THE ORIGIN OF MAN
Definition of Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of mankind especially its societies and customs. It is the study of human origins, institutions and beliefs. The word ‘anthropology’ comes from two Greeks words – anthropos meaning human beings and logos meaning word, discourse or reasoning. Therefore, anthropology is the study or doctrine of man.
What is man; who is he; where did he come from and why is he here?
Harold J Morowitz, a professor at Yale University says the human body is actually worth $6m and that this price covers only the raw materials, for example, hormones, proteins, enzymes, etc. He says that the intricate work of fashioning the material into human cells might cost approximately 6 thousand trillion dollars and that assembling these cells into a functioning human being would drain all the worlds treasures (Willmingtons Complete Guide to Bible Knowledge p.147)
The Doctrine of Man in Theology
The transition from Theology to Anthropology that is from the study of God to the study of man is a natural one. Man is not only the crown of creation, but also the object of God’s special care. God’s revelation in Scripture is a revelation that is not only given to man, but also a revelation which vitally concerns man. It is a record of God’s dealings with the human race and especially a revelation of the redemption which God has prepared and for which He seeks to prepare man.
The Scriptural Account of the Original Man
The Bible offers us a very clear account of the creation of man and his beginning as recorded in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 2:7, 21-23.
From this we can see that man’s Creation was preceded by a solemn Divine Council
Before the inspired writer records the creation of man, he leads us back, as it were into the Council of God, acquainting us with the Divine decree in the words ‘let us make man in our image, and after our likeness….’. The Church has generally interpreted the plural ‘us’ on the basis of the Trinitarian existence of God.
THE THREE ELEMENTS OF THE HUMAN NATURE
It is important that we know that man is a tripartite being. That means that he is made up of three essential elements;
- The body (in Hebrew: basar; in Greek soma)
- The spirit (in Hebrew: ruach; in Greek pneuma)
- The soul (in Hebrew: nephesh; in Greek psyche)
1 Thessalonians 5:23 confirms this view when Paul said:
‘Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body, be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ’.
Now, let’s see what each one of these three distinct elements consists of:
The writer of Genesis gives us this account of man’s origin:
And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathe into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7)
The Bible often describes it as taken from the earth; indeed, our body is made up of of the very same materials that we find in the earth: oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, etc.
This amazing combination, endowed with the capacity of loving and reasoning, is definitely the masterpiece of Creation!
The second element is the breath of life and energy of all living beings, the spirit, that is, the breath of life, conversely, at the time of death, the spirit leaves the body and returns to God.
So the spirit is the source of life and energy of all living beings. The spirit, that is, the breath of life, animates all living creatures. It is the same source of life for men and for animals.
When the lifeless body receives God’s breath, it comes to life (Ezekiel 37:5)
We could compare the spirit with an electric current feeding a whole city.
Job is very bold when he exclaims:
‘The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life’. (Job 33:4)
And the preacher declares:
‘What happens to the sons of men also happens to beasts; one thing befalls them as one dies so dies the other. Surely, they all have one breath’ (Ecclesiastes 3:16)
And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7)
… It is written the first man Adam, was made a living soul (1 Corinthians 15:45)
As we can see, the word ‘soul’ is used to describe a living being.
Now if it is true that body plus spirit gives a living soul, let us see the reverse process…
‘If God should gather to Himself His spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust (Job 34:14-15)’
‘You take away their breath; they die and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth’ (Psalm 104:29-30)
So when the living soul loses the breath of life, the body alone remains, deprived of life, and returns to dust.
Now, where does God’s breath, the spirit of life go?
‘Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it’ (Ecclesiastes 12:7)
In order to illustrate this, we can compare
i) the body to a light bulb that is out
ii) the spirit to electricity, and
iii) the soul to the light bulb turned on by electricity
When we cut off the power, the light bulb (the soul) ceases to exist, because electricity (the spirit) has left it. Only a light bulb switched off remains, that is, the body without life.
At the moment of death, the living soul ceases to exist, the body returns to dusts, and the spirit, the energy of life, returns to God