On a prominent trinitarian apologetics site we come across an argument(in a larger article) that attempts to show that God is tri-personal. This trinitarian appeals to God's word at Genesis 1.26 "Let us make...our image" that shows that God is a "plurality of persons." But does it? His argument is:
"The Bible starts early showing us that God is a plurality of Persons. For example as early as Genesis 1:26 we are confronted with a plural Maker called God. We read Let US MAKE in OUR IMAGE. Most admit that the Father and Son were involved in the creation of Man, but the Holy Spirit participated as well, for nothing was created without the Holy Spirits participation. Detractors of the Trinity will admit this, even if they deny the Holy Spirits Personality. This is the one thing that distinguishes Jehovah, he is God by reason of his Creatorship. It is his claim to fame, his name and reputation."-The Plural Maker Called God by R.Goldsmith.-italicised words ours.
First of all the word "make"(Hebrew 'aseh')
in Genesis 1.26 is not "plural" so we don't have
here "a plural Maker,"(!) but in the
statement "God said "Let us make..""
the plural pronoun "us" is used and so what is
indicated here is a number of 'makers,' one of
which is "God." But can there be another (or others)
who is a 'maker, but not also God? Yes.
Genesis 1.26 actually tells us there were, along with God, another(or others)also involved in 'making' Man and it was God's will, decision because it was God who "said..." that another(or others) would be involved.
Interestingly, in a footnote in The New Revised Standard Version Study Bible we read:
"1.26-27 Let us. The plural form does not indicate mulitiple gods, but God and the retinue of the divine court."
The Jewish Study Bible Featuring The Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation agree:
"26-28: The plural construction (Let us....) most likely reflects a setting in the divine council(cf. 1 Kings 22.19-22; Isa. ch 6; Job chs 1-2). Godthe King announces the proposed course of action to His cabinet of subordinate deities, though He alone retains the power of decision."- Oxford University Press, 1999.
So, when we read "Let us make...in our image" and God was the Speaker it would naturally indicate that God was speaking to someone else or some others not to someone or some others that were also God! So what we have here is not "a plural Maker" but more than one being involved in 'making' man. There could be, taking the text in isolation from all else, two or more 'makers'. But the words do not tell us anything about their status or relationship with God other than this and certainly do not say that all who were involved in making Man were themselves "God". This is a case of someone, and out-and-out trinitarian, coming to a biblical text and seeing if he can fit the trinity doctrine into it. He has failed by miscontruing the statement "Let us make...". It is note-worthy that God did not say "Let us create..." for then we would have more than one divine being or person who created Man and only God can "create" This is what would be needed, at the very least, for the trinitarian doctrine to be indicated here. But this biblical text falls short of this and falls short of what this trinitarian needs. Gen.1.27 refutes that God is "a plurality of persons" for we read there: "So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them...." Here God is one person...not "a plurality of persons." Of course, in Gen.1.31 we read that "God saw everything he had made..." So we can rightly conclude that God was talking to others when he said "Let us make.." In v.26 we are just given the privilege of knowing that God involved others when he decided to create Man and that Man, or humankind, bear the image not only of God but of the heavenly beings that surrounds God.
