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Potent Prooftext: What did the trick

25 April 2011 by David

Q. 15. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is that wherein God did in the beginning, by the word of his power, make of nothing the world, and all things therein, for himself, within the space of six days, and all very good.

Q. 16. How did God create angels?
A. God created all the angels spirits, immortal, holy, excelling in knowledge, mighty in power, to execute his commandments, and to praise his name, yet subject to change.

Q. 17. How did God create man?
A. After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal souls; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall.

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  —Genesis 2:7

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.  —John 1:3–4


It was a simple recipe: a little dirt, the breath of life, and just like that, Yahweh created man. So simple, it was, that one might wonder why we can’t do it. After all, we have dirt, and we have life and breath, so why not? The answer is in the phrase “breath of life.” The truth is that God could have used anything to make man. It didn’t have to be dirt. It could have been water, grass clippings, or tree bark. The thing that did the trick was the “breath of life.”

This is not breath as we know it. It is an anthropomorphic expression, a figure of speech that projects human character onto non-human beings or things — in this case, God. The Lord uses them frequently in Scripture help us gain some small measure of understanding of ideas and events that are humanly incomprehensible. God doesn’t breathe. He doesn’t have a body, cardiovascular system, lungs. He doesn’t inhale oxygen-rich air and exhale carbon dioxide. The breath of life is not to be found in our atmosphere, or any other, because it doesn’t exist as a thing to be measured and analyzed. The breath of life is life itself, and it proceeds from God alone.

“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” This life is more than just the mechanical workings of organic beings — God is not an organic being — it is “light,” however we may define that. It is what separates us from the animals; it is understanding, spiritual existence, the image of God in us. It is the necessary essence that fits us “to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”