Man’s Origin

The facts concerning the origin of man can be known only because God has revealed those facts to us in Scripture. It is through special revelation that we discover something about where we came from. Attempting to answer the question of mans origin apart from Scripture has only served to demonstrate that man has been incapable to ascertain these facts elsewhere. Only God, as Creator, can provide a complete and accurate account of man’s origin, and this account can only be found in His Word.

There are many passages in Scripture that clearly indicate that man was created (Gen. 1:1-2:25; John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:13). In the first chapter of Genesis alone, God is referred to as Creator about seventeen times, and about fifty other references can be found elsewhere in the Bible.

There are a number of biblical arguments that clearly support the immediate creation of man and the literal twenty-four hour day’s view of creation:

(1) A number of passages clearly teach that man was created directly by God (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; 5:1; Deut. 4:32). Genesis 1:27 is a general statement about man’s creation with Genesis 2:7 providing more detail about how He created man. In Matthew 19:4 we have Christ affirming the truth of the Genesis accounts.

(2) God created Adam a male and Eve a female (Gen. 1:27; 2:7; Matt. 19:4).

(3) Eve was created directly by God (Gen 2:21-22; 1 Cor. 11:8). No other interpretation is allowed because of the language used in Genesis 2.

(4) God created in six twenty-four days. Enns states, “(a) The Hebrew word day (yom) with a numeral always designates a twenty-four hour day. (b) The phrase ‘evening and morning’ (Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) emphasizes a twenty-four hour day. To suggest any form of a day-age concept involves denying the normal meaning of these words. (c) Exodus 20:9-11 emphasizes a twenty-four hour creation by analogy to the command for man to labor in six days and rest on the seventh day even as God did.”[1]

(5) Man is a unique creation of God. Genesis 2:7 tells us that man became a living being as a result of God breathing in him the breath of life. Why is man unique? Because no other creature received this special direct implanting of life from God. Man has intrinsic value and is distinct from every other living creature because of this nature that was given to him directly from the Creator. Evolution on its best day cannot in its wildest speculation produce a living creature that has in him the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26).

The Nature of Man

The Material Part of Man

In Genesis 1:26 we are told that God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness… and in Genesis 2:7 that God breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being. Chafer states that, “These distinctions classify man above all other forms of life which are upon the earth and indicate that man is a moral creature with intellect, capacity for feeling, and a will.”[2]

It was when man was made that he became alive; he did not become a living creature after already being a living creature. Genesis 2:7 also teaches that the material part of man was made of the dust of the ground and the immaterial part made of the inbreathing of God (cf. Job 33:4; Eccl. 12:7). Chafer states that, “The sixteen elements of the soil are said to be present in the human body: calcium, carbon, chlorine, fluorine, hydrogen, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, silicon, sodium, sulfur. These minerals compose nearly six percent of the body, the remainder being water and carbon. These facts demonstrate that the biblical disclosure of the human body as being ‘of the earth’ (1 Cor. 15:47-49) is accurate. In the process of normal growth a person is sustained by unceasing appropriation of new materials which come directly or indirectly from the dust of the earth.”[3]  Ecclesiastes 12:7 indicates that when man dies his body returns to dust and his spirit goes to God (cf. Gen. 3:19).

The Immaterial Part of Man

The immaterial part of man is not said to have been created but rather it was breathed out by God (Gen. 2:7).The fact that the immaterial part of man was not created seems to imply that the nature of man received something of God’s own nature. Chafer states, “As God Himself is immaterial and since creating man in His own image and likeness referred to the immaterial aspect of God, the immaterial part of man seems to have the character of transmission from God rather than immediate creation.”[4] What does it mean though, when the Bible says that man was created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen. 1:26)? Well we know that it cannot refer to a physical likeness or image since God is spirit (John 4:24). Grudem defines “image and likeness” as “the fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.”[5] Chafer states, “In defining what is meant by the image of God one can affirm that is distinguishes man from animals in that man has faculties and moral capacity which apparently animals do not have. Man has an intellect or rationality different from that of animals in that man can think God’s thoughts, especially in his redeemed state. Man has an element of self-consciousness made more acute in his redemptive estate (Rom. 8:16). In general man can be compared to God in that he has personality including intellect, sensibility, and will. These characteristics are what identify man as being somewhat like God and which make it possible for man to fellowship with God.”[6]

As for the origin of the immaterial part of man, there are two theories that have been held by conservative theologians:

(1) The creation theory. This theory has been held by some, among them Charles Hodge. This theory teaches that only the body is generated by the parents but that the soul and spirit of those bodies are created directly and immediately by God. Parents propagate the human physical body but only God can produce the immaterial part of man.

