The biblical concept of imago Dei sets the Judeo-Christian narrative apart from other ancient origin stories.
Recently, there have been discussions about the core identity of humankind—whether we are first and foremost sinners in need of a Savior, or whether God has created us with a nature that is fundamentally good. This is a deeply theological issue with implications for nearly every aspect of our lives and society at large.
Who are we? Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? These are questions that virtually every human society has asked and answered through origin stories—which are religious or cultural narratives that speak to the purpose and destiny of humanity.
I explored many different origin stories from around the world while creating a video series called “Storytelling and the Human Condition” for The Teaching Company and Wondrium (formerly The Great Courses). And even though I was raised in an evangelical Christian home, I was struck by how much I took for granted in the Judeo-Christian anthropology when I compared it to others.
In the Judeo-Christian worldview, the origin story of humankind is defined by the imago Dei: the notion that God created human beings in his image. And when I compared the creation narrative in Genesis to other ancient origin stories from the Mesopotamian region, this concept hit me in a new way.
Genesis reveals important information about the character of the Judeo-Christian God. There is a single Creator who acts upon the world with intention and brings order out of chaos. There is a purpose to it all. It is all done in a peaceful environment: The phrase “Let there be” is sufficient to bring whole new creations into being.
After the creation of the cosmos, earth, and animals, God creates Adam and Eve—suggesting that humankind is the pinnacle of …