Kingdom of Priests

Kingdom of Priests


God’s Image in Man’s Face — and Hands and Feet, Too!

posted by David Klinghoffer
Jews who want to embrace Darwinism must at the very least tie themselves up into one very tight kosher pretzel if they don’t also want to jettison their allegiance to Judaism, or to intellectual and spiritual coherence, in the process.
A while back I posted on the physical way that God’s image or tzelem is reflected in the human face. As always, some readers who didn’t want to go there found this offensive. Let them now take up the matter with Rashi.
The earlier context was the incoherent mishmash called “theistic evolution,” an idea that seeks hopelessly to reconcile Darwinism with traditional theism. Theistic evolutionists don’t mind thinking that God didn’t quite care what kind of intelligent being arose from the evolutionary process — could have been a brainy dinosaur, a smart squid, or something monstrous we can only dare to imagine. According to guys like Kenneth Miller or Francis Collins, God simply set a cosmic evolutionary process in motion (or maybe not even that) and let nature take its course, wherever and whatever that might be. This is supposed to be satisfying to a theist, whether Christian or Jewish. I showed that Judaism can’t readily be reconciled with such divine indifference to the form of our bodies.

Basic ideas in Judaism often come out in funny places in the Talmud and other rabbinic literature. Thus in the Talmudic tractate Shabbat (50b) there’s a discussion of whether it’s permissible on the Sabbath or a weekday for a man to use certain cosmetic procedures on himself. The larger context is a bit too odd to get into. It would be distracting. But the discussion includes a statement that certainly a person is obligated “to wash his face, hands, and feet daily because of the honor of his Maker.” On this, the indispensable medieval commentator Rashi explains that “As it is said, ‘For in the image of God He made man’ (Genesis 9:6).”
Not only the face but the hands and feet reflect God’s image! This is Judaism speaking, as fundamental a source as Rashi on the Talmud.
In previous posts I suggested that our human countenance, the face, somehow reflects a supernal model. Contra Miller and Collins, an octopus would not fit the bill. Does that mean God has a face? No, obviously not in a literal sense. Yet somehow, something about Him can be reflected in our body, and He willed that it should be so.


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Turmarion

posted October 6, 2009 at 11:58 pm


Does that mean God has a face? No, obviously not in a literal sense.
Well, I’m glad you grant this, at least, though it basically destroys your whole argument.
Dennis Prager in his book Think a Second Time (if I remember the title right), in a very different context, said that some human behaviors are holy and others, while not evil as such, are unholy, to the extent that they elevate humans above the mere animal, or fail to do so. The example he gives is eating cooked food on a table with utensils, as opposed to tossing it on the floor and crouching to gobble it up. The latter is unworthy of a creature in God’s image.
Of course, God does not eat; the issue here isn’t in human vs. animal digestive tracts, but in the behavior. Only man has intelligence and a mind, and thus can modify his own behavior, raising or lowering himself in the process. This, not the human (or animal) body is what is meant by being in “God’s image”.
Thus, I’d take the quotes you give in much this way–washing one’s face and hands is promoted not because our hands and faces are somehow “like” God, but because the behavior that seeks good hygiene and cleanliness is more like the Divine. It is the mind that seeks cleanliness and purity that is in God’s image, not the face and hands it washes.
To turn it around, though I am unfamiliar with the Jewish view here, Christians theologians have tended to see all of Creation as in a sense manifesting God. It may be that “somehow, something about Him can be reflected in our body, and He willed that it should be so”; but the same applies to the sun, moon, and stars, the winds, the lion and the lamb, the oak and the rose, and so on and on. It certainly seems to me that the rich natural imagery of Scripture indicates that, while only humans are in God’s image in the fullest sense, He is certainly imaged in many, many other places. The difference in humans, as almost all Jewish and Christian philosophers have held, is in the human mind and intellect, unique (as far as we know) in the material cosmos.
Of course, since Christians believe that God became incarnate, we would say that in Christ He does have a face, hands, feet, body, etc. (though had he made octopi intelligent, I’m sure He both could and would have become incarnate as one of them). If I were a Jew, I’d say your argument is not only extremely eccentric, but uncomfortably close to Christian. Of course, that’s not for me, as a Gentile, to say, but it does spring to mind.
I end with three points. One, not all proponents of theistic evolution necessarily think that God was indifferent to the final form intelligence took. He may have wished to use the forces of evolution with the full intent of producing us as we are; and He’d certainly be able to do so if He felt like it.
Two, you’ve never yet explained why God’s image couldn’t be in some other creature. For all we know, there may be intelligent, octopus-like life-forms elsewhere in the cosmos. Would they not be in God’s image? If not, why not? If so, then why couldn’t we have been octopi?
Three, the posts for the last month or so have actually been pretty good and have largely avoided all the ID, evolution-bashing goofiness. I must frankly say that I got totally burned out on it all, what with some of the negative directions things were going in and a rather unpleasant feeling of aggravation in myself that was getting to me. I found it necessary to just walk away for awhile, though I’ve kept up with reading the posts. I hope the current posts are not regrettable return to form, but a brief aberration.



