Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Genesis 1:26,27 - Who Is God speaking to?

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 birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in his own image. In God's image he created him; male and female he created them. -- World English Bible

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Many have claimed that the above scripture is one person of God (Jehovah, Yahweh) speaking to another person of Jehovah. Actually, there is certainly nothing here to give us any reason to think that one person of Jehovah was here speaking to another person of Jehovah. Jehovah was indeed speaking to someone, and other scriptures indicate that this was the pre-human LOGOS, Jesus, who was with the only true God before the world of mankind was made (John 1:1,2; 17:5), and who acted as God's agent in the creation of the world of mankind. (John 1:3,9; Ephesians 3:9) Additionally, there is nothing in Genesis 1:26 about three persons in one God, only an indication that Jehovah was speaking to someone who was already in his image and likeness. -- 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.

Often many will point to Isaiah 44:24, which speaks of Jehovah's creating the material universe, and claim that this scripture shows that Jehovah was also alone when he created the world of mankind, as recorded in Genesis 1,2. Evidently, Jehovah was alone when he first produced the material universe, but, after that, he most certainly was not alone in the creation of the world of mankind, the heavens and the earth being spoken of in Genesis 1,2.
See our studies on: In the Beginning
Beginnings in the Bible

Others have suggested that God was speaking to the angels here. The angels were certainly present at the creation of man, for they were the sons of God who rejoiced at earth's creation. (Job 38:4-7) God certainly could have been speaking to the angels here, although the Bible does not directly state that the angels participated in the creation.

We certainly find nothing here to indicate that one person of Jehovah is speaking to another person of Jehovah, or that there is more than one person in Jehovah.

Some of our trinitarian neighbors often make the claim that the plural/singular usage of language in Genesis 1:26,27 gives proof of their trinity doctrine. It has been claimed that when God spoke of "us" in creation, that this indicates that Jehovah is Jesus. Trinitarians claim that this means that there are more than one person in the Creator/God. The usage of the Hebrew word elohim, translated "God" in this verse, is also offered as proof of the trinity, since elohim is plural, not singular. It is also claimed that man -- made in God's image -- is also a trinity, with reference to 1 Thessalonians 5:23. Please see our study on 1 Thessalonians 5:23.


While Jehovah did create by means of his Son, there is nothing in the word elohim as used in Genesis 1:26 that means a plurality of individuals, anymore than its use of Moses in Exodus 7:1, where Jehovah states to Moses: "See, I have made thee a god [ELOHIM] to Pharaoh." (Webster translation) Moses is certainly not a plurality of individuals. Thus there is definitely nothing in that word that identifies a plurality of individuals. If used to denote plurality, it means gods, nor a multiple of persons in one god.

The Hebrew Scriptures do often use the plural word Elohim in singular settings, usually with the singular article or singular verbs, etc. This has been called the "plural intensive" -- where the plural is used in a singular context. It has nothing to do with the trinity doctrine.

As pointed out, Moses is also called elohim -- plural. (Exodus 7:1) The scriptures concerning Moses indicate that elohim, although plural, is applied to the singular person, Moses (who is a type of Jesus -- Deuteronomy 18:18,19; Acts 3:19-23). Moses is not more than one person, so why the plural usage here? It is plural used in a singular setting to denote supremacy (plural intensive), that is, to denote the supremacy of the power given to Moses by Jehovah over the power of Pharaoh and the gods of Pharaoh.
Brown, Driver, Briggs and Gesenius. "Hebrew Lexicon entry for 'elohiym".
The KJV Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon".

We should also note that elohim in the plural means "gods" -- not persons. Thus the argument that its plural usage means a trinity would tend to mean that there are three gods, not three persons in one God, as is claimed for the trinity doctrine. ELOHIM in Genesis 1:26 is used as the plural intensive, or superlative, of the singular, and refers to one person speaking to another person, saying "Let us..." If ELOHIM is used as a plural in Genesis 1:26, then we would have several Gods saying to another or others: "Let us..." But in reality, ELOHIM refers to one: Jehovah, and then that one is speaking to another or to others.

For more on the usage of the world *elohim*, see our document:
Elohim: Does This Word Indicate a Plurality of Persons in a Godhead?

Image and Likeness

Someone has argued: "As in "Let US make MAN in our IMAGE and LIKENESS. Now, do tell us how God made man in 'his image and likeness' if God is a spirit? Does a spirit have an image? A likeness?"

This argument would have God Almighty as a flesh being like us. To be in his image and likeness does not mean that if Jehovah is an invisible spirit being that we also must also be invisible spirit beings. Having been created in the image of God certainly does not mean that the first human pair were invisible, which is an attribute of God Almighty. (Colossians 1:15) Likewise, since Jesus' exaltation we read that he dwells in unapproachable light; whom no human has seen, nor can see. -- 1 Timothy 6:16.

The word "image" is used in different ways in the Bible; Adam was created in God's image; (Genesis 1:26) Does this mean that God has a fleshly body, as man does? Absolutely not!

An image of any thing is a representation or copy of it, though of inferior substance. So the first man was an earthly or clay copy of his heavenly, spiritual Maker -- a copy of God! yes, he was to be a manifestation of God in flesh.

There is nothing in Genesis 1:26 about three persons in one God, only an indication that Jehovah was speaking to someone who was already in his image and likeness. -- 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3.

Man was originally created in the likeness of God, crowned with glory. -- Genesis 1:26; 5:1; Psalm 8:5

Man was created in the mental and moral image and likeness of God, with ability to reason and to exercise his free will to choose right or wrong. Man exists on a higher plane than the animals and "a little lower than the angels [elohim]." (Psalm 8:5; Hebrews 2:7) It is difficult to judge from present human conditions all that is meant by God's image, because we have no sample (save that recorded of Jesus) of perfect humanity for comparison. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" in which Adam was created. -- Romans 3:23; Psalm 8:5.

