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We hear God the Creator saying in Gen 1:26( NRSVCE)

Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness;....

Interestingly, all other things God created would be named only after they had come into existence, for example, day and night ( V. 5); sky (V.8), earth and sea (V. 10); sun, moon and stars (Vs 14-17), sea creatures (Vs 20-21)and animals (Vs 24-25).But when it came to the creation of humankind, the name had already been determined! God did not say "Let us make a creature who walks on two feet and thinks and also give it a suitable name.”

My question therefore, is: According to Catholic teachings, what are the implications of Gen 1: 26 which speaks of the Creator having already thought of the name “humankind” before He created man?

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    The bigger question is (since Adam was a figure of the humanity yet to come, Romans 5:14) whether the humankind being referred to is Adam or a future humanity.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 3, 2022 at 8:57
  • To clarify "image of God," are you viewing the human flesh animal as in the image of God, or the image of God referring to man's spirit, man created in God's spiritual image. "God is spirit" (John 4:24). In answering it would help if you clarified which view you're espousing.
    – DDover
    Jan 6, 2022 at 7:05

3 Answers 3

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The answer you seek, whether it is from a Catholic or Protestant perspective, requires neither a Protestant nor a Catholic answer. It needs a biblical answer!

There is a stylistic reason, meaning that God's creation of humankind is the apex or zenith of His creative work in the beginning. In a sense, God (through Moses) saves the "best til last." After six "And then God said"s, the text in Genesis 1 reads,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (1:26, my emphasis).

Whether this pattern is a Hebraism, I cannot say. It does, however, indicate a stylistic climax of sorts. In modern colloquialism we might say after the first six "And God said"s, "Ta dah!" or "And now, for the pièce de résistance: Mankind!"

Second, there is the theological reason. Not one of the created things leading up to God's creation of humankind was the object of God's love. Only humankind was given that distinction. Knowing from eternity past He would one day rescue humankind from its bondage to sin and condemnation, God through Moses' inspired writing relegated to the human species some special privileges and responsibilities.

Moreover, keep in mind that from Moses' perspective, as it is reflected in his writing within the Book of Genesis, humankind had existed for perhaps thousands of years. He himself was part of mankind. In other words, there was no reason for him to describe in Genesis 1 and 2 all the ways humans are different from the animals and all the material elements God created (viz., sun, moon, stars, water, soil, plants, trees, the seas, etc.). When he mentions God's creation of humankind, Moses has God saying

“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness . . ." (my emphasis).

True enough, the human species is not the only species to require "the breath of life" to survive, but only the human species was created in God's image and likeness. Moreover, the human species is connected most intimately to--and is at the very heart of--God's salvation history and His plan for the ages.

From God's perspective, as reflected in the writings of several writers of the Scriptures, His Son Jesus was the Lamb who was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:18 KJV). In other words, God's plan of salvation and the way it would be revealed and proffered to humankind existed in the mind of God from eternity past.

None of the creatures God created, except for human beings, can be recipients of this salvation, though the entire world will one day be "saved" from "its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:21 NIV).

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  • "breath of life"? Adam just like the rest of animals already have life, they are alive and moving. what do you mean by "breath of life"? Jan 4, 2022 at 11:39
  • The expression "the breath of life" comes from Genesis 1:30 and 2:7 (in Hebrew, neshemah chayyim, though the word "breath" is simply ruach). What animals and human beings have in common is our dependence on the breath of life, as indicated by the above scriptures. Interestingly, in addition to the translation of ruach as breath, the same Hebrew word can mean spirit or wind. Jan 4, 2022 at 15:32
  • God breathing in the "breath of life" to Adam was given to sanctify his soul for it to have a divine life or making it a "living soul". Animals might have soul, but God did not breath in the "ruach" in them. And, the resurrected Jesus showed that He and the Father are One, when He also "breath out" the ruach to the Apostles. Adam & Apostles both need "ruach" to give and bring back "divine life" into their soul. Jan 4, 2022 at 22:48
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    jong ricafort: Good points. Thank you. Jan 5, 2022 at 13:25
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The official Latin Vulgate of Gen. 1:26 says:

Faciamus hominem (άνθρωπον, אָדָ֛ם) ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram

אדם ['âdâm] means man (human being), from אדמה ['ădâmâh], earth, because the first human (Adam) was formed from the "slime of the earth" (Gen. 2:7).

