The worthlessness of Homo divinus

But my acceptance of Adam and Eve as historical is not incompatible with my belief that several forms of pre-Adamic ‘hominid’ may have existed for thousands of years previously. These hominids began to advance culturally. They made their cave drawings and buried their dead. It is conceivable that God created Adam out of one of them. You may call them homo erectus. I think you may even call some of them homo sapiens, for these are arbitrary scientific names. But Adam was the first homo divinus, if I may coin a phrase, the first man to whom may be given the Biblical designation ‘made in the image of God’. Precisely what the divine likeness was, which was stamped upon him, we do not know, for Scripture nowhere tells us. But Scripture seems to suggest that it includes rational, moral, social, and spiritual faculties which make man unlike all other creatures and like God the creator, and on account of which he was given ‘dominion’ over the lower creation.

So says John Stott (quoted by Terry Gray.) Ideas like this seem to be more prevalent and popular now than ever before. If I can paraphrase the idea in my own words it would be that God caused modern man, Homo divinus, to evolve from the aspiritual, non-image-bearing Homo sapiens. There is much disagreement about how quick that process was, whether it happened to one man or a community, and what their moral state was (did they stop their “sinful” ways, or did they continue once they became enlightened?) But the overall idea is the same.

I do not think this idea is even worth our time considering. No one I’ve seen propose this idea seems interested in doing the Biblical texts justice. Yes there is a broad spectrum of interpretations for Genesis 1-3, from the strictest 24 hour creationist to the allegorical frameworkist. But I think Homo divinus makes all interpretations of Genesis meaningless. What it proposes is so totally different to the text that any interpretation is both possible but also deeply disconnected from reality. It even loses its strength as a polemic, both in ancient times and now (for how can it be one, when it agrees in every detail with the theories of the day?)

Let me give one example to show why I think Homo divinus is worthless. In Genesis 2 God created the first human, Adam. In verse 7 God forms him out of dust and then “breathed into his nostrels the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Homo divinus interpreter would say that this refers to when man first became enlightened. Whether gradually or in an instant, God gives the man/humanity his breath or spirit, and man is made aware of God. It literally says that God inspired man! After this point man is fundamentally different from all the other creations, he is made in the God’s image.

But wait a sec, what does the Hebrew say? It says that he became a לנפש חיה, a nephesh chay, or a ‘living soul’. חי, chay ‘living’, is used to refer to all life. It is used throughout the Bible, mostly to refer to living creatures, but sometimes also to ‘living water’. נפש, nephesh ‘soul’, refers not just to humans, but also animals. It is used through Genesis 1, in Genesis 9 when God gives the command to never eat blood, and then in the foundational Leviticus 17 which expands on that commandment, calling blood the “life (nephesh) of all flesh.” Genesis 2:7 could just as literally be translated to say that “man became a living animal.”

How can the Homo divinus interpreter read this meaningfully? They can’t interpret it literally of course, that goes against the whole idea that Homo divinus wasn’t created directly from dust. But how can they interpret it allegorically either? Yes God did inspire man at that time, but the end result was that man would be a living animal, exactly what he was before. Man’s enlightenment produces no changes, or at least none the author of Genesis 2 thought worth mentioning. I’d be interested in hearing other interpretations of this passage, but I can’t see how a Homo divinus interpretation could do it justice, when even interpreted in the most ahistorical way possible the Hebrew words just go against their whole premise.

Don’t waste your time with Homo divinus. It’s a pathetic attempt at an interpretive framework.

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  1. Well said Dannii, I've been hearing the "concept" more and more lately and it had been bothering me.Thanks for bringing the concerns of the sensible people to the surface.

  2. Interesting stuff and I would be interested to see how some one of that view would answer you. I'm not sure what you are getting at in the end of the second paragraph, 'when it agrees in every detail with the theories of the day' I don't know that it was meant as a polemic against scientific theory. My understanding of a polemic reading of genesis 1,2 is that it sees the one powerful God, powerful over chaos, making an ordered creation, making Man as central to the purpose of creation. Most proponents would not say that it will be polemic in general to every other option, rather polemic to the other myths around at that time.

  3. Hey, sorry but I can't exactly remember what I was thinking when I wrote this!But I think I was trying to get at the incompatibility I see in the views some people I've come across hold: taking both a polemic reading of Genesis with this Homo divinus kind of interpretation. One requires the text to connect to reality, the other says it ultimately tells us nothing of reality.

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