Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Let Us Make Man:
A Trinitarian Interpretation

By Anthony Rogers


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Prima Facie Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation
  3. The Old Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation
  4. The New Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation
  5. Answering Alternative Interpretations/Common Objections
  6. Summary and Conclusion


Genesis 1:26 – Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Genesis 3:22 – Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.”

Genesis 11:7 – “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.”

Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I. Introduction

Is it right to insist that the plural pronouns of Genesis 1:26 and similar passages (i.e., Gen. 3:22; 11:7; and Isaiah 6:8) demand a Trinitarian interpretation? That these passages do demand such an interpretation was the prevailing if not also the unanimous view of the church in the early,[1] medieval,[2] reformation,[3] and post-reformation[4] periods; it has been denied in the history of the Church only by heretics. The exception to the above seems limited to the modern period where it has become fashionable among many otherwise orthodox commentators and theologians to deny a Trinitarian interpretation or to offer alternative explanations of these texts as either possible or probable.[5]

It will be my contention in this paper – over against modern detractors as well as heretics of all ages – that these passages in their immediate setting require recognition of personal plurality in the Godhead, and that they at least point in a trinal direction. Furthermore, when the whole of Old Testament revelation is taken into consideration, it is not only possible to construe that plurality in a trinal fashion but it is the only consistent way to interpret it.

After laboring to prove the above, this interpretation will be shown to be that of Christ and His apostles. The present writer knows of no higher authority and neither does anyone else, all denials notwithstanding. Christ’s interpretation ought to be received for what it really is: final. As Moses, the author of Genesis 1:26, said: “to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Gen. 49:10)

II. The Prima Facie Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation

In so far as these passages employ both singular and plural terms for God, and in so far as no other view or interpretation simultaneously affirms that God is both one and many, a prima facie case exists, quite apart from the positive case to be given, for the Trinitarian view and against all others. Hypothetically speaking, the Trinitarian view could be false and one or another non-Trinitarian view could be true, but since all other views hold that God is only one (unitarianism) or only many (polytheism), it is far from clear at the outset that such is the case. That a passage that contains both elements (i.e. unity and diversity) is more than disquieting to adherents in both groups, thereby highlighting its Trinitarian appearance, is easily attested. The following telltale practices bear out this claim.

1. Unitarians have on occasion deliberately mistranslated these verses by dropping all plural references to God and by replacing them with singular terms. Polytheists have done likewise, replacing singular terms with plural ones. Examples abound in both cases.

Illustrative of the former, in 1962 the Jewish Publication Society of America gave the following (mis)translation for Genesis 1:26, “I will make man in My image, after My likeness”; they dealt similarly with Genesis 11:7, “Let Me, then, go down and confound their speech there, so that they shall not understand one another’s speech.”[6] As for the latter, note the crassly polytheistic rendering put forward by the (false) prophet Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon cult,

And the Gods took counsel among themselves and said: Let us go down and form man in our image, after our likeness; and we will give them dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air…So the Gods went down to organize man in their own image, in the image of the Gods to form they him, male and female to form they them.” (The Book of Abraham, PGP, 4:26-27)

2. Unitarians and Polytheists have both tried to negate the force of the singular or plural terms on the most artificial and strained grounds imaginable, as if to say, "We will hold our view at all costs; say what you will, just don’t confuse us with all the facts."

As an example of how this is seen in the way unitarians handle the passage, consider the following famous Jewish example, which, for all intents and purposes, refutes itself.

Rabbi Simlai said: “Wherever you find a point supporting the heretics [e.g., Trinitarians], you find the refutation at its side.” They asked him again: “What is meant by, AND GOD SAID: LET US MAKE MAN?” “Read what follows,” replied he: “Not, ‘and gods created man’ is written here, but ‘And God created (Gen. 1:27).’” When they [the heretics] went out his disciples said to him: “Them you have dismissed with a mere makeshift, but how will you answer us?”[7]

For a polytheistic example, consider the following feminist account. After denying the significance of the singular terms earlier in the article, the author goes on to induct a woman into the godhead (where “godhead” has already been construed in a polytheistic way).

Here is the sacred historian's first account of the advent of woman; a simultaneous creation of both sexes, in the image of God. It is evident from the language that there was consultation in the Godhead, and that the masculine and feminine elements were equally represented….But instead of three male personages, as generally represented, a Heavenly Father, Mother, and Son would seem more rational.[8]

This is not so much an interpretation of the text as it is a reading into it what seems to the author “more rational”, as if the truth of what God has revealed is to be measured by the yardstick of our own finite and fallen ideas.

3. Unitarians and polytheists have both dodged the need to interact meaningfully with these passages, sometimes by denying the need to offer anything positive in favor of their position, or by doing nothing more than ridiculing the Trinitarian view.

Rabbi Samuel ben Nahman said in Rabbi Jonathan’s name: “When Moses was engaged in writing the Torah, he had to write the work of each day. When he came to the verse, AND GOD SAID; LET US MAKE MAN, etc., he said: ‘Sovereign of the Universe! Why dost Thou furnish an excuse to heretics?’ (for maintaining a plurality of deity). ‘Write,’ replied He; ‘whoever wishes to err may err.’”[9]

4. Unitarians and polytheists have both been found to multiply interpretations – only lightly, if ever, taking their stand on any one of them – in order that they might, in the name of all the possibilities and resulting confusion (a confusion they created in the first place), claim that the whole matter is too obscure to be of any positive value.

