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What is Man?

What is man? This is the question that the science of anthropology seeks to answer. Anthropology (from the Greek anthropos, meaning "man," and logos, meaning "word") is the study of man, which searches for understanding about man's origins, behavior, and purpose. Many men pursue this study through their own wisdom, but it is the word of God that gives the true answer to the question, "What is man?" Consider the words of David unto God in Psalm 8:3-8:

3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained;

4What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?

5Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty!

6You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet,

7All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

8The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

These inspired words of David provide the foundation we need to understand man. They are the basis for true anthropology.

Any study of man should begin with the Bible's account of creation. The explanation for man's existence is given very succinctly in Genesis 1:26-27:

Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Made in God's image, the man and the woman were given mandates to reproduce and fill the earth with their generations and to subdue and rule over the earth (Gen. 1:28). Further detail concerning the creation of "male and female" is given in Genesis chapter 2, where we learn that the woman was created after the man in order to be a companion to him (see vv. 18-25). This is the basis for marriage, family, and all of society.

The explanation for man's misbehavior and problems is given beginning in Genesis 3, where we read of man's fall into sin and the resultant curse on the world. Concerning this, Paul wrote in Romans 5:12, "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned..." The effects of Adam's sin on the world are described in Romans 8:20-22, which says,

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

Indeed, man's sin is the root of all the hardships and difficulties of this world. It was the complete wickedness of man that caused God to send the flood in which He spared only Noah and his family (Gen. 6-9). The effects of this worldwide catastrophe are still present today in the forms of climate events and natural disasters. In Genesis 11, we learn that the arrogance and rebellion of man at Babel led to the separation of people by the division of their languages. Verses 8-9 state, "So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth." This explains the origins of languages, nations, and cultures.

Perhaps the greatest lesson ever given on the subject of anthropology is found in Acts 17. This was Paul's sermon to the Athenians, who did not know the true God. To them, Paul said of God, "He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us" (vv. 26-27). From this, we learn that all men are related and have the same origin. Truly, there is only one race of man, for we all descend from Adam. Furthermore, we learn that God is sovereign over man, for He sets our times and our boundaries. We also see that man has a God-given purpose, which is to seek for God. This purpose is the most vital lesson of anthropology, for without it life is meaningless. Thankfully, God has graciously facilitated this purpose through Christ, for in verses 30-31, Paul said, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead."

These are the Bible's answers to the essential question, "What is man?" Sadly, the professors of anthropology in universities across the world are not giving these answers, and their students are misled. Let us not be taken in by their errant explanations of man and evolution, but as students of the Scriptures let us believe the truth of God's word so that we may know exactly what man is.

Stacey E. Durham




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