And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Genesis. 1:26
Does the phrase, "Let us make man in our image," indicate plurality of persons involved in creation?
Robert A. Sabin
Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; and Isa 6:8 are scriptures rarely used in this day to support the theory of a plurality of persons in the Godhead, and ordinarily, not used by one who is truly aware theologically for the reasons depicted below.
I. Is the Creator an "us" in a plural sense?
1. Not according to Jesus: Matt. 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, Mark 13:19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be. Mark 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. Jesus considered the Creator to be a "He."
2. Not according to John: Rev. 4:11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. Rev. 10:6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven...the earth, ... and the sea, John considered the Creator to be a "thou."
3. Not according to Paul: Col. 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 1Tim. 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. Rom. 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen Paul considered the Creator to be a "Him," "who is" and "God."
4. Not according to Peter: 1Pet. 4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. Peter considered the Creator to be a "him," a "faithful Creator," (singular).
5. Not according to Isaiah: Isa. 44:24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things ; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; Isaiah considered the Creator to be "the LORD," "alone," and "by myself."
6. Not according to Job: Job 10:8 Thine hands have made me and fashioned me together round about; yet thou dost destroy me. Job 33:4 The spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life. Job considered the creator to be "Thine," and "the spirit of God."
7. Not according to Solomon: Prov. 8:26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. Prov. 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. Solomon considered the Creator to be a "He," "the LORD," "himself."
8. Not according to Malachi: Mal. 2:10 Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? Malachi considered the Creator to be "one God" and "one Father."
9. Not according to early Christians: 1Cor. 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. Paul spoke for the early Christian church, an "us" in this scripture, and declared that it was "one God, the Father," and "whom."
10. Not according to Moses Stuart, Biblical Repository, July, 1835, p. 102,103. "Nor does the appeal to the plural forms of expression in the Old Testament justify the modes of representation in question: [viz. society, covenanting transactions, and deliberative counsel, and the like, in the Godhead itself;] such as Let us make man ; Let us go down and see; The man is become as one of us; Who will go for us? All these modes of expression seem naturally to spring from the almost continual use of the plural form Elohim, as the name of God. But he who has well studied the genius of the Hebrew language, must know that this often makes an intensive signification of words by employing the plural of number ; and particularly that this is the fact in regard to words designating dominion, lordship, etc. Such is the case not only with Elohim, but also with many others, even when they designate single objects. Elohim, is for the most part as much as to say, supreme God. But if any still insist on the argument to be drawn from this, as evincing of itself a plurality in the Godhead, what shall be said of its use in Psalm 45:6,7 where first the Son and then the Father is each respectively called Elohim? Is there then a plurality of persons in the Son, and in the Father too?
11. Not according to, Knapp, Prof. from mid 19th century Theology , p. 93. It (Elohim,) is derived from an Arabic word, which signifies to reverence, to honor, to worship. Hence, it comes to pass that it is frequently applied to kings, magistrates, judges, and others to whom reverence is shown, and who are regarded as the representatives of the Deity upon earth. Psalm 82:6. Exo.. 7:1...The plural of this word, Elohim, though it denotes but one subject, is appropriately used to designate Jehovah by way of eminence. In fact, many theologians have thought they perceived an allusion to the doctrine of the Trinity, though they have no sufficient ground for supposing that this doctrine was known at so early a period. And without resorting to this supposition, the application of this plural name to a singular subject may be explained from an idiom of the ancient oriental and some other languages, by which anything great or eminent was expressed in the plural number, (pluralis dignitatis, or majestaticus.) Accordingly, Eloha, (the singular,) augustus, [majestic,] may be considered as the positive degree, of which Elohim, ( the plural,) augustissimus, [most majestic,] is the superlative.
