In His Own Image: The Relationship Between God and Man from Ancient Babylon to Beowulf

In His Own Image: The Relationship Between God and Man from Ancient Babylon to Beowulf

A Chapter by Rachel Knight

In His Own Image
The relationship between God and Man from ancient Babylon to Beowulf

God is the Creator, and the Creator is God. If the world is formed by any system, be it the phenomena explored in the field of science or the will of a conscious and all-knowing being, the most prime of creators in the world is God. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, “it is through Him that all things are made.”  Ea Elish, the Genesis of ancient Babylon, is a tale of creation through birth: birth given by Tiamat to the gods, and the birth of the world by Marduck.

Divine creators do not make man first of all things; humankind is often formed late in creation myths. The function for which man is created is stated explicitly in Babylonian tradition, and left slightly more ambiguous in the Bible, yet one theme cohabitates both of the stories: it is imperative for man to behave in a manner that is appropriate to their standing with God. What behaving like this entails is perhaps the most discussed theme in the Bible, and what the Bible says on the subject can be said to form the basis for most Jewish and Christian religious practices. The reasons for the laws of Judeo-Christianity—that men must be circumcised, that false idols must be shunned, that a holy day be observed—are largely based on man’s actions in respect to God. The implications these laws possess illuminate the nature of the relationship between God and man.
In Ea Elish, gods created man to perform rituals in honor of the gods.

Punishment they inflicted upon [Ea] by cutting the arteries of his blood
With his blood [the gods] created mankind,
And they had imposed the services of the gods upon them

Unlike its Babylonian counterpart, Genesis does not exactly explain the need for mankind. Perhaps Adam was created to tend to the land, which had “no man to till the soil.”  Or perhaps it was to provide God with a companion. Unlike the trees and animals, man was created in “God’s own image.” What it means to be created in His image is not definitively explained, but it does bring man closer to God than any of His other creations.

From the beginning of mankind, it was the duty of Man to live within the boundaries that God created. God created the wonderful Garden of Eden for Adam and Eve to roam in, but he restricted them to the trees that were not the Tree of Knowledge Good and Bad. Man disobeyed God, which set the tone for all human beings to come. Now, in addition to being a creator, God became a controller of man. He sentenced them to eventual death, and to labor pains that would in a sense punish Woman for bringing new human beings into the world.

Though the punishment of labor pains was not later alleviated by God, the sting of death was. Later in the Bible, Christ shared the good news of Heaven; that every good person would have a cell reserved for them in the true temple of God. This added a note of benevolence to God’s relationship with Man. Death was no longer a punishment for the sin of Adam and Eve, but a way to reach a closer covenant with the Lord.
Something as mysterious as the relationship between Man and God is bound to bring up more questions than answers. Augustine’s Confessions provides many. “Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty?”  he asks. What can individual men and women do to sufficiently offer praise unto the Lord? A few lines after Augustine poses this question, he illustrates the extent of man’s attachment to God as he sees it.

Since he [man] is a part of your creation, he wishes to praise you. The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, for you made him for yourself, and our hearts find no peace until they can rest in you.

What is man’s duty to God? What is his responsibility as a creature “made…for” God? What does it mean to be made by, and yet for, the Lord? This again raises the question of whether or not men and women are intended to be companions to the Lord. They are not God’s equals, and thus not his peers. So instead of being companions, perhaps God’s purpose in creating mankind is to have beings to laud (or praise, in Augustine’s words) Him.
Why does God want to be worshipped? Just like the Babylonian gods, the Judeo-Christian God requires worship for some reason and uses humans for this purpose. “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to the Pharoah and tell him: thus says the Lord: Let my people go to worship me.”  Perhaps it is that He knows His Word is truth, and He wants to share the truth with mankind. Or perhaps he needs his work appreciated. Or perhaps he wants acknowledgement that He is the almighty being. He might wish for men to be in awe of him, and not argue with him or disobey the laws he sets. It might be that he sets these laws for the sole purpose of having any laws at all, as long as they are followed, thus proving his power.

The relationship between Man and God is very much complicated by the presence of Christ. Both man and God, he lived among human beings as one of them but was also more divine than even the prophets. “Who has known the mind of the Lord, so as to counsel him? But we have the mind of Christ.”

