This is an easy question to answer biblically. And even for most God-rejecting so-called scientists who specialize in taxonomies, they would say: homo sapiens.
So let’s get back to the Bible and its infallible answer that all human lives matter irrespective of outward colors. In order to document this theological truth, a review of the scriptural data should prove helpful at this time when the eccentric views of a polarized society are once again swirling around us.
Of course we must begin at the beginning, namely, in Genesis 1 and 2. In typical Hebrew fashion, chapter 1 is a snapshot of the six days of creation, then chapter 2 fills in some of the details of that account, especially concerning the crown of creation, i.e., humankind. Permit me to work backwards. First, in Genesis 2:7 we are informed about how God had created the first “man,” i.e. “Adam.” Remember that this Hebrew noun may be rendered as “man,” “mankind,” “humanity,” or the proper name “Adam,” depending on the nuancing of contexts.
This helps set the stage for the theological motif of the one and the many found in its different applications throughout the Bible. With this in mind, the verse may be translated, “Now Yahweh-God had formed [cf. the activity of the potter, herein the Potter par excellence] the man of dust from the ground, and He had breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, then the man become a living being.”
We know that Adam, the progenitor of all humanity was different from all the other living creatures that God had created because of his having been uniquely made in the “image” and “likeness” of God:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen 1:26).
We’ll pick this thread up later—along with the significance of Genesis 1:27—but for now the details that Genesis 2:18-25 provide will help us grasp the significance of those two verses from chapter 1.
After God’s pronouncements of “good” upon what He had made during the first days of the creation week, in reference to the sixth day, the day on which He created “man,” He exclaimed “very good” concerning it. With that in mind notice the LORD’s somewhat surprising assessment in Genesis 2:18: “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him”’ (Gen 2:18). The verses that follow next in Genesis 2:19ff. about the mediate creation of the woman, Eve, explain how that “not good” situation was remedied by our gracious God. This portion from chapter 2 fills in the blanks of our understanding of Genesis 1:27-28, which reads:
God created man in His own 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 over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:27-28).
Notice first from verse 27b that both “male” (the gender specific term for a man) and “female” (the gender specific term for a woman) constituted the creation of “man” (i.e. humankind) as verse 27a states. There are several theological implications stemming from this fact. One is that humankind is the ultimate “kind” that God created (cf. the specific word for “kind” in verses 11, 12 [2x], 21 [2x], 21 [2x], 24 [2x], 25 [3x]). Within the God-drawn boundary of a kind there can be amazing variety. So it is with humanity; for example, when it comes to external color alone human beings can be black, brown, yellow, red, olive, white, et al. However, our kind has one fundamental thing in common. We all bear the “image” and “likeness” of God. Each and every person’s roots, no matter who they are, go back to Genesis 1:26.
Sadly we are also connected via our many-to-the-one union (remember, e.g., Rom 5:12 ff.) to the fall of our original parents as chronicled in Genesis 3. The consequences of sin for all “image” and “likeness” bearers are severe. For instance remember just two passages which respectively employ these terms:
Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man (Gen 9:6).
For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh (James 3:7-12, esp. note v.9).
Ultimately the wages of sin for all image bearers is death (e.g., Rom 3:9; 6:23a), unless they appropriate by faith the Person and work of Christ (e.g., Rom 6:23b), “the last Adam” (cf. 1 Cor 15:45-49; Rom 5:15-19).
Furthermore, the Gospel offer comes to all image bearers indiscrimanently, and for genuine Christians who have received it by grace through faith there are no distinctions image-wise between male and female, Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumcised, etc. (e.g., Gal 3:26-29; Col 3:10-11; etc). And we must add to such spiritually unbiblical distinctions all those pertaining to any variety of skin color.
So the answer to our original question is very easy: each and every life of each and every bearer of God’s image and likeness matters!
This knowledge carries with it an obligation, not to march, protest, counter-protest, or whatever, but to keep on sowing the seeds of the Gospel to all the colors and classes of lost human beings. Furthermore, our obedient response to this knowledge also carries with it a deeply satisfying reward. Since we have the only solution to true unity that comes through the Person and work of Christ and sins forgiven (contrast the pseudo-unity that mobs of people are pursuing these days), we someday will have the blessed privilege of worshipping God and the Lamb forever with all of God’s multi-ethic, multi-colored redeemed image and likeness bearers (cf., e.g., Rev 5:9-10).
ALL LIVES indeed do matter both now and for eternity.
Dr. Zemek serves as the Academic Dean of The Expositors Seminary and an elder at Grace Immanuel Bible Church in Jupiter, FL.