12. Not according to Theophilus, anonymous theologian of mid 19th century: "This language is understood to express determination, And God determined to make man in his own image, after his own likeness, without supposing that he also intended to teach us thereby the mode of his own existence...When a man is about to do an important thing, and wishes to proceed with deliberation and act with discretion, he considers with himself, and perhaps speaks audibly : "Let us consider--let us see what to do." ...but in so saying, he does not intend to tell us anything as to the origin or mode of his existence. He is deliberating so as to come to a wise determination. God does not, like man, need to deliberate, in order to act wisely--at least, he has not told us so; but he makes himself and his doings known to us in language conformed to the manner of men; leaving it for common sense to decide as to the meaning of what he says of himself, for the express purpose of being understood-- not for the purpose of casting a mist before our eyes so that we cannot see what he means.
13. Not according to plural forms in scripture which are actually singular: Ezra 4:11 This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him , even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time...Ezra 4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. The king, singular, called himself an "us."
14. Not according to the receiver of this letter to Artaxerxes. Ezra 4:7 And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote... unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; 4:8 to Artaxerxes the king 11 the letter that they sent unto him , even unto Artaxerxes the king; 12 Be it known unto the king, 13 Be it known now unto the king, 17 Then sent the king...18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. Six times it is certified by clear designation of singular pronoun (him, me) that the letter was sent only to the king (singular). The king answers without consultation, that the letter was sent unto "us" (plural pronoun). Thus, it is a single despotic monarch who calls himself by the plural pronoun, us, a plural of majesty.
15. Not according to Ezra who used the plural of majesty when speaking of an incident in the life of Artaxerxes. Ezra 4:11 This is the copy of the letter that they sent unto him, even unto Artaxerxes the king; Thy servants the men on this side the river, and at such a time. Ezra 4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me. Ezra gives a clear Biblical example of the plural of majesty. There is no allusion to any "Assembly" gathered for consultation.
16. Not according to Jesus who used plural pronouns to refer to himself: John 3:11 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. Jesus and Nicodemus were all alone. Jesus spoke to Nicodemus and referred to himself as a "we" and "our," though he was obviously referring to himself, alone.
17. Not according to Paul who used plural pronouns to refer to himself: 2Cor. 10:8 For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed: Paul spoke of the edification given him by the Lord and said it was "given to us", and of his own authority and referred to it as "our" authority.
18. Not according to 2 Corinthians 10, in which Paul uses singular and plural pronouns interchangeably. 2 Cor. 10:1 Now I, Paul, myself beseech ... who in presence:2 I beseech you, that I may not be bold I am present I think think of us...if we walked 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war 7 ... are we Christ's. 8 I should...our authority... given us...I should...9 That I may not seem as if I would terrify you by letters. :10 For his letters; but his bodily presence... his speech 11 such as we are ... we are absent... will we be... we are present. 12 we dare not make ourselves compare ourselves 13 But we will not... our measure... to us, 14 we stretch ...ourselves ...our measure...we reached... for we 15 our measure, our rule 16 our hand. Thirteen times Paul refers to himself with the singular pronouns, (I, who, his) twenty-five times he refers to himself with the plural pronoun, yet, in all this there is no indication that he is more than one individual.
19. Not according to Paul in Galatians 1:8, 9 who uses singular and plural pronouns (I, we) interchangeably to refer to himself, alone. Gal. 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
20. Not according to English speaking people who use the uni-plural you with the plural verb are when speaking of a single person such as "you are the author," used for "thou art the author." We use a uni-plural pronoun with a plural verb to speak of or to one individual.
21. Not according to Hebrew kings who continually in scripture refer to themselves with plural pronouns. 2Chr. 10:9 And he said unto them, What advice give ye that we may return answer to this people, which have spoken to me, saying, Ease somewhat the yoke that thy father did put upon us? 1Kgs. 12:9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? Pro. Knapp gives this as an example of pluralis majestaticus, [plural of majesty].
22. Not according to God who used a both a plural and a singular pronoun to speak of himself. Isa. 6:8 Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. John tells us that it is actually the prefigured glory of Jesus that Isaiah saw in this vision, John 12:41.
II. What about Elohim? Is this uni-plural form of the expression which the Hebrews used when referring to deity an indication of plural persons in the Godhead?
