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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gen. 1:26 "Let Us Make Man in Our Image"

Gen. 1:26
"Let Us Make Man in Our Image"

(From the RDB Files)

Before we discuss the above-quoted use of plural pronouns by Jehovah at Gen. 1:26, we must fully understand the use of the word "through" (dia in NT Greek) and Jesus' role in the creation of man.

The Watchtower Society believes and teaches that Jesus was the very first creation by Jehovah God (Jehovah became the Father at that point). Being the first (and only direct) creation by Jehovah makes Jesus "the firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15), and the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14), and "the only-begotten Son" of God (1 John 4:9).

Furthermore, Jehovah made all the rest of creation through Jesus, his firstborn Son who is the Master Worker. The proper understanding of the NT Greek word dia ("through") clearly tells the whole story.

To illustrate: Suppose the one all-powerful ruler of the land decided to build a nice little palace out in the wilderness. He sends for his servant, the Master Worker, and commands him to build that palace. The King provides whatever materials are necessary for the Master Worker and tells him in great detail exactly how he wants it built.

The Master Worker sends for the chief stone mason, the chief carpenter, the chief artist, etc., tells them what their assignments are, and oversees their work.

It is clear that the king built the palace through his servant the Master Worker. It was at the command (and because of the will) of the King that the palace was created through the Master Worker (also through the stone mason, through the carpenter, etc.). This does not mean the King and his servant both together, somehow, make up a mysterious two-in-one King!

The fact that both the King and his servant, the Master Worker, built the palace can be clearly explained by the word "through." The King built the palace through his servant, the Master Worker. There is no mystery here. The King can properly say, "I built that palace;" the Master Worker can properly say, "I built that palace;" and even the stone mason can properly say, "I built that palace." The word "through" can clear up any possible confusion there might be from these apparently conflicting statements.

Certainly the carpenter, stone mason, and even the Master Worker would not, in any way, intend to hint that they were equally the King! That honor can go only to the one person whose command and will caused the palace to be built. Certainly the faithful Master Worker would say, "not by my will but by your will, O King." - Luke 22:42, John 4:34.

We can see that, in the ultimate sense of "source" or "originator," there is only one person whose will, command, design, and supply of building materials allow him to be called "the only one who created the palace." - See the BWF study.

Notice how the word "through" solves any possible confusion in the following scriptures. Even though the Law was spoken of as "the Law of Jehovah" - 1 Chron. 16:40, and "the law of the God of heaven" - Ezra 7:12, and we are specifically told "there is only one Lawgiver ..." - James 4:12, NASB, we still see another person "giving the law"! Is that person, then, also equally God?

Yes, the inspired scriptures also tell us, "Did not Moses give you the law?" - John 7:19 NASB. And the same "Law of Jehovah" is also called "the Law of Moses" - Malachi 4:4. Must we conclude then, trinitarian-style, that Moses is Jehovah the God of heaven? Of course not!!

Even if we were unable to figure it out on our own, scriptures such as John 1:17 ("The law was given [from God] through [dia] Moses") clearly explain it.

The Greek word dia is a "primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through" - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #1223. There should be no confusion when Paul says:

"I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through [dia] me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done" - Ro. 15:18 NIV.

Certainly no one is so dense as to say: "This scripture shows that Christ has caused the Gentiles to obey God. And Paul, by his words and deeds, has caused those same Gentiles to obey God. Therefore, Paul IS Christ!" Even if we were gullible enough to fall for this type of dishonest argument, surely we would understand what was intended here by Paul simply by his use of the word dia ("through")!

Because of the many changes in the English language in the last 400 years, the English rendering for dia in the King James Version is frequently misleading in modern English. What was translated "of" in the Elizabethan English of the KJV may mean "by" in modern English. And what was translated "by" in the KJV may mean "through" today. (Of course "by" sometimes includes the meaning of "through.")

For example, the meaning intended by the KJV translators is shown in modern translations of Matt. 1:22 as "spoken by the Lord through the prophet." - NASB. However, in the English of 1611, that very same meaning was expressed by these words: "spoken of the Lord by the prophet." - KJV. This has a very different meaning in today's English. It sounds to us today as if the KJV were saying that something was spoken about the Lord by the prophet. This is not what was intended in the language of 1611. - see any modern translation.

