Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

“Let us make man” and the Cohortative Mood

Another Muslim Attempt at Denying
The Trinitarian Implications of Genesis 1:26

Sam Shamoun

There is a rather strong passage in Genesis 1 to God being multi-personal as opposed to uni-personal. It comes from the description of man’s creation in the image of God:

“Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’” Genesis 1:26

Needless to say anti-Trinitarians have never been comfortable with allowing this specific text to speak for itself both within the immediate and broader contexts of God’s inspired revelation. They have come up with multiple interpretations to explain away the rather explicit testimony this verse accords to God being a uni-plural Being. 

One such explanation which is being proffered by a Muslim dawagandist is that Genesis 1:26 is an example of the cohortative mood (*). The neophyte quotes one source which says that,

“the Cohortative mood is a verbal mood for expressing a command from the 1st person (the speaker) to the 1st person singular or plural.  It is a mood related to the Imperative mood, which is the more common command mood for expressing commands from the 1st person to the 2nd person singular or plural - as in Sit down!, or Present arms!

In the Cohortative mood found in Genesis 1:26, the singular speaker, God, addresses Himself jointly with those present at the time.  Therefore in Genesis 1:26 God, and those present with Him, jointly make up the plurality expressed by the pronoun ‘us’ in, "Let us make".

In particular the plurality of ‘us' MAY NOT be taken to infer plurality to the speaker God, or even to those God spoke to. (Capital and underline emphasis ours)

It seems that this dawagandist has neither understood what this mood implies nor what his own source is saying since he makes the following rather bold assertion,

It has now been shown in different ways that linguistically there is no justification for inferring from "And God said, Let us make.", that the plurality of ‘us' extends back to God.  Rather the Cohortative mood DEMANDS [sic] that God, as the speaker issuing a command, is singular!  This is also attested to by the singular Hebrew verb for 'said' (And God said) and the singular pronouns and singular verbs in subsequent verses, which refer back to God of Genesis 1:26.

This should help clarify past confusion resulting from ungrammatical and unbiblical claims that the Hebrew ‘Elohim' (Strong #430 God) of Genesis 1:26 is a uniplural or is a collective noun or in some other way points to there existing or not existing more than one God Person.  In truth nothing may be concluded from Genesis 1:26 regarding the number of God Persons! (Capital and underline emphasis ours)

In the first place his very own source says nothing about this mood demanding that God be viewed as singular, which the neophyte takes to mean a single Divine Person. That is simply his gross misreading of the author he cites.

Secondly, even if it did prove that God is singular this doesn’t express the kind of singleness that the writer or speaker has in view. For instance is God supposed to be a single person with a single attribute or does he have a plurality of attributes? Or should we take this to mean that God is a singular Being who exists as a plurality of Divine Persons along with a plurality of characteristics? One must read the immediate and overall context of Genesis, as well as the [O]ld [T]estament as a whole, in order to know for certain.

Thirdly, as we shall now seek to prove the cohortative comports perfectly with the Trinitarian explanation. For instance, linguistically the cohortative mood in this particular context can be viewed as a plural form of exhortation where the speaker (who in this case is God) exhorts himself to carry out a specific task or function.

However, it does seem that in this particular context the cohortative mood indicates that God was also speaking to others. Yet whoever these others were they could not be creatures, particularly angels, for several reasons.

First, there is not a single reference to any angelic being in the creation story of Genesis 1. Neither Yahweh's heavenly council nor angels are explicitly mentioned anywhere during the six days of creation. Now this in itself is not conclusive proof against this view since one can infer on the basis of other texts such as Job 38:4-7 that spirit creatures were present at the time of man's creation:

“Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone- while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7

Moreover, Genesis does mention the cherubim:

“Then the LORD God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’ -- therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.” Genesis 3:22-24

This leads us to our second point. According to Genesis God created man by himself and in his own image:

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed… Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ … So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” Genesis 2:7-8, 18, 21-22

