Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy


Gary Yates


Imago Dei, biblical hermeneutics, water imagery, theological concepts, theology, redemptive plan, creation, creation narrative, biblical theology, Ancient Near East, ANE, ANE gods, ANE worship, idolatry, flood narrative, human identity, identity in Christianity, cosmology, cosmography, water imagery in the Bible, water imagery in the Old Testament, OT exegesis, Genesis exegesis, bible exposition, OT exposition, Psalter, Jonah, AI, neurolink, biblical ethics, theosis, idolatria


Philosophy | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


This research demonstrates that the reclamation of imago Dei identity is the ultimate and terminal end-state of God’s plan for humanity’s redemption; this plan is universally expressed to humanity through water imagery in the Old Testament (OT) and in Ancient Near East (ANE) context. The Creator unveils supernatural intent through natural processes and contends that the restoration of imago Dei identity represents the conclusive fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for humanity. In pursuit of this argument, the research critically explores creational identity, the contrasting biblical notion of idolatry, and the cross-cultural significance of water imagery within the contexts of the OT and the ANE. By understanding the use of water imagery, readers can acknowledge that God works through the created-natural to reveal the ultimate redemptive plan; whereas the enemy uses the superficial to corrupt creation and human identity in an attempt to make humankind irredeemable. The interplay between the created-natural and supernatural forces underscores a fundamental truth: God utilizes the natural world for supernatural purposes, while antithetical spiritual forces seek to pervert and corrupt the same creation for destructive ends. Nowhere is this dichotomy more evident than in the corruption of human identity, symbolized by the separation of humankind from their Creator. Humanity, originally fashioned in the image of God, experienced both divine communion and subsequent estrangement following the commonly termed "Fall of Man" in Genesis. The enemy's agenda, laid bare in Genesis 3, aimed at corrupting human identity, remains unchanged throughout history. In the OT and ANE, manifestations of this corruption abound, from the intermingling of divine and human lineage in Genesis 6 to the lessons against idolatry and other gods, which fractured humanity's moral fabric and deepened the rift between humanity and its original identity in God. God's redemptive mission seeks to restore humanity to its imago Dei identity and the unity experienced with the Creator in Genesis 1 and 2, counter to the adversary's goal of perpetual corruption. The key to understanding this overarching biblical narrative lies in recognizing God's use of the natural world for communication, restoration, and redemption, juxtaposed against continued attempts to corrupt creation throughout history. The worship of ANE gods and the associated images led to widespread identity confusion, resulting in chaos, psychological trauma, and the downfall of civilizations. Like the ancients, contemporary society grapples with questions of identity and purpose, often seeking substitutes for the void left by separation from the one true God. The malevolent exploitation of human identity persists, evidenced by advancements in technology and scientific manipulation, which, while potentially beneficial, also harbor the potential for irredeemable harm to human identity and dignity. Thus, the battle for human identity and redemption continues across time and space, with the faithful challenged to discern God's redemptive work amidst the ongoing attempts to corrupt and distort humanity's true image and purpose. Through this research and subsequent analysis, it becomes evident that NT warnings serve as a cautionary tale against repeating the ancient’s fate in future eschatological events. Like a caring parent guiding their children away from danger, Yahweh seeks to protect humanity and restore the imago Dei, ensuring humanity’s perpetual well-being and identity through Jesus Christ.