Image - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Imageeikon (G1504) Image
homoiosis (G3669) Likeness
homoioma (G3667) Similitude
The distinction between eikon and homoiosis and homoioma is interesting for two reasons. First, these terms were debated in the Arian controversy. In that context the question was: Are these words suitable to represent the relation of the Son to the Father? Second, as used in Genesis 1:26 (LXX) these terms raise the question: Does this passage draw a distinction between the "image" (eikon) of God in whichand the "likeness" (homoiosis) of God after whichman was created, and if so, what exactly is the distinction?
During the course of the long Arian debate, a very definite distinction was drawn between eikon and homoiosis and homoioma. Apart from the Arian controversy, eikon and homoioma frequently were used as synonyms. For example, homoiomata and eikones were used interchangeably by Plato to describe the earthly copies and representations of the heavenly archetypes. But when the church needed to defend itself against Arian error and equivocation, it drew a sharp distinction between these two words that was not arbitrary but based on an essential difference of meaning.
Eikon always refers to a prototype that it resembles and from which it is drawna paradeigma. Thus Gregory Nazianzene stated: "For this is the nature of an image [eikonos]:to be an imitation of an archetype." The monarch's head on a coin is an eikon (Matt. 22:20); the reflection of the sun in the water is an eikon; and the statue in stone or other material also is an eikon (Rev. 13:14). The illustration that comes closest to fully revealing the meaning of eikon is that of the relation of a child to his parents, for a child is "a living image" (empsychos eikon) of his parents.
Although homoioma, or homoiosis, implies that one thing resembles another, the resemblance is not necessarily acquired in the same way as is the resemblance of an eikon to that which it resembles. Unlike an eikon, in the case of homoioma and homoiosis, the resemblance is not a derived resemblance but may be an accidental one, as when one egg is like another or when two unrelated men resemble one another. According to Augustine, the imago (image = eikon) includes and involves the similitudo (likeness), but the similitudo (=homoiosis) does not involve the imago. This explains why the New Testament uses eikon to describe the Son's relation to the Father but does not use any of the homoios (G3664) words to do so. In fact, as soon as the church saw that the homoios word family was not used in good faith, it condemned the use of these words to describe Christ.
Although eikon expresses the truth about Christ's relation to the Father, this term is inadequate to express the whole truth about a matter that transcends the limits of human thought. Eikon denotes an image that has been derived from an archetype. But because no derived image has the same worth and dignity as its prototype, the use of eikon to describe Christ's relation to the Father must be compensated for. Because homoiotes, homoiosis, and related words express mere similarity, they do not suitably describe Christ's relation to the Father. The church, guided by exactly the same considerations, allowed the verb gennan (G1080) but not the verb ktizein (G2936) to be used to describe the Son's relation to the Father.
The exegetical issue surrounding the use of eikon and homoiosis has to do with the nature of man. In the great fiat announcing man's original constitution, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness" is anything different intended by the second phrase than by the first? Or is the second phrase simply the result of the first"in Our image" and therefore "after Our likeness"? The New Testament claims that man is both the eikon (1 Cor. 11:7) and the homoiosis (James 3:9). This whole subject is discussed at length by Gregory of Nyssa, who, with many of the fathers and schoolmen, saw a real distinction between eikon and homoiosis. Thus the great Alexandrian theologians taught that the eikon was something inwhich men were created that was common to all men both before and after the fall (Gen. 9:6) and that the homoiosis was something towardwhich man was created, something for him to strive after. As Origen stated: "He received the dignity of the image [imaginis] in the first circumstance, but the perfecting of the likeness [similitudinis] has been preserved for the consummation."
The influence of Platonic ideas on Alexandrian theologians is evident in that distinction. It is well known that Plato presented the "becoming like God [homoiousthai] according to one's ability" as the highest scope of man's life. The schoolmen also drew a distinction, though not the same one, between "these two divine stamps upon man." Thus in Anselm, "image [imago] is according to the knowledge of truth; likeness [similitudo] is according to the love of virtue." The first word specifies the intellectual and the second the moral preeminence in which man was created.
Without justification, many interpreters have refused to acknowledge these or any other distinctions between the two declarations in Genesis 1:26. The Alexandrians were very near the truth, even if they did not completely grasp it. The words of Jerome (originally applied to the Book of Revelation) may aptly be applied to other passages of Scripture: "as many terms, so many mysteries." A passage like Genesis 1-3, which is the important history of man's creation and his fall, is one where we might expect to find mysteriesprophetic intimations of truths that might require ages to develop.
Without attempting to draw a very strict distinction between eikon and homoiosis or their Hebrew counterparts, we may say that the wholehistory of mannot only in his original creation but later in his restoration and reconstitution in the Sonis significantly wrapped up in the double statement of Genesis 1:26. Perhaps the reason for this double statement was because God did not stop at the contemplation of man as he was originally created, but looked forward to him as "renewedin knowledge according to the image of him who created him." Only as a partaker of this double benefit would man attain the true end for which he was ordained.