Day 6: God creates all kinds then elevates humankind?

I just noticed something interesting in day 6 of the Genesis creation week that I hadn’t seen before. It’s well-known that there are eight “And God said” statements that are divided between the six days, so day 3 and 6 both get two of these statements. On day 3, God first gathers the seas so the dry land appears, then commands the land to produce plants. On day 6, God first creates the land animals, then creates humanity.

But here’s the thing: the first creative act on the sixth day includes making every kind of creature. “And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind’.” This is itemized as including cattle, creeping things and wild animals, but I think this is just showing that it covers every category of earth creature. Humans are a kind of earth creature.

The second creative act is to make the human kind in God’s image. It’s not “Let us make humankind” but “Let us make humankind in our image.” Rather than day 6 having a one-two punch of making land animals and then humans, it seems to have (1) making all kinds of land creatures and (2) elevating humankind.

This also fits very well with the Bible’s other key description of the image of God:

What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
mortals that you care for them?
Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet … (Psalm 8:4–6)

The psalm’s question, “what are humans?” seems to expect “not much” as the answer. There’s nothing in humans that deserves the place God gave them. The crowning with glory and honour seems to be a gracious promotion rather than a recognition of our superior created nature.

Thoughts? Is this old hat and I just never noticed it?

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Ive thought about it before but I have never dug to deeply
Into into it. But it’s worth studying. I just think we have to find a line between how we think now and how they would have thought then. I don’t believe that sxriotire holds secret science in it that was laying wait forever modern readers. So I try to analyze everything within a mythological narrative painting a picture and not something necessarily painting doctrine or history.

Yes, I agree we shouldn’t try to shoehorn our science into the text. To me, Psalm 8 always seemed to better fit a promotion than humans having a special nature, but I didn’t see before how Genesis 1 may be saying the same thing.

So, for me it fits two passages together rather than fitting the Bible with modern science.

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Interesting observation. It is also in line with the Preacher’s comments in Ecclesiasties 3:
18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath[c]; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.

It seems to point out that the ancient understanding of human “kind” was that we were part of the division of “animals” and perhaps they would not be offended to learn of common descent, as they realized and accepted their position in creation. Perhaps the “specialness” of human creation is a more modern concept driven more by pride than the Biblical text, and the Bible supports that we are just part of the animal creation, blessed by God to fulfill his role for us.

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It’s the first time I’d heard of this. But I’m not a scholar of the field so that may not mean much.

It made me immediately think of the passage that @jpm already referenced above too.

It also fits nicely with the Bible-Project observation somebody recently linked around here that observes the same word “nephesh” is used of animals as it is of humans - basically anything that would have “the breath” of life.

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IMO, more fun can be had when every instance of a form of nephesh [Hebrew] or psyche [Greek] is translated: “soul”, yielding: “living souls” and their antonyms: "“dead souls”.

Nephesh

Yes, great connections! Not only does Genesis 2 use the same word to refer to animals and humans, it portrays both being made of the same stuff. And that indicates deep similarity, since common material is the basis of recognizing the parity of woman and man (“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”). Of course this is a deeper similarity between humans within humankind, but the common creation from ground shows there is also similarity between all the kinds. Same source material, same creator, same breath (e.g. Psalm 104:29–30).

Also, a look at other ancient near-east beliefs (as in the recent Bible Project podcast on ancient cosmology) shows that it was culturally common to see humans related to other animals. One didn’t need to know about evolution and common descent to think that way.

Probably the biggest problem with this reading of day 6 is that most Jewish and Christian readers don’t seem to have accepted it. Perhaps that is because our elevation to God’s image bearers has taken hold so pervasively that it is hard to accept that we could ever have been just one more kind of wild animal. I think it’s pretty hard for interpreters to read Psalm 8’s question about “what are human beings” and respond with the expected “not much!” So it’s helpful to see that even though later interpreters disagreed, the earliest interpreters of Genesis 1 (like the poet behind that psalm) did view God’s image as a relational gift rather than an obviously superior part of our nature.

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Brute as I am: Seems a tad forced @Marshall.

Great! Few threads can survive a lack of disagreement.

Given that you think it’s forced to take day 6 as making all kinds then elevating the human kind, what do you think of Psalm 8? Does it read to you like God giving humans an undeserved promotion, or praising humanity’s natural superiority? Or something else?

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I am no Hebrew scholar either, but as I read the text I do think I see two distinct acts of creation in the Hebrew text. Because the same idioms are used it seems that the author was trying to say humans are “created” in the same way as all other creatures, though to a different standard. Yet, I am reminded of a seminary professor’s statement which rings true “that’ll preach”. I think your approach certainly creates a point of contact between modern cosmological ideas and scripture.

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Close to the first. The immediate context was the sky at night, David realising that reality is vast and other beyond belief, nothing to do with us: with a frisson of existential awe. Yet God still gives us the time of day.