Keeping in mind, then, the clear distinction shown by the word dia ("through" in modern English) and the example of the king whose will and spoken command caused the palace to be created, carefully analyze the following scriptures:

Ps. 33:6, 8, 9 - "By the word of Jehovah were the heavens made" "For he spake, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast." - ASV. Also see Ps. 103:20, 21.

Ps. 148:5 - "Let them praise the name of Jehovah; for he commanded, and they were created." - ASV.

Rev. 4:11 - "because of thy will [the will of the Lord God Almighty who is seated on the throne when Jesus, the Lamb, approaches him (5:6, 7)] they were, and were created." - ASV.

Malachi 2:10 - "Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?"

Acts 4:27 - "Thy holy servant Jesus" - Jesus is the Father's servant.

Rev. 3:14 - "[Jesus] the beginning of the creation of God." - ASV.

Prov. 8:22-30 - "Yahweh [Jehovah] created me when his purpose first unfolded, before the oldest of his works." And, "I was by his side, a Master Craftsman ['Master Workman' - ASV], delighting him day after day." - Jerusalem Bible (JB). This scripture (Ps. 8:22-30) has been understood to represent "Wisdom" as the pre-existent Jesus Christ by the majority of Christians since (at least) the time of the Apostle Paul. - See the BWF study.

Col. 1:15, 16 - "He is the image of the unseen God ['no man has ever seen God' - John 1:18] and the first-born of all creation ... all things were created through [dia] him and for him." - JB.

1 Cor. 8:6 - "yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through [dia] whom are all things and through whom we exist." - RSV.
Even the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 1986, Zondervan, (which attempts to show that "Sometimes ... dia seems to express ... the sole cause" and "may be emphasizing the agency, rather than the mediator") admits: "On the other hand, in 1 Cor. 8:6 the function of God the Father as the source of creation is distinguished from Christ's role as mediator of creation." - p. 1182, Vol. 3.

John 1:3, 10 - "through [dia] him [the Word] all things came to be ..." and "He was in the world that had its being through [dia] him." - JB.

We see, then, that just as all things must go up to God (the head of Jesus - 1 Cor. 11:3) through Jesus (man's head - 1 Cor. 11:3), so too all things have come down from God through Jesus!

So how does Gen. 1:26 ("Let us make man in our image") provide any real evidence for a three-in-one God? (Does Is. 1:18 prove Jews are God?)

Isn't it obvious at Gen. 1:26 that Jehovah was speaking to his Master Worker, the first-born of all creation (and, possibly, to the rest of the angels also*), who was also made in God's image, before commanding him to make man? It is still Jehovah God alone who created man through his Master Workman, Jesus! 

Other comments by (mostly) trinitarian translators and scholars:

     “The plural ‘us,’ ‘our’...probably refers to the divine beings who compose God’s heavenly court (1 Kg. 22:19; Job 1:6).” - Gen. 1:26 footnote in The New Oxford Annotated Bible (1977).

    And  “Perhaps the plural of majesty ....  But possibly the plural form implies a discussion between God and his heavenly court.” - The Jerusalem Bible footnote for "us" in Gen. 1:26. 

And noted trinitarian scholar Dr. William Barclay agrees: “[God’s angels] were thought of as God’s senate; God did nothing without consulting them.  For instance, when God said: ‘Let us make man’ (Genesis 1:26), it was to the angel senate that he was speaking.” - p. 17, The Letter to the Hebrews, Revised edition, “The Daily Study Bible Series,” The Westminster Press, 1976.

The trinitarian NIV Study Bible (1985, Zondervan) says in its note for Gen 1:26, "us ... our. God speaks as the Creator-King announcing his crowning work to the members of his heavenly court."  And, in this same work, the footnotes for Job 1:6 and 38:7 say concerning “the sons of God”: "1:6  angels came to present themselves.  .... They came as members of the heavenly council who stand in the presence of God."  And "38:7 .... When the earth was created, the angels were there to sing the praises of the Creator, but Job was not."

