In His Own Image and Likeness: Humanity, Divinity, and Monotheism.
W. R. Garr has established a sterling reputation in Northwest Semitic linguistics. Now he redirects his rigor and clarity in a literary-theological vein, to determine the precise meaning of Gen. 1:26-27, "Then God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness ...' So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created it, male and female he created them." The number of previous works touching on this topic is virtually limitless. Despite modest disclaimers (p. xi), Garr demonstrates familiarity with most major treatments in English, German, French, Italian, and modern Hebrew. His bibliography will serve as a good guide to future researchers.
After a preface, the work is divided into three sections, entitled "God and the Gods," "The Human-Divine Relationship," and "Creating the World." The preface states the well-known problems of Gen. 1:26-27. To whom is God speaking--to himself or to another? Does [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] mean the same thing as kidmutenu? Is either term meant literally? Properly understood, Garr suggests, the passage can reveal much about the Priestly author's concept of Yahweh's nature. Garr situates himself in the current discussion about P by reckoning with several strata of Priestly material; his reference to a "consensus," however, is premature and misleading (pp. 10-13).
Part one addresses the referent of the first-person plurals na'aseh, salmenu, and [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. In chapter one, Garr notes that the dominant view today, that God is addressing fellow divinities, clashes with another commonly held assumption, that the Priestly Source is rigorously monotheistic, i.e., denies the existence of any deities beside Yahweh. These cannot both be true.
In chapters two and three, Garr ingeniously attacks the problem from the side, by comparing ordinary first-person utterances of deliberation or intention, introduced by the imperative haba. (There is also an excellent discussion of the mollifying particle na' [pp. 30-33].) Garr isolates the stereotypical rhetorical strategy and narrational context associated with haba: in response to a problem, a leader enlists the sympathy of his entourage and suggests a policy, which he implements with their implicit approval. This trope is characteristic of the J source.
In chapter four, Garr restates the well-known evidence that the Hebrew Bible in general, and J and E in particular, acknowledge the existence of divine beings beside Yahweh: "angels," "sons of the gods/God," Yahweh's "council," his "army," etc. (In the Asherah debate, however, Garr leans toward the Yahweh-symbol rather than the divine consort understanding.) These are not independent personalities like the gods of polytheism. They are Yahweh's bureaucracy, representing his authority when he deals with humans. (Here Garr might also have addressed the evidence that the Davidic king was at least an honorary deity as Yahweh's son [e.g., Psalms 2, 89].) To this retinue, Yahweh speaks in the first-person plural (Gen. 11:7, cf. 3:22).
In chapter five, Garr returns to Gen. 1:26 and the Priestly source. God's addressees must be his divine assistants, even if they play no further role in P. Their only function is tacitly to assent to God's proposal, and to provide a model for humanity's "image." The omission of haba Garr regards as deliberate, lessening the urgency and insecurity one senses in the J parallels (e.g., Gen. 11). Garr shows that, even without haba, God is carefully explaining himself to his court, soliciting their approval for the creation of humankind. Like the gods, humans will represent the divine on earth; conversely, angels are often called 'is, "a man." Garr regards the lesser deities as exclusively male, denying that the reference to sexual dimorphism ("male and female") is part of the divine image and likeness (but see below). The conclusion of part one is that, like other biblical authors, the Priestly Writer regarded heaven as populated by diverse entities. (Garr might have indulged in speculation that the focus on human creation and procreation [[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]] implicitly replaces a theogonic myth accounting for the gods' generations.)
