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Why is God in a plural form in Genesis 1?

Please explain why the plural is used in Genesis when God says; Let us make man in our own image. Thanks for your help.

To understand this phrase we need to ask the question: What did the human author mean by it and what could the first hearers have understood by it? This is the controlling factor for its present meaning.

Humanity’s creation is preceded by the phrase “let us make man” (v. 26). We should hesitate to read this as a clear-cut Trinitarian statement, a matter about which the Old Testament is essentially silent. One must remember that the Old Testament people of God to whom this story of creation was first delivered believed, the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4).

God’s main interest in this creation story was to help his newly formed children to form a monotheistic view of God over against the polytheistic view of the ancient world in which they lived. The “us” for this group of people may have been the concept of the heavenly council (Psalm 89.6-7). If that were the case then community was the image to which this text was pointing. Therefore, this phrase may indicate that God created humankind to be a community. This would be within the boundaries of teaching his newly formed children that they were his people.

As the New Testament unfolded and the church of the first centuries begin to understand the implications of the teaching of the New Testament, the doctrine of the Trinity of God began to be understood. The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is community also.

The uniqueness of the Holy Spirit in inspiration allowed the first hearers to understand community without stumbling them by the idea of Trinity in the midst of a polytheistic society.

Winn Griffin’s participation in the church spans about 60 years, ministering in four different denominations, serving on the staff of three mega churches, and functioning as a pastor in four churches. He has a BA, MA, and two Doctor of Ministry degrees. In addition, he has authored two books and eight eBooks. Winn's focus on AskDrWinn is to give space for folks to ask about Bible stuff that they have questions about. He is married to Donna Faith and they have two adult children and live in Washington State. » Read Winn's Full Bio
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  • Lin August 13, 2015, 8:36 am

    This year, I am supposed to be more invvloed in teaching Sunday school for the toddlers and little children. I’ve been looking for easy worship songs, especially action songs, and thanks God I found you and your crew. Thanks a bunch. God bless you.

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