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Monday, July 23, 2007

The Bible teaches that humans are special

The Bible indicates clearly that humans are special. Besides the evidence of common sense – humans write books, wear clothes, and concern themselves with fundamental questions. Chimpanzees, whales and dolphins don’t write books or wear clothes, and, so far as we know, don’t dispute about fundamental questions – the Bible indicates our special status in three important ways.

God appeared on earth in human form. This may have happened in Genesis 10, and in Daniel 3. If the Bible means anything, it happened when Mary became pregnant, and throughout the earthly life of Jesus. (John 1:14, Philippians 2:7-8)

Humans are the only beings created who are described as being in God’s image. Genesis 1 also describes us as being over all the other creatures, under God, and the first act that fulfills this is when Adam names the animals in Genesis 2. Psalm 8 repeats the idea that we are in God's image. (It also indicates that there are “heavenly beings” who are above us.)*

The arrangement of the first two chapters of Genesis indicates that humans are unique. Genesis 1 describes the creation of land animals as having been on the sixth day**. It also describes the creation of humans as having been on that day, but the description is set apart from the creation of the land animals. The phrase “it was good,” for each of the first five days of creation, except the second, occurs at the end of a category of creation. (It occurs twice in the description of the third day, each time at the end of the description of the category of creation.) In the description of the sixth day, the phrase occurs after the appearance of the land animals, and then there is a description of the creation of humans. Genesis 2 describes the creation of Eve as occurring after the creation of Adam. This is not done for any of the animals. Humans are the only creatures specially named in Genesis 1, and, of course, the male and the female are each given a distinct name. None of the rest of the living things created are even named by species or kinds, let alone individually. (The KJV uses “whales” in 1:21, but the NIV and other modern versions, including the NKJV, use a more generic term.) Genesis 1 and 2, then, seem to indicate clearly that humans are special.***

*It is possible that there are beings in God's image on other planets somewhere. I don't believe that the Bible completely rules out (or proposes) that possibility.

**As I see it, this paragraph makes sense whether or not the days of Genesis 1 were literal.

***This is true even if, as some allege, Genesis 1 and 2 were originally separate narratives.

You may wish to see this post for a more comprehensive picture of my view of origins.

Thanks for reading!


Rob Rumfelt said...

Welcome back, Martin. Hope you had a nice trip.

Great post. You should check out the "Secondhand Smoke" blog by Wesley J Smith. It's devoted to the issue of human exceptionalism. He covers issues like "rights" for apes, stem cell research. etc. Very good.

Go to


Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, rob. I'll check it out.