continues to create, or rather re-create, the heavens and the earth, his covenant people, and all who keep his commandments. According to Isaiah, the earth itself, God’s people Israel, and righteous individuals are all in the process of pursuing a well-defined pattern of ascent by following the steps God has formulated that will exalt them, in which each ascent or rebirth involves a divine act of creation that brings his children ever closer to his image and likeness. Outside of this arrangement there is but spiritual stagnation, which, in actuality, constitutes descent or regression, entailing a de-creation of what a person once was, because time itself moves forward.
In the light of Isaiah’s theology of spiritual ascent, the creation of the heavens and the earth and of Adam and Eve is seen as part of a much broader, ongoing process; in other words, as part of a continuum of creation, not as a one-time event. Although God shows Moses only concerning this earth and its inhabitants (Moses 1:35, 40), God has nevertheless created “worlds without number,” many of which have “passed away,” many of which “now stand,” and others of which, very evidently, are in the process of creation (Moses 1:33, 35). Of course, these worlds too have “Adams” and “Eves” to populate them, so that their children, in turn, may likewise qualify for Paradise if they progress to that point. This process has been going on long before we arrived on the scene, and it will continue long after we exit mortality.
As a case in point, a pinhead view of deep space, now possible with the Hubble Telescope circling the earth, reveals endless galaxies stretching into the distance as far as the eye can see, each galaxy with its billions of stars. Multiply that with similar scans in every possible direction and we can conclude that the numbers of Adams and Eves populating planets–the “worlds without number” God has created–must be in the trillions upon trillions! What Isaiah teaches us, however, is that we ourselves may become Adams and Eves, and as we grasp that fact we will understand the Bible’s creation story in an entirely new light.
First of all, we should know that the word “God,” in Hebrew, is a plural term. This explains why Abraham 4–5 speaks of “the Gods” creating the heavens and the earth rather than “God.” The Book of Abraham simply renders another translation of the same word in the language of the Old Testament. The plurality of the term “Gods” throws into perspective the vastness of the cosmos and who was involved in the creation of our particular earth and its “heavens,” which to the naked eye consist of our own galaxy.
Secondly, we should keep in mind that if God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and is no respecter of persons (see Acts 10:34; 1 Nephi 10:18; Mormon 9:9; D&C 1:35; 35:1; 38:16), then he will not do for Adam and Eve something he will not do for us. In other words, the creation of our first parents wasn’t something unique that has not or will not repeat itself elsewhere. If we too may become Adams and Eves–by passing through the steps God has outlined in his plan of salvation and exaltation–then we can reason backwards and conclude that Adam and Eve, our ancestors, must have passed through these very same steps in order for them to become Adam and Eve.
As Isaiah informs us, those steps involve ascending through several spiritual levels until one’s election is made sure, corresponding with a theology of progression through telestial, terrestrial, and celestial degrees of glory. In his inspired writings, Isaiah identifies a telestial category of people as Jacob/Israel, which consists of generic believers in God in an unsaved state. Second, he designates a terrestrial category as Zion/Jerusalem, comprising God’s covenant people or those who obtain a remission of their sins. A third, celestial category of people, God’s Sons/Servants, is composed of individuals who see God, thus making sure their calling and election.
As with Adam and Eve, only on this celestial level does the idea of male and female become prominent in the book of Isaiah. This is important because, as the Genesis account informs us, being created in the image and likeness of God is itself defined as male and female: “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26–27; cf. Moses 2:26–27; Abraham 4:26–27); “In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:1–2; cf. Moses 6:8–9). The alternate pronouns, “him/them,” show that Adam and Eve were inseparable.
This male–female identity means that anything less than that is expressly not in the image and likeness of God because God himself is male and female; that is, God consists of both a divine Father and a divine Mother. It also means that on the celestial level the marriage covenant is an integral part of one’s covenant with God and that male–female relationships below this level have no permanency. One cannot claim, therefore, that all of God’s children are created in the image and likeness of God, at least not physically in the literal, scriptural sense, not until they becomes celestial beings. Only as one makes sure his calling and election–possible only as male and female on the Son/Servant (celestial) level–is one truly created, or rather re-created, in the image and likeness of God to dwell in his presence as did Adam and Eve.
The fact that “Adam…begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth” (Genesis 5:3; cf. Moses 6:10), implies that Seth followed Adam’s example of covenantal loyalty to God (cf. Moses 6:3) and that Adam was a son of God through the same natural process by which Seth was a son of Adam (cf. Moses 6:22). That idea is implicit in the use of the identical terms, “likeness” and “image,” that describe both Adam’s and Seth’s origins, apart from any human resemblance that was apparent. Although Adam was physically “formed from the dust” (Genesis 2:7; 3:19; Moses 3:7; Abraham 5:7), that doesn’t imply he was made from a lump of clay. It simply means his body was organized from earthly (telestial) elements (cf. Moses 6:59), the words “dust” and “waters” used in the creation narrative being chaos motifs that represent matter in a disorganized state.
The word “dust” also alludes to a rebirth or resurrection from the dust, as in “Awake, arise; clothe yourself with power, O Zion! Put on your robes of glory, O Jerusalem, holy city…Shake yourself free, rise from the dust; sit enthroned, O Jerusalem” (Isaiah 52:1–2, GT; cf. Moroni 10:31). That idea coincides with the “deep sleep” that fell upon Adam (Genesis 2:21; Moses 3:21; Abraham 5:15), from which God awakens him. The words, “Awake” and “arise” are resurrection motifs, as in “Yet shall thy dead live when their bodies arise. Awake, and sing for joy, you who abide in the dust: your dew is the dew of sunrise! For the earth shall cast up its dead” (Isaiah 26:19, GT). They also suggest rebirth from a lower to a higher spiritual level, as in “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14; cf. 2 Nephi 1:14, 23).
In the millennial age that Isaiah predicts, when the Lord comes to reign on the earth, all the righteous who remain–that is, Zion/Jerusalem and above–will enjoy the earth’s paradisaical glory. However, only those on the Son/Servant level or higher will inherit Paradise by right of possession (see Avraham Gileadi, Isaiah Decoded: Ascending the Ladder to Heaven, Hebraeus Press, 2002, 169–219). This implies that, as God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and is no respecter of persons, those who inherit Paradise on this earth by right of possession also qualify as Adams and Eves who at some point may populate worlds. To receive Paradise as a birthright, in other words, puts a couple on the level of Adam and Eve, ready, in the due time of the Lord, to begin a new cycle of creation.
The fact that Adam and Eve chose to partake of the forbidden fruit and temporarily leave Paradise was a calculated act that provided their sons and daughters with the kind of (telestial) environment in which they too, by overcoming evil, could ascend to their parents’ level. Through their selfless sacrifice, Adam and Eve, in turn, would ascend even further.
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