A Reexamination of Human Personality From A Biblical Perspective (Part Two)
In the previous article, this author examined human personality and the various explanations of the qualities that make up a person. Some explanations focused on observable qualities such as shyness and initiative, while others focus on what they deemed internal qualities like intelligence or motives. Researchers believe that a human being's personality is unique to them and is instrumental in how a person behaves, thinks, and feels. The personality of human beings has spawned much debate on what makes up the personality of the human being, which has given rise to what is known as personality assessments, which attempt to give people insight into personal growth. However, when discussing human personality, two aspects are overlooked: 1) there is an overall consensus by researchers that human beings have a personality, but there are various explanations of what a personality is or how it develops. 2) A researcher's worldview is often missed in the perspective of human personality, and the test developed to assess them. Such worldviews promoted within the subject of personality may be contrary to the Biblical perspective. These two oversights above raise the question: How ought a person view the topic of human personality from a Biblical perspective? The book of Genesis may give us the possible answer to this question.
The Book of Genesis may highlight the characteristics of human personality. The first chapter details the creation and how God created the universe and the earth that inhabits it (Gen 1:1). By speaking creation into existence, God detailed the order by which all things were made in six days: light and darkness on day one (v. 6), the sky on day two (vs. 7-8), the seas and the land, and vegetation on day three (vs. 9-13), the sun, moon, and stars in day four (vs. 14-19), the sea creatures and birds on day five (vs. 20-23), and the land creatures and bugs on day six (vs. 24-25). However, the creation account gives the reader something different concerning the creation of humanity.
Then God said, "Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and the livestock and all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth." So God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Genesis 1:26-28 NASB20).
In this part of the creation account on day six, God declared that He would make humanity in His image (צֶלֶם/selem) and His likeness (דְּמוּת/dᵊmûṯ). In chapter one of Genesis, these two words inform the reader that God would create humanity and that humanity would reflect some of the very attributes of God Himself (i.e., imago Dei). Furthermore, the account continues that God would intend to create humanity into two specific creatures: male and female, and had given male and female the responsibility to rule over the creation that God Himself made, further emphasizing the difference between the human beings that God created in His image, and the other things that God created (vegetation, animals, and insects).
In Genesis chapter two, the historical account explains how God created the male and the female. First, God had taken the dirt from the earth and formed (יָצַר/yatsar) the male from the dust of the earth and gave him the breath of life, thus animating him (Genesis 2:7). Then, after the activity of man naming all of the other creatures, God puts man to sleep, takes a rib out of the man, and built (בָּנָה/bana) the woman (Genesis 2:18-22). God creating the male and female as He did underscore the distinctive nature of humanity. The male recognized this distinction when God brought the female to the male and observed another creature similar to him in form and substance (Genesis 2:23).
Based on the previous explanations of personality, those with an alternative perspective about the substance of human beings focused their attention on external behaviors and attitudes (e.g., shyness) or internal responses (e.g., attitudes, motives). However, it would appear from the Biblical perspective that what makes up the quality of a person (i.e., personality) is not external behaviors or internal responses but the form and the substance of human beings. While personality assessments seek to expose what makes a person unique from another person, personality from the Biblical worldview seeks to expose what makes a person unique from the rest of creation. When God spoke of creating the animals, trees, or universe, He did not say these things He created were in His image and likeness. However, when it came to humankind, God spoke His intentions by pronouncing that male and female were to be created in His image.
Furthermore, God created the plants, animals, insects, and heavenly bodies by speaking them into existence. In contrast, God created human beings by forming and building them by His hand. In addition, God created the animals in multitudinous. However, when it came to humanity, God created one male by forming him out of the ground and building the woman.
The qualities of a person extend beyond the physical aspect of humanity to include the spiritual aspect of humanity—this human feature is in the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 20:27). Zechariah also promoted this truth when he wrote the following, "The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel.Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him" (Zechariah 12:1 NASB20). Thus, through Jeremiah, before addressing the future invasion and restoration of Israel, the Lord begins by declaring that the Lord has created the sky, established the earth, and formed the spirit of man. Zechariah does not mention the animals, plants, or heavenly bodies (i.e., the sun, moon, and stars) having this quality.
Personality, as defined, are the qualities and aspects of what makes up a person and one's worldview is important in understanding one's view concerning the substance and quality of humankind. Those who have a view that is contrary to the biblical perspective may observe humanity by their conduct or their attitude and may conclude that these are the qualities that make up one's personality, and as a result, conclude that every human being is distinct from one another based on external behaviors or internal factors. However, when it comes to the Biblical perspective, the qualities of personhood (i.e., personality) find their origin in God, who has created humanity in His image and likeness. Therefore, compared with other perspectives, the Biblical outlook instructs a person's personality, and by extension, a human being's uniqueness is distinct from the rest of creation that God has made (i.e., plants, animals, insects). In short, if we are to observe the word of God as instructed from Genesis, it would seem that all human beings, in terms of their substance and aspects, all have the same personality.
The above point brings up more questions about this subject of personality: If we all have the same personality, why do we have different interests, hobbies, etc.? Why do we respond differently to certain situations, or why do some people act or think differently from their parents? If humanity all possesses the same personality, what is one assessing when they take a personality assessment, and what is a personality assessment measuring?
These questions we will explore in the continuing to look at the book of Genesis.
Until next time...
Soli Deo Gloria!