Part two, which makes for challenging reading, tackles the expressions "image" (selem) and "likeness" ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]). In chapters six and seven, Garr rejects the common view that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and kidmutenu are synonymous. He methodically breaks the issue down into two parts, asking first whether [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]- is interchangeable with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]- (chapter six), and then whether selem is interchangeable with [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (chapter seven). In both cases, Garr finds important differences. The preposition [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]- is "locative-proximate," while [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]- is "similative-separative" (p. 111). Used in parallel, they suggest that "in two similar ways, the human creature will be very much like, yet somewhat unlike, God and the gods" (p. 115). Garr opines that [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is a resemblance of some sort, not necessarily physical--although almost all the examples he cites are explicitly physical. He concedes that part of the divine [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is sexual dimorphism and heterosexual procreation, but he denies that this is the sole or primary referent. Rather, the biblical author is thinking of a masculine likeness (pp. 128-32). Hebrew selem, in contrast, is a "representation, copy or facsimile" (p. 134), comparable to Akkadian salmu, "divine image," often referring to the king. The most important aspect of selem is authority. Like the gods, humankind will wield "dominion ... over the whole earth, and over everything that moves on the earth." As God's earthly representation, humans like the gods are required to use their royal power for justice (cf. Psalms 8, 82). Because the earliest humans foment injustice, God sends the Flood. P's theme points ahead to Abraham, who founds a people and a line of kings (Gen. 17:4-6). God's ultimate image and likeness on earth is Israel.
Part three discusses the context of Gen. 1:26-27. In chapter eight, Garr describes Creation as the transformation of both matter and God, as they become respectively ruled and ruler. Garr compares the Priestly Creation with the ancient Near Eastern and Israelite combat myth, especially its Mesopotamian and Ugaritic exemplars. In P, "God's rule is not simply a fact. It is an achievement. It begins when God emerges the victor of a highly sublimated clash with the deep.... God performs a bloodless, non-combative and nonviolent coup" (pp. 198-99).
In chapter nine, Garr finally disposes of the paradox that began his study: is P monotheistic or not? For P, the gods do exist as characters--but only momentarily, when God interacts with humans by creating ha'adam. Some deities, like the Destroyer (Exod. 12:23 [JE]), are demoted into abstractions (Exod. 12:13 [P]); some, like the Cherubim, become decorative ornaments (Exod. 25:18-20; 26:1, 31). As kings of the earth, however, the gods' role is usurped by humanity and, ultimately, Israel, who become Yahweh's "assembly" (qahal, 'eda) and "army" (saba'). Israel is most G/godlike when worshiping at the Tabernacle, whose construction the Priestly Creation foreshadows (pp. 233-34). Here Garr might have mentioned the key term mo'ed, which in Hebrew connotes both "sacred festival" and "sacred tent," but in Ugaritic means "(divine) assembly."
Garr concludes his monograph by discussing the omission of the expected "and God saw that it was good" apropos of human creation. Garr suggests that this is not a condemnation of humanity, only that judgment should be suspended. "[T]he story of human creation is not yet over."
I would say the same of this inquiry. One cannot properly discuss P's theology without engaging the issues of purity and sacrifice. As Garr states but does not sufficiently emphasize, the Tabernacle culminates all of his themes: the representation of God on earth, Yahweh's celestial retinue, legitimate cultic imagery, the administration of justice before God, etc. Deeper consideration might in turn have led Garr back to the complicated question he treats briefly in his preface: the literary composition of the Priestly work.
Overall, in what he set out to do, Garr has achieved new clarity; he has raised the bar for close reading of the Bible. His work will not end debate, however. Even for this sympathetic reader, while the mind struggled to accept, the stomach instinctively rejected Garr's subtle distinction between [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] kidmutenu "in our image, according to our likeness," apropos of the divine-human relationship in Gen. 1:26, and bidmuto [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] "in his likeness, according his image," apropos of the father-son relationship in Gen. 5:3 (pp. 131-32). (One might here consider the potential relevance of "Seidel's Law," whereby resumptive repetitions often feature inversion.)
Did we need another treatment of this overworked subject? Evidently so. Most of Garr's separate points, as he meticulously notes, are precedented in the literature. But the realms of linguistics and theology intersect far too rarely, to theology's detriment. Garr's work will be read with interest and assimilated into the ongoing attempt to grasp the Priestly Writer's message. His monograph complements John F. Kutsko's Between Heaven and Earth (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2000), which likewise addresses the relationship between God, the gods, idols, humanity, and Israel, but from the perspective of Ezekiel. One hopes that Garr and others will apply his rigorous exegetical approach to less familiar corners of biblical literature.
WILLIAM H. C. PROPP
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO
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|Author:||Propp, William H.C.|
|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 2004|
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