In the Book of Isaiah, a friend of the narrator had a vineyard that did not grow quality grapes. As a result, the vineyard-keeper destroyed the land with a malicious attitude towards his creation. God uses fire and flooding to rid his world of sinners. Why does the vineyard keeper ruin his vineyard instead of fixing it? Cannot God tend to his people with kindness and love instead of lethal punishment? This, too, is an act of control.
The Beatitudes in the Book of Mathew imply a very close and special relationship between God and Man.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Unlike in Genesis, Isaiah and Amos, in many books of the New Testament “mercy” and “comfort” are gifts of God, emphasized over death and punishment given to sinners.
In the Old Testament, God holds a special relationship with his “chosen people,” the Hebrews. In the New Testament, Christ moves away from elitist attitudes and emphasizes that all humans are the children of God.

While [Matthew] was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the word, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

In Isaiah and Genesis, God kills off sinners instead of trying to help them. Jesus does the opposite.

Job had everything taken away from him by God; but then again, God gave him all of those things to begin with.

Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb
and naked shall I go back again.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord!

Can the papyrus grow without mire?
Can the reed grass flourish without water?
While it is yet green and uncut,
it withers quicker than any grass.
So is the end of everyone who forgets God,
and so shall the hope of a Godless man perish.

“But,” said Moses to God, “when I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” God replied, “I am who am.”

Not even “I am who I am.” God is in all that exists, and perhaps even is  all that exists. His will, or perhaps his very existence, determines the happenings of the world. So why does God choose to inflict maladies upon some people?

The Lord said to him, “Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb? Or who gives sight to one and makes the other blind? Is it not I, the Lord?

Why does God not save the Israelites from suffering sooner? He says, “On your return to Egypt, see that you perform before Pharoah all the wonders I have put in your power. I will make him obstinate, however, so that he will not let the people go.”

For what purpose was Man created? What does it mean to be made “In God’s image”? Eating from the Tree of Wisdom seems to have made human beings what they are today, but what were they before they gained wisdom and became aware of their nakedness?

Before we ate from the Tree of Wisdom, we were basically God’s dolls that he played with in his dollhouse. Until Adam and Eve tasted the apple, humans did not have suffering, did not have wisdom, and did not make choices. Once the choice to eat the forbidden fruit was made (even before the fruit was actually eaten,) we ceased to be dolls and started to be what we now consider human.

When reading Beowulf, the reader is frequently reminded that the events taking place in the narrative happened because they were the will of God. Augustine shares the philosophy that God preordains the fate of the individual, for he says that it was God’s will that he reach his holy epiphany in the garden at the time that he did and not earlier in his life. In Exodus, God himself claims to control the outcome of situations when he informs Moses that He will make the Pharoah “obstinate.” Control and law are different, for Man has the free will to sin, but he cannot avoid his own fate.

God’s relationship with Man is characterized by three things: creation, control, and law. God is responsible for the creation of man, for he made him; control, for he preordains the fate of every man; and law, for he communicates rules that human beings ought to follow.

© 2009 Rachel Knight

Author's Note

Rachel Knight
I used footnotes for all citations, difficult to include here. If you'd like the citations, feel free to ask!

My Review

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Interesting view - nice take on this subject!


Posted 4 Years Ago

Rachel, something I should have told you before... Gandre is an a*s. She doesn't know what she's talking about.

As it stands, I think your paper is well thought out and insightful, and I can only congratulate you. I look forward to reading it more in depth.

Posted 12 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

I disagree, God is the Greater Mind. The universe is self-evolving, everything is intelligent, absolutely everything. When we are a part of this universe (we are in the box) we can't look at ourselves without having an internal opinion. This is not so. To me - praying to someone who is dead since 2,000 years is even ridiculous (to me but I respect). God (The Greater Mind) doesn't want us anything, nor does he want to control. Only religion and their institutions want to control, that's why they created religion, the same as governments or media, or dominant husband. No difference between them. An individuum has a relationship with God (The Greater Mind) never his religious group. This is a misinterpretation.
and, on beginning of all this were possessions ==> that's why such people needed power >> and who has power - that one is in advantage. Everything is politics. Absolutely, everything. The univese is self-creating. Nobody ever created it. We people yet influence the univese with our minds. I wrote about this before. One can create spoken....universe in his mind. And what exists is that what an invidivuum is conscious of. Simple as that. What you don't know - it doesn't exist. There were worlds... in South America 4,000 years ago, Peru, newest fundings.. Why nobody talks about it? For, that was that time not too interesting for the Brits. I disagree with the content, but it is my right. All this Adam and Eve....all created to intimidate man. They still create such intimidation daily (media, just watch). and of course, Eve was to blame, for man always has been trapped between her legs.

Posted 12 Years Ago

0 of 3 people found this review constructive.

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3 Reviews
Added on March 18, 2009
Last Updated on March 19, 2009

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