Acts 17:26 – The Family of Man
When Paul proclaimed the gospel of Christ in Athens, Greece, he set forth a number of profound truths regarding the Creator (the God not known by the Greeks — Acts 17:23).
One of these truths is the fact that the human family shares a common origin. The apostle declared:
“he [God] made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26, ASV). [Note: the KJV “one blood” is not supported by the best manuscript evidence.]
Of special interest here is the expression “of one.” It translates the Greek
ex henos, literally “out of one male” —
henos being a masculine form. The allusion is obviously to the Genesis record and our ancestry in Adam.
And so, circle the term “of” and in your margin note: Out of. Then mark “one” and record: Masculine; one man, Adam.
In his inspired affirmation of the unity of humankind, Paul was contradicting the philosophy of ancient culture. The Greeks entertained a disposition of ethnic exclusiveness — all others were barbarians (
barbaros — cf. Rom. 1:14), and similarly the Egyptians referred to non-Egyptians as the berber (Vine, 98).
The apostle’s presentation undermined this ideology, because unfounded ethnic distinctions are to be obliterated “in Christ” (cf. Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11).
Actually, Paul’s declaration was ahead of our own time. As late as World War II, the Red Cross segregated “Negro blood” from “Caucasian blood” for transfusion purposes, believing there was a genetic distinction between the races (Montagu, 58). It is now scientifically known that all human beings are just that — humans.
The family of man is one, and the Bible was right about this issue 2000 years ago!
- Montagu, Ashley. 1960. Human Heredity. New York, NY: Mentor.
- Vine, W. E. 1952. Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.