Woman derives from man, as St. Paul would alse later note (1 Cor. 11:8):

the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.

Commentating on Gen. 2:23, Cornelius à Lapide, S.J., writes (Commentarii in Sacram Scripturam vol. 1: in Pentateuchum p. 81):

SHE SHALL BE CALLED WOMAN (virago), BECAUSE SHE WAS TAKEN OUT OF MAN (vir). ] The translator does not match the force of the Hebrew word: it is clear that Adam is speaking Hebrew here. For virago does not signify nature or sex, but the virile power and spirit in woman. However, the Hebrew word אשה isscha does signify the nature and sex of a woman, because it is derived from איה isch (i.e., "man") by adding the feminine he. Sometimes she will be called vira (as the old Latins spoke, according to Sextus Pompey), because she is taken from man; thus Symmachus's Greek εχ του ανδρος ["from the man"], St. Jerome testifies, Theodotion turns into hæc vocabitur assumptio, quia de viro sumpta est ["she shall be called assumption, because from man she was taken out"]; for isscha itself derives from the root נשה nasa, i.e., "taken up", "brought", "carried"; but the prior version is genuine.

Symbolically and elegantly, Rabbi Abraham ben Ezra notes that the contracted name of God, הי, iāh [or yāh] is contained in the word השא, ’iššāh. God is the founder of marriage, and as long as His name remains in marriage — and it remains as long as spouses fear God and mutually love each other — God will be present in and bless the marriage. But if they hate one another and forget God, then the spouses will cast away that name. Therefore, with the Hebrew letters yod [י] and he [ה] removed, of which the word הי is composed, all that remains of שיא, ’îš, and השא, ’iššāh, i.e. all that remains of the of the Hebrew words for “man” and “woman,” is שא שא, êš êš, i.e., “fire and fire,” the fire of quarrels and trouble in this life, but eternal fire in the next.


HÆC VOCABITUR VIRAGO, QUONIAM DE VIRO SUMPTA EST. ] Non æquat Interpres vim Hebraeae vocis: adeoque ex hoc loco patet Adamum hebraice esse locutum. Nam virago non significat naturam aut sexum; sed virtutem et animum virilem in muliere. Hebræa vero vox אשה isscha, significat naturam et sexum mulieris, quia ab איה isch, id est a viro, derivatur, addito he feminino. q. d. Vocabitur vira (uti veteres Latini locuti sunt, teste Sexto Pompeio), quia de viro sumpta est: sic Symmachus Graece εχ του ανδρος, teste S. Hieronymo, Theodotion vertit, hæc vocabitur assumptio, quia de viro sumpta est; ipse enim isscha, deducit arad. נשה nasa, id est assumpsit, tulit, portavit; sed prior aliorum versio est genuina.

Symbolice et lepide, R. Abraham ben Ezra notat in voce אשה isscha, contineri nomen contractum Dei יה ia, qui est auctor conjugii; et quandiu hoc nomen in conjugio manet (manet autem quandiu conjuges Deum timent, et mutuo sese amant), tandiu nuptiis Deum adesse et benedicere. Si vero invicem oderint, et Dei obliviscantur, tum illud nomen conjuges abjicere; itaque sublato jod et he, ex quibus fit אשה, tantum remanere ex איה isch, et אשה isscha, id est ex viro et muliere, אש אש esch esch, id est ignem et ignem, scilicet ignem rixarum et molestiae in hac vita, in altera vero ignem æternum.

¶1 taken from this answer; ¶2 from translation by Craig R. Toth, Commentary on Genesis 1-3, p. 148.

