Genesis 1:26-27: Are we “Little Gods” and Other Misinterpretations
By Dr. Norman Geisler
Genesis 1:26—Does this verse indicate that there is more than one god?
If there is only one God, why does this verse in Genesis use the word us in reference to God? Mormons often note that the Hebrew word usually translated God, Elohim, is in the plural, and the plural pronoun us is used. To them this indicates that there is more than one God: “In the very beginning the Bible shows there is a plurality of Gods beyond the power of refutation….The word Elohim ought to be in the plural all the way through—Gods” (Smith, 1976, 372).
Correcting the misinterpretation:
Several explanations for the use of the pronoun us have been offered throughout history. Some commentators have claimed that God is addressing the angels. But this is unlikely since in verse 26 God says, “Let us make man in our image,” while verse 27 makes it clear that “God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him,” and not in the image of the angels.
Others have claimed that the plural pronoun refers to the Trinity. It is true that the New Testament (e.g., John 1:1) teaches that the Son was involved in the creation of the heavens and the earth. Also, Genesis 1:2 indicates that the Holy Spirit was involved in the creation process. However, students of Hebrew grammar point out that the plural pronoun us is simply required by the plural Hebrew noun Elohim, which is translated “God” (“Then God [Elohim, plural] said, ‘Let us [plural] make man in our [plural] image’”). Consequently, they claim that this statement should not be used to prove the doctrine of the Trinity.
Still others have asserted that the plural is used as a figure of speech called a majestic plural. Indeed, the Qur’an, which denies that there is more than one person in God, uses us of God. In this use, God is speaking to himself in such a manner as to indicate that all of his majestic power and wisdom were involved in the creation of humanity. As has been noted, the plural pronoun us corresponds to the plural Hebrew word Elohim, which is translated God. The fact that the name God is plural in Hebrew does not indicate that there is more than one God. (Queen Victoria used the plural of majesty when referring only to herself. She once commented, “We are not amused.”) A number of passages in the New Testament refer to God with the singular Greek noun theos, which is also translated “God” (for example John 1:1; Mark 13:19; Eph. 3:9). The plural nature of the Hebrew word is designed to give a fuller, more majestic sense to God’s name. It should be noted, however, that the New Testament clearly teaches that God is a Trinity (Matt. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2), and, although the doctrine of the Trinity is not fully developed in the Old Testament, it is foreshadowed (cf. Ps. 110:1; Prov. 30:4; Isa. 63:7,9-10).
Genesis 1:26—Does the fact that we are created in God’s image mean that we are “little gods,” as the Word-Faith leaders say?
Word-Faith teachers suggest that the Hebrew word for “likeness” in this verse literally means “an exact duplication in kind” (Savelle, 1990, 141). Indeed, humanity “was created on terms of equality with God, and he could stand in God’s presence without any consciousness of inferiority….God has made us as much like Himself as possible….He made us the same class of being that He is Himself” (Hagin, 1989, 35-36, 41).
Correcting the Misinterpretation:
All Genesis 1:26-27 is teaching is that humanity was created in God’s image or likeness in the sense that a human being is a finite reflection of God in rational nature (Col.3:10), in moral nature (Eph. 4:24), and in dominion over creation (Gen. 1:27-28). In the same way that the moon reflects the brilliant light of the sun, so finite humanity (as created in God’s image) is a limited reflection of God in these aspects. This verse has nothing to do with human beings becoming God or being in God’s “class.”