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2

We are further told that Yahweh not only made all things by himself but that he didn't consult anyone when he did, which answers any possible attempt to mitigate the force of the above observations by saying that God wasn’t exhorting the angels to assist Him in the work of creation but was only conferring with them:

“Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge And informed Him of the way of understanding?” Isaiah 40:13-14

“It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. He it is who reduces rulers to nothing, Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless. Scarcely have they been planted, Scarcely have they been sown, Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth, But He merely blows on them, and they wither, And the storm carries them away like stubble. ‘To whom then will you liken Me That I would be his equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired His understanding is inscrutable.” Isaiah 40:22-28

“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it And spirit to those who walk in it,” Isaiah 42:5

“It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it I stretched out the heavens with My hands And I ordained all their host… For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), ‘I am the LORD, and there is none else.’” Isaiah 45:12, 18

“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,’” Isaiah 44:24

“I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.” Jeremiah 27:5

In light of the preceding the cohortative cannot be a reference to God commanding a group of spirit creatures to come together with him to create mankind. It is quite possible that this dawagandist was aware of these problems, which accounts for the fact that after he offered the above “solution” he turned around and said that the plural pronouns are actually an instance of the so-called plural of majesty, an interpretation that would be ruled out if his understanding of the cohortative mood were true.

The Spirit of God – Yahweh’s Co-Creator

The context of Genesis 1 provides a clue as to who this other Person was whom God was speaking with:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God (ruacha elohim) was moving over the face of the waters.” Genesis 1:1-2

God’s Spirit was present with God at creation, which strongly suggests that God was speaking to the Spirit. In fact, there other texts which explicitly state that God’s Spirit assisted God in creating the cosmos, especially man:

“By his Spirit (ruacho) the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent.” Job 26:13

“The Spirit of God (ruacha el) has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Job 33:4

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their spirit (ruachum), they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit (ruachaka), they are created; and you renew the face of the earth." Psalm 104:29-30

Although there is a lot we could say concerning the role that the OT assigns to God's Spirit in creation for the sake of keeping this to a reasonable length these examples will have to suffice. We suggest consulting the articles and rebuttals listed at the end of our discussion for additional information.

The Word of Yahweh as Agent of Creation

According to the prophetic Scriptures there was another entity whom God used to create, that being his Word:

By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the Breath/Spirit (ruacha) of his mouth.” Psalm 33:6

It is important to note that, in certain contexts, the Word is not simply God's command or revelation but a living, personal, conscious Agent who reveals God to his prophets and servants:

“And the LORD called again, 'Samuel!' And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, 'Here I am, for you called me.' But he said, 'I did not call, my son; lie down again.' Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the Word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him... And Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was established as a prophet of the LORD. And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the Word of the LORD.” 1 Samuel 3:6-7, 19-21

There are also many instances where the text refers to the Word coming to a prophet and speaking:

“After these things the Word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, ‘Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’ But Abram said, ‘O Lord GOD, what wilt you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’  And Abram said, ‘Behold, you hast given me no offspring; and a slave born in my house will be my heir.’ And behold, the Word of the LORD came to him, ‘This man shall not be your heir; your own son shall be your heir.’ And he brought him outside and said, ‘Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed the LORD; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, ‘I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess.’” Genesis 15:1-6

Moreover the Word of the LORD came to me, SAYING, ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent ME to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.’ Then I said to him, 'What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?' And a second time I said to him, ‘What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the oil is poured out?’ He said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my Lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.’” Zechariah 4:8-14

Here, the Word informs the prophet that when his words come to pass he will know that Yahweh sent the Word to him! On another occasion the Word expressly claims to be the Creator: 

Now the Word of the LORD came to me SAYING, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.’ Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.’  But the LORD said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a youth”; for to all to whom I send you you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.’ Then the LORD put forth his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me, ‘Behold, I have put my words in your mouth. See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to break down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’ And the Word of the LORD came to me, SAYING, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a rod of almond.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’ The Word of the LORD came to me a second time, SAYING, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, facing away from the north.’ Then the LORD said to me, ‘Out of the north evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.  Jeremiah 1:4-14

The Word informs Jeremiah that he formed him and appointed him to be a prophet! It is also interesting to see how the text shifts from the Word speaking to Yahweh speaking. The reason seems obvious, namely the Word of Yahweh is Yahweh speaking!