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The very important and meaningful distinction between אִישׁ (as a category of human nature, I will break it down in what follows to explain what I mean by “category”) and the totality denoted by אָדָם, is critical to understand. Once understood, it offers a cure to all the extremely foolish arguments fueling the fashionable exaltation of gender-driven and regressive classificatory impulses by female heretics (and, often enough, by their male cheerleaders) seeking priestly ordination. I will not develop this implication here, but what follows lays the groundwork for it, relying on the revealed information given us through the testimony of Sacred Scripture’s own anthropological model (the ritual exemplar of which is exhibited by the structure of the Temple/בֵּית of Jerusalem) and its intrinsic symbolism. It also provides a logical cure to the most abhorrent unnatural decay that consists in the isolation of a sexually idealized gender category in the widespread sin of sodomy (and lesbianism). I will not develop this implication here either, but the tools to be provided are enough to map the way toward a clear demolition of this prevalent disorder and especially insalubrious idol.

The central revelation expressed in Sacred Scripture relative to A-D-a-M (referring both to human nature and the individual first man, inseparably, as there is no floating “humankind” without specific rational individuals, men and women, embodying it) is that he is made “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:26). The revealed account goes on to zero in on what the nature of man so created actually consists of. The precise complexity and language of the original Hebraic text tends to easily be overlooked, especially owing to a very wide array of deficient translations.

First, we must realize that Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 present but only one account of the creation of human nature (akin to אֲדָמָה/Adamah), as personified in the first man (אָדָם/Adam), as opposed to two different accounts (more on this at the end of this post). In order to see how אִ֖ישׁ relates to אָדָם, we must grasp that Adam’s nature consists of both invisible and visible categories (four in total, as divine revelation clearly shows), relating as signs (symbols) to signified (symbolized) terms.

In Gen 1:27, Adam is created invisibly as זָכָר (ZāCḤāR), which literally means “memory of,” namely of YHWH, Adam’s Triune divine Source (Gen 1:26: “Let us…”). This is a critical piece of information easily lost in translations, since one must recall that the first man, Adam, does not have a biological father, being directly created by YHWH. This, noteworthily, is the exact meaning of the name Zechariah (זְכַרְיָה/ZeCḤāR-YâH): literally “memory of Yâh” (Yâh/יָה being a contraction of YHWH/יהוה). Further on the underlying triliteral/triconsonantal root: זכר/Z-CḤ-R -> זָכָר/ZāCḤāR = “remembrance,” “memory” (זִכָּרֹ֖ן/ZiCHāRon = “memorial”); זָכַר = be summoned to worship or to court; זָכוּר/ZāCḤuR = being mindful of.

He is simultaneously and still invisibly created נְקֵבָה/NeQěVâh. Considering the underlying triliteral/triconsonantal root: נקב/N-Q-V = “distinguish,” “perforate” [NB: the נ may also function as a prefix to indicate the passive voice, קב + נ = נקב = “distinguished,” “perforated”], from the older biconsonantal root קב/QaV = a measure of capacity; נקבה/N-Q-V-h -> נְקֵבָה/NeQěVâh = “passage,” “tunnel,” “opening,” “sudden concavity.”

Narrowing the semantic field to the preponderant connotation seems to aim towards bringing the notion of “capacity” (capax Dei) to the fore of what נקבה truly means here in relation to human nature, created and considered in Gen 1:27 from the standpoint of its metaphysical hiddenness (invisibility).

Thus, being created in the image and likeness of the Most Blessed Trinity (Gen 1:26-27), Adam’s nature is primarily fashioned as an innermost (invisible) synthesis of archetypical “memory” (זָכָר) and “capacity” (נְקֵבָה), “memory” of YHWH” and “capacity” for/towards knowledge of God (Who is the same YHWH). These do not pertain to the sexual features of individual men and women. They belong to what in every man and woman sharing in human nature consists, innermostly, of both “memory” (זָכָר) and “capacity” (נְקֵבָה), per Gen 1:26:

.זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה, בָּרָא אֹתָם

Thus, in this instance (Gen 1:27), the sacred text accounts for two aspects of human nature that are neither determined nor reducible to the properties specifically pertaining to the sexual differentiation of Adam as “male” and “female.”

