Biblical View of Anthropology

(Oh boy, oh boy!  I’m sure you were all waiting for this!  I’m presently writing a paper for my History/Doctrine 3.  It is a paper on Anthropology. I’m taking the tiniest break from writing to upload the first two pages here. The paper will shift into the understanding of humanity through the eyes of people like Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Immanuel Kant, etc, so I probably won’t be uploading the rest of it.  So it will undoubtedly take a shift in tone too… But I thought you might find my understanding of Scripture on the subject interesting.  And it’s an easy post.)

Mankind exists to worship and glorify God by bearing his image and serving him through the stewardship of creation.  This can be seen firstly through the very words of God concerning man in Genesis 1:27-28.  This theme is recapitulated in Genesis 2:7 and 2:15, with God’s very breath/spirit animating man and his commissioning of man to work the garden. Mankind is also intrinsically a communal being—similar to the Triune God creating him—and thus something is “not good” even prior to the fall: man is alone (Gen 2:18).  God fashions for man a helper, woman (Gen 2:21-25).  They serve God as image-bearers and creation-stewards in community.

This purpose of humanity, however, has been distorted through the fall of mankind.  The primary narrative for grappling with humanity’s fallen condition—the universal affirmation that something is wrong with humanity—is found in Genesis 3.  As one scholar explains, this story affirms that “evil is a human product” which God did not design.†  The man and his wife rebel freely against their Creator, seeking to become like him in power and knowledge, not “merely” image (Gen 3:5).  Because of this rebellion, the man and his wife found themselves fractured rather than united in relationship (Gen 3:12, 16), corrupting rather than stewarding creation (Gen 3:17-18), and returning to the image of the dust (Gen 3:19).

Mankind on a large scale becomes remarkably adept at finding alternative, rebellious purposes for its existence, with Genesis 4-11 tracing a progressive societal descendent into further darkness.  Genesis 4 finds the first brotherly relationship tragically ended in bloodshed (v1-16) and traces the rise of a culture of a culture rooted in violence (v17-24).  In Genesis 6:5, mankind is described in the most sinister of terms, to the point that God regrets making mankind and will purge the earth of its corruption with a flood—saving only one family through water.  The downward spiral of darkness reaches rockbottom in Genesis 11, with the people of the world obstinately and proudly seeking to create a name for themselves in one location (11:4) instead of subduing and filling the entire earth (Gen 1:28 & 9:1).  The result finds a humanity whose languages are confused and who is scattered in chaos rather than thankful obedience.

The Bible now shifts its focus from a wide-angle lens of humanity to a close-up of one family, one nation.  Enter Genesis 12 and the promise to a man named Abram that his seed bless the entire world (2-3).  The Old Testament follows the many descendants of Abram through a winding epic of slavery and redemption, covenant and disobedience, blessing and curse, hope and despair.  At last in the fullness of time, the seed which Abraham was promised came and became a curse to redeem those under that curse (Gal 3:10-14, Gen 3:14-19, Deut 28:15-68).  This long anticipated seed’s name was Jesus, the Christ (Gal 3:16).  Jesus, the King.

As sin and death entered the world through the first man, so redemption and life entered the world through this man, Jesus (Rom 5:12-21, 1 Cor 15:21-22).  Those who accept by faith themselves as “in Christ,” enter into New Creation (2 Cor 5:17-20).  Those under the lordship of this King are a new humanity forged together by God’s Spirit in a profound reversal of the splintering of Babel (Acts 2:1-12, Gal 3:26-28, Eph 2:14-16, Col 3:11).  They are having the image of their creator renewed in them (2 Cor 3:16-18, Col 3:9-10) and take up the long-intended call from God to be rulers and priests (Ex 19:5-6, 1 Pet 2:9-10) who will reign on the earth (Rev 5:10).  In light of this dawning light of New Creation, they are called to live holy lives under the reign of this King (Rom 13:11-14, Eph 5:8-20).  God’s community of image-bearers worshipping him through stewarding creation is the certain and coming future (Rev 22:4-5).

†Nahum Sarna, Understanding Genesis: The World of the Bible in The Light of History (New York: Schocken Books, 1995), 24.

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