This is a challenge I ran into recently when talking with someone from a cult. They believed that Genesis 1:26 said that there are multiple gods.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”Genesis 1:26 NIV
It is admittedly a strange verse, and I can see why they would use that for their view. Why is God talking in this plural way? Is it something Christians should be worried about? Does this verse imply multiple gods? There are a few different options that Christians have considered over the years on how to read this and other similar verses. Who is the “Us” in Genesis 1:26?
Option 1: the “Us” is the Trinity
The most common view is also the most widely accepted among the Christian community. This verse makes sense in light of the trinity. Though not the only way to read this passage, it is complimentary to the rest of scripture. Other verses like 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:6 help us to put these pieces together in a trinitarian view.
Option 2: The Royal We
This second option is one that may seem strange to us but is also a plausible explanation. The concept is a bit more poetic than the others. Some believe that God’s majesty is too great for him to be described in a singular way. The word being used here in Hebrew is Elohim, which is plural. However, this trend is not seen elsewhere in ancient Hebrew literature. This could be a unique characteristic of the first few chapters of Genesis, but is not quite as strong as the trinitarian explanation.
Option 3: Talking with the Angels
The Bible does clearly tell us that there are other spiritual beings like the angels. It would not be absurd for God to have dialogue with them. However, this would not make sense in light of what is being said. The verse describes creating in the image of God. Scripture never gives the impression that angels are involved in creating. We are made in the image of God, not angels. This interpretation has been presented, but it is certainly more problematic than the first two.
Even if you do not buy into any one of these three options, they still make a clear point. The verse does not immediately lead us to polytheism. There are plenty of other ways to read this verse that are perfectly consistent within the Bible and Christian worldview.
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