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LazerA

posted October 7, 2009 at 5:10 am


The idea that the human physical body manifests, in some way, a representation of the “image of God” is a commonplace in Jewish religious writings. At the same time, this concept is, obviously, not a simple one, in that the very idea of an “image of God” is a difficult one.
While I tend to side with David on this general issue, I don’t think his proof is as strong as he is asserting. There are a number of traditionally acceptable ways to approach this issue, not all of which would result in his conclusion.
Even the Rashi that David quotes gives two explanations for the Talmudic injunction to wash one’s face. The first is the explanation cited by David. Rashi continues, “and furthermore, because one who sees beautiful people will say, ‘Blessed is He Who has such in His world!'”



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Turmarion

posted October 7, 2009 at 10:37 am


Thank you, LazarA. We’ve disagreed sharply in the past, and probably would on this issue, too, but I appreciate that you point out how weak the grounds for David’s argument are, even if you’re sympathetic to it. This shows integrity.
It also points out one of the sources of the aggravation I spoke of above when I used to post more regularly. This is typical of the way David argues: he takes a complex, subtle, multifaceted issue, egregiously oversimplifies it to the point of distortion, takes an out-of-context snippet of a quote from the Sages to make his point, and then if someone takes issue, he either ignores them or accuses them of attacking Jewish tradition and the Sages. There is no attempt at subtlety, no attempt at genuine intellectual exchange, no real dialogue.
It really gets crazy-making after awhile, and is why I finally felt the need to hang it up. I made the comment here since I think the “image of God” trope is one of David’s more flagrant distortions, but I’m not going to get sucked into regular debate again with an opponent who feels no need even to try to fight fair or show intellectual integrity.



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Major Ray

posted October 7, 2009 at 11:33 am


I have found that the rituals in the Hebrew bible reflect the image of God in the form the the sacrificial lambs and goats, which represent Jesus Christ. The symbolism in patterns, colored dyes, and twisted fibers used in rituals reflected the actual body of Christ. The power of imagery to transfer information and to foreshadow the real thing through time and space is not realized by traditional scientists. This why the death of the original seed of God (the second Adam, Jesus Christ)can save all men past, present, and future from death unto eternal life. Man was deceived in the first earth age and will be again in this current earth age (evolutionary theory and Darwinism are ludicrous ideas). Man is captivated by his own wisdom and discoveries even as he uses the very brain God created. True knowledge comes from God’s Word.



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Marian

posted October 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm


“Two, you’ve never yet explained why God’s image couldn’t be in some other creature. For all we know, there may be intelligent, octopus-like life-forms elsewhere in the cosmos. Would they not be in God’s image? If not, why not? If so, then why couldn’t we have been octopi?”
It would make talmudic-style argument so much more fun, to be able to say “on one hand…and on another hand…and on yet another hand…”



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Michael Peterson

posted October 7, 2009 at 4:33 pm


I disagree with David’s supposition that God is somehow manifested in the physical image of man. The URL above offers a straightforward argument for an alternative understanding. For example, I quote from the last paragraph of my post:
“Mankind is special … not because we “look like God”, but because we have been imbued with some part of God’s intangible substance. I can not speak for Jewish theology, but Lutheran theology holds that the tzelem referred to in this text refers to that part of God capable of moral distinctions and to act in ways that may not be to a specie’s reproductive advantage.”
Sincerely,
Michael



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Mark

posted October 7, 2009 at 10:17 pm


Turmarion, if you could just address David’s last sentence…
“I showed that Judaism can’t readily be reconciled with such divine indifference to the form of our bodies.”
Darwin insisted on this indifference, according to most of his biographers. Do you differ with Darwin on this point?



