How did we get here? A child may ask her friends such a question if they find themselves lost in a forest. Or a couple may ask it of each other after getting lost on a trip. It’s also a question people have been asking for millennia about our origin.
The Bible answers this very question in its opening chapters. In Genesis chapters 1 and 2, we learn that the first people were created specially by God. Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden and given work to do. After their fall into sin, they were banished from the garden. Simply put, the first couple eventually had children, and their children had children, and so on, until the present generation (though of course there was a cataclysmic bottleneck when all but Noah, his wife, sons, and daughters-in-law were lost in the global flood). That means all of us are descendants of Adam and Eve (and Noah’s family) according to God’s Word (Genesis 3:20). But there’s more to the biblical narrative of the first couple.
In this overview, we will look at some common implications about the creation of man, including what it is, when it happened, mankind’s role given at creation, and whether human evolution, as is commonly believed, had anything to do with it.
To begin an overview on the creation of man, let’s start at the only eyewitness source. The Bible tells us that God created man on the final day of creation week before he rested. First, however, God created light, a separation between light and darkness, day, night, dry land, seas, vegetation, the sun, the moon, the stars, sea animals, birds, livestock, insects, and everything else. And at the end of the creation week on day 6, he made land animals and finally people. Genesis 1:26–27 tells us,
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
God made man in his image. God did not create people to look like rocks, giraffes, or monkeys. God made people to be like himself.
The significance of this creative act cannot be understated. God made man in his image. God did not create people to look like rocks, giraffes, or monkeys. God made people to be like himself. This speaks to the intimate connection people have with God.
The next big question is When did it happen? Many people argue for a very old date for the creation of man. For instance, evolutionists claim Homo sapiens came into existence 200,000–400,000 years ago after millions of years of chemical and biological evolution. Although this belief does not align with the special creation of human beings apart from other animals, it is a popular yet unbiblical understanding about man’s inception.
This perspective opposes the biblical record on the creation of man. Internal evidence in the Bible suggests a much more recent creation for people. Taking Genesis as an accurate historical record (not as mythology or poetry), God clearly communicated that he created people relatively recently because of the genealogies found in Genesis 5 and 11, which he inspired Moses to record. When we add up the generations and ages in these genealogies with other known dates from biblical history, we learn people were created around 6,000 years ago. Even with potential allowances for gaps in the genealogies, estimates don’t balloon past 8,000 years—certainly not millions of years.
God did not merely create people—he also had a plan for them and gave them something to do. Known as the “creation mandate,” God gave the first couple a job in the first chapter of the Bible, before sin entered the scene. God didn’t want people to lounge around in a perfect garden. Instead, he wanted people to order and manage the resources he gave them.
Entwined in our natures as image-bearers of God, we have an integrated directive as vice-regents over God’s creation.
Theologians throughout the centuries have highlighted this concept because of its prevalence in Scripture, though the term creation mandate itself is not found in the Bible. Originally revealed in Genesis 1:28, it gave people the authority to reign over and care for salmon, bald eagles, cattle, flora, fields, etc. Entwined in our natures as image-bearers of God, we have an integrated directive as vice-regents over God’s creation. So man’s creation and function are closely related.
Not everyone believes the Bible concerning the creation of man. Many argue that people arose from previous animals akin to the way Charles Darwin postulated in his book The Descent of Man (1871). Though modified since Darwin’s time, evolutionary theory is the ruling paradigm in mainstream biology. The plain reading of the Bible rejects such a theory.
In addition to believing Genesis, there are many scientific reasons to dismiss human evolution. The chief problem with molecules-to-man evolution is that there is no unambiguous evidence to support it. Supposed fossil evidence like australopithecines and Neanderthals can easily fit into a biblical worldview without invoking evolutionary dogma to explain them. And without evidence, human evolution is no longer scientific—it’s really part of a religious doctrine, a way to explain what cannot be observed.
Some evolution-minded Bible readers have opted for a different approach to Genesis. They take multiple avenues, but the impetus remains the same: they deny Adam and Eve were historical people—ultimately to appease people that are entirely antagonistic to the Bible and Christians, and often God himself. Sometimes those in the church will say the biblical Adam and Eve are mythological figures that teach theological lessons to an ancient Near Eastern people. At other times, they may say Adam was a head of a tribe and that he and Eve one of many couples at the time.
A plain reading of God’s Word not only records these inarguably important actual events but necessitates understanding that Adam and Eve were real, historical people.
On the other hand, a straightforward historical reading of Genesis affirms the special creation of Adam and Eve. Moreover, the rest of the Bible consistently affirms the historicity of the first couple in its genealogies outside of Genesis (1 Chronicles 1–9; Luke 3), in theological arguments depending on a historical Adam (Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22), and in its affirmation of Satan’s deception of Eve as a historic event (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:13–14). A plain reading of God’s Word not only records these inarguably important actual events but necessitates understanding that Adam and Eve were real, historical people.
Finally, the biblical teaching about the creation of man is significant. We are not products of chance processes, random mutations, and billions of years of development. We were not formed by evolution. Instead, we descend from an historical Adam and Eve who were made in the image of God to work where God placed us. The human race has a history, a purpose, and an eternal destiny to fulfill through believing in Jesus. To answer the original question, How did we get here? the answer lies with our Creator: the maker of heaven, earth, and people.