1. Not according to the seventy learned scholars who translated the Bible from Hebrew into Greek (the Septuagint) a part of it about 300 years before Christ and who always used o qeos, God, singular, to represent Elohim when translating into Greek.
2. Not according to the New Testament writers who quoted more from the Septuagint than from any other version when they quoted an Old Testament scripture using the word Elohim.
3. Not according to the King James Translators who rendered the plural Greek word from the Septuagint for people (laoi, eqnh, laouz) as a singular in the King James translation of the scriptures. Ps. 45:17 I will make thy name to be remembered in all generations: therefore shall the people (a uni-plural noun which represents in this instance but one multitude, like one nation) praise thee for ever and ever. Also, Ps. 47:1 Ps. 47:9.
4. Not according to God speaking through Moses who used other uni-plural words in Hebrew to indicate but one individual -- Adonim, master or masters. Exod. 21:4 If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master's, and he shall go out by himself. Exod. 21:6 Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him for ever. God used a uni-plural noun to mean but one individual.
5. Not according to the Hebrews who used the plural form (Elohim) to designate a single individual whose rank, authority, respect, reverence, sovereignty required this form. Exod. 7:1 And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god (Elohim) to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
6. Not according to the Jewish historian who referred to singular heathen deities as Elohim in 1Kgs. 11:33 Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess (Elohim, fem. form) of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god (Elohim ) of the Moabites, and Milcom the god (Elohim ) of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. These singular heathen deities are called Elohim.
7. Not according to the writer of the book of Judges who referred to a single angel as Elohim. Judg. 13:6 a man of God came...an angel of God, I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: 7 But he said unto me, 8 ...let the man of God 9 the angel 10 the man 11 the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man ...And he said, I am. 13 ... the angel said unto Of all that I said 15 the angel, I pray thee, let us detain thee,...16 the angel ...Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: For Manoah knew not that he was an angel 17 the angel .. thy name, when thy sayings we may do thee honour? 18 And the angel...said unto 19 the angel 20 the angel... ascended 21 the angel... he was an angel 22 And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God (Elohim ) Thirty-four times a single angel is referred to by singular nouns and pronouns and yet, is still called an Elohim. Conclusion, Elohim may certainly be used in the singular and does not necessarily refer to a plurality of persons, and most certainly never in scripture refers to a plurality of persons in the "substratum of deity."
8. Not according to Aaron and the Children of Israel. Exod. 32:1 make us gods, (Elohim ) 4 it... a molten calf: These be thy gods, (Elohim ) 5 And when Aaron saw it, he built an altar before it; 24 And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf. At least five times the golden calf is referred to by singular nouns and pronouns, it is never more than one image, and yet it is called Elohim.
9. Not according to Stephen who referred to the golden calf which is called Elohim in Exodus as a single idol. Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. Stephen did not conclude that Elohim meant more than one golden calf.
III. Were these kings, prophets, New Testament writers using plurals to speak of themselves in the plural because that is how God spoke of Himself in Genesis 1:26?
1. God speaks of Himself in the language of men, that he may be clearly understood by men. He calls himself a "GREAT KING," speaks of Himself having a great kingdom, a throne, a scepter, of going from place to place, of coming down, etc., all of which are not truly literal and are taken from the language of men. These are not adopted by men from Gods language regarding Himself.
2. Thus, it was mans language as set forth in the above examples that caused God to use the word "Us" in Genesis 1:26. He spoke that way because we speak that way. That is the way Jesus spoke, the way Paul spoke, the way Stephen spoke, the way that Moses spoke, the way that we speak.
3. God was telling us no more or no less about himself by using the pronoun us than that it was He, a great Creator, a sole individual, that made man deliberately, as He, God, determined to do in the accomplishing of his eternal purpose.
4. To write anything else into this scripture regarding the composition of Gods internal being based upon his use of a plural pronoun in referring to Himself, alone, or based upon the use of the Hebrew uni-plural noun in reference to God and other reverential beings, real or unreal, is pure speculation and borders upon reckless arrogance.