In the New International Biblical Commentary: Genesis by John E Hartley we are told:
"1:26 / With whom did God enter into counsel? They are many proposals. (a) God took counsel with Wisdom(Prov:22-31). But this text does not mention wisdom. (b) "We" is a polite manner of self-expression. But this custom is not attested among the Hebrew(GKC 124gN). (c) "We" is the plural of majesty(Gen.11:7; Is.6.8). But such usage is not attested for a pronoun in Hb.(Jouon 114eN). (d) "We" was used as an ancient literary device for a person's speaking to himself. But this device is not commonly used in Scripture. (e) The plural reflects the multiplicity within God Himself, coinciding with the plural form of 'elohim in Hb. However, this name of God is used throughout the account as a singular. (f) This "we" reflects the Trinity. The church fathers(e.g. Barn. and Justin Martyr)held this view. While the plural pronoun does acquire fuller meaning in the light of the coming of Christ, it did not convey to ancient Israel any idea of God's being triune. The following two proposals find the most support in scripture: (g) God took counsel with his Spirit(so D.Clines, "The Image of God in Man," TynBul 19. p.68; cf. v.2). This theory has the advantage of finding the conversation partner in the text. (h) "We" refers to the heavenly council over whom God rules(1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7; Ps.82: it was common for deity to hold councils in Near Eastern Myth). Before creating humans, this position argues, God entered into deliberations with this council since their role and destiny would be affected by human behaviour. God's words after the first couple ate the forbidden fruit support this position: they have "become like one of us, knowing good and evil"(3:22)."-Additional Notes, p.53. Hendrickson Publishers, 2000 AD.-italics ours
This shows us that the God of Genesis was not only one who wished to create sentient earthly beings like himself, beings that can reason, could love, but also one who lovingly includes others, at least one other heavenly being, in this work....just as a Father would his sons...in this case, no doubt, God included, in the making of Man, his heavenly Son.- John 1.3; 1 Cor.8.6, 7. However, even when the Son is shown to be involved in creation in these texts, namely, John 1.3; 1 Cor.8.6,7 and Col.1.16 he is the passive agent through which "God" the Father created. And not once is the holy spirit included in these texts as a person seperate and distinct from the Father and the Son. So, when the scriptures clearly show that only the Father is the Creator and Goldsmith remarks that "This is the one thing that distinguishes Jehovah, he is God by reason of his Creatorship" then if Goldsmith takes on board what the Scriptures actually teaches about who is the Creator he would then have to acknowledge that Jehovah is distinguished from his Son; that the Son is not Jehovah! This means then that trinitarians should abandon the teaching of the trinity!
(Note how Peter, John and the other disciples at Acts 4.24-30 make, and in "one accord,"(v.24a)a distinction between the "Sovereign Lord"(Greek despota- see here)who they recognized as the "One who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all the things in them" and this one's "annointed one," his "holy servant Jesus." Note also that this "Sovereign Lord" is "God"(v.24a) and there is nothing to indicate that God here is other than one person. Clearly the early christians did not think that Jesus was this "Sovereign Lord" who is un-doubtedly Jehovah. They did not consider that Jesus was God or Jehovah.)
Also in The New Interpreter's Bible we read:
"The "let us" language refers to an image of God as a consultant of other divine beings; the creation of humankind results from a dialogical[a conversational] act - an inner-divine communication- rather than a monological one. Those who are not God are called to participate in this central act of creation. Far from either slighting divine transcendence or concealing God within the divine assembly, it reveals and enhances the richness and complexity of the divine realm. God is not in heaven alone, but is engaged in a relationship of mutuality within the divine realm, and chosen to share the creative process with others."-Vol.1, p.345.
Would an appeal to such texts as Isaiah 44.24
refute any of the above? It reads there: "I am the LORD, who
made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens,
who by myself spread out the earth." Goldsmith
writes: "Further evidence that the Son was included in the
plural Maker called God can be found in Isaiah 44:24, where the
passage declares plainly that Jehovah did the things mentioned
alone. Yet the Son participated in these mighty works when
Jehovah did them alone, didnt he?" We would agree that
God at Gen.1.26 was talking to His Son but would disagree
that this scripture shows God to be "a plural Maker"-
as we have shown why above.
Malachi 2.10 also obviates this claim by the trinitarian for we read there: "Have we all not one father? Has not one God created us?"-NRSV. The creator "God" is the "father."(see note 1. below). The apostle Paul also shows that it is the Father who is the creator only for he says: "And he[God] made out of one man every nation of men" and then goes on to make a distinction between this "God" and the man Jesus Christ.-Acts 17.26-31. Hence, when Paul here talked about "God" to the Athenians he was talking of, preaching about God the Father and it was this one whom made Man...not the Son nor any other person. In Ephesians 3.9 Paul writes: "...God, who created all things" and this "God" Paul makes distinct from "the Christ, Jesus our Lord." Once again "God" here who is said to have "created all things" is God the Father...not some 'tri-une God' of three persons. Note also Revelation 4.11 where there is "one" who sits on the throne and this one is the one who "created all things" and this one is not the "Lamb"(the Son)who comes to this one later on in Rev.5.7. Compare also Rev.4.9 with 10.6ff. We once again see that this "One" is the One who "created the heaven and the things in it and the earth and the things in it and the sea and the things in it." This "One" is not a 'tri-une God' but the Father only. Yes, the creator is the Father and the Father only. (For a discussion of Revelation 4 and 5 for specifically who is and who is not "God" and who does and does not receive "worship" see here.)
