Tag Archives: icon

Icons and Character

There’s something that has fascinated people for centuries about the creation account in Genesis. It says that Adam was made in the image of God:

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

I had a hunch about something, so I did a little research into the Greek version of the Old Testament because that’s what the New Testament author of Hebrews quotes. (It’s called the Septuagint or abbreviated as “LXX”.) It turns out that in the Septuagint, the word used in this passage of Genesis is “eikón,” which is where we get our English word, “icon.” An icon is defined as “An image; a representation.” Adam was made as an icon of God, and he was meant to have children, exercise dominion over the animals, and, strangely enough, eat vegetables (Genesis 1:28-29). I have no clue what the vegetables part means, but either way something went terribly wrong and here we are still living in the consequences of Adam’s fall (Romans 5:12).

So why did I bother looking all that up? It’s because of a special word that only shows up once in the entire New Testament and it’s used to describe Christ. In Hebrews 1:3, we read that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of God’s nature. I was especially interested in the “exact imprint” part. For some reason, it caught my attention, it jumped off the page at me! As it turns out, this Greek word is not eikón, but instead it’s “charaktér.” Look familiar? It’s were we get the English word “character,” which is defined as “The combination of qualities or features that distinguishes one person, group, or thing from another.”

If Adam was an icon that represented God, Jesus fully and flawlessly embodied God’s character, His nature! And where Adam failed to image God, Christ served as a perfect representation of God’s character. Perhaps it means nothing, but I find it interesting that the author of Hebrews quotes the Septuagint quite frequently, but chose to use a different word to describe Christ.