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Turmarion

posted October 7, 2009 at 11:46 pm


Mark: Darwin’s religious views were highly complex and changed over time; and in any case, his religious views are not really relevant to his scientific views, as I think he firmly pointed out many times. I certainly differ with his religious views; but his science seems pretty sound. In short, if Darwin thought as a religious opinion that God is indifferent to His creatures and their forms, that is totally irrelevant to the validity or lack thereof of evolutionary theory. Acceptance of the latter does not automatically entail acceptance of the former, as both you and David seem to think. It’s just like accepting relativity theory doesn’t commit one to being a Spinoza-like deist as was Einstein. A scientist’s religion is never logically entailed by his science.
If God works through what seem to us to be random evolutionary processes, He could perfectly well have intended all along that the end result be us as we are, and done so through those processes. Thus I disagree with Miller and others who think that theistic evolution necessarily implies that God turned the cosmos loose and let whatever developed develop.
Put it another way–it is a truism in circuses that the clown is the most talented athlete of all, since he has to do funny slapstick physical things that seem erratic and clumsy, but which require great precision and skill to avoid injury. Not that I’m comparing God to a clown, but the idea that the seemingly random requires greater finesse than the obviously “designed” seems evident to me.
Of course, the problem is that David seems to think that there is something about the human body such that God could not have made intelligence in any other form, even in principle. He asserts this, but can’t back it up. He states it as obvious that intelligent octopi would not have been in God’s image, but won’t say why this would be so. Why couldn’t God have made intelligent octopi, or squirrels, or giraffes, or anything else, in His image?
Moreover, if God is one, as we believe, and if intelligent beings live elsewhere in the universe, are they not by virtue of their minds in God’s image, no matter what they look like? It seems that one either has to assert that there are no such life forms (which can’t be done on the basis of religious tradition, and the scientific case is open); or that if there are, they must look like us (for which I can find no theological argument); or that they may look very much different from us and yet be equally in God’s image, which David denies by assertion but without proving. Oh, he quotes partial out-of-context snippets from the great rabbis, but even LazarA called him on that, as you see above.
Anyway, as I and others have pointed out here many, many times, David, in asserting some necessary connection between the image of God and the human body is far out of the mainstream of Jewish and Christian philosophy, which have both stated with fair consistency that the “image” of God in man is in man’s mind, not his physical form.



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Turmarion

posted October 10, 2009 at 11:54 am


Look, I’m as much opposed to David’s views on evolution and certain aspects of his attitude and ways of argumentation as anyone. However, I stick to the topic when I do post and don’t put up puerile off-topic attacks and sophomoric gutter humor, especially on a Shabbat when David is unable to respond, as some of the posters here are doing now. I’ve called on David to avoid ad hominems and to follow the proper modes of argument–I would call on those who are posting right now to do the same. David has remarked (wrongly, in my view) on the rudeness and nastiness of those whom he calls “Darwinists”. For those who disagree with him, when you act like asses you just prove his point. As much as I may disagree with David on a lot of things, it is minimal decency and courtesy to defend him when others here are behaving badly, and to ask that debate be focused on actual content, not the level of Beavis and Butthead.



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Turmarion

posted October 10, 2009 at 3:46 pm


Your Name: I am not dictating or suggesting to anyone, Jewish or Gentile, how to practice their faith, and if you think that’s what I’m doing, you’re not paying attention.
I am also not by any stretch of the imagination defending David’s modes of argumentation, his beliefs regarding evolution, or many of his policies here. I am on record as being strenuously opposed to all of these. The point is that if one objects to such things, one should show oneself above,/i> them, not resort to the same thing.
That there may be truth in sophomoric and purile humor doesn’t make it any less sophomoric and puerile, and there is far too much puerility in our cultural discourse as it is. If you’re comparing me to a Nazi, then you’re being puerile
and off your rocker, to boot.
This is why I quit posting here to begin with–too much overheated rhetoric on both sides. This blog, unfortunately, has not provided a good atmosphere for honest discussion of diverging views. I blame David for that, mainly, but a lot of the posters haven’t helped things, either.



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earl

posted October 11, 2009 at 3:36 pm


Tofu (who is so ignorant that he can’t even type correctly) is a anti-Semitic jerk, and owes Tumarion an apology.
That being said: my all-purpose calendar says that today (Sunday) is a Jewish holiday. So, perhaps, that is why David has delayed his
‘coming out’ announcement.



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