“And God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
The external material world has been created and formed, the dwelling has been prepared. Earth – the physical world – is no longer chaotic or shapeless, but it is still empty, since it still has no moral value, not being yet morally liable or responsible.
And so, in order to fill the vacuum, in order to give moral meaning to the whole of creation, in order to call into being creatures who would be capable like the angels of the same absolute enjoyment of being that is inherent in God, the creative word of God is heard: “Let us make man.” In order for this new creation to be truly good, it must be like its Creator, and thus the Lord says: “Let us make man in our image.”
Here, in this most important and most solemn moment of creation, in the moment of calling into being a godlike creature who gives moral meaning to the entire material world, we once again see the sacred seal of triunity: “In Our image,” not Mine, says the Lord. Triune Himself, united into a single Divine Being by the absolute Divine love of the Three Persons, He makes His creation as He formerly did the angels, in the same image, not in one person, but in two persons, so that afterwards a multitude of persons would come from them, but all would be a single being.
“And God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him, male and female created He them.”
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them: be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”
In all these verses of the 1st chapter of the Bible which speak of the initial creation of man, the Hebrew word “bara” is used – to create out of nothing. Consequently, paraphrasing the first Biblical account of the creation of man, we could say thusly: God, one in essence but triune in Persons, created man in His image and likeness out of nothing, man and woman simultaneously – two persons in a single being, and blessed them to multiply the number of persons and to have dominion over the visible world.
But the Bible speaks of the creation of man not once, but twice: the first time in the 1st chapter and the second time in the 2nd chapter, in verse 7. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Both these accounts are diametrically opposite: in the first it says that God “bara,” i.e. created man in His image and likeness out of nothing, and in the second that He “assa,” i.e. created him out of the dust of the ground just like all the animals, of whom it says that “out of the ground the Lord God formed (the same Hebrew verb “assa” is used) every beast of the field and every fowl of the air” (Gen. 2:19). And it says in the 2nd chapter of Genesis about man, just like it does about animals: “and man became a living soul.” Furthermore, in the first account the Lord creates man and woman simultaneously – two persons, potentially many persons like unto the multidinous host of angels, in one being, while the second account speaks only of the creation of man – Adam, and a while later from his rib is created (“assa”) his wife – Eve.
This duality and this great difference in the account of the creation of man was naturally used by enemies of Christianity as proof of the Bible’s inconsistency and the different origin of the Biblical accounts. Meanwhile, if we keep in mind the basic truth about man being a dual spiritual/physical entity, we will clearly see the ecclesiastical understanding of the duality of the Biblical account of man’s creation as an exposition on the different aspects of man’s nature – spirit, soul, and body: the 1st chapter speaks of the creation of man’s spirit, while the 2nd chapter speaks of the creation of his body and his animalistic soul. The word of God created man’s spirit in the image and likeness of God out of nothing, the male and female persons simultaneously, each with its own personal qualities but a single nature, a single essence, just as the Persons of the Divine Trinity have individual unmixable qualities, yet constitute a single Being. Man’s body, however, animated by an animalistic soul, was formed (“assa”) from previously-created material, from the dust of the ground, i.e. out of dust, out of elements, out of earthly atoms and molecules, just as out of the same material the Lord created the animals, whom the Lord also gave a living soul, created out of nothing, but did not make in His image, and they were thus without liability.
In his work “On the formation of man,” St. Gregory of Nyssa points out the duality of the creation and formation of man and says: “God created (i.e. “bara”) the inner man and shaped (i.e. “assa”) the outer one; it was the flesh that was formed and the soul that was created.”
This is why in his bodily nature man is entirely and absolutely a part of the external animal/material world. In his body, just as in the body of animals, there is not a single particle, not a single atom of substance that is not of the surrounding world. Everything that there is in us is also in the world that surrounds us, up to the most remote nebulas and stars, attesting to the Single Creator Who created all these so very different manifestations of the external world and to our physical affinity with the entire universe created by God. We are even closer to the animal world, animate just as we are, with living souls created by God. Therefore, a Christian may very tranquilly agree to the observation that man and the chimpanzee are very close in their physical nature. Speaking of man’s physical nature, we are in no way embarrassed by the possibility of placing man, according to modern classification, in the class of mammals.
But a Christian cannot believe that our place in the gamut of creation is limited only to this. To such an – alas! – widespread notion the psalm-writer replied back in ancient times: “Man was in honor and realized it not; he became like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:12). No, in spirit we are godlike creatures, minimally below the angels, and between us and the rest of the animal world there is an immense abyss; in realizing our likeness to God, we can recognize both the animals of the earth and the farthest worlds in the universe, but no one in the entire immense physical world except us can comprehend us, or himself, or the outer, or the inner world.
St. Anthony the Great says the following about the interrelation between the human and the animal worlds: “With his mind man comes in contact with the indescribable power of Divinity, while with his body he is akin to the animals.”
And again: “Every growing thing may be considered to be living, because it grows and lives, but one cannot say that everything like that has a soul. Plants have a physical life, but do not have souls. Man is called a spiritual (sentient) animal, because he has a spirit (mind) and is capable of acquiring knowledge. All the other animals are animate and have a soul. There are four different kinds of living beings: some are animate and immortal, such as angels; others have a spirit, a soul, and are alive, such as humans; still others are alive and have a soul, such as animals; and the last are only living, such as plants.”
“And God said (to the humans): have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every beast, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
“And God said: Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is a fruit yielding seed; to you it shall be for food” (Gen. 1:28-29).
Having filled the earth and having introduced into it the one who was the bearer of moral value, of a godlike spirit, God subordinates to this bearer of the spirit all the material that He had previously created and shaped, thereby realizing and developing his likeness unto God. Being Himself the Master of the universe, the Lord makes man the master of the material and animal world, at the same time making this material and animal world, which in itself has no moral value, a participant in man’s godlike and morally-valuable life: the inanimate world as space for man’s dwelling, the plant world as food for man’s body, the animal world to serve man, and this latter world, as being of the greatest affinity to him, man recognizes, learns, understands, gives a name to (Gen. 2:20).
“And it was so” (Gen. 1:30).
In this world there was not even a trace of evil, everything was wisely set up, everything was absolutely good, in accordance with God’s will, with God’s design.
The creation of the world was completed. Through man’s godlike spirit the Lord joined to Himself the enter material and animal world that He had created, making it a participant in a godlike, bright, joyous, sentient, just, and good life. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
“And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had made, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work” (Gen. 2:2).
This seventh day, in which God rested from all His work, i.e. on which was finished the creative act of bringing forth and establishing new creatures, according to the teaching of the Church continues to this day and will continue until the end of time.
(To be continued)
Archbishop Nathaniel (Lvov)