Creation of the First Humans

Creation of the First Humans - What the Bible Says

Over the last two days, we have looked at some Hebrew words used in the Genesis creation account. The two most important words are “bara” and “asah.” They describe two different processes God used. Yesterday, we said that “asah” refers to making something from materials that have already been created. “Bara” refers to something only God can do in creating something that did not exist before. The Bible uses that word in describing the creation of the first humans.

Genesis 1:1 uses “bara” to refer to God creating the universe and planet Earth out of nothing. The same word is used in Genesis 1:20 for the creation of the first life when only non-living matter existed before. Then it is used in Genesis 1:27 for the creation of the first humans in the image of God. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.” This view of what a human is, values every human. All human lives matter because all lives, all races, all ethnic groups, and both sexes are created in the image of God.

All attempts to get animals to exhibit characteristics unique to humans
, such as artistic creation, musical synthesis, worship, and being able to be taught to think, have been a failure. There are horror stories of animals raised in human homes as humans and how they eventually reverted to their instinctive drives. One of them was a chimpanzee raised as part of a family. It savagely attacked and wounded a female visitor whom the chimp considered an invader in his territory.

The Bible is very clear in its teaching about the unique nature of humans and their equality with one another. In John 4:1-42, Jesus interacts with a Samaritan woman. Verse 9 points out that Jews at that time didn’t even talk to Samaritans, much less a Samaritan woman. Verse 27 tells us that the disciples marveled that Jesus spoke with her. Galatians 3:26-29 states the Christian view of the equality of all humans in no uncertain terms.

Skeptics have attempted to say the Bible denigrates some humans as second-class citizens by pointing out the conflict between Jews and Gentiles. That conflict had nothing to do with race but was over religious matters. Others have suggested that Genesis 6:1-8 denigrates some groups by calling them “nephilim.” The word “nephilim” doesn’t mean a giant or an alien or a half-human. The word’s literal meaning is “fallen ones,” and the passage’s context is clear that it describes people who have rejected God and His will. The word for giant in Hebrew is “gibbor” (Job 16:14) or “rapha” (Deuteronomy 2:11, 20 and 2 Samuel 21:16, 18, 20, 22).

The Biblical concept of humans is not only that all races and nationalities are equal, but that humans as a whole are unique and special because they are created in God’s image. The lineage of all people on Earth today goes back to the creation of the first humans. No other faith but Christianity has given the instructions to treat one another–even our enemies–with love, respect, and care (Matthew 5:38-48). That is because we are all created in God’s image.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Racial Hatred and the Bible

 Racial Hatred and the Bible

Recently we have seen news about racial hatred and white supremacy. Sometimes racist claims are attributed to the Bible. We must understand the true biblical teaching on the origins of racial groups. Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the Earth.” Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ we are all one. Genesis 1:27 reveals that God created us in His image. That description is of all humans, not one race or group.

In Genesis 6:4 we see a passage that many have felt advocates strange interpretations of the Hebrew word “nephilim.” The Hebrew lexicon tells us that “nephilim,” means “fallen ones.” Numbers 13:33 uses the same word to give us the story of a time when Israel was about to invade and take the promised land. Twelve spies scouted the land and came back with a report of the land and the people. They described the people, and among them they included “the fallen ones who are the sons of Anak.”(Verse 33). Anak in the Hebrew language refers to a “large, long-necked people.” The Bible describes these pagan, war-like people, but the point is they are all descriptions of people. The nephilim were not aliens or astronauts or spirit creatures or yeti.

In the first chapter of Song of Solomon, we see a wife of Solomon writing a love letter. In verse 6 she indicates that her racial characteristic is that she is dark skinned. Dark sin was considered to be beautiful, and that is true of American teenagers just as it was in ancient Israel. Just a casual look at the relationship between latitude and skin color shows us that many racial features are a function of the geographic latitude where people live. People who are native to equatorial latitudes tend to have darker skin than people in northern latitudes. Almost every racial feature you can imagine has practical survival value as a function of climate. God created humans to live anywhere on the Earth, and we all have genomes that allow us to adapt to those latitudes.

Racial hatred has no place or connection to the Bible. It is totally a function of ignorance and a refusal to value humans and see them all as equal. God urges us to love one another and to live as He has called us to live.

— John N. Clayton © 2019

Anatomical Bible Words (Part 1)

Anatomical Bible Words
One of the most ambiguous words used by believers and atheists alike is when they say they are taking the Bible “literally.” It is ambiguous because of the underlying assumptions people make about the biblical translations. Word meanings can change over centuries and sometimes over decades. We can think of words, such as “gay,” which have changed in meaning in our lifetimes. Sometimes believers get confused by the meaning of Bible words in the King James Version. Skeptics especially like to criticize anatomical Bible words for being inaccurate.

At one extreme, some Bible fundamentalists insist that the King James Version was given by direct revelation from God to the translators in 1611, and that it is 100% correct. There are massive difficulties with that view. There are both translation mistakes and antiquated vocabulary in the KJV. Many words used in the KJV have gone out of use or have different meanings today.

A translation error we have mentioned before is in Genesis 6 where nephilim is translated “giant.” That mistranslation was a carryover from the earlier Latin Vulgate translation. In the Vulgate, the Latin scholars translated nephilim as gigantus which means “giant.” The KJV translators didn’t go back to the true meaning of the word nephilim which is “fallen ones.” The Hebrew word nephilim is derived from naphal which means to fall, fall away, or be cast down.

At the other extreme, atheists, skeptics, and biblical minimalists have claimed that the Bible is full of errors. They say that anatomical Bible words show a lack of understanding of basic science. The Hebrew word for kidneys is kelayot and it was used by the ancients in the sense of “mind” or “interior self.” We find it used eleven times in the Old Testament in reference to humans. In the KJV it is usually translated “reins.” We all know that the kidneys filter our blood and remove wastes, but the Bible never identifies the kidneys with that function. In Job 19:27 kelayot is translated “heart” or “mind” in most translations. In Proverbs 23:16 most translations read “innermost being.”

So does this mean that the Bible is not the word of God because our creator should have understood that kidneys are not the seat of our inner self? We believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. We have stated before that we must understand the Bible literally. To take it literally means to look at who wrote the passage, to whom it was written, why it was written, and how the people of the day in which it was written would have understood it.

The biblical passages we have referred to were written to common people in an ancient time in words that they could understand. If they could not understand it, they would never have passed it on to us. Our knowledge of human anatomy is far beyond that of the ancients. We can understand what the Bible is saying and so could those who lived in ancient times. The Bible is God’s word for all time, not just today. We will continue with more on anatomical Bible words tomorrow.
–John N. Clayton and Roland Earnst © 2018