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#83 - Gen 1:26,27 - God referenced plurally as "us"
by Robert Nguyen Cramer
This BibleTexts website administrator has very much enjoyed questions and insights that have been emailed to him ever since this site was launched in September of 1996. On this page I share with BibleTexts browsers a few of the questions, insights, and responses, so that we all can further learn from and with each other.
A friend recently asked who are the "us" in Gen. 1: 26, 27. How do I find "us" on this website? Or can you give me the answer.
William D. Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry write an excellent summary of conclusions on this issue in their Handbook on Genesis (NY: United Bible Societies, 1997, pages 49-50). They explain:
Let us make man in our image is the first command that uses the plural pronouns us and our, and the first time God speaks of himself. The word for the God is 'elohim..., and this word is plural in form. Elsewhere God speaks of himself using plural pronouns only in Gen 3.22; 11.7; and Isaiah 6:8. Four explanations have been given for this peculiar usage:
(1) God is referring to himself and his heavenly court, as in Job 1.6; 1Kgs 22:.19-20; Psa 89.5-6.
(2) The use of the plural is anticipating the Christian idea of the Trinity, a view held by some of the early church Fathers.
(3) The plural is used to convey the thought of majesty and dignity.
(4) The usage of a "plural of deliberation"; that is when the speaker is conferring or consulting with himself. For example, in Isa 6.8 the LORD says "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" A similar usage may be in Gen 11.7, "The LORD says, 'Come, let us go down and there confuse their languages….'"
Most modern interpreters prefer the last explanation. Speiser translates "I will make man in my image," while NJV did the same in an earlier printing but has since returned to the use of the plural.
Copyright 1996-2002 Robert Nguyen Cramer