Assimilating the sense of the verse with an implied sexual differentiation that will later be reiterated in specifically sexual terms (Gen 2:22-23) betrays misunderstanding as to the particular nature of the differentiation that firstly occurs in the creation of Adam.

By contrast, what does pertain to the “nature or sex” of a man and a woman, as recognized by Cornelius à Lapide, S.J. in the passage from his Commentarii in Sacram Scripturam vol. 1: in Pentateuchum p. 81 on Gen 2:23 (quoted by Geremia), is the distinction expressed in terms of the visible categories of אִ֖ישׁ/îsh and אִשָּׁ֔ה/îshâ.

In order for divine revelation to educate us about that which, in our own nature made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26), is irreducibly invisible, the sacred text goes on to “zoom in” on that which is visibly established as signs (by definition visible) of זָכָר (memory of) and נְקֵבָה (capacity for), namely (אִ֖ישׁ/îsh) and (אִשָּׁ֔ה/îshâ), denoting the sexual masculinity of a man and the sexual femininity of a woman, per Gen 2:23:

.לְזֹאת יִקָּרֵא אִשָּׁה, כִּי מֵאִישׁ לֻקְחָה-זֹּאת

It must therefore be made clear that Gen 2:7 zooms in further, as it were, and directs its focus on a different divine operation than that described in Gen 1:27, namely the formation of Adam out of the dust of the “ground”—lit. ădâmâh, אֲדָמָ֔ה, which is formed as the feminine of Adam (אָדָם), which is therefore an actual figure of his own moldable nature. The act of forming (יצר/Y-TS-R) is not one of creating (ברא/BâRâ, as is emphasized by a double occurrence in Gen 1:27). It follows that the widely held belief that Genesis 1 and 2 contain “two different accounts of creation” proves visibly erroneous from paying some elemental attention to the actual text. The “two accounts of creation” theory was initially promoted on the specious basis of the so-called Documentary Hypothesis—of Protestant origin. The community of modern biblical scholarship has not stopped rehearsing it as a matter of near academic “dogma” since the late 19th century, appealing to some version or another of the tenets and multi-flavors of the variously modified Documentary Hypothesis.

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  • Welcome to Christianity SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Jan 5, 2022 at 14:04
  • "Genesis chapter 1 and chapter 2 present but only one account of the creation of human nature (akin to אֲדָמָה/Adamah), as personified in the first man (אָדָם/Adam), as opposed to two different accounts". Yes, אָדָם appearing in Gen. 1:26 and Gen. 2:7 would seem enough to dispel the ‘Yahwist’ vs. ‘Elohist’, "documentary hypothesis", "two different creation accounts" nonsense. Moses authored the Pentateuch..
    – Geremia
    Jan 5, 2022 at 23:13
  • It would certainly seem so. Unfortunately, Modernists have blinders on, even and especially when obvious contradictions stare them in the face. That one subject matter (truly a false problem, of the kind that Modernists are most fond of wasting time and intellect on) has been the occasion of way too many cubic meters of wasted ink over the past 200 years or so... Jan 6, 2022 at 12:13
  • About this statement in my original post: He [Adam] is simultaneously and still invisibly created נְקֵבָה/*NeQěVâh*. In this archetypical sense of the term (Gen 1:27), the invisible נְקֵבָה category ought not to be translated by what is properly meant by אִשָּׁה, which stands as the visible sign of נְקֵבָה, accordingly signified by the sexual characteristics that pertain to being a female/woman. Jan 6, 2022 at 12:30
  • Thank you, agarza, for the welcome note! Jan 6, 2022 at 12:43

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