Were ancient hominin species made in the image of God, did they have souls and how does that affect interbreeding with humans?

This type of question was recently brought up to me when discussing evolution and I didn’t really have a good answer. It seems complicated to think about God’s chosen people interbreeding with species that don’t have souls and if that would affect their children. I’m kinda new to this site and any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!


Welcome, Mr Parsells. That’s a great question. There’s quite a bit of discussion on that regarding the “Genealogical Adam.” Book Reviews: The Genealogical Adam and Eve

Also, discourse.peacefulscience.org has many discussions on that.

There are also other models that involve that idea, based on the evolutionary evidence.

I’d be interested in what you think.

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One thing to consider is why do you believe animals don’t have souls? In genesis humans, along with animals were all created from the earth and all had the breath of life breathed into them.


God is good Denton. There is a huge spectrum of belief, understanding here. Mine has been near where yours is, but is on a different part now. But we both believe that I’m sure.

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Started reading the link you sent, great stuff. I’m probably going to have to get the book now.

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I believe humans are different from animals due to being made in Gods image and having the decree to rule over His creation. I’ve grown up believing that being made in His image is what allows us to have a relationship with Him and go to Heaven while animals cannot and do not go to Heaven. Those assumptions then lead into the questions I posed.

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Life itself is the image of God – infinite potentiality to reflect God’s infinite actuality. But life is quantitative so not all are made in the image of God equally.

Don’t believe in the rational soul of the Greeks Gnostics and believers in reincarnation and transubstantiation or in anything non-physical inserted into bodies. I believe in the spiritual body described by Paul in 1 Cor 15 which grows from the physical like a tree from a seed, and I believe this is something all living organisms have to various degrees. The divine breath is inspiration and so Genesis 2:7 is about God’s communication with Adam bringing the human mind to life with a memetic inheritance which made us a thousand times more alive than the anything else on the planet, and thus very much more made in the image of God as His children.

That is an inheritance which spread throughout the homo sapiens species very quickly (on the evolutionary scale of things). And there is nothing biological about it so it has nothing to do with biological reproduction but about human communication. The point is that there is nothing genetic about our humanity. After all there is nothing about genetics in the Bible and therefore the use of the Bible for racism and eugenics type thinking is a modern distortion and not the least bit Christian.

But some of this is a failure of language, for it would not be completely accurate to call all the homo sapiens merely animals, any more than we would say that of the babies in the womb. For most things it is the potential for humanity which has our regard and duty for care, generosity, and protection. To be sure without being raised properly our children would little more than beasts, and we see this all to often unfortunately.


Hi Denton,
That’s a good question, and something that many people wrestle with, especially if they are new to the idea of evolution.

In case you haven’t visited the “Common Questions” page yet, here are some articles from the BioLogos site about human origins: https://biologos.org/common-questions#human-origins

Personally, I don’t buy the idea of humans interbreeding with creatures who “don’t have souls.” I believe that God drew a line somewhere, but I don’t know exactly where/when that was.

So what’s the image then?

It’s not a soul because the same process created animals .

I can’t imagine it’s how we physically look.

So to me that leaves the option of being made in his image is being able to reason , intellectually and emotionally, similar to him. We can choose goodness or evil. That allows us to be rulers. That’s something that we had to evolve to. As our brains got larger and many other things it allowed us to be able to reason through it all.

So as far as I can tell we all have souls. As time went on we got to the point God could reach down to us and instruct us. Once he told us what is good and what is bad, we had a choice. It’s only then that we could decide one way or the other.

Any theory that leads one to accept that humans with souls interbred with humans without souls (ie, engaged in bestiality) is obviously a rubbish theory.

I agree with that and that’s the way I like to look at it. When you say “reach down to and instruct us”, who is the “us” you’re referring to? Their species as a whole? Adam and Eve, and if so why just them two, what sets them apart? Genuinely interested btw, hope it doesn’t sound like a grilling session.

Well everyone has different opinions.

