Who Is Mankind and Womankind?

What does the Bible say? It has the best revelation on the sexes, clearer and superior than any modern worldview.

Let’s begin with the Old Testament.

Old Testament

The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and here are the nouns for man, male, woman, and female.


1.. The noun ’adam basically means “man” (used 558 times). It describes humanity as a whole (men, women, children as a collective), so it should be translated as “people,” “mankind” or “humankind.” Only 12 times does it seem to mean the proper name Adam (Gen. 3:17; 3:20-21 [2x]; 4:1, 25; 5:1-5 [4x]; 1 Chron. 1:1 and Hos. 6:7).

So it is best to translate it as “humankind.”

2.. The noun ’ish (pronounced eesh or ihsh) is in contrast to ’adam. ’Ish means “man,” but also “male.” It can also mean “husband.” It is used 2188 times.

3.. The noun geber (pronounced geh-behr) is also translated as “man,” and is used 66 times. It is related to the verb “to be strong, mighty,” so physical strength is implied (in contrast to women and children), and so is spiritual strength.

4.. The noun zakar (pronounced zah-kahr) and it specifically means “male” in contrast to the generic “man.” It can refer to male humans and animals and the male offspring of men and animals. It is used 82 times.


1.. The noun ishsha (pronounced (eesh-shah or ihsh-shah) it means “woman” or “wife.” It is used 781 times.

2.. The noun bat (pronounced baht) is the common word for “daughter,” with additional nuances of “girl,” “granddaughter,” and “woman.” It is used 587 times.

New Testament

It was written in Greek, and here are the three nouns for man and woman.


1.. The noun anēr (pronounced ah-nair) means “man” or “male” or “husband.” We build our name Andrew (courageous) from the stem andr-, which also comes from anēr. It is used 216 times.

2.. The noun anthrōpos (pronounced ahn-throw-pohss, and we get our word anthropology from it) is broader than anēr and means “man,” “human being,” “mankind” or “humankind.” It is used 550 times.


1.. The noun gunē (pronounced goo-nay, and we get our word gynecology from it) means “woman” or “wife.” (Compare French femme, which also means “woman” and “wife”). It is used 215 times.

Who Is Humankind?

Let’s build a theology of humankind, taking as many verses from Scripture as possible, stated or implied here.

1.. Humankind is made in the image of God.

Gen. 1:26-27 says that God announced that he (“let us”) make ’adam in our image … so God created humankind (’adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”

So what does this imaging mean in life?

2.. Humankind is called to reflect God’s being.

Humankind is created male and female. Humankind should not exist in singularity, but they are a duality. “The creation of man and woman in this ontological relationship is thus a creaturely reflection of the being of God, whose inner life is one of relationship and mutuality” (Williams, vol. 1, p. 204). In other words, God exists as three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), who share the same essence (trinitarian monotheism). The analogy is imperfect, but as man and woman complement each other, the three persons in the Triunity are complementary. “It follows from this that man’s relationship to his fellow-man is sacred, for it images the triune God” (ibid. p. 205). This interrelatedness (imperfectly) reflects God’s (perfect) communal being.

3.. But there is to be no blurring of the sexes.

God exists in perfect tri-personal unity, but the three persons are not confused together or blurred. Distinctions exist. In the same way man and woman differ in reflecting God’s character, by being distinct in their sexuality and persons.

4.. Humankind is called to be in relationship with God.

In Gen. 2, humankind is aware of God’s presence and care, and this implies that humankind should be in relationship with God. But as the story goes, he broke the close fellowship and relationship with God. Now God calls humankind throughout his life to be in relationship with God. This relationship is best expressed in the New Covenant and union with Christ.

5.. Humankind is called to reflect God’s character.

First, God is holy and righteous, so humankind must be holy and righteous (Eph. 4:23-24). In the New Covenant, this can only be done best (though not sinlessly perfect!) in Christ. But humankind outside of any covenant, old or new, can maintain a certain kind of social righteousness and holiness (separate from common and profane things). He or she does not have to live a profane life.

Second, God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and humankind must show love for God and his fellow-humans (1 John 4:16-21). Of course this love is best expressed in the New Covenant and in union with Christ, but any person can (imperfectly) reflect God’s (perfect) love.

Third, God is also the God of truth, so we must reflect his truth. Col. 3:9-10 says that we should not lie to one another. Why not? Because we have put off the old nature and have put on the new nature, “which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” When Eve believed the lie of the serpent, all hell broke loose, in terms of a degraded human existence.

6.. Humankind was made of dust.

In Gen. 2:7, God created man from dust, and this reflects his mammal origins—science unambiguously demonstrates and our personal experience proves that we are mammals. The word ’adam is probably related to the Hebrew word ’adamah or “ground.”  We do not have a spark of divinity in us, as some liberal theologians teach, but when we repent and receive saving faith in Christ and exercise this saving faith in Christ, he sends his Holy Spirit into our hearts; at that moment we partake of God’s divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).

