What does it mean to be human? What is our core identity?
The way we see ourselves and others creates the world we see. Our basic vision of people shapes our attitudes and behaviors, and these end up structuring our relationships and societies.
From this perspective, the question of human identity is not a speculative fancy. It is immediately practical and deeply consequential for our lives, communities, and world.
The Bible introduced a rebellious vision of human identity that disrupted the assumptions of its cultural context.
Ancient mythology constructed culture-making, society-structuring answers to the question of human identity. For example, see the cover picture above, the influential Mesopotamian myth Enuma Elish (“When on High”) explained that humans were made from the blood of a murdered god. The hero god Marduk (pictured as a warrior) slaughtered his rival goddess Tiamat (pictured as a dragon), and this is where we begin. According to this civilization-shaping narrative, human life is rooted in violence. (It’s also worth noting the gendered nature of this violence.)
Moreover, according to Enuma Elish, the purpose of human life is to labor as the gods’ slaves, building temples for their relaxation and farming food for their feasting... Read More