There are many other similar passages we could quote but these must suffice for now.

The NT picks up on this theme and runs with it.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…  No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14, 18

According to John, God’s eternal Word who created every living creature and often spoke with the OT saints entered into the world and became a human being. After becoming flesh God’s incarnate Word now goes by the name Jesus Christ!

Not only is John echoing the opening statement of Genesis 1:1, i.e. “In the beginning,” he is also expounding on the following verses:

And God said, ‘Let there be light’: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:3-5

John helps us understand that the light which God called forth was that which came through his eternal Word who later became flesh in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Interestingly, even a hostile critic of Christianity whose books are referenced by this same Muslim neophyte is able to see the connection between Genesis 1 and John’s prologue! The anti-Christian scholar Dr. Bart D. Ehrman does an excellent job of explaining the relationship between these two texts: 

“… John starts with a prologue that mysteriously describes the Word of God that was in the very beginning with God, that was itself God, and through which God created the universe. This Word, we are told, became a human being, and that's who Jesus Christ is: the Word of God made flesh. There is nothing like that in the Synoptics.” (Ehrman, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We don't Know About Them) [HarperOne, March 3, 2009], Three. A Mass of Variant Views, p. 72)


“In John’s Gospel, this preexistent divine Word of God became a human being: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory’ (1:14). Jesus, here, is not simply a Jewish prophet who suddenly bursts on the scene, as in Mark [sic]; and he is not a divine-human who has come into existence at the point of his conception (or birth) by a woman who was impregnated by God. He is God’s very own word, who was with God in the beginning, who has temporarily come to dwell on earth, bringing the possibility of eternal life.

“Scholars have wrangled over details of this passage for centuries. My personal view is that the author is harking back to the story of creation in Genesis 1, where God spoke and creation resulted: ‘And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.’ It was by speaking a word that God created all that there was. The author of the Fourth Gospel, like some others in the Jewish tradition, imagined that the word God spoke was some kind of independent entity in and of itself. It was ‘with’ God, because once spoken, it was apart from God; and it ‘was’ God in the sense that what God spoke was a part of his being. His speaking only made external what was already internal, within his mind. The Word of God, then, was the outward manifestation of the internal divine reality. It both was with God, and was God, and was the means by which all things came into being.

“John does not say how this Word came into the world. He does not have a birth narrative and says nothing about Joseph and Mary, about Bethlehem, or about a virginal conception. And he varies [sic] from Luke on this very key point: whereas Luke portrays Jesus as having come into being at some historical point (conception or birth), John portrays him as the human manifestation of a divine being who transcends history.” (Ibid., pp. 75-76; bold and underline emphasis ours)

As we saw earlier, John and these certain Jewish sources weren’t alone in believing that the Word was a personally distinct, Divine conscious entity from God since even the OT writers believed and taught this!

John is not alone in speaking of Christ as Creator. There are other inspired NT writers who also proclaim that Jesus is God’s Divine Agent that created and sustains the entire creation:

“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For IN HIM all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR him. He IS before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together.” Colossians 1:13-17

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven... He [the Father] also says, 'In the beginning, O Lord [the Son], you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 10-12

With the foregoing in perspective this helps us to appreciate why certain OT authors refer to Yahweh as their Creators and Makers, plural! 

“But none says, ‘Where is God my Makers (‘osay), who gives songs in the night,’” Job 35:10

"Let Israel rejoice in their Makers (b’osay); let the people of Zion be glad in their Kings.” Psalm 149: 2

For your Husbands are your Makers (bo‘alayika ‘osayika) — Yahweh of hosts is his name — the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the Gods of all the earth (Elohey kal-ha’arets).” Isaiah 54:5

“Remember also thy Creators (bora’eyka) in days of thy youth, While that the evil days come not, Nor the years have arrived, that thou sayest, ‘I have no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

These inspired men knew that the God who created the universe did so by his Holy Spirit and living Word! That is why they alternate back and forth without difficulty using both plural and singular words, showing that they were neither polytheists nor unitarians. 

