Anthropology is the theological understanding of human beings, their origin, nature, and destiny. Humans are rational, moral, and material beings made up of the spirit and the body.
The Origin of Human Beings
There have been many suggestions about the origin of humans, from old folktales to complex theories. The most famous theories of the origin of man are Evolution and the Biblical Creation story. After carefully examining all the proposed theories on the origin of man, the one that stands out as authentic and consistent with the reality we live in today is the Creation Story. The book of Genesis outlines how God created all that is on Earth and in heaven. Genesis 1:26-27 narrates, “On the sixth day, God said, let us make man in our image and likeness, so God created man, male and female, he created them.” The first man was Adam, and the first woman was Eve; the two had children, Cain, Abel, and Seth, and daughters whose names are not mentioned in the scriptures. Every human being on Earth can be traced to the first man and woman.
Man’s beginning is in the hands of God; by his will, God created humanity (Acts 17:26). This is not to say that God made the first man and the first woman, and he has no business in creating human beings today, on the contrary, he made everyone in the womb (Job 31:15). God did not Just make a male, he made both of the genders, male and female separately from the beginning (Matthew 4:32). God made man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into it (Genesis 2:7). Since the genesis of the flesh and life that man has is God, it is he who also sustains man (Hebrews 1:3).
The Nature of Human Beings
God made humans in the form of flesh (Genesis 2:7). This means that humans are made of matter; they have weight and occupy space. Humans are not supernatural in any way. They are limited in many ways. They feel pain and are confined to a particular geographical area at a time, and their knowledge is limited to their exposure. Though among all the creatures, humans are the crown of God’s creation. God made humans in his image, even sharing some qualities with them. Of all the creatures, God gave humans authority to subdue and have dominion over all the creation (Genesis 1:28). Man has authority over all birds of the air, the animals of the field, the creatures of the sea, plants, and even the angels (Hebrews 1:14).
God also made man with a spirit. Every other created thing has no spirit; the spirit is the inner man. The flesh (body) is made up of dust, and to dust it will go when we die and are buried (Ecclesiastes 3:20). The Spirit is what is eternal. It is the one that returns to the Lord (Ecclesiastes 12:7); it never dies since God placed eternity in every human’s heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The Bible makes a distinction between the natural man and the spiritual man. One distinction is that understanding God’s things that bring salvation is only spiritually appraised. In contrast, the natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 2:14). Paul refers to the spirit as the inner man. The spirit grows stronger in faith while the body fails (1 Corinthians. 2:11). Upon salvation, God makes the spirit of man alive to him, and he makes it willing and able to do his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).
God made humans as male and female (Genesis 1:26-27). God was pleased to create the two genders for various purposes. Both males and females bear the image of God and are equal in God’s sight (Galatians 3:28). However, the female is the weaker vessel, yet they, too, are heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7). God saw it fit in his wisdom to create only two genders at creation, and with different responsibilities. For instance, it is the Christian duty for a man to love his wife and for a woman to submit to her husband (Ephesians 5:23;25).
The Sinful Nature
The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were perfect images of God (Genesis 1:31). They had no sin or shame (Genesis 2:25). But Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating a fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From there, their eyes were opened; they knew they were naked and ashamed (Genesis 3:6-7). The sin of Adam led them to be separated from God (Genesis 3:24). Before sin, they were the perfect image of God; after sin, they became a broken image of God. From then, humans desired nothing but evil from their hearts (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Through Adam, sin came into the world (Romans 5:12), and sin affected all men (1 Corinthians 15:22); all who are from Adam are born in sin (Psalm 51:5). Though God made man without sin, when Adam sinned, all who by virtue are born from him are by nature sinners (Romans 3:23). Due to this fact, humanity’s only hope is salvation by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23).
Why God Created Human Beings
As we have seen, man was made in the image of God, the crown of God’s creation. Humans are above the rest of the creation. They are intelligent, emotional, relational, and, most of all, redeemable. No other created thing can be redeemed from the destruction of sin, and only man can receive God’s forgiveness and redemption from sin’s power, pleasure, penalty, and presence. In Genesis 1:28, God first blessed man and gave him responsibilities. These responsibilities are part of the reasons God created man. God created man to be fruitful, multiply, fill the Earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds, the heaven, and every living thing that moves on Earth.
The main reason God created man is for the Glory of God (Isaiah 43:7). In all that man does, the goal should be to glorify God; even if the task is as mundane as eating and drinking, it should be done for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Adam and Eve before the fall could perfectly glorify God, however, when they sinned, they could not glorify God perfectly. Glorifying God involves obeying his commands: to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39).
The Westminster confession of faith solves the mystery of man’s creation by answering the question: what is the chief end of man? Answer: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Glorifying God must be done in joy. How can one enjoy God? Psalms 73:23-26 shows us that one who enjoys God depends on God. They continually seek God, are held by God’s right hand, and are guided and counseled by him. This glorifies God. They must desire nothing else above God. Their hearts and flesh may fail, but only God will strengthen them forever.
The Destiny of Man
After all is said and done, where will man go? Is there life after death? These and many questions have boggled the minds of scholars since time immemorial. Some have sought to answer this question through religion. The Eastern religion believes in reincarnation, which means that upon death, man comes back in a different form depending on how they lived here on Earth. If one lives well, you will be born a human in the upper class than where you were the previous life. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity believe that man will either go to heaven or hell, but they significantly disagree on how they end up in either place. Others have proposed annihilation, that is, death is your end, and upon that, they will disappear completely. In most African traditional religions, there are three ends of man; after death, one joins the spirit world, and depending on their dealings before their death, they become either good spirits or bad ones, and eventually, they will join the ancestors and gods.
God has promised us a destination and assured us that heaven and hell are real places. Firstly, we know that Jesus came to the world (John 6:33) and ascended to heaven (Ephesians 4:10). No religion or other way of life has a god who came from heaven and went back but Christianity. We know that hell is real because God exists and God must punish sin (Jude 1:7). When a man dies, his body decays (Acts 13:36). Since the body of man came from dust, it is to dust that it will return and this was as a result of sin (Genesis 3:19). Man’s spirit, on the other hand, returns to the Lord, who will be the ultimate judge (Ecclesiastes 12:7). If he had lived righteously, he would enter heaven, where he would behold the face of God (Luke 23:43).
Resurrection and Eternal Life
The resurrection of the body is the most hopeful of all Biblical truths. Paul says that without the resurrection, Christians are the most to be pitied against, and our faith is also in vain (1 Corinthians 15:12-14). Since it is a fact that Christ resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20), we, too, will resurrect from death. By Adam came death; by Christ came the resurrection of the dead (1 Corinthians 15:21). The final judgment will determine where we will spend our eternity, for God will judge each of us according to our deeds. Those who believed in his son will have eternal life (John 3:16), and those who disobeyed his commands will be thrown to hell for eternity (Revelations 20:14-15).
What bodies will we have when we resurrect? The Christians will have glorified bodies; those bodies will be different from the ones we have right now. The glorified bodies refer to the heavenly bodies (1 Corinthians 15:40), which are imperishable and immortal (1 Corinthians 15:52-53). If you believe in Jesus, you will have a body like the one Jesus resurrected with and now has in heaven. The comparison Paul is giving us is true that we have borne the image of the man of dust, and in the same way, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven (1 Corinthians 15:47-49). Though man dies like all the other living things, he will one day overcome the power of sin, which is death (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).
The Bible provides the best anthropology. Not only does it look at the beginning and end of humanity, but it also offers the reason for its existence. After all, since God made man, isn’t God best placed to tell us about him?