(2) The traducian theory. This theory has been held by other conservatives, among them William G. T. Shedd. This theory teaches that both the physical body and the immaterial part of man are generated by the parents. According to Shedd, “Man is a species, and the idea of a species implies the propagation of the entire individual out of it…Individuals are not propagated in parts.”[7] The traducian theory seems to better explain the propagation of the sin nature and our tendency to sin from the time of our birth as well as the many similarities that are inherited from parents to children such as personality, etc. There are a number of passages that also seem to support the traducian view (Ps. 51:5; Rom. 5:12; Heb. 7:10).

Theologians have debated for centuries whether man is two part (body and soul/spirit), the dichotomous view, or three part (body, soul, and spirit), the trichotomous view. I personally prefer the trichotomous view because I believe the Scriptural evidence better supports this view for the following reasons:

(1) In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul, when referring to the sanctification of the whole person, he seems to emphasize this three part view.

(2) The author of Hebrews in his instruction to us about the Word of God implies that there is a distinction between soul and spirit.

(3)  As Thiessen states, “a threefold organization of man’s nature may be implied in the classification of men as ‘natural,’ ‘carnal,’ and ‘spiritual,’ in 1 Cor. 12:14-3:4.”[8] Enns states that “the body is seen as world-conscious, the soul as self-conscious, and the spirit as God-conscious. The soul is seen as a lower power consisting of man’s imagination, memory, and understanding; the spirit is a higher power, consisting of reason, conscience, and will.”[9]

The Fall of Man

In Genesis 3 we see the entrance of sin into the human realm. The test Adam and Eve would face was a test of obedience. Of all that God had provided for them in the Garden of Eden, the only prohibition given to them was that they were not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). The command of God not to eat of that tree was a test that would determine whether they would believe and obey God. Keeping or breaking the command of God would show their obedience or disobedience to the will of God.

Scripture clearly indicates that Satan was the one who tempted them (Gen. 3:1; cf. Rom. 16:20; Rev. 12:9; 20:2). His strategy was threefold: (1) to create doubts in their minds about God’s Word as well as His motives. (2) To make them believe that death would not really result if the ate, and (3) to convince them that if they did eat, they would be like God. Eve succumbed and Adam followed.

This sin resulted in judgment on the serpent (Gen. 3:14), on Satan (Gen. 3:15), on the woman (Gen. 3:16), on the man (Gen. 3:17-19), on the human race (Rom. 5:12-21), and on creation (Gen. 3:17-18).

[1] Paul Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago: Moody, 1989), pp. 303, 304.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Major Bible Themes, rev. by John F. Walvoord, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974), p. 166.

[3] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol. 1 Abridged Edition, ed., John F. Walvoord (Wheaton: Victor, 1988), p. 332.

[4] Ibid., p. 338.

[5] Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine, ed. Jeff Purswell (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), p. 189.

[6] Chafer, Systematic Theology, p. 341.

[7] William G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, 3 vols. (Reprint. Nashville: Nelson, 1980), 2:19-94.

[8] Henry C. Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, revised by Vernon D. Doerksen (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), p. 161.

[9] Enns, p. 307.

Copyright © 2006–2021 by Miguel J. Gonzalez Th.D.

Dr. Miguel J. Gonzalez is the Founder and President of Reasons for Faith International Ministries. He served as a pastor for ten years in Charlotte, NC and has taught in churches and conferences throughout the United States. He currently hosts the Time in the Word and Truth To Live By podcasts and writes at 

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from The Christian Standard Bible. Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked as (ESV) are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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