It is therefore clear from the preceding examples that the Biblical writers knew and believed that the God who created all things is a multi-personal Being. They were not unitarians who taught that their God was a uni-personal monad.

For more on the OT using plural pronouns, verbs, participles etc., for God please consult the articles that are found at the end of the rebuttal.

Genesis 11 and the Cohortative Mood

Genesis 11 furnishes an excellent example why the cohortative mood does not conflict with the Trinitarian interpretation of Genesis 1:26, but actually supports it:

“Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, 'Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, 'Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.' The LORD came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The LORD said, 'Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse [first person plural verb] their language, so that they will not understand one another's speech.' So the LORD scattered [third person singular verb] them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the LORD confused [third person singular verb] the language of the whole earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9

Here in 11:3-4 the cohortative mood refers to a group, i.e., “one people” (v. 6), speaking among themselves since the verb is third person masculine plural, e.g., “They said.” In 11:7 the cohortative mood (“let Us go down”) is the same as Genesis 1:26, namely a third person masculine singular verb, since verse 6 reads, “Yahweh said.” Moreover, the verb which Yahweh uses for confuse in verse 7 is plural. 

Since the cohortative mood in the first part of the text is used in relation to a group exhorting one another to carry out a specific task Yahweh must also be speaking to a group. However, the difference in the two cases is that Yahweh is only one singular Being since the context shows that he alone came down and scattered the people by confusing them by himself. And as we noted, the verbs used are third person masculine singular.

In light of these points Yahweh could not have been addressing his heavenly council and this must therefore be another case where one specific Person within the Godhead is exhorting the other Divine Person(s) to action. As such, the word Yahweh in Genesis 11 must be referring to the Godhead collectively, to the individual members of this group we call God. 

The Creation of Man as an illustration of Divine Plurality

There is another line of evidence which further supports the view that the God who created man is a plurality of Divine Persons – and the plural pronouns of Genesis 1:26 should therefore be understood as the Godhead speaking – that being the creation of Adam. According to Genesis the one man is made up of both male and female who are collectively called Adam!

"Then God said, ‘Let us make Adam in our image, after our likeness; and let THEM have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created Adam in his own image, in the image of God he created HIM; male and female he created THEM. Genesis 1:26-27

“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created Adam, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named THEM Adam when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2

It is not a coincidence that it is only at this point in the narrative where God refers to himself in the plural. It is apparent that the creation of Adam as male and female who together make up one flesh (cf. Gen. 2:21-24) is intended to be a reflection of the fact that God himself exists as a community of Divine Persons. The very humanity that is said, on a finite level, to mirror God, to be created in His image or likeness, is at once a single entity, and yet a society of persons. As one commentary explains:  

“Many attempts have been made to explain the plural forms: ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’: e.g., (1) the plural is a reference to the Trinity; (2) the plural is a reference to God and his heavenly court of angels; (3) the plural is an attempt to avoid the idea of an immediate resemblance of humans to God; (4) the plural is an expression of deliberation on God’s part as he sets out to create the human race. The singulars in v.27 (‘in his own image’ and ‘in the image of God’; cf. 5:1) rule out explanation 2, since in the immediate context the creation of man and woman is said to be ‘in his image,’ with no mention of them in the image of the angels. Explanations 3 and 4 are both possible, but neither explanation is specifically supported by the context. Verse 27 twice states that ‘man’ was created in God’s image and a third time that man was created ‘male and female’ The same pattern is found in Genesis 5:1-2a. The singular ‘man’ is created as a plurality, ‘male and female.’ In a similar way the one God (‘And God said’) created humankind through an expression of his plurality (‘Let us make man in our image’). Following this clue the divine plurality expressed in v.26 is seen as an anticipation of the human plurality of the man and woman, thus casting human relationship between man and woman as a reflection of God’s own personal relationship with himself.” (Zondervan NIV Study Bible Commentary: Volume 1: Old Testament – An Abridgement of the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III consulting editors [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], p. 6)

