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Don Stewart :: Does Genesis 1:26 Speak of the Trinity?

Don Stewart
In the Genesis 1:26, we find God having a conversation about the creation of humankind.

Then God said, Let Us make humankind in our image, according to Our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth (Genesis 1:26).

To whom is God speaking? There are four popular answers to this question:

1.He is speaking to angels.

2
.The Us is a plural of majesty.

3
.The plural should be translated as a singular.

4.
The Us refers to the members of the Trinity.


1.Angels

Some have taught that the reference to Us refers to God speaking to angels. This has been a very popular interpretation among the Jews. However this will not fit with the rest of Scripture. Nowhere do we find angels involved in any type of creation. According to the Bible, angels are created beings, not co-creators with God. The psalmist wrote:

Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts . . . Let them praise the Lord for He commanded and they were created (Psalm 148:2,5).

All His hosts is likely a reference to angels.

God's Image

Furthermore, humanity was not made in the image of angels but rather the image of God.

This is the list of the descendants of Adam. When God created humankind, He made them in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and named them Humankind when they were created (Genesis 5:1,2).

Creation belongs to the will of God alone. God did not make the decision with the counsel of angels.

2.Plural Of Majesty

Others have argued that the plural is only a plural of majesty that speaks of God's dignity and greatness. God is too majestic to be spoken of in the singular. They argue that the plural form of the noun for God, Elohim, can be explained somewhat in that way. The grammatical plural expresses something other than number. Hence we have, Let Us. This allows a single person to speak of himself in the plural. However, the plural of majesty does not, in any way, mean there is more than one God.

Only One God

When the Hebrew Old Testament was translated into Greek, the Greek word used to translate Elohim was Theos-a singular noun. This demonstrates the people understood Elohim to refer to only one God, not many.

3.Editorial We

It has been contended that the phrase let Us make refers to discourse where the subject, although singular speaks of himself in the plural. Though this use of the editorial we is popular in western literature, there is no evidence of it elsewhere in the Old Testament or in any of the literature in the ancient Near East.

4.Trinity

One of the most popular ways of viewing this verse is that we have communication within the members of the Trinity. Though not explicitly stated in this verse, the implicit nature of the Trinity is evident.

Elohim Plural

The Hebrew noun Elohim, used throughout chapter one, is plural in form, but it takes a singular verb. This speaks of plurality of persons within the nature of the one God. The pronoun Us also suggests in itself a plurality of persons.

Hebrew Grammar

It has been argued, however, that Us is required by Hebrew grammar since Elohim is a plural noun. Therefore we should not necessarily read the doctrine of the Trinity into this passage.

Other Uses

When this phrase is used elsewhere in Scripture it bolsters the idea of the Trinity. Genesis 3:22 has God stating that the man is like one of Us.

Then the Lord God said, Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever (Genesis 3:22).

This cannot mean God was concerned that humanity had become like an angel or some other creature. Humankind was going to be like God if they sinned-knowing good from evil.

Tower Of Babel

In the incident at the Tower of Babel we have God also using the same phrase,

Come, let Us go down and confuse their language (Genesis 11:7).

The next verse tells us that it was the Lord, not angels, that scattered the people.

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth (Genesis 11:8).

This provides further support of the Us referring to the members of the Trinity.

Not All Agree

There are some Christian interpreters who believe it is not correct to find a reference to the Trinity in this passage. They argue that the Trinity was not revealed until the New Testament and that the passage could be better interpreted as something else (such as the plural of majesty). While affirming the doctrine of the Trinity, they deny that we should read it into this passage. They do not believe that it would have been in the mind of the writer or would have been in the mind of his audience.

Foreshadowing

If Genesis 1:26 is speaking of the Trinity, then it is one of the most outstanding foreshadowings in the Old Testament. It records One Person of the Godhead addressing another. The Trinity doctrine is more fully developed in the remainder of Scripture although the Old Testament has foreshadowed it in various passages (Psalm 110:1; Isaiah 63:7, 9-10; Proverbs 30:4).

Summary

Although we are not specifically told who is talking to whom in the first chapter of Genesis, it seems in more keeping with the entire teaching of Scripture that the members of the Trinity are communicating with one another. Genesis 1 contains in embryonic form the doctrine of the Trinity that is alluded to in other parts of the Old Testament and fully developed in the New Testament.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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