The Image of God and the Relationship of Woman to Man at Creation

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?  What features of the Creation account explain the relationship of the woman to the man? Use both course texts and outside resources as material for the reflection.


In considering the first portion of this prompt, the author does not limit the image of God to a narrowly defined set of points as defined by Erickson’s examples, but rather, sees overlap between the presented options. Foundational to the image of God in humans is the ability to reason, as Erickson expands on via page 521 of his text. However, the image of God goes further than this if one considers Adam’s moral, pre-fall condition. Adam was the creaturely reflection of YHWH and in this sense was endowed with the moral make-up of YHWH (as far as a creature can reflect this). With that said, the image of God goes further than simply the ability to reason, but also includes the ability to make moral decisions, with man being endowed with the law of God, even though that endowment has been corrupted by the fall. Charles Hodge reflects on this point when he states;


God is a Spirit, the human soul is a spirit. The essential attributes of a spirit are reason, conscience, and will. A spirit is a rational, moral, and therefore also, a free agent. In making man after his own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to his own nature as a spirit. Man is thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world, and raised immeasurably above them. He belongs to the same order of being as God Himself, and is therefore capable of communion with his Maker. This conformity of nature between man and God, is not only the distinguishing prerogative of humanity, so far as earthly creatures are concerned, but it is also the necessary condition of our capacity to know God, and therefore the foundation of our religious nature. If we were not like God, we could not know Him.[1]


In noting Hodge’s words above, the author concludes that the image of God is the rational and moral make-up of an individual that allows one to fellowship with God, and, the author would add, which allows the individual to fellowship and live in community with others.[2]


Regarding the creation account and the relationship of woman to man, the following can be inferred. First, man represented the entirety of the human race (“Let us make man in our image” Gen 1:26), with Adam being the federal head of all creation and in covenant with God. In this sense, man is created in the image of God, but, YHWH also created both “male and female” in the image of God (Gen 1:27). Thus, woman is represented by man in God’s initial creation in Gen 1 (c.f. 1 Cor 11:7), while still bearing that image themselves via verse 27. In Genesis 2, having already given dominion to Adam, God creates a עֵזֶר (ʿēzer >“helper”, ESV, NASB), or more fully, a עֵ֖זֶר כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ or “help corresponding to him i.e. equal and adequate to himself”[3] (trans. “companion” NET, “counterpart” LEB)[4] for Adam from his own person; one who would complement the man. Hence, Eve is brought forth from Adam and in this sense, was dependent on Adam (c.f. 1 Cor 11:8), but yet, equal to Adam. It is also significant that Adam names Eve (אִשָּׁ֔ה > woman, Gen 2:23), thus showing his headship and continued dominion over creation. But, it is not as if this is wholly one sided, for man and woman are to become “one flesh,” and in this sense, share in an undividable covenant union, with each playing a vital yet different role in the marriage relationship and by greater application, the Dominion Mandate (Gen 1:28 “said to them”).


Perhaps the best way to explain the relationship of woman to man at creation (and into modern times) is by example of the Triunity of YHWH. Within the one being of God, there exists three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are all co-equal, co-eternal and co-powerful with one another. Hence, ontologically, there is equality in personhood amongst each person of the Trinity. However, there is also willful submissiveness by the Son and Spirit to the Father and in this sense, a pattern is established between man and woman’s interpersonal covenant relations. Woman is ontologically equal with man in being and personhood, but, is (to be) relationally submissive to the man/husband (2 Tim 2:11, Tit 2:5); the very pattern one sees in the creation account.  The best example of this teaching is found in 1 Cor 11:2 where Paul writes, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:2, ESV). In this verse, as noted above, is seen the structure of the covenant union, with woman being submissive to man as Christ, who is very God of very God, is submissive to the Father. What can also be established from this text is that although there is submissiveness in the covenant union, it is also noted that submissiveness does not equate inferiority; for Christ is not inferior to the Father. It is also helpful to note Paul’s reference to “nature” in verse 14, which according to the BDAG implies “the regular or established order of things”[5] (c.f. Rom 1:27) which in this sense, is speaking about the natural function between man/husband and woman/wife as established at creation. Hence, both man and woman are on equal footing (ontologically), while man is foremost responsible for the spiritual leadership and condition of the home; which is seen in Gen 3:9-12 and YHWH’s primary addressing of the man regarding the fall (c.f. Gen 3:17, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife”). Thus, woman’s relationship to man at creation and into this era of redemptive history is one of ontological equality and willful submissiveness, which is patterned off of Christ’s relationship to the Father.





Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000.


Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1998.


Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. 2. 3 vols. Grand Rapids, MI: CCEL Publications, n.d.


Whitaker, R, Brown, F, Driver, S, Briggs. C.A. The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Logos. Boston, MA: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906.



[1] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol.2, (Grand Rapids, MI. CCEL Publications), 105.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd, (Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Academic, 1998), 536.

[3] R, Whitaker, F. Brown, S. Driver, & C. A. Briggs, The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, (Boston MA.; New York, NY. Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906), Logos.

[4] For a more full discussion on the topic of helper/counterpart, see Erickson, pg. 564

[5] The BDAG goes on to say, “Φύσις . . . condition or circumstance as determined by birth, natural endowment/condition, nature.” W. Arndt, F.W. Danker, & W. Bauer,  A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed, (Chicago, IL. University of Chicago Press, 2000). 1069.