Question of the Week: "Make man in OUR image?"

On 11/26/2017 The Mentionables received this question from Jim B.:

"To whom was God speaking when he said 'Let us make man in our image'?"

By sculpture: Tadeusz Kowalski, photo: Karol Kowalski via Wikimedia Commons

By sculpture: Tadeusz Kowalski, photo: Karol Kowalski via Wikimedia Commons

The following answer is from Mentionable Network member Jeremy Jones to see the answer by Joel Furches, scroll down.

Image3.jpg

God was speaking to the Holy Spirit and to Christ.  Evidence that Christ was, although not specifically mentioned in the creation account found in Genesis, at the beginning is found in the Gospel of John.

John 1:1 – 3: “In the beginning (same as Genesis 1, In the beginning God created…) was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not made any thing made that was made.”

Here John clearly points out 3 major points showing that Christ was all the way back in Genesis:

  1. Verse 1 – “the Word was with God” here John gives clear evidence that God was not alone when creation happened, by using the word “with”.  

2) Verse 2 – “The same was in the beginning with God” again John reiterated that way back when God was creating the world He was not alone.

3) Verse 3 – “All things were made by Him” here John continues his thought that that the Word was God and it was through the Word that the world, including man, was created.

John combines all these with saying that “the Word was God.”  And clearly throughout the Gospels Jesus is repeatedly stating that “I and the Father are one; If you seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” all these statements that connect Jesus and God as being the same.  That is why the Pharisees wanted Him dead.

And although, there is no direct speaking of the Trinity Scripture does speak in threes many times when discussing God, Christ and the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 28:19; Luke 3:21 – 22).  

All throughout Scripture where the Father is the Son is and where the Son is the Holy Spirit is.  So, it is only logical that if “in the beginning the Son was there and the Father was then the Holy Spirit had to be there as well.  And as all 3 where present throughout the 6 days of Creation, it is only logical that on that final step of Creation God was speaking to the Son and the Holy Spirit.  And as God said, “Let us make man in our image” we humans are made, just as God is (He is, not that is made of), up of three parts (Body – Son, Soul – Father, and Spirit – Holy Spirit).

** Italicized my add in**

*** All Scripture quotes come from the KJV ***

The following answer is from Mentionable Joel Furches. To see the answer from  Tyler Vela scroll below:

joel+furches.png

One may speculate as to what the writer of Genesis had in mind when this statement was recorded. It has been suggested that the writer was referring to a “heavenly council” as seen in the book of Job, when the “sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD,” or in 1 Kings, wherein the prophet Micaiah has a vision during which the LORD consults with “all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left.” 

Regardless of what the author had in mind when he penned these words, it is not unreasonable to suggest that this is a hint at the trinity. After all, another hint of the trinity within the creation account includes “the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters,” which may be taken as a reference to the Holy Spirit. 

It is particularly telling of this passage that later on in that same passage, it states, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” And in Genesis 9, it says “for God made man in his own image.” Note that both of these passages have man made specifically in the image of God – singular. 

Clearly the intent was to say that man was made specifically in the image of the one God of Israel. This being the case, it is not unreasonable to believe that God was referring to himself when he said “let us.” And since Christian doctrine gives us a mechanism to explain why God would refer to himself in the plural, the trinity becomes a good explanation. 

There exist a number of occurrences and references throughout the Old Testament which may be taken as a reference to the trinity, however this was not a Jewish doctrine in any of the early rabbinical teachings to which we currently have access. 

For this reason, it is doubtful that the writer had the trinity in mind when he wrote this passage. This does not prevent the passage from being a reference to the trinity. The New Testament suggests that prophets did not always have perfect insight into the meaning of what they wrote (1 Peter 1:10-12). 

Moreover, it is widely accepted that many prophecies have a double meaning. So, for instance, many prophecies related to King David are also fulfilled in Christ. Therefore it may be that the writer had a specific meaning in mind, but, in addition to the original intent, this verse also pointed prophetically toward the triune nature of God. 