In the Conciliator of R. Manasseh Ben Israel, after listing a host of differing interpretations, it concludes with the following:

In whatever manner it may be assumed that God spoke, whether with secondary causes, or with spirituals, with the elements, or with the souls; or whether it was only a proper mode or figure of speech, shewing self-preparation, the contradiction is reconciled; for it does not follow from saying, “Let us make,” that there is a multiplication in the First Cause, Sole, and of the most Simple Unity; and Moses might fearlessly write it; for he only who premeditatedly and intentionally wished to err, will seek by this text to give colour to his errors, although to avoid such excuse, the Seventy-two Interpreters translated it in the singular, “I will make man,” &c.[10]

5. Some people – in apparent desperation to get away from any vestige of the knowledge of the Triune God – have even been willing to postulate some of the most bizarre and peculiar interpretations imaginable.

Much like evolutionists, who, after finding themselves bereft of any credible account of how life started, turn to the field of exobiology for answers, so some have even contended that the “Us” of Genesis and other Biblical writers were ancient inter-planetary travelers (i.e., aliens). A well-known example of this is Erich Von Daniken, whose book Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past was a best-seller in its time and has sold multiplied millions of copies to date.[11] Perhaps the most famous group to hold this view, setting aside of course that Von Daniken himself has had quite the following, are the Raelians.

Not willing to be left behind by the Von Danikens or the Raelians of this world in their cannonball run from God, some astrologers have attempted to identify the “Us” of Genesis as the “Star Beings” of loopy New Age mythmakers, which is just to say: Father Sun, Mother Moon, Big brother Dipper and so on. The following is just one of many nauseating examples of this: 

As the gates of my dream opened I became aware of meeting actual beings. I knew in a direct way that these beings were the very substance and processes of our universe. Literally, the air we breathe, the water we drink is a part of their ‘bodies’. But we must not think of them as like us in the way we have a body. I was reminded at that point of the statement in Genesis where it says, God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

God says, “Let us” and that is plural. He does not say I will. And in the same way that I sensed these great beings, I also knew that these beings were there from the beginning of time. We see them as the processes, the laws, the manifestation of our universe, and locally our solar system and earth. I also felt that these beings are described in astrology. In other words astrology attempts to define what they are and their influence in the cosmos and in our lives. Unfortunately we have a degraded and limited view of this. But literally they are our parents, and shape our body and life. It is difficult to conceive of beings whose very body is the world around us and the sky and stars. This is why I saw them in the dream as having a body of stars and dancing across the night sky. In the dream I sensed them as a cavalcade of life -- ancient life. And that was an actual awareness of them, because they are the very pageant of life and death.[12]

When unitarians and polytheists resort to such measures – mistranslating the verse, negating one part of the passage or another, dodging meaningful interaction of the text and being reduced to a posture of ridicule, sowing confusion about what the verse means, and going to extreme lengths to hold something else, anything else, no matter how outlandish – they unwittingly show that the passage does not sit well with them. And everything in the passage they love to hate is just that which Trinitarianism expects to find and can account for.

III. The Old Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation

A Preliminary Word about the Trinity in the Old Testament

A couple of things must be said about the doctrine of the Trinity in the Old Testament in general before considering the Trinitarian implications of these passages in particular. Ignorance of what the Old Testament as a whole reveals on the doctrine of the Trinity contributes to the failure of many when approaching these verses. Those who are not ignorant but have either a low view of the Old Testament’s teaching about God Triune or a view that is antithetical to any revelation of the Trinity in the Old Testament, are also interpretively challenged when it comes to these texts.[13] Unless such people are instructed and/or disabused of these opinions, they will not be able to give these passages their Trinitarian due. In light of this, I should state for the record and give a brief case for the conviction that the Old Testament sufficiently and clearly reveals the doctrine of the Trinity, even if not as fully and clearly as the New Testament.[14] Toward that end, I offer the following definition and sampling of the Old Testament evidence.

Belief in the Trinity is simply an affirmation of three important ideas or fundamental facts. This is captured in the following statement:

When we have said these three things, then – that there is but one God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each God, that the Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person – we have enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity in its completeness.[15]

To see that these three things are all taught in the Old Testament, witness the following:

      1) There is but one God – “You shall have no other gods before Me (Exod. 20:3)”; “the LORD, He is God; there is no other besides Him” (Deut. 4:35); “the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deut. 4:39); “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4); “See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me” (Deut 32:39); “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another…” (Isa. 42:8); “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me.” (Isa. 43:10); “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Isa. 44:6); “there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD and there is no other” (Isa. 45:6); “Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, no other God” (Isa. 45:14); “And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me…For I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:21-22); “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me.” (Isa. 46:9)