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Hi Wesley, welcome here. Are you referring to Genesis 1 or 2? I see similarities in how the human is formed from the ground and all the animals are later formed from the ground in Genesis 2, but less so in the account of day 6. The idiom of “let the earth bring forth” is only used in the first speech act of making all the kinds. When humans are created in God’s image, there’s no mention of using the earth. Also, on day 6 the verb “create” is only used for humans in God’s image, not making all the kinds (although it was used for the sea creatures and birds on day 5).

Are there different idioms that you have in mind?

Sorry I was not clear. I believe the text wants us to see two distinct acts of creation on Day 6. If we understand that “create” has a meaning of “give purpose or function to something”, then clearly there are two distinct acts because animals and humans service two distinct functions within the framework of the text. The text yes wants us to see humanity as elevated and different but precisely because humanity is created as a distinct act (within the narrative).

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Last week, we discussed the Ape Lady (forgot her name) who claimed animals have a soul/spirit. Definitions of soul or spirit was rather confusing.

Her view of the animal kingdom is horizontal. The Bible view is identical except for humanity.

PS. Ps 8 is applied to Christ also

That makes sense, and I agree there are two distinct acts. But now (as of three days ago!) I see the two distinct acts as making all kinds and elevating humankind. Either way, God is still entirely responsible. And I’m not suggesting a day-age view where humanity existed for a long time before being given God’s image. So perhaps this reading doesn’t make much of a difference, but for me it suggests a neater fit with Psalm 8 than my previous reading.

Yes, also. Just like “out of Egypt I called my son” is also applied to Christ. These applications depend on Israel being God’s son, and humanity being God’s image-bearer. The new applications in Christ show how Jesus is God’s son and the son of humanity in a true – and unique – way.

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I also believe that the creation of both humans and all other living animals on same day gives a theological underscoring of being on the same creaturely platform with other animals. hence the Psalmist’s question ‘What is man that you think of him…’? It is the gracious elevation of humanity that makes us vicegerents or responsible ‘deputies’ and not ‘stewards’, to continue the the loving care of all creation as God’s co-workers and in accordance with his theocological principles.

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Obviously I am not hostile to this interpretation. In general I think it is dubious to make so much of a such a subtle turn of phrase in one passage. So, at most I would only take it as an alternative way of reading the text, particularly in response to someone who already making too much of the way something is stated in the text. I give more weight to the parts of the Bible where writers harps on a message saying the same thing in many different ways so that there can be no mistake and less room to twist it into meaning what you want it to mean.

Perhaps He intended us to care for, to Love, Life on earth as He does. It appears we have made a bad job of it.

Wendell Berry, from What are People For?- Chapter Healing
HEALING
I
The grace that is the health of creatures can only be held in common.
In healing the scattered members come together.
In health the flesh is graced, the holy enters the world.
II
The task of healing is to respect oneself as a creature, no more and no less.
A creature is not a creator, and cannot be. There is only one Creation, and we are its members.
To be creative is only to have health: to keep oneself fully alive in the Creation, to keep the Creation fully alive in oneself, to see the Creation anew, to welcome one’s part in it anew.
The most creative works are all strategies of this health.
Works of pride, by self-called creators, with their premium on originality, reduce the Creation to novelty-the faint surprises of minds incapable of wonder.
Pursuing originality, the would-be creator works alone. In loneliness one assumes a responsibility for oneself that one cannot fulfill.
Novelty is a new kind of loneliness.
III
There is the bad work of pride. There is also the bad work of despair- done poorly out of the failure of hope or vision.
Despair is the too-little of responsibility, as pride is the too much.
The shoddy work of despair, the pointless work of pride, equally betray Creation. They are wastes of life.
For despair there is no forgiveness, and for pride none. Who in loneliness can forgive?
IV
Good work finds the way between pride and despair. It graces with health. It heals with grace. It preserves the given so that it remains a gift.
By it, we lose loneliness: we clasp the hands of those who go before us, and the hands of those who come after us;
we enter the little circle of each other’s arms, and the larger circle of lovers whose hands are joined in a dance,
and the larger circle of all creatures, passing in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so subtle and vast that no ear hears it except in fragments.

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Hi, Kris. Welcome to the forum.

And thanks for sharing that from W. Berry! When I meet people like that, I always feel I’ve seen something of the spirit of Christ.

I see things in much more an evolutionary way. Certainly the divine intention to have a form of creature that is closer to the divine nature is expressed in Genesis and elsewhere. But then the question of what makes humanity so special to God

To bear God’s image, that includes our superior intellect and ability to do things independently, but also as God is “relational” so are we intended to be. Our evolved abilities and have relationships of free love are far beyond any other creature on the planet.

The “dominion” is that of being priestly, worshipful and care-taking on God’s behalf. Things again we are far more capable of because of our advanced abilities.

Of course then human beings both evolutionary and historically fail to become to the fullest divine intention and misuse our abilities to our own ends, and that refusal to be as we are intended to be is “sin” from which we need rescuing to return to the original divine intent.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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