I believe in Adam and Eve. I still believe that the story is a combination of mythology and history and not all of it is meant to be taken literal. But I believe that at some point in human history, before the law was given that God reached out to a man and a woman and brought them to a paradise on earth and taught them his will. They disobeyed and was cast out.

I don’t find that surprising because he did that repeatedly.

He reached out to Abraham and Sarah and sent them to a special place.

He reached out to Moses and Aaron and used them to guide others to a promised land.

He reached out numerous times to his people and elected a few among them for their goodness and guided them using them to lead others.

He finally came down as Jesus and through Jesus reached out to the apostles and guided them.

Other than Jesus what sat any of those people apart from others making them special and leading them to a better place?

I think where most of the problems come in is preconceived ideas. Such as we are often taught Adam and Eve was immortal. They were not. If they were immortal to begin with, why did they have a tree that grants eternal life in their garden? It makes more sense to me that God reached out to these very moral people and brought them to a promised land. The others not chosen were the other humans, the ones that Cain feared.

The other misconception is that Adam and Eve had a body different from ours. They did not. That’s why they were able to chose sin. Their flesh was just as weak to sin as ours.

I can’t get into it. I’ve a bit busy and it’s been talked about on many other threads. Just have to spend a few hours reading through them over a few weeks and you’ll see a lot of good ideas and will be better able to reason through what makes the most sense to you from a theological , historical, and scientific stance.

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It might help to better understand “being made in the image of God.” A more correct translation of the the ancient Hebrew word usually translated “in” is to realize that word means “as/to be.” That means that our species , when we were ready for the sacred responsibility, was chosen “to be” his image in our world. That is our vocation and that is what makes our lives sacred.

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Soul at its broadest maps to organism, but at its Greek philosophical narrowest requires logic, a train of thought. Probably about half of all conceived humans have a window in which that occurs. Do the rest qualify? That window may have been smaller only 40,000 years ago but significantly present for 60,000 years before. From a previous 200,000 years of behaviourally pre-modern H. sapiens. Who sat around the fire back then.

A window we share with chimps, gorillas, elephants, cephalopods. With creatures that grieve. That suffer. Dogs. Parrots. With creatures that love us.

Whereas many humans don’t.

So, what’s in heaven?

One religious organization states souls are implanted at conception. Secular ethicist Peter Singer questioned that doctrine because identical twins occur when a single egg is fertilized by a single sperm and divides into two embryos. This split can occur at any stage up to nine days after fertilization. Singer’s criticism was, a soul can’t be divided.

Other church denominations state it was the breath of God into Adam. And He’s made us in His image; that image is corporate. We could talk about how each one of us is the image of God, but the important part is that it’s 'adam (“humanity”) that is in the image of God; the image of God is corporate. And the image of God is functional because we are to subdue and rule, working alongside God to continue the order-bringing process, to be partners in creation, partners in carrying out what God’s plans and purposes are for the cosmos and for us, His people.

Theologians have sometimes argued that we lost that image of God in the Fall. This is clearly wrong, as Genesis 9:6 shows. After the Flood, God commanded humanity to enforce capital punishment against murderers, and gave as His rationale that “in the image of God has God made man.” In other words, long after the Fall, man is still described as the image of God by God Himself.

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man” (Genesis 9:6).

At the same time, humanity clearly lost something at the Fall. In some sense, we stopped imaging God in that we no longer imaged His holiness and righteousness.

Some theologians refer to Genesis 1:26, where God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” Since the image has not changed, they argue, it must be the likeness that has changed. We continue to be the image of God, but we have lost, to some degree, the likeness of God.

We need an awareness of the backdrop of biblical usage to give perspective to the several references to the image of God in Colossians. The concept emerges first in Gen. 1:27, where it says that humans are made in the image of God, and thus they have a distinct dignity separate from the animals

Other theologians argue that image and likeness are really synonyms in this verse, so we cannot make a neat distinction between the two. They—including most traditional Protestant theologians—explain the situation this way: There is a wider sense in which man is the image of God, and also a narrow or particular sense.

In the wider sense, the human being simply is the image of God, and since that is what man is by definition, it cannot be changed or lost. As long as man is man, he is the image of God.