The point of Isaiah 44.24 then is missed, apparently, by this trinitarian apologist, which is, as the footnote in The New Revised Standard Version Study Bible informs us: "44.24. Who alone....by myself. The Lord, the God of Israel, created the whole world without any assistance from any other deity." Yes, in the context of Isaiah here God shows that only he, the God of Israel, is the God who created all things, no deity of the nations surrounding Israel had any involvement in it or gave to this God any assistance. But this does not mean that if God wished to he could not involve a or any other heavenly being that he created(none of the gods of the nations did he recognise or make)in the creation process. Gen.1.26 answers that he did in the case of Man, humankind. This is similiar to Isaiah 43.11 where we read: "I am the LORD, and besides me there is no saviour."-New Revised Standard Version. Would it be proper to conclude that there are no saviours other than the "Lord"? This would be the same 'logic' Goldsmith has used with the Isaiah 44.24 passage! If that is the case then how is it that others whom the "Lord" himself raised up for Israel's deliverance are called "saviours"? See for example Judges 3.9. Obviously, once again, we need to understand the context of the above words. Jehovah(the Hebrew has the four letters of his name written here)is pointing out that any real deliverance that Israel experienced originated from him and from no other source, no other "god" and certainly from no "god" of the nations. But it does not mean that others cannot be called "saviours" or that others other than the "Lord" cannot be used in delivering Israel.(Please compare Acts 13.23 where "God" and "a savior, Jesus" is distinguished from each other and Jude 25 where we read "to the only God our saviour through Jesus Christ our Lord..."). So too with Isaiah 44.24. It does not mean that the "Lord" did all creation on his own but that no other 'god,' no 'god' of the nations had a hand in creation. But this would not rule out the "Lord" involving others whom he chose to use in creating. Yet still he would be the origin, the source of creation just as he is the origin, the source of deliverance, the "saviour" for Israel but also using "saviours" to acomplish any deliverance he chose to give.
We ought not be amiss and not point out that because Jehovah stated that "by myeslf" he "spread out the earth" this means he did not use anyone in this act. We say this because the inspired scriptures also inform us that Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon said "Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built..."-Daniel 4.30. Would anyone conclude that Nebchudnezzar was the only person involved in the building of this great city? That he built it with no assistance from anyone else? Of course not. It is simply that Nebuchadnezzar was the sole originating force that got the city built. Yet, obviously, there would have been hundreds of skilled artificers and labourers that were used in the building of this city. It is likewise with Jehovah saying that "by myself I spread out the earth" at Isaiah 44.24. He still could have used as many helpers as he wished yet he would still be the originating power behind the coming into existence of the "earth." (In Is.44.24 "by myself" is used in parallel with "who alone" and they mean the same here.)
The above trinitarian's exegesis then is one that not only mis-understands and mis-construes the words of God, both at Genesis 1.26 and Isaiah 44.24, so that his already held belief can be forced into the biblical text, but his exegesis also robs the richness of the text of Genesis 1.26 and robs God of his un-limited benevolent nature toward his creatures in the heavens where, by involving them in the making of humankind, that like them share the image of God, denies that God has choosen to extend to them a share in the creative process. This trinitarian's shoddy and misleading exegesis does not stand up to scrutiny and should be abandoned in the light of the above.
Note 1. Regarding who the "father" is at Malachi 2.10. Paul L. Redditt remarks: "While some scholars suggest that the word "father" refers to Abraham or Jacob, the use of the word in reference to God in 1.6 and the parallel term "creator" in the next question make it clear that the father in question was God."-The New Century Bible Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. 1995, p.170. Compare The New Testament: Background, Growth and Content by Bruce M Metzger, Lutterworth Press, 1965, p.145.
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