Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
Let it be very clear. From both a Scriptural and experiential standpoint, there is but one true and living God. We affirm this through our faith, our salvation and our lifestyle.
Yet in the midst of the Christian world, there are those who present to us a different viewpoint of this simple and unchanging truth. Interestingly, they choose to read the same verses of the Bible and from them draw very different conclusions than both the Old Testament Jews held and the Apostolic Church of the Book of Acts held.
At the onset of the Biblical narrative we read: and example of this
Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
Over and over we hear some “experts” tell us that this means God is a plural - thus a trinity.
Do 21st century Gentiles understand the Hebrew of the Old testament era better than the Jews? Can one even imagine someone who took a year of high school French marching to the Sorbonne to give some pointers about the intricacies of plusque-parfait?
While it is acknowledged that the verbiage is plural in nature, it certainly does not contradict the Genesis to Revelation edict of the Holy Word that God is ONE.
Dr. Ephraim A Speiser tells us that even though plural pronouns are used, a singular sense is meant. “Here God refers to Himself, which may account for a more formal construction in the plural.”
Let us consider some explanations for the use of the phrase “Let us”.
1. A “Literary Plural”.
Used throughout the ages, the “Literary Plural” is a common use of plural pronouns (us, we, they) when in reality there is a single subject being addressed. Can we conclude that this is the case in Genesis 1:26? The very next verse answers the intent of the author.
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Our trinitarian friends would rather this verse state: “So God created man in their own image, in the image of God created they him, male and female created they them”… However, it does NOT!
The literary plural is used by all writers in all cultures. One can find examples of this in New Testament passages written by Paul. Examples can also be found in the Old Testament. (Ezra 4:18 The letter which ye sent unto us hath been plainly read before me.)
2. The Angels
Another plausible idea, supported by many, is that God was speaking to the angels. Why would we draw such a conclusion?
- The One Spirit-being has identified Himself as the Creator. If the creator is speaking to someone outside of Himself, He is speaking to someone or others who are not God!
- God could have been informing the heavenly host, as they are constantly in His presence, doing His bidding and serving Him.
Examples of this can be seen in the following:
1 Kings 22:19 I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.
2 Kings 19:15 And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said, O Lord God of Israel, which dwellest between the cherubims, thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth.
3. Plural of Majesty!
The most likely and most widely accepted explanation of the phrase “Let us” in Genesis 1:26 is what is described as a “plural intensive” - Dr. William Smith calls it “the plural of majesty”. “Elohim is a plural form, which is often used in Hebrew to denote plenitude of might”. (J H Hertz, The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p 5)
With this, we enter into the core of our discussion and that is that the very word “God”, as used in this and many other verses in the Old Testament, is ELOHIM, which in the Hebrew language is a plural word.
Yet, while we consider and acknowledge the plural nature of ELOHIM, there are some things that must be considered before one make a theological leap in the dark to the realm of concluding that this implies or reinforces the concept of a trinity of persons within the godhead.
Please consider that “EL” the root of “ELOHIM”, refers to power and strength and might.
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God (EL), The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Thus Elohim can denote the fulness of divine strength - the sum of all the divine powers displayed by God.
2,000+ times the writers of the OT speak of God as “Elohim”. They are calling out, speaking of and describing the ONE who is the Mighty God!!
Other “Elohims” - Other trinities??
If we are, as some tell us, to conclude that “Elohim” means a plurality of gods or even persons, one could expect a historical proving. The Bible provides a number of instances where other gods are referred to using the same word “ELOHIM”. If this Hebrew words lends itself to the natural conclusion that God is therefore a trinity, one could reasonably expect that the other gods spoken of, or addressed, as “elohim” will also be trinities or other pluralities in their nature.
Judges 11:24 Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh thy god (elohim) giveth thee to possess? So whomsoever the Lord our God (ELOHIM) shall drive out from before us, them will we possess.
Judges 8:33 And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baalberith their god (elohim).