"This use of the majestic plural in Genesis 3:22-24 is what contributed the NIV Study Bible’s annotation on Genesis 1:26 (above). At the end of its comment on this verse, the NIV Study Bible provides a number of biblical sources from the Jewish Scriptures to support its position that:
'God speaks as the Creator-king, announcing His crowning work to the members of His heavenly court.' The verses cited are: Genesis 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8, I Kings 22:19-23, Job 15:8, and Jeremiah 23:18. These verses convey to the attentive Bible reader that the heavenly abode of the Creator is filled with the ministering angels who attend the Almighty and to whom He repeatedly refers when using the plural pronoun “Us.”  
 "Again, the NIV Study Bible’s concession in its commentary on Genesis 1:26 is particularly significant because this work of the product of conservative, Trinitarian commentary on the Bible. Its contributing authors had no incentive to support the Jewish interpretation of this verse. Its annotation relies on the simple context and exegesis of this verse."

"The explanation of the first person plural forms is probably that the Creator speaks as heaven's King accompanied by His heavenly hosts" (The New Bible Commentary, p. 82).

"It is possible that this plural form implies a discussion between God and his heavenly court... Alternatively, the plural expresses the majesty and fullness of God's being" (New Jerusalem Bible, p. 19).

     “(a) From Philo onward, Jewish commentators have generally held that the plural in Gen 1:26 is used because God is addressing his heavenly court, i.e., the angels (cf. Isa 6:8).  Among recent commentators, Skinner, von Rad, Zimmerli, Kline, Mettinger, Gispen, and Day prefer this explanation. ….

      “(b) From the Epistle of Barnabas and Justin Martyr, who saw the plural as a reference to Christ,… Christians have traditionally seen this verse as [foreshadowing] the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.” (World Biblical Commentary as found at  ).

“In v. 26 he speaks to others. However, this verse does not say that he is speaking to other ‘persons’ of deity. Nor does it say that he was speaking to a ‘preexisting’ Son of God as some have thought.

“Who was listening to God on this occasion?

“The best in scholarship proposes that God is speaking as a king and sovereign to his heavenly court. He is addressing the creation which he had already made by that time. We know that he had already created amazing beings in heaven. Job tell us that when God created the earth: ‘the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy’ (Job 38:4-7).” -  21st Century Reformation Online - 


Anonymous said...

This is so true. I don't go into that much depth when discussing this verse. I just say to look at Genesis 1:27 "The. HE went on to make man in HIS image". Why did God go from plural to singular.? Answer. He was never plural. It says "God said". Not one person of God to the next.

tigger2 said...

Timitrius said (“Let us…” Gen 1:26):

I'm confused about Romans 11:36 and Hebrews 2:10, which both use the word "through".

Hebrews 2:10 MIGHT be referring to Jesus, but many translations and commentaries, including the WTS, say that it refers to the Father.

Romans 11:36 is a doxology to God, and quotes verses referring to Jehovah, but then says that all things are "through" (dia) him and "for" him, which Colossians 1:16 says of Christ.

Can you help me understand this?

T2 answer:

The preposition dia (“through”) has more than one meaning. According to my copy of A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press, 1957, it may be used for the author or originator of an action. Among the scriptures listed under this meaning as used for God (p. 179) are Ro. 11:36 and Heb. 2:10b.

And another use of dia is that of an intermediary. “Christ as an intermediary in the creation of the world J[ohn] 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16” - p. 179. (Cf. p. 133, Thayer.)

Allen Woodward said...

The answer concerning Gen 1.26, and the "Us" and "Our," is Hebrew grammar not theology. "And God[elohim, plural noun] said, 'Let "Us"[plural pronoun] make man in "Our"[plural pronoun] image, after "Our"[plural pronoun] likeness." There are many words plural in Hebrew but translated in the singular Ex 33.11 "And YHWH spake unto Moses "panim el panim", as a man speaketh unto his friend." In the Hebrew scriptures, the word for face, panim (H6440), is always plural. Not a problem for the Jews.