The next truth from this “dusty” passage is that we are a corporeal being, and God made us into one. Though we share a mammal body with all other mammals (a biological fact), God created us like this for a very important purpose. The body is good and important. In the New Covenant, our bodies are members of Christ, so we are to glorify God in our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15, 19-20). We must not indulge in sex outside of marriage and gluttony and other selfish appetites.

7.. Humankind is called to be viceregent over the earth.

A viceregent “stands in place of” (vice) of the king or regent. We are his deputy regents. When humankind fell, God commissioned them to have this rulership over nature and the earth (Gen. 1:27-30). It was declared good in God’s sight (Gen. 1). This does not mean abuse the earth and larger nature, but to take care of it.

Psalm 8, presented here in its entirety, lays out humankind’s relation with and authority over nature, particularly vv. 4-8:

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
    in the heavens.
Through the praise of children and infants
    you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
    to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under their feet:
all flocks and herds,
    and the animals of the wild,
the birds in the sky,
    and the fish in the sea,
    all that swim the paths of the seas.

Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8, NIV)

8.. Humankind has the breath of life in him.

The Hebrew word for soul is nephesh and it encompasses the entire person, body and soul (Lev. 4:2; Ezek. 18:20; Ps. 7:2) (Mounce, p. 670).

It also expresses the relationship between God and humankind (Is. 26:9; Ps. 42:1, 5, 11; 63:1).

It is interchangeable with “spirit.” Prov. 20:27 says that the spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, which means our spirit offers us guidance, once we are in relationship with God and in covenant with him, a covenant that he initiated and sustains. In the New Covenant, our spirit, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, cries Abba, Father! (Rom. 8:15-16). When a believer prays in the Spirit (commonly called ‘tongues’), his spirit prays, though his understanding is unfruitful (1 Cor. 14:14).

9.. Humankind is a living being.

Humankind is a qualitative higher order than mammals because he has a spirit. This spirit and soul is his essence. Some theologians see them as distinct, others as one thing. The two terms are used interchangeably. Heb. 4:12 says the word of God is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword, able to pierce and divide soul and spirit.  “Division is possible; for even if they are not different substances, they do signify profoundly different dimensions of human nature, because the spirit is that in which the soul is grounded (Williams, vol. 1, pp. 213-14).

See Word Study on Spirit, Soul, and Body and Is Humankind Two or Three Parts? for a longer discussion of soul and spirit.

Whatever side one favors (spirit and soul are distinct or one and the same), the point is that God gave him an essence, which flies in the face of postmodernism, which says humans must make their essence over a lifetime and may never find or know it.

10.. Humankind is made free.

First, freedom is positive, without negation. He was free to walk in the garden (Gen. 3:8-9). The best positive freedom is to be in relationship with God, without estrangement, no evil, no sin. He is able to walk with God. However, as the story goes, humankind broke this fellowship with God. Now this freedom is best expressed in the New Covenant and union with Christ.

Next, humankind is also free to work productively, as he was called to tend the garden. Even after the ground was cursed (Gen. 3:17-19), God granted him the ability and liberty, mental and physical, to work.

Further, humankind is also free to enjoy the world God created. It is his gift that he can go camping and hiking and celebrate nature.

Humankind was free to obey God’s will, so his liberty was structured or oriented towards God. Without this structure, humankind can get lost. This is the point of the Fall. He chose to disobey God, and misery resulted, over time. Some may object that structured freedom is not true freedom, but they are wrong. Whenever humankind goes his own way and follows his appetites, he gets into trouble. Moral law does not guide him, so he catches STD’s and has self-afflicted heartache and broken relationships. But when humankind follows God’s ways, life goes much more smoothly, and self-afflicted addictions and heartache are minimal, morally speaking.

Freedom must contain the freedom to choose in a genuine decision. If there is no choice or free decision, freedom is an imaginary word without substance. Originally, he had a free choice to obey or disobey God. Freedom of decision is essential to humankind, the creature of God (Williams, pp. 217-18). Humankind is not a preprogrammed android that has to act only one way.

Character is the result of a long series good decisions, for the truth, righteousness, and holiness. Though God’s original intention was for humankind to choose the good, there was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Humankind chose that tree, and now he can choose the positive commands in moral law (“Do good, be kind!”), or he can also choose the negative commands (“Don’t do this or that!”). His freedom is structured or oriented, before and after the Fall. It is always best to choose God’s ways. That’s how we are made.

How does this post help me grow in Christ?

Thus, humankind was originally free from compulsion, unhindered by the dominion of sin and could enjoy fellowship with God, be glad in tending the garden before the curse on the ground (and afterwards), and enjoy creation, and follow God’s will in acts of free decisions.

God has built humankind to obey his moral law, which is his gift to humanity. He likes it when humans follow it, because they take one step closer away from their sinful mammal nature and bring peace and cooperation between them.

However, obeying moral law is insufficient for saving knowledge of God. A human can catch a glimpse of his Creator by obedience, but he needs help from God himself. That helps comes in Jesus Christ. Only by submitting to him can humans be holy and live like him in union with him.


Works Cited

At that link, look for Williams, Mounce and NIV Study Bible

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