Now we note some other scriptures concerning the likeness of God. David hoped to be raised again in the likeness of God. (Psalm 17:15) The new creature in Christ is in the likeness of God, having been reckoned as justified through faith in the blood of Jesus. -- Ephesians 2:24

However, more specifically the context indicates how man was created in the image and likeness of God: "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." In other words, man was not only made morally and intellectually to resemble his Creator, so that he would be able to think and reason on higher planes than would be possible to the lower animals, but he was also endowed with authority to control the lower creatures, to be the EL -- powerful ruler -- of earth as Jehovah is the EL of the universe. This agrees well with the statement of Psalm 8:5-8, in which it is declared that God created man but a little lower than the angels, so far as his intelligence and capacity were concerned, and that thus he was "crowned with glory and honor" and given dominion over the lower creatures. It further agrees with Pauls statement in 1 Corinthians 15:39-41. Nevertheless, Paul says concerning this dominion: "But now we don't see all these things subjected to him, yet," indicating what he said elsewhere concerning man's fall from divine likeness, yet with the hope of recovery from this fall. -- Romans 1:21-2:2; 3:10,23; 5: 15-19; 8:19-21; Hebrews 2:7.

And we should note the reading of the following verse, also verse 31, which show that God not only purposed the work and proposed it to his Son, his agent in the creation of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16), and that he not only began the work, but that he also completed it: -- "So God created man [past tense] in his own image; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Compare Genesis 1:27,31; 5:1; 9:6; Ecclessiastes 7:29; 1 Corinthians 11:7; James 3:9) And this creature which God "had made," completed, and declared to be a copy, an image of himself, a manifestation of himself in flesh, he was also pleased to own as his son (Luke 3:38), and as Paul says -- "if a son, then an heir;" (Galatians 4:7) for God brings no son into existence for whom he has not made ample provision. Therefore as a son he had the rich token of his Father's loving providence in the vast domain of earth which he was to subdue and take possession of as his posterity would increase and require it; and all its products -- animal, vegetable and mineral -- were subject to his control and use: "And God blessed them, and God said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living animal that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which [is] upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which [is] the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food." -- Genesis 1:28,29

And not only did God thus give to Adam the whole earth as an inheritance for himself and his posterity, telling them to appropriate it and cultivate it as their increasing necessities should require, but he had already prepared a choice portion of it as a fit home for the perfect pair, and a sample of what the whole domain of earth would become under the process of industrious cultivation with his added blessing. -- "And Jehovah God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.... And Jehovah God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." -- Genesis 2:8,15

Thus the context indicates the image of God in Adam, as well as can be seen in Psalm 8:5-8. It is not an image of physical likeness; but to Adam was given the ability to rule, to have a dominion. He had the ability of perception like God; of understanding; as well to reflect all the general attributes and qualities of God on a lesser scale. Man was given perception, imagination, the power of original suggestion, memory, reason, judgment and will, corresponding to these various intellectual qualities in God. He has also the Godlike moral quality of conscience, which enables him to discern the right and the wrong, to distinguish one from the other and to estimate them properly. As originally created, all of these powers worked together perfectly and harmoniously, all being subject to that supreme mental faculty, the will, which, being free to act independently, though aided by the suggestions of all the other mental and moral faculties, determines the course and constitutes the character of the man.

The glory of God-likeness and dominion was to a great extent lost when Adam disobeyed. (Romans 3:23) The apostle tells us that now we do not see all things subjected to man. (Hebrews 2:6-7) Thus the original purpose for mankind has yet to be seen. When Adam sinned, in effect God disowned him as his son, as he no longer reflected the qualities of God.

Therefore we see from the Bible testimony that man was originally perfect, an image or copy of God in flesh. Of the fall from that original perfection and the results to the entire race of Adam, we also have the clear testimony of the Scriptures, showing just how it came about -- that it was a willful transgression of known righteous law, in the face of a distinct warning of the penalty of such a course. It was a sin on man's part only, and from which God is fully exonerated in that man was left under no necessity of want and with full instruction as to the right course and as to the results of a wrong course of action. The only cause of man's fall, then, which is traceable to the Creator, lies in the fact that he created him in his own image -- with a free will of his own. But this endowment, we see, was the crowning act of God's favor to man, and man's choicest blessing. And so it was the lack of appreciation, and an abuse of God's abounding favor and goodness, and not any lack on God's part, which led to the fall.

As a consequence of that fall from original perfection and favor on the part of the head and representative of the race, another law of our being, designed for our highest good -- the law of heredity -- has brought upon all Adam's posterity its entailment of imperfection and proneness to evil. And thus all the race is in the same wretched plight. An evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit, nor a bitter fountain send forth sweet waters. The present state, therefore, of the entire race is a degenerating and dying one. Had it not been for the redemption through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus, the plight of man would have been without remedy.

Related RL Studies

John 1:10 - The World Made Through Jesus

 Genesis 1:1,26 - God Speaks To His Son

Genesis 1:26 – Let Us and Elohim

"Let us" and "One of Us"

Genesis 1:26,27 and Trinitarian Assumptions

See also:

We give some links below to other sites that contain some information on this scripture. We do not necesarily agree with all that is stated, nor do the authors of the pages linked to necessarily agree with our views.
Genesis 1:26 (Wrested Scriptures)
Unitarian viewpoint.

Genesis 1:26-27 - Bowman, the Bible, and Trinitarianism
Discusses mostly difference of methodology and concepts regarding word usage: God, Theos.

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