Unlike all the other creatures, man was made in the likeness and image of God. Yet, like all the other creatures, God created man as a propagative being—a being that could “multiply and fill the earth.”
Genesis 2:7-8 ESV
7then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. 8And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.
This is God’s supernatural creation of Adam. Here, we see how it was that God made Adam in His image. He breathed the breath of life into Adam, and Adam became a living soul. This is a startling picture of personal contact, completely unlike the creation of everything else. The breath of life can also be translated, “spirit [or, soul] of lives.” By breathing the breath of life into Adam, God was breathing the very spirit of Adam from out of God and into Adam. God created Adam’s spirit out of nothing and breathed it into him from out of Himself. Unlike all other creatures, who were strictly material like the waters, man was made to be like the Creator, whose Spirit hovered over those waters; and because man was a spiritual being, he was also a moral being.
Genesis 5:1-3 ESV
1This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. 3When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.
God created man in His image. Here, the propagative nature of that image is revealed. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” How unexpected it is that Seth is said to have been begotten in the image and likeness of Adam, rather than in the image and likeness of God. The spirit that God had breathed into Adam—Adam’s spirit—was propagated to his son, Seth. Since Seth is the first mention in the genealogy, and the first begotten man whose birth is accompanied by such an explanation, his mention provides the pattern by which all men are begotten. Generation after countless generation, the spirit of the child comes from out of his father’s spirit, through all forefathers back to Adam—and back to that breath of life that God breathed into Adam. From father to son—purposely designed so that Christ could be born of a virgin and still be who He was rather than being the spiritual son of Mary.
Seth was begotten in the image of his father, Adam. Since that image was spiritual, it was propagated to Seth in the same moral condition as in Adam. The law of propagation, which is everywhere evident, and should be obvious from the Scripture. The natural sense of the Genesis account is that God had made man, and every other creature, as propagative beings, able to multiply after their own kind. Like begets like, as is the way of all living creatures from amoeba to man, and God no longer creates them supernaturally out of nothing. This principle and fact of propagation is such a part of our thinking that we miss the significance. God created at the beginning, but He designed into His creatures the abilities and natures necessary to propagate each species and “fill the earth” without any further supernatural creation by God. This is not to say that God withdraws from His creation and remains aloof, but it simply tells us that God’s original creating was all that was necessary to accomplish His creative purposes. Robert Culver points out the plain reading of the Genesis account.
The creation of mankind climaxes a narrative wherein every living thing in the waters was to reproduce ‘after their kind.’ In each case no one doubts the whole living creature in each offspring was to be completely the procreated offspring of its parents. Creation first of man, male, then of man, female, comes precisely at the climax of that movement of the narrative, with the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply.’ It would be assumed by anyone who reads on that the same would be the case, notice to the contrary lacking. The same fully ‘after their kind’ in every respect would be assumed to be the case when in obedience to the command to be fruitful, it is said ‘And [connecting with previous narrative] Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain’ (Gen. 4:1 KJV). It is plain Eve was aware that God was the effecting power of the procreation (mediate creation), for she said, ‘I have gotten a man from the LORD’ (KJV). Genesis 5:1-3 carries the plain fact further when it says that God created man (generic, adham) ‘in the likeness of God,’ and that they, male and female, were called man (adham, generic man), and then that ‘When Adam had lived for 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness.’ Should we suppose that what Adam and Eve brought forth was half created de novo by God, utterly apart from their own procreative powers implanted in the first place by their Creator, God? I think not.
There is in Scripture no separate origin for the spirit and the body, unless we go looking for that with the presupposition that there is. In the beginning, God supernaturally created both Adam’s body and his spirit. Scripture establishes that man, originally created by God, is thereafter a propagative being—and this principle of propagation is “borne out” in proven experience and universally understood. Nothing further is needed to justify the inference that man is propagated as a whole, in all his components. Adam’s spirit and body both came from God’s own creative hand; and since man was thereafter propagative, what justification would we have to introduce a distinction of origins, insisting that only the body is propagated—especially when the Scripture makes no such distinction?
This spiritual propagation, called “traducianism,” is paternal: the spirit of the child is propagated from the father. Seth was begotten in the image of Adam the individual, not “Adam” as a term for both Adam and Eve, as some conclude. Adam is clearly spoken of as an individual in Gen. 5:3-5. While Adam and Eve shared the date of creation, it would be unreasonable to conclude that they both died in the same year. The entire genealogy of Adam, in this chapter, is paternal. For every generation listed, a single male is named, and the chronological details of his life are noted. This would be the same for the first as for any other. “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years…” (ESV). Thus, in the previous verse, it was this same Adam who fathered Seth in his image: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (ESV).
The fact that all the genealogies in the Bible are paternal weighs in favor of a paternal traducianism, as does the importance of paternal lineage that is found throughout. People groups are named after their male progenitor. Israel the nation is named after Israel the progenitor, as are many such examples in Scripture. Even mankind is named (in Hebrew) after Adam. It is often concluded that Adam was given a generic name for “mankind” to symbolically indicate that he was the embodiment of the human race. What is overlooked by such a conclusion is the consistent pattern in the Old Testament of people groups being named for their progenitor. Since Adam was the first man, the language would have naturally developed around him, so that whatever his name might have been, it would have become the word for mankind. Had Adam been named Cain, then “cain” would have become the word for mankind.
Along with language developing around Adam, the entire human culture developed with Adam as its basis. The paternal orientation of human culture, and the importance of keeping accurate paternal genealogies can only have come from Adam himself, who was the patriarch of humanity for 930 years. The genealogies begin with him, and the unbroken chain of information must have resulted from his emphasis on its importance. The unimportance of the genealogical information of females is significant. Even to this day, the most ubiquitous of people groups, the family, is named after the father in almost all cultures.
In Heb. 7:9-10, where Levi is said to have been “still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him,” it is implied that Levi was in Abraham in a complete way, rather than only one-eighth of Levi being in Abraham (who was only one of eight great-grandparents). Scripture consistently presents the parental relation of the father in this manner. In Gen. 35:11, Jacob is told that Kings would come out of his loins: “And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins…” Again, in Gen. 46:26, “All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, besides Jacob’s sons’ wives, all the souls were threescore and six…” The souls that came with Jacob into Egypt are not spoken of in any way that would indicate a partial presence, such as would be expected under the shared origin of a bi-parental propagation of the soul. Such language is never used of any female progenitor.
Elisha cursed Gehazi and “all his descendants forever,” in 2 Kings 5:27: “The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.” Such a curse parallels the depravity that fell upon Adam and all his descendants. The fact that every descendant of Gehazi, no matter how many generations removed, bears the full curse of his leprosy, implies that every descendant was “in the loins of” Gehazi in a complete way that would only fit within a system of paternal traducianism.
In Deut. 5:9, God makes a startling statement about such generational consequences: “…I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me…” Although the exact meaning of the phrase, “visiting the iniquity,” is unclear, the fact that it is the iniquity of the fathers and not of the mothers is clear and explicit.
Now consider our rebirth. Since Adam, every man has been born spiritually dead—except One, who was born of a virgin. We all were begotten of sinful, fallen fathers, and we are just like them. We need a New Father to give us a new image so we can be like Him. We need a new spiritual conception in which the Spirit of that New Father is begotten in us (see Ezek. 11:19; 36:26-27; 37:14). Gal. 4:6-7, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” The Spirit of the Son in our hearts makes us a true son of the Father. The Son unites with us in such a way that we share His identity.