The following answer is from Mentionable Tyler Vela:

TylerVela.png

This verse in Gen 1:26 is an interesting verse that has led to numerous interpretations. Some have argued that God is speaking to the heavenly host and determining to make man personal like he and the angels are. Others have noted that God is given the title Elohim (a general term for “God”) rather than being called by his personal name, Yahweh (YHWH). The relevance is that Elohim is a kind of singular-plural (a construction that has no parallel in English) where the word refers to a singular plurality. They argue then that the pronouns “we/us/our” are used to reflect the plurality within the title Elohim. And so they function more like a “royal we” would in English. Still others have seen an early Trinitarian concept where the plurality of pronouns reflects a dialogue of sorts within the Triune Godhead.

Without going into the merits of each of these, I would argue that they likely all touch on a conceptual component of what is happening within 1:26, particularly the last two. Here I think it can be compellingly argued that YHWH really is being shown as a singular plural and that this is used to display the triune nature of God. However, I also think that something else is happening in this text that is often overlooked.

I have argued elsewhere that Genesis 1 is a literary framework used to convey the functional creation of the cosmos in a non-literal and diachronic sense in order to polemicize or satirize the gods of Egypt, and that Genesis 1-3 form a kind of Ancient temple text. This is extremely helpful for several reasons.

  1.        If this view is adopted, we are already in the mode of understanding that Genesis is a highly stylized piece of literature and should expect to find poetic or structured prose which function in developing the concepts contained within. To this regard, it is interesting to note that the summary of the creation of man in the image of God found in Gen. 1:27 is presented in a triplicate manner:

                                                               i.      God created man in his own image

                                                             ii.      In the image of God he created him

                                                           iii.      Male and female he created them

Now while each of these develops the idea of exactly what God is creating, the triplicate structure of the summary is telling of the kind of plurality that the author has in mind. It is not an innumerable amount like the host of heaven, nor is it a simple duality, but is expressly triplicate. If we observe the way that literary structures form and develop and advance the  theology of Genesis 1, we cannot help by notice the Trinitarian import of this structure.

       2.       In all other Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) cultures, and specifically in Egypt, the masses were not viewed as being image bearers of the gods. Humanity generally were viewed as created servants meant only for menial labor to help build temples to house the gods and offer sacrifices to feed them. The only exception to this was typically the king and the princes, or in the case of Egypt, the Pharaoh. They were frequently viewed in deified light, but the common man was not. Genesis 1-3 as a temple text flips the script on this and satirizes the surrounding anthropology of their neighboring cultures. Rather than man being made only as servants of God to make a temple to house him and offerings to feed him, it is man who is made in the image of God and YHWH is the one who fashions the garden temple to give a lush land to house and sustain the humans that he has placed within it. A cherry is placed on top of this complete reversal by then adding that man is not only not the slavish handservant of the gods, but is actually a vice regent of the one true Creator God, given authority to exercise dominion and rule over the whole of the earth that God had given them. This would serve as a gigantic upheaval and slap in the face to the surrounding religious views of Israel’s neighbors.

Once we understand the broader literary framework of Genesis 1, and the theological/polemical purposes that it has, this helps us to more fully understand what is being said by the plural pronouns and the triplicate pronouncement than man is made in “our” image. Not only does this likely reflect the singular-plural nature of God, and the triune nature of the godhead as mentioned above, but also shows an intentional and complete rejection of the ubiquitous ANE religious beliefs about the lowly status of humanity as merely menial labor to house and feed the gods. Instead, humanity is seen in total as being of immense value as image bearers of God and are given the temple to live in communion with God, not to serve him hand and foot.

To this, the purpose of Genesis 1-3 is further illustrated in and through the otherwise bizarre statement by God, “Let us make man in our image.” It helps direct our hearts toward the God who created us with worth and purpose, and to ascribe glory to him that he made us as image bearers meant to commune with him in the temple and the land that he has provided to us.

Praise be to God.