Peter Martyr Vermigli on the Imago Dei

Because I’ve been working on T.F. Torrance’s doctrine of the Imago Dei this quarter I decided to look into the doctrine in the works of several reformers. Of course I’m looking at Calvin but I’m also looking at others like Vermigli, Musculus, Bucer, etc. It’s not always easy to know exactly where to go if you want to read up on their views (and if you do know where to go you likely have to browse through digitized old books). So today I present to you Vermigli on the Imago Dei:

Common Places 1.13.26-27

(26)But how man is the image of God, it is declared at the beginning of Genesis where it is written that God said; Let us make man after our image and likeness, that he may have dominion over the fouls of the air, the fishes of the sea, and the beasts of the earth. Where it appears, that herein stands the image of God, that he should be ruler over all creatures, even as God is the ruler over all things. Augustine doth oftentimes refer this to the memory, mind and will, which being faculties of one and the self-same soul, do represent (as he said) the three persons in one substance. This doctrine of Augustine, doth rather show the cause of the image. For man is not yet above other creatures, to have dominion over them, for any other cause, but in respect that he is endowed with reason, which plainly shows itself by these three faculties. But yet this is not all that the image of God is bound unto. For its is not enough to govern and rule well the creatures of God, with memory, mind, and will; except we doth understand, remember, and will those things which be pleasing unto God. For if our mind remained infected, as it is, with sin; it will not lawfully have dominion of things, but will rather exercise tyranny against them. Wherefore the image of God is the new man, which understands the truth of God, and is desirous of the righteousness thereof; as Paul has taught us, when he wrote to the Colossians; Put upon you the new man which is shaped again in the knowledge of God; according to the image of him which created him. Where we see, that the knowledge of God is true and effectual to lead unto the image of perfection. And this is more expressly set forth in the epistle to the Ephesians, Put on the new man, which is created according to God in righteousness and true holiness. When our mind is both imbued with the knowledge of God and adjoined with righteousness, then it truly expresses God. For righteousness, and the knowledge of divine things are nothing else, but a certain flowing in of the divine nature into our minds….

(27) The image of any man is the form, where by it represents him. A similitude of any man is a qualities, wherein it resembles him. What this image then is, le us most absolutely declare. A man only has the power and strength of understanding, whereby he is not far from God; but he is also created with most excellent and heavenly qualities. He is imbued with justice, wisdom, mercy, temperance, and charity. But the very full image of God is Christ, as touching his divine nature; and further, as concerning his human nature, so much as there can be of the similitude of God in it: as appears in the first to the Hebrews, the first to the Colossians, and in the eight chapter to the Romans. Again; this is my well beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. We were made, to the end we should be such: for we have understanding and are capable of divine perfections. In them we were made, but cannot be restored unto them, unless it be by the help and example of Christ who is the principal and true image. How much we be the image of God, it appears by our felicity, which we have one and the same with our God. I mean in loving and knowing. But if thou demand, by what power men rule over things: doubtless not by bodily strength: for as touching that, the most part of living creatures exceed us. Wherefore this is done by reason, counsel, and art: by which man not only makes and takes these living creatures, but he also moves and changes exceeding great things. This power is really restored by faith: thou walk on the adder and dragon. Daniel was cast unto the lions; Christ lived among wild beasts in the wilderness, Paul took no harm by the Viper, Solomon and David overcame the lions.

As touching this dominion over beasts there arises a difficulty; wherefore were the wild beasts made that they should be trouble unto men. I answer to the intent that wicked children might be chastened. After sin, a scourge was made for him; sin armed our own servants against us: for which cause the irruption and invitation of beasts was sent, as testifies the Scripture in the fifth of Ezekiel: I will send hunger and wicked beasts among you. Unto the righteous man all appears to be meek and quiet. And now, albeit that they have rebelled, yet it happens that very few perish thereby. And if any man be destroyed by them, there comes profit unto us no matter of ways by it. First it is an example of the severity of God as in the Samaritans which were slain by lions; second book of Kings, the 17 chapter: in the children which were killed by the bears because they mocked Elisha. The second book of kings, the second chapter. In the disobedient prophet which the lion killed: the first of Kings the 13 chapter. Furthermore, it shows how great the majesty of God is, that even the wild beasts do revenge the injury done unto him. Lastly behold here with me the goodness of God towards us, which has bounded his hurtful cattle within the precincts of the desert and solitary places, and in a manner permitted them to wander but only in the night. Here also may man see his calamity after sin, that he being such and so notable a creature, should perish with the sting of one little scorpion of by the biting of a mad dog. Yet nevertheless the wild beasts have not been able, in respect of sin, utterly to shake off the yoke of men; that they fear and tremble at the sight of him, yea and though might see a child to rule, beat, and threaten the greatest beasts. In him they do reverence the image of God.



Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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