Concluding Remarks

We have seen from the evidence furnished from the OT that the cohortative mood should be interpreted as both a plural form of exhortation and a command issued to a group. It is clear from our investigation that God is not only exhorting himself to create man but that we have here an instance where a specific member of the Godhead exhorts the other Divine member(s) to do so as well, which in the context must at least be the Spirit, e.g., God is commanding the Spirit who was present at creation to assist him in making man after their likeness and image. At the same time since the Spirit is not some creature but a fully Divine Person it can be said that God was exhorting himself to action and that he alone created man in his own image since no created being helped God fashion or make mankind.  

In light of this there is absolutely nothing about the cohortative mood which conflicts with the Trinitarian interpretation of Genesis 1:26! It is simply the wishful thinking of this Muslim neophyte that leads him to think that it does.

In order to illustrate this point here is a Biblical expositor that explains the cohortative mood as God addressing his Sprit:

“In order to understand the us of v. 26 historically and grammatically, scholars have suggested at least six possibilities for interpretation. (1) A mythological interpretation understands the us to refer to other gods. Thus this text is a remnant of the earliest form of the story that somehow escaped the editor who removed from his borrowed tale any pagan elements that would be offensive and unacceptable to monotheism. 

(2) In the biblical adaptation of the story the pantheon concept was replaced with the heavenly court concept. Thus, it is not to other gods, but to the angelic host, the ‘sons of God,’ that God speaks.

(3) God speaks to something he has recently created and the most likely addressee would be the earth. Thus man owes his origin to both God and the ground.

(4) Some grammarians have opted here for what they call a plural of majesty, for the word God is itself plural – ’elohim. Comparison has been made to the ‘us’ in Gen. 11:7 and Isa. 6:8.

(5) Other grammarians have interpreted the us to be a plural of deliberation. God speaks to himself. This would be comparable to an individual who might say to himself: ‘Let’s see, should I walk to work tomorrow or take the bus?” Biblical uses of this plural of deliberation have been claimed and challenged for Cant. 1:9-11, ‘I … we,’ and 2 Sam. 24:4, ‘us … me.’

(6) The best suggestion approaches the trinitarian understanding but employs less direct terminology. Thus Hasel calls the us of v. 26 a ‘plural of fullness,’ and Clines is close to that with his phrase ‘duality within the Godhead.’ According to Clines, God here speaks to the Spirit, mentioned back in v. 2, who now becomes God’s partner in creation. It is one thing to say that the author of Gen. 1 was not schooled in the intricacies of Christian dogma. It is another thing to say he was theologically too primitive or naïve to handle such ideas as plurality within unity. What we often so blithely dismiss as ‘foreign to the thought of the OT’ may be nothing of the sort. True, the concept may not be etched on every page of Scripture, but hints and clues are dropped enticingly here and there, and such hints await their full understanding ‘at the correct time’ (Gal. 4:4).

“The shift of the consistent use of the verb in jussive (e.g., ‘Let there be’) to a cohortative (‘Let Us make’) is enough to prepare the reader for something momentous. That momentous element is the creation of man in our image, in our likeness…” (Victor P. Hamilton The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17 (New International Commentary on the Old Testament Series), general editors R. K. Harrison & Robert L. Hubbard Jr. [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, November 1990], pp. 133-134; underline emphasis ours)

It must have never dawned on this commentator that the cohortative explanation conflicts with the belief that God exists as a multi-personal Being, that this mood somehow refutes any possibility of there being a plurality within God!      

The dawagandist goes on to argue for a second interpretation, namely the plural of majesty, and references specific OT texts which he erroneously assumes prove that such a linguistic feature was known and used by the Bible writers. Since the issue of the plural of majesty and the examples he raises have already been dealt with in the articles listed below there will be no need to respond to them here.   


We would like to thank our dear brother Anthony Rogers, an outstanding Christian apologist by the grace of the Lord Jesus, for his valuable input and contributions. 

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