What does the sentence

God made man in his own image.

mean? Is the structure "make sth in sth" always valid? I can't find it in dictionaries.

  • There is nothing unusual about the use of any of the common English words in this sentence. Which of the words or usages do you not understand? – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 13 '17 at 20:29
  • @P.E.Dant Could you give an example of a phrase where in is used in a similar fashion? – user3395 Aug 13 '17 at 21:00
  • @P.E.Dant: Probably "image" is the peculiar one here, although "the spitting image of his father" is not that unusual. – Nathan Tuggy Aug 13 '17 at 21:03
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    For "made in the [noun] of", see this search, and this search. – P. E. Dant Reinstate Monica Aug 13 '17 at 23:17

The English usage "in the image [of something]" is archaic, but still understood, and it was much more common at the time of the publication of the "King James" bible which, in the case of what Christians refer to as the "old" testament, was a translation from the original Hebrew of the Torah.

"In the image of" means simply "to resemble". The following two statements are equivalent in meaning.

I built my house in the image of a castle.
I built my house to resemble a castle.

OED has, for this usage of the noun image:

a. The aspect, appearance, or form of someone or something; semblance, likeness. Now only in allusions to, or uses derived from, biblical language, esp. Genesis 1:26, 27.

In 1611, that King James translation has:

God created man in his owne Image, in the Image of God created hee him.

OED also provides these later citations:

1939 W. Y. Tindall D. H. Lawrence & Susan his Cow i. 23 He continued to prophesy and to make prophetical heroes in his image.

1991 J. Diski Happily ever After xvi. 181 One can't be sure about God. How do you know He has good taste? After all, he created Cecil B. De Mille in His image as well as Frank Capra.

Because this archaic usage is preserved in the English translation of the original Hebrew of the Torah, "in the image of" is used today (as the OED definition says) only when the intention of the writer is to allude to things religious. In and of itself, though, there is nothing "mysterious" about the usage.

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  • Thank you for editing your answer! Setting aside the history (including politics as well as sources) of English translations leading up to the 1611 publication of the KJV, "The translation was done by 47 scholars, all of whom were members of the Church of England. In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin." (Wikipedia) You're the man, Mr. Dant! +1 – Mark Hubbard Aug 14 '17 at 14:02

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