Seminar: “Images of Healing, Healing Images”

Fragment of a terracotta statue of a god. U. 16993; BM 122934. (Ur)
Walker & Dick 1999, “The Mesopotamian mis pî Ritual”

This is the audio (34:04, 31.2 MB) of a [virtual] talk I gave on January 28, 2022, entitled, “Images of Healing, Healing Images.” It was my honor to address a group of professors, physicians, researchers, and graduate students at the Yale Program for Medicine, Spirituality and Religion (YPMSR), at the invitation of Prof. Ben Doolittle: a physician, a professor, a researcher, and a pastor in a local church.

Here is the abstract:

This presentation explores the concept of the “image of God” found in the Hebrew Scriptures, and its value for understanding the task of the healing and caregiving professions. Against the backdrop of other ancient Near Eastern conceptions of cultic images—their fashioning, care and feeding, and function to mediate the deities’ presence—the Bible describes only human beings as adequate images to mediate the presence of YHWH, Israel’s deity, into the world. Treating human beings with care and dignity, and participating in their healing, is an act that allows both patient and caregiver to mediate the presence of God to one another and into the world.

I’m grateful to have been asked by Ben (nearly two years ago!) to speak at Yale; the pandemic and travel restrictions made an in-person talk impossible to schedule. Since all the YPMSR sessions are currently being held online due to omicron, Ben said, “Let’s just go for it, and have you visit in person some other time.”

It was a great blessing for me to formulate some of my thoughts on the subject of the imago dei and its relevance for life and vocation–a subject about which I hope to write more in the future. The written form of the talk was very rough, but I wanted to share at least the audio of the talk (not the discussion, for privacy’s sake. Below are listed some of the important sources for my talk.


McDowell, Catherine L. The Image of God in the Garden of Eden: The Creation of Humankind in Genesis 2:5-3:24 in Light of the mīs pî, pīt pî, and wpt-r Rituals of Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Siphrut 15. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015.

Mettinger, Tryggve N. D. No Graven Image?: Israelite Aniconism in Its Ancient Near Eastern Context. ConBOT 42. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1995.

Middleton, J. Richard. The Liberating Image: The Imago Dei in Genesis 1. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2005.

Peterson, Ryan S. The Imago Dei as Human Identity: A Theological Interpretation. JTISupp 14. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2016.

Robins, Gay. “Cult Statues in Ancient Egypt.” Pages 1–12 in Cult Image and Divine Representation in the Ancient Near East. Edited by Neal H. Walls. ASOR Books Series 10. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research, 2005.

Walker, Christopher, and Michael B. Dick. “The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian mis pî Ritual.” Pages 55–122 in Born in Heaven, Made on Earth: The Making of the Cult Image in the Ancient Near East. Edited by Michael B. Dick. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1999.

About Benj

I’m a native North Jerseyan, living and learning in Eastern Europe…Old Testament professor, ordained minister, occasional liturgist…husband to Corrie…father to Daniel and Elizabeth.
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