The Origin of Species: Plants, Animals, Humans, and Important Distinctions in Genesis 1-2

Humans aren’t animals, animals aren’t plants, and plants aren’t humans. Those (obvious) distinctions are clear in the opening chapters of the Bible, and seeing how phrases like “breath of life” and “image of God” are used can highlight the distinctions made in the text itself.

Ever wondered, like Darwin, about “the origin of species”? Your answer is in the Bible’s first two chapters, and the answer isn’t what he suggested. In Genesis 1–2  plants, animals, and humans are created by God. God creates plants on Day 3 (1:11-12), animals on Day 5 (1:20-21) and Day 6 (1:24-25), and humans on Day 6 (1:26-27). Origin solved.

But more can be said than that.

In Genesis 1:30 God tells the first couple that animals have “the breath of life,” something not attributed to plants. In fact, God says everything that has the breath of life can have every green plant for food! So in whatever ways plants are alive and undergoing complex processes at microscopic levels, this is not the same thing as saying they have the “breath of life” as animals do.

In Genesis 1:26 God makes man and woman in his image, something never said of animals. Also, in 2:7, God forms the man and breathes into him the “breath of life.” The woman, likewise in the image of God (1:26), certainly receives the “breath of life” when God forms her out of what he took from Adam (2:21-22). While animals and humans both have “the breath of life,” only humans are made in God’s image. As God’s image-bearers, humans must exercise dominion over the animals (1:28).

Here’s a bullet-point summary:

  • God Created: Humans, Animals, and Plants
  • God Gave the “Breath of Life” to: Humans and Animals
  • God Made in His Image: Humans

What are some implications of these realities laid out in Genesis 1-2?

  • As those made in God’s image, humans are not animals, nor did they evolve from animals. Macroevolution doesn’t fit with the Bible’s creation account. 
  • As those made in God’s image, humans are more important than animals. Supporting abortion and wanting to save the whales is a theological and philosophical travesty. The tiniest baby in the womb is more valuable than the rarest creature in all the world.
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