In Colossians 1, it says, “He (the Son, Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created…”

The word image comes from the Greek eikon, from eiko, “to be like, resemble, image, representation, likeness, figure, facsimile, copy, reflection, appearance, manifestation, embodiment.” (The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible likes to leave nothing to chance, yeah?)

Of course, eikon, is where we get our English word “icon.”

Wait a minute…Jesus is the icon of the invisible God? Well, yes, but the sense of eikon as a manifestation or embodiment is much different than its sense as representation, image, likeness.

In John 14, Jesus is talking to Thomas, chiding him really. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” he says. “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

If you see Jesus, you see the Father. He and the Father are one. Jesus is not the image or likeness of God, he is the embodiment of God. He is God himself.

That puts an extra spin on the idea having Jesus “in your heart.” Enough spin to make you dizzy, if you truly contemplate the idea of the Creator of the Universe, El Elyon Himself, being as close as your very heart.

The President of the US? Layers and layers of security. One of us “real people” rarely get close enough to hear his actual voice, much less touch him.  No, the President doesn’t know my name, but God knows my heart. He lives there.

Even a small child knows the difference between seeing a picture, an image, of someone, and seeing that actual person. With Jesus, it’s different. If you’ve seen Him, you have seen God.

The God of the Universe is as close as your very heart.

When our pastor discussed this Colossians chapter on Sunday, setting off all these thoughts in my brain, we had just come from Sunday School, and a lesson on Genesis 1. We discussed how we are created in God’s image.

Image is the right word here, for we Christians reflect Christ in our lives to the world around us. When people see us, they see a reflection of Christ. Another dizzy-maker, if you take it to heart. Image comes from the Latin imago, meaning “imitation, copy, image,” the Latin version of eikon. You can easily think of a whole host of words from the Latin imago—how about imagination (a mental image), imagery, imagine?

No, not imitate, though it’s a good guess. Both image and imitate are related to the word emulate, from the Latin aemulatus, “Trying to equal or excel.” It’s interesting that the same Indo-European base word ai led to the Greek ainymai, “to take,” as in trying to take something away from someone.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary goes on to give emulate several meanings, mostly centered around the concept of rivalry and trying to outdo someone else. To me, emulate always conjured sweet pictures of a child carefully mimicking his parent’s movements as they work side-by-side. Interesting how our own ideas of a word affect our understanding of what others say, isn’t it?

BONUS: The word iconoclast comes from eikon, of course, and klaein, “to break.” Since an iconoclast is “one opposed to the religious use of images,” (WNWCD again) it makes sense to call them icon-breakers. We get our word calamity from the same root. Clastic itself can mean rock fragments.


 What words can you think of that have quite different meanings, depending on the context? (The way icon can mean “likeness” or “embodiment.”)


What words have colored the way you understood somebody, maybe differently than the way they intended to be understood? (The way I thought of emulate as sweet, not competitive or grasping.)



Imago Dei

–In the Image of God

And you are, too.