Judges 16:23 Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, (elohim) and to rejoice: for they said, Our god (elohim) hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.
2 Kings 1:2,3 And Ahaziah fell down through a lattice in his upper chamber that was in Samaria, and was sick: and he sent messengers, and said unto them, Go, enquire of Baalzebub the god of Ekron whether I shall recover of this disease. 3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God (ELOHIM) in Israel, that ye go to enquire of Baalzebub the god (elohim) of Ekron?
2 Kings 19:37 And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god (elohim), that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.
1 Kings 11:5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess (elohim) of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.
The Lord God!
Beginning in Genesis 2:4: (These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens), there is an inseparable link between the God (Elohim) and another even more noted name or title of God: YHWH
YHWH means “The Self- Existent One, The Eternal”. It emphasizes existence!
If, as the Scripture shows us, YHWH is the God of the OT, then YHWH Himself is Elohim. YHWH and ELOHIM are one and the same: a singular entity known by different titles but one in substance, intellect, purpose, will and being.
As God later revealed Himself to His chosen people, He did so by introducing Himself as YHWH, the Elohim of Israel.
Genesis 17:1 … I am the Almighty God (El) ; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
It is important to note that this God, ELOHIM, declared, “I AM” NOT “WE ARE”
Genesis 17:7, 8 … to be a God (Elohim) unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. ... I will be their God (Elohim).
Once again we note the ELOHIM (a plural word) states, “I” NOT “WE”!!
He revealed Himself as this ELOHIM to all of the patriarchs and great men of the Old Testament:
- Isaac: Genesis 26:24, I am the Elohim of Abraham thy father.
- Jacob: Genesis 28:13 I am YHWH the Elohim of Abraham thy father, and the Elohim of Isaac
- Moses: Exodus 16:12 ye shall know that I am YHWH your Elohim.
- Israel: Exodus 24:9-10 they saw the Elohim of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.
- Isaiah: Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith YHWH the King of Israel, and his redeemer the YHWH of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no Elohim.
- Jeremiah: Jeremiah 10:10 But YHWH is the true Elohim, he is the living Elohim, and an everlasting king:
- Ezekiel: YHWH (hundreds of times) consistently declares the very oneness of His nature - using the pronoun “I” - NEVER “We”.
In the writings of Moses if found this declaration:
Deuteronomy 4:6 Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that YHWH he is Elohim; there is none else beside HIM.
We can therefore conclude that YHWH, or ELOHIM, is very adamant that He is ONE - in every sense of the word.
Only one “EL”!
As Elohim is simply the plural of “EL”, then one would find multiple “EL”’s in the Scripture, if there was even the slightest implication of a plurality of persons / gods / entities by the word “ELOHIM”.
Yet the testimony of the Scripture affirms only a single EL - who is YHWH. Once again we look at the recurring revelation of God to those He chose in the Old Testament to be the leaders of His people.
David: Psalm 68:35 the EL of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people.
Isaiah: Isaiah 46:9 for I am EL, and there is none else; I am ELOHIM, and there is none like me,
Isaiah 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, ... for I am EL, and there is none else.
Isaiah 45:23 … no ELOHIM else beside EL; ... there is none beside me.
Isaiah 43:10 before me there was no EL formed, neither shall there be after me.
The conclusion of the matter: The God of the Old Testament, called YHWH, ELOHIM, EL and many other titles is ONE. Even when plural nouns and pronouns are used, He reaffirms His singular essence over and over again. It verges on the ridiculous for men of the 21st century to puff themselves up with pride and proclaim themselves to be wiser in the Hebrew language than those who spoke it from its beginnings. That same ancient people, the nation of Israel or the Jews, who lived and died breathing a creed that declared, “Hear O Israel the Lord our God (YHWH our ELOHIM) is one Lord!”
As Dr. William Smith, the author of Smith’s Bible Dictionary proclaims: “The plural form of Elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the trinity of persons in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty , or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God.”