The Creation of Man.
The account of the creation of man is found in the beginning of the book of Genesis. Nothing is said about the time when man was created, but the general belief fixes the date at 4000 B.C. The four weeks of Advent seem to indicate that the Church adopts this view.
1. God made the body of man out of the dust of the earth, and breathed into him a living soul.
The soul of man is a spiritual substance. The materialist who denies the existence of the soul because it cannot be perceived by his senses, might as well deny the existence of human reason because he cannot see it. The soul is endowed with the two faculties of reason and free will. Some have supposed that there are in man two souls, on account of the different inclinations which strive for mastery in him, and the struggle that takes place between the leaning towards sensual enjoyment and the reason that condemns it. But this struggle only proves that the soul has different tendencies, in virtue of our nature being partly material and partly spiritual. The relations between the body and the soul of man are as follows: the body is the dwelling-place of the soul. As the nutshell to the kernel, as the dress to the man, as the hut to the hermit, such is the body to the soul. The body is also the instrument of the soul, whereby it may attain to eternal happiness. What his tools are to the carpenter, his brush to the painter, the organ to the organist, such the body is to the soul. The soul is the guide of the body, as the driver of his steed, or the captain of his ship. Too often the soul allows the evil desires of the body to lead it astray, to the ruin of both. The body is a good servant but a bad master. The soul also is the life of the body; as soon as the two are parted, the body soon returns to the dust from which it was formed. The souls of men are essentially different from those of the lower animals; and have different faculties and capabilities. The souls of animals are incapable of striving after perfection, or of searching into the causes of things; hence they can have no knowledge of their end; they are led by instinct, not by reason. They have no craving after a higher happiness and are quite satisfied with the enjoyment of sense; they have no spiritual nature, but are essentially dependent on matter.
It is an error to think that the bodies of men are developed out of those of the lower animals.
Many think that men are sprung from the lower animals by a process of gradual development This is the theory advanced by the English naturalist, Darwin, who believed that the first man was a highly developed kind of monkey. There is an essential difference between the shape of the body of a man and an ape, and between the form of their skulls. The brain of man is far larger and heavier than that of an ape. Man has the gift of speech, the ape has not. Man has the power of forming abstract ideas, the ape has not. Man has a long period of growth, and a gradual development of his faculties; the ape shoots up very quickly to its full development. The ape only lives about thirty years; man can attain to the age of eighty or even one hundred years. Man is capable of the highest cultivation; the ape is not. No bones have ever yet been found which bridge over the impassable gulf that separates men from apes. There is no difference between the bones of men in the present day and those of men who lived thousands of years ago. Tradition and language bear witness to an early period when men enjoyed a higher cultivation, from which they afterwards fell away through sin and vice. The apes which bear the greatest resemblance to man in bodily form are stupid and without intelligence, and seem to have been created in order that we may see what man would have been if God had not breathed into him an immortal soul, and made him like to Himself. To those who trace the origin of men from apes may be applied the words of Holy Scripture, “Man when he was in honor did not understand; he hath been compared to senseless beasts, and made like to them” (Ps. xlviii. 21).
2. The first human beings that God created were Adam and Eve.
Eve was made from a rib of Adam while he slept, and from Adam and Eve all the millions who now cover the face of the earth were descended. Hence all are members of one and the same family. The differences of color and of the shape of the skull are the result of differences of climate, food, and way of living. We find that animals gradually change their shape and color under a different climate. All men have certain common bodily characteristics, and also the mental faculties of will, memory, and understanding. The oldest legends of all existing peoples tell of a primeval happiness from which man fell, of a deluge over all the inhabited portion of the earth, etc., and so bear witness to a common origin.
Yet all men derive only their bodies from Adam; for the soul of every man is created by God.
It is not man, but God, Who communicates to each of us his soul when he comes into existence. “The Lord formeth the spirit of man in him” (Zach. xii. 1). Just as the Holy Spirit in Baptism or in the Sacrament of Penance descends into the soul of man, and gives it spiritual life, so God gives natural life to the body of man when formed, and places the soul in it. So He did with the bodies of Adam and Eve at their creation. God creates each soul and at the same moment places it in the body which He has prepared for it. It is therefore an error to suppose, as Tertullian did, that the soul of the child is sprung from the soul of its parent, as one flame is engendered from another. Some have foolishly asserted that all men have one and the same soul, others that God created the souls of all men when He first created the world. This was the doctrine of Plato and Origen, and is entirely false.