Tuesday, April 05, 2011

"Likeness" in Hebrews and Genesis: Hierarchy?

Creation of Adam
Michelangelo
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I suggested that "likeness" (ὁμοιότητα) in Hebrews 7:15 and "likened" in Hebrews 7:3 (ἀφωμοιωμένος) imply hierarchical relationships:
Hebrews 7:15, which refers to Jesus as a priest "in the likeness of Melchizedek" (κατὰ τὴν ὁμοιότητα Μελχισέδεκ) . . . . would appear to set up a hierarchical relationship, in which the one (Jesus) who is likened to the other (Melchizedek) is also therefore subordinated to him, as the likeness is to the original . . . . Hebrews 7:3 . . . states of Melchizedek that he is "likened to the Son of God" (ἀφωμοιωμένος . . . τῷ υἱῷ τοῦ θεοῦ), which sets up the same sort of hierarchical distinction, except that this time, Melchizedek is the one being subordinated, namely, to the Son of God.
I then noted:
But this sets up a circular hierarchical comparison in which Jesus is subordinated to Melchizedek, who is subordinated to God's Son, of whom Jesus is the incarnate manifestation.
And I asked:
Is the author of Hebrews using "likeness" (ὁμοιότητα) and "likened" (ἀφωμοιωμένος) in special senses, not to compare two figures in a hierarchical arrangement but to imply an identity?
I don't yet have an answer to that, but a recent visitor to the blog, "Scott," has asked:
Is there a difference in the Greek or Hebrew for the word "likeness" as used in Genesis or Hebrews and how it is used in Ezekiel like 1:10?
The Genesis use had been on my mind, for the hierarchical sense is clearly present there in Genesis 1:26, and I'll post the Hebrew (Masoretic text) and Greek (Septuagint) versions along with the English:
And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness

וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים נַֽעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ

καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα ἡμετέραν καὶ καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν
The Hebrew for "likeness" is demut (דמות) and the Greek is homoiosin (ὁμοίωσιν). The Greek is more useful for our purposes, and the term appears in the expression "according to (the) likeness," or kath' homoiosin (καθ᾽ ὁμοίωσιν). Although the three words for "likeness" are slightly different (though kath' [καθ᾽] and kata [κατὰ] are the same word), they have the same root, and the parallel to the expressions in Hebrews 7:15 and 7:3 is fairly strong, and there's undoubtedly a hierarchy in the Genesis verse, for mankind is clearly subordinate to God.

This doesn't resolve the issue in Hebrews as to whether the writer there was using "likeness" in a special sense of identity, for Genesis rather strongly implies a distinction essential to the hierarchy. The puzzle of the circular hierarchical arrangement of Jesus (as incarnate Son of God) to Melchizedek to the Son of God remains.

As for Ezekiel 1:10, it uses the same Hebrew and Greek as Genesis 1:26, but I can't see that it helps with the query about hierarchy.

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8 Comments:

At 5:11 AM, Anonymous dhr said...

Dunno if it fits here, but the Church Fathers distinguished between Man's "image" (eikon) and "likeness" (omoiosis) to God.
The first word meant the stable condition of our essence as having and showing something divine.
While "likeness" referred to the dynamics of Man who becomes divine through his behavior; in this case "to be like/as God" is considered as a goal rather than a native feature.

 
At 5:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting. I wonder how far back one might push that hermeneutic.

I'm not sure what it says about the query, though.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:49 AM, Blogger Scott said...

On Ezekiel, I did a search for "likeness" and it was one of the books where the term was used and used frequently.

In it, there is no sense of hierarchy at all. It was just a simile.

If the word in Ezekiel is the same for Genesis and Hebrews, I would tentively say that the hierarchy that is likely in Genesis - since one is God and the other (man) is His creation - does not have to be extended into Hebrews, at least based on word usage - since one doesn't seem to be implied in Ezekiel...???...

 
At 2:13 PM, Anonymous dhr said...

I'm not sure what it says about the query, though

Maybe, that "likeness" implies a "movement", a development, an effort, rather than being a bare fact to be taken for granted.

It is not sure, though, that the author of Hebrews, or Ezekiel for that, did share this Patristic view.

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Scott, the word in Genesis and Ezekiel is the same. Two different words -- of the same root as the one word used in Genesis and Ezekiel -- are used in Hebrews.

But I think that the expression of "after the likeness" (of us / of Melchizedek) in Genesis 1:26 and Hebrews 7:15 suggests a similar comparison, along with hierarchy.

The copy is understood as subordinated to the original. If we assume that Melchizedek is not divine, then the irony in Hebrews is that the full original is actually the Son, for Melchizedek is "likened" to the Son. Therefore, Melchizedek is subordinated to Jesus, insofar as Jesus is the incarnate Son.

But maybe an identity is being asserted in the apparent hierarchy: Jesus Christ is the incarnate one, Melchizedek the pre-incarnate Christophanic one, and the Son of God the pre-incarnate pre-Christophanic one.

So, they're really all the same divine entity. Maybe . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, Dario, we'd be pressing the point to see it in Hebrews.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the likeness is not in the person but in the office first as this does seem to be the context and the person of Mel.is subordinated to that of the Christ after the resurrection. SZ

 
At 3:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, SZ, for the comment. The office of priest in this case is named after Melchizedek, so I wonder if the person can be so easily distinguished from the office here. Also, could you cite the passage where Melchizedek is subodinated to Christ after the resurrection?

Jeffery Hodges

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