What is Man? Biblical insights for a new age

In the first of two articles, Adrian Graffy offers a study guide to What is Man?, the official 2019 statement of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on aspects of biblical anthropology.

When in 2014 Pope Francis instructed the Pontifical Biblical Commission to draw up a document on the ‘anthropology of the Bible’, he could not have imagined that it would be unveiled at a time when human life across the globe was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the midst of new and sometimes disturbing ideas on what a human being is, the Pope wanted an accessible presentation of what Scripture says about ‘man’. The title ‘What is Man?’ may be defended as a literal citation from Psalm 8, which could more clumsily be translated ‘what is the human being?’. The psalm evokes a sense of questioning and even wonder, which infuses the entire document. The sub-heading is ‘a journey through biblical anthropology’, affirming that what Scripture teaches about human beings develops and evolves, not presenting fixed statements about what it is to be human, but recognising the continuing work of the Spirit who inspires individuals and communities over time and in new contexts to understand with greater depth the things of God and the role of humanity, and the experience of the pandemic will take us further on the journey.

The foundational text for the document is Genesis 2 and 3, chapters from a common ancient source, to be clearly distinguished from the later poem of creation in Genesis 1. The text of Genesis is portioned out so that, in the four chapters of the document, groups of verses trigger explorations of diverse statements about man and woman as they are refined and developed in the Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments. Chair of the Commission Cardinal Luis Ladaria considers the method to be highly innovative. The overriding intention is to make visible both the beauty and complexity of divine Revelation in relation to the human person (Presentation final paragraph).

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