Secrets of Heaven #51

Da Emanuel Swedenborg

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51. As far as an image is concerned, it is not the likeness of another thing but is after a likeness of it, which explains the wording "Let us make a human in our image, after our likeness." A person with a spiritual character is an image, but a person with a heavenly character is a likeness or exact copy. 1 Genesis 1 deals with the spiritual person, Genesis 2 with the heavenly person.

The Lord calls the person of spiritual character (or an "image") a child of light, as he does in John:

Those who walk in the dark do not know where they are heading. As long as you have the light, believe in the light, in order to be children of light. (John 12:35-36)

He also calls such a person a friend:

You are my friends if you do whatever I command you. (John 15:14-15)

But the pe/rson of heavenly character (or a "likeness") he calls God's child in John:

As many as did accept him, to them he gave the power to be God's children, to those believing in his name, who had their birth not from blood 2 or from the flesh's will or from a man's will but from God. (John 1:12-13)


1. Other scholars see the actual meaning of the Hebrew words for "image" and "likeness" as differing slightly from Swedenborg's interpretation here. צֶלֶם (ṣelem, "image") "means predominantly an actual plastic work, a duplicate, sometimes an idol (1 Samuel 6:5; Numbers 33:52; 2 Kings 11:18); a painting (Ezekiel 23:14)... . [However,] דְּמוּת (dǝmûṯ, ‘likeness') is a verbal abstraction and means predominantly something abstract: ‘appearance,' ‘similarity,' ‘analogy' (Ezekiel 1:5, 10, 26, 28), but also ‘the copy' (2 Kings 16:10)" (von Rad 1972, 57-58). [RS]

2. The noun in the phrase here translated "from blood" is actually plural in the Latin, which is ex sanguinibus — literally, "from bloods;" these words are in turn a literal translation of the Greek, which is also plural: ἐξ αἱμάτων (ex haimáton). It should be noted that Swedenborg assigns significance to the plural form of the word in §374, where he deals with Genesis 4:10, in which Jehovah tells Cain, "The voice of your brother's blood is crying out." The word for blood there is plural in the original Hebrew (דָּמִים [dāmîm]). Swedenborg describes blood in general as meaning hatred and the plural form in Genesis 4:10 as symbolizing violence; and indeed Brown, Driver, and Briggs 1996, under דָּם, say that the Hebrew plural is sometimes associated with "rude violence." Swedenborg goes on to imply that the reason the plural means violence is that "everything wicked and abhorrent wells up out of hatred, just as everything good and holy wells up out of love." Furthermore, Swedenborg saw human blood as a compound of three "bloods" (see note 2 in §842), so even aside from the symbolic value of the plural, it would have been natural for him to use this plural in his rendering of this biblical passage. [LHC, RS, SS]

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Many thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation and its New Century Edition team.