What is a yoot? Maybe you’ve seen My Cousin Vinny, maybe you haven’t. A “yoot” is Joe Pesci’s New Yorker way of saying a “youth”.

That’s the first and probably last time Joe Pesci will make an appearance here. A yoot is a type of human, and the broader question for this article is – what is a human? More specifically…

What does it mean to be human?

The first two pages of Genesis give us the answer. After God creates the heavens and the earth and brings order and life to the world He completes His initial creative work by saying,

Let us make adam (humanity) in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28, ESV)

On page two we get some additional details important for us here.

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground…The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Gen. 2:5, 15)

Then, the first time God says something in His creation is not good…

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen. 2:18)

So, what does it mean to be human? From the first two pages of Genesis we learn from God’s ideal design that being human means:

  1. You are made in God’s image, after His likeness. This is loaded with meaning. Entire books have been written about this phrase. One of the more helpful books I’ve read on this is The Unseen Realm by Michael Heiser. He summarizes his thoughts by saying, “We are created to image God, to be his imagers. It is what we are by definition. The image is not an ability we have, but a status. We are God’s representatives on earth. To be human is to image God.”[1]
  2. You are created to have dominion over animals and nature. This may sound a bit odd, and maybe your first reaction to reading that is negative – reading “to have dominion over” can cause some alarm. That’s because you know the rest of the story and how poorly humans have treated each other and stewarded God’s world. But in God’s ideal design, humans are placed in a position of authority to cultivate and care for God’s creation, to maximize his blessing. As God’s imagers, humans are distinguished from animals and have a vocation to care for the world by trusting God’s definition of what is good and what is bad. In Eden, as humans cultivate and care for the earth, the earth brings forth produce, and all creation (humanity, animals, nature) flourishes and thrives. No creature has to live at another creature’s expense, and humans are not in a power struggle against each other.
  3. You are created to be in community with other humans. After God says it is not good for a human to be alone in the world He brings the animals to the human. As the human names the animals the loneliness increases–there is no other human. Then God makes woman out of man, and “together” becomes possible for humans. Why all this fuss? Couldn’t God have simply made humans the same way he made animals, already in pairs? Yes, but the author of Genesis wants us to understand that God does not want humans to be isolated. More than this, men and women are created to help each other. A world of male domination or female domination is not God’s design. He designed male and female image-bearers to help each other care for the world and maximize his blessing.

Hopefully this is a challenge to you as it is to me. It’s a stark reminder to me that on my own I’m not very good at being human. In the follow-up to this article we’ll examine the need for a new humanity. That’s a story filled with hope in Jesus Christ, the perfect human.

[1] Michael Heiser, The Unseen Realm, 42-43.

Author: David Faith