Who was God speaking about when he said “let us make mankind in our image” who is “us” and did God intend for us to be gods like him.


Good question.  There are three theories concerning the use of the plural here.

1. God is using the “royal we” (or more accurately us)  It is a common literary tool, also used in speech, for a king or other very important ruler to refer themselves as “we.” The we represents the ruler but implies the things over which he rules.  For God  to do this would be the most obvious example of one who deserves to use this mode of expression.

2. This is occurring in the “throne room” of heaven, and the angles are arrayed around God.  The “us” is an expression including God and the angels who are witnesses of the event portrayed.

3. The “us” is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The Father is speaking, but is conversing with the Son and the Spirit.

I have heard this passage used as a proof-text for the idea of the trinity.  It is a very poor proof text.  In fact, in my opinion, and in that of most scholars, it is not even the most likely explanation of the use of us.  This is partly because the Jews, who were the original recipients of the Book of Genesis, would have been confused by this use of the first person plural.  In my opinion, the first option is the most likely one.  However it is not completely clear and we should be careful to be cautious about stating any one conclusion too strongly.

We are made in God’s image.  We do have some god-like qualities, such as having self-awareness, a will, and the ability to create.  Yet, there is only one God.  “Hear O Israel the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4).  In Deuteronomy 6 God tells us to have no other gods before him.  The simple answer is a very strong NO!  God does not intend for us to be gods like him, but a nuanced and very carefully stated answer could have a tentative and well qualified sort of yes that in a very limited way we are “gods” like him.  John 10:34 could be used to support this claim.  However, there is nothing in Genesis one which supports that the “us” includes humans, or that we are in any way gods.

John Oakes

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