In the narrow sense, however, man images God’s holiness and righteousness. Man, therefore, stopped imaging God at the Fall. He lost his conformity to God’s image. We are still the image of God, but we are distorting that image.

If other people look at us to see what God is like, they will get the wrong idea, because we image Him imperfectly. Only in Jesus Christ do we see a man who is the perfect image of God in both senses.

In the NT, the primary emphasis falls on Christ as the image of God rather than on the thought of humankind is in the image of God (echoed in 1 Cor. 11:7–12; James 3:9).

Christ is the presence of God. In the person of Christ, the invisible God becomes visible (John 1:18). Jesus Christ, as the incarnate Son of God, reveals God’s intentions for being made in the image of God. In 2 Cor. 4:4 and Heb. 1:3, we find statements parallel to Col. 1:15, regarding Christ as the image of God.

Believers are being made into the image of Christ, who is the image of God. Rom. 8:29 calls us “to be conformed to the image of his Son,” and in 2 Cor. 3:18 believers are “being transformed into the same image” (referring to the glory of the Lord).

Verses such as Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24, on the new self-being renewed according to the image of its creator (God), allow for the meaning that the creating (or recreating) is in the pattern of Christ (Col. 2:9–10; Eph. 4:13, 15).

Christ is set forth as the prototype, the demonstration of God’s intent. Salvation is more than a matter of restoring standing with God; it is a transformation in which God is at work in believers as well as for them. This all stems from Adam.

It’s also why we are not supposed to make images of God because he already did that with us.

Not to me. That would make computers more in the image of God than we are since they are able to reason faster and more accurately. I frankly don’t think reason and intelligence is such a big thing at all. It is ultimate just the ability to follow a set of rules and even electrons other elementary particles can do that. Far from reason or intelligence being special, it is a basic part of the physical universe.

Though, probably like a lot of theology you are using “reason” in a much more ambiguous way as a big lump of human abilities, adding in consciousness and emotion, as if this particular collection is somehow magically significant.

Now I do think we humans are significantly different and that difference is the human mind but I think it is language and ideas rather than reason or intelligence which is the substance of the mind. I frankly think intelligence is more biological or mechanical and something that we share to a rather large degree with many animals. So this old way of thinking is off the mark by quite a bit in my opinion.

As far as I can tell, there is no such thing. This rational soul of the Greeks and Gnostics, trapped or inserted into bodies, is a different sort of religion. Life is a self-organizing process and not some magical stuff inserted into us. The mind is self-organizing physical process in a different medium than the chemistry of our bodies. And I do believe in a spiritual existence growing from the choices we make in the living of our lives. But since that comes afterwards, that isn’t what makes us human.

Yep and that is where I see our humanity coming from.

But not this. All living things have an understanding of what is good and what is bad according to what they have learned. And accordingly they make choices also. God may have added ideas of right and wrong to what we already had in a significant way. That much I can agree with.

Ah yes, the art is a sin stuff of the Amish, Jehovah Witnesses, and Assyrian churches. I think that sort of legalism is downright evil. The desire to be like God is a good thing. Only the devil would try to make our God given talents for art and creativity into something wrong, or see something nasty in our efforts to walk in the footsteps and likeness of God as creators of beauty. In fact this ties back to a question we addressed not so long ago regarding the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – when people try to make out things which are good as if they are evil like the Pharisees did.

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Never said anything about art being evil or making art that depicts God as being evil. That’s not the way the Torah teaches making images of something.

A soul is not separate from the body, it’s one and the same. A living soul means a living thinking thing.

Hmmm… that is what the passage in the OT sound like it was saying. Be interested how you explain that this is not what it means.

Exodus 20: 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth

Cool. That is exactly how I read the word typically translated as “soul” in the Bible. That is why I tend to see the word “soul” used by most people as referring to the belief by other religions like the Greeks, Gnostics, etc…

Yet you see God using art in the tabernacle and the ark of covenant, and many other places.

It says clearly don’t make graven images. It’s linked directly to idols. Images to be worshipped. When those passages are read, it’s instantly linked specifically to idol worship.


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