If we hold out on turning to the New Testament for a day or two longer, what will we find by digging into the creation of humanity narratives in Gen 1-2?
What does it mean to read Gen 1 as a true story while knowing that it cannot be the remnants of a blueprint for how the earth was constructed?
How can we know the latter? Well, the sun is where our light comes from, not a reflection of another light. The sun and moon are needed for the earth to have its air and light and plant life.
But the sun and moon are created as “rulers” of the lights. The light that was is gathered up into them and governed by them.
Humanity comes in at the end, the final act in God’s creation.
Humanity, we are told, is created in God’s image and likeness to rule the world on God’s behalf.
One thing that we need to keep in mind is that “image and likeness” is not ontological language, but functional language. In the Ancient Near East, to be the image of God is to be the one charged to rule as king.
This means that Genesis 1 does not require God to have created humanity with reason, artistic ability, eternal souls, or any such. It means that God creates humanity to rule the world for God.
I believe that the language is also evocative of filiation: to be “image and likeness” in Gen 5 is to be the son of someone. Once again, function is likely in view: to be son of God in the OT is to be God’s elect, the people or person who represent God’s reign to the earth.
The Gen 1 story seems geared toward placing humanity upon the earth: a people who rule the world for God.
One interesting question that came up in the comment sections a while back was what a non-historical reading of Gen 1-3 might do for gender relationships. One interesting dynamic of Gen 1 is that humanity as male and female are given this role of “children of God” who rule the world on God’s behalf. Although it would likely be anachronistic to charge the writer of Gen 1 with being an egalitarian, it is a striking inclusion of both man and woman in the task of ruling the world for God.
Genesis 1 would then set a trajectory for a story in which what humanity in general did would be focalized in Israel and, specifically, the Davidic king–the begotten son of God.
As a Christian reading of the narrative builds on this picture, we find that Jesus is The Man who comes to rule the world on God’s behalf, acting in God’s name and authority and ultimately being enthroned at God’s right hand.
Why is “image of God” in Rom 8 language of redemption rather than creation? Because it is the language of new creation–God is fulfilling humanity’s purpose by making us like the resurrected Jesus: adopted and resurrected children who rule the world on God’s behalf.