The noble ape….that’s how some evolutionary biologist describe human beings. The Bible describes people in a radically different light. They key passage is Genesis 2:7 “God formed Adam from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostril and Adam became a living being.”
Previously in Genesis chapter 1 and up to this point as well, God has been creating living things; that is animating the physical material bodies of animals by breathing the breath of life into them. Mankind is no different. We possess the nephesh of God (the Hebrew word for “living creature”) for just like the animals we have a body and a nephesh…that is living, moving, soulishness. But when we get to Genesis 2:7 God breathing into the dust produced something different. Adam isn’t described as a living creature. He’s described as a “living being”.
This is a critically important observation. Dust + Breath = a living BEING, not a living thing. What distinguishes man from the animal world even though both posses body and life? What makes a living thing into a higher order ‘living being?’ Humanity posses what the animals don’t because we posses a spirit.
Not only do we have a body, not only do we have the breath of life, we also have a spirit. And spirit is the essence of personhood. This attribute of humanity is non-communicable with animal life. Fluffy the kitty may have traits and character, but for all her cuteness she does not have a spirit, and ergo personhood.
When we teach ourselves that mankind is nothing more than a noble ape we have set the bar for behavior at a very low level. The justification for all kinds of harmful behavior can be justified by the logic “they were just doing what animals do.” But when you understand anthropology from a Biblical perspective, you are immediately struck with the nobility and dignity of the body, soul, spirit composition of mankind. This higher order creation calls for respect, community, stewardship, and morality. After all if we are created in the image of God, abuse of another is to abuse the image of God. To love a fellow human is to love the image of God. Such a conviction cannot but result in a powerful deterrent to harmful, naturalistic, animalistic, base behavior expected from noble apes. Far from being noble apes, we are the pinnacle of creation, designed by God to bear his image as bodies housing the breath of life for life on this earth, and a spirit that make connection with God not only probable but possible.