Sep 26, 2023
Sep 26, 2023
by R. D. Ashby
The generic term Man used of the human species appears in Genesis created as an adult male, Adam. The representation Man provides of the human species is established. One contrasts the other species of creation as plural entities. God does not create Bird or Tiger or Shark or Insect as representation of the members of the species comparable to Man. When the inanimate is permitted singularity in title - the earth, the greater and lesser light – it specifies a particular object.
Man is personalised in Adam, created a mature adult, and the latter lives and dies the individual he is. But the term Man covers all Adam’s descendants, mankind, preserving identity. Man in Adam has no parent but God, who creates man in His own image and likeness, a telling clue. All other species too are initially without forbears, yet not represented by an individual, nor indeed are stated to be made in the image and likeness of God.
On the last point, since all animals of creation defect from the image and likeness of God in their emergence, they must be created in some other image and likeness, aptly generalised in the term beast, in contrast to the Divine image. Beast acts purely by instinct to secure its living, guided by the affections of its appetites to fulfil its needs as opportunity avails. Man, in the image and likeness of God, reveals the way of God, living by grace, and getting on with the beasts to naming them – until, in Adam, he sins and turns into the beast in his priorities for living, acting by instinct and appetite, with the exception of knowing right from wrong, whereas before not being able to do wrong in a state of grace; continuing to commune with God as Man out of grace. The beasts appear to know right from wrong according to how their life is preserved, but the difference in Man is in the moral sphere of his being created in the divine image, and in the concept of a reconcilement with the Divine, in this earthly life being forgiven though cast out of paradise and having to struggle like the beasts for a living.
In Adam, the return to God incurs a continuity of Man in descendants, extended in the promise to Abraham of descendants as numerous as the stars. All along, the term Man as representative of the species is retained, unlike all other species. The term ‘sons of men’ where Man is still implied in the generality of ‘men’ is used to cope with diversification of Man into races and nations. In the OT, Israel as the chosen race is differentiated from other nations, and in effect Israel represents its people, men, women and children, in its twelve tribes, where the oneness of Man is preserved in the inclusion of the gentiles as men, especially later in the NT.
It is in the biblical Jesus Christ that the term Man reverts to the individual representing all men. Christ uses the term ‘Son of Man’ to imply the representation of the species in his person; but seeing as God created Man, how does Christ claim to be the Son of man, where sonship implies filial identity? Christ called God ‘Father’, the Father whose will he carried out in his ministry, his passion, death, and resurrection ; yet he insisted on calling himself the ‘Son of Man’; ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ he asks, as a condition of the faith that precedes miracles. It is implied that being the ‘Son of Man’ is in His person one with being the ‘Son of The Father’. What Christ does establish is that Man has always been that singularity in generality, which St Paul finds resolution in Christ being to all men as all men are originally in created Man.
Theologically, Christ as the second person of the Blessed Trinity was with the Father before the creation of Man. But if Man is created in the image and likeness of God, it is verily in the image and likeness of Christ. It is here Man as a species derives its singularity, since Christ is singular. Scripture tells us Christ ‘took flesh’, in being born of a woman, and was a true man. Christ was the son of Mary, but in the context of the species represented by Man, was a son of Man. This Son of Man was in person divine, and provided the living paradox to faith. It is thus that Christ demands faith in the Son of Man as the personal saviour to individual man, woman or child in the species Man, not merely in the spirit, but in the flesh. This established, the flesh of Christ becomes the instrument of salvation of Man in Adam through suffering and death, when the Divine person of Christ has to rise in the flesh to be believed in.
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