      2) The Father and the Son and the Spirit is each GodThe Father is Lord and God: “Do you thus repay the LORD…Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you” (Deut. 32:6); “For you are our Father…You, O LORD, are our Father, our redeemer from of old is Your name” (Isa. 63:16); “But now, O LORD, You are our Father, we are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isa. 64:8). The Son/Messenger is Lord and God: “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24); “Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD…” (Gen. 22:16); “The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush…God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’” (Exod. 3:2,14); “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [Heb. = ‘God with us’]” (Isa. 7:14); “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God…” (Isa. 9:6) The Spirit is Lord and God: “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters (Gen. 1:2)”; “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has informed Him?” (Isa. 40:13); “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy…Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses…As the cattle which go down in the valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest.” (Isa. 63:10-14)

      3) The Father and the Son and the Spirit is each a distinct person – “The God before whom my [Joseph] fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, the angel [Heb. Malakh; Lit. Messenger] who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads (Gen. 48:15-16)”; “The LORD bless you, and keep you; The LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you and give you peace (Num. 6:24-26)”; “The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him (Isa. 11:2)”; “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations (Isa. 42:1)”; “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit (Isa. 48:16)”; “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted” (Isa. 61:1); “In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence [lit. the Messenger of His Face] saved them…But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit…Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them, who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses…The Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. So You led Your people, to make for Yourself a glorious name.” (Isa. 65:9-14)

It is to be especially noticed that all of the above references have been drawn not simply from the Old Testament but from the writings of Moses and Isaiah, the two authors who penned the four passages in question. [The first three come from Moses (i.e., Gen. 1:26, 3:22, and 11:7) and the last one comes from Isaiah (6:8).] Clearly, then, no anti-Trinitarian prejudice is justified when approaching various passages of the Old Testament, and this is especially the case when it comes to the writings of Moses and Isaiah. In light of the above, if there is to be any “prejudicial kiss” (i.e., a loving bias) when approaching these texts, it is to be in favor of the Triune God:

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us…Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. (Ps. 2:2, 11-12)[16]

The “Us” and “Our” Passages in Genesis and Isaiah

In agreement with the foregoing definition and following the sketch provided above, I submit the following reasons that these passages are to be understood in a Trinitarian fashion: 1) they are monotheistic, 2) they ascribe deity to the “Us” and “Our,” and 3) they teach us to believe in a plurality of divine persons (i.e., three persons, when all is said and done).

      1. These passages, like Trinitarianism, are monotheistic to the core. This is evident from the following considerations:

      a) As we have already seen, the books in which these verses appear are fiercely monotheistic. The plethora of verses already given for the unity of God renders any attempt to turn the teaching of these texts into anything else – futile. To the above testimony we may add the simple observation that Moses and Isaiah frequently record God speaking of Himself as a singular being – i.e., “I,” “Me,” and “My”. Also, and perhaps unnecessarily, we can observe that these same authors refer to God as a singular being – i.e., “He,” “Him,” and “You.” Consequently, the idea that these passages are to be understood monotheistically cannot be ruled out here, as it has been by some.

      b) Moving closer to home, each of the passages in question appear in a chapter that either states or presupposes monotheism. In Genesis chapter one, the already existing God is said to have made everything else. As God through the prophet would later declare: “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone.” (Isa. 44:24) Since all things were created by Him, this would include any other god, and a created god is no god at all. In Genesis chapter three, man’s disobedience is committed against the Lord God, no one else. It is the Lord God, not the gods, that seeks Adam’s repentance. As David said in the Psalms, “Against You, You only, I have sinned…” (Ps. 51:4) In Genesis chapter eleven, all of man’s collective efforts at defying God are brought to naught. This illustrates the truth that, “He [God] does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have you done?’” (Dan. 4:35) With all power, sovereignty, and dominion in the hands of Jehovah – so graphically illustrated at the tower of Babel – what does it mean to call some other being “a god?” Not much! In Isaiah chapter six, the train of the Lord’s robe fills the heavens and his glory fills the earth. This leaves no room or glory for any other would be god. As it is written, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” (Isa. 42:8) The collective testimony of these passages is,

For Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; He also is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place…The LORD reigns.” (1 Chron. 16:25-27, 31)

      c) As for the immediate context of these verses, in each of them God alone is said to speak and carry out the actions in view.

  • Genesis 1:26

Q: Who said, "Let Us make man in our image and after Our likeness"?
A: "God said (sg.)"

Q: In response to this, who is the work of creation ascribed to?
A: "God created (sg.) man in His own image (sg.), in the image of God He created (sg.) him; male and female He created (sg.)  them.” (Gen. 1:27)[17]

  • Genesis 3:22

Q: Who said, "Behold the man has now become like one of Us"?
A: "The LORD GOD said (sg.)."

Q: Who then did man “become like”?
A: "like God."

  • Genesis 11:7

Q: Who said, "Come let Us go down and confuse their language (vs. 7)"?
A: "The LORD said (sg.)..."

Q: Who went down and confused their language?
A: The next verse supplies the answer: "the LORD (sg.) confused the language of the whole world."

  • Isaiah 6:8

Q: Who said: “Who will go for Us?”
A: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying (sg.), ‘Whom shall I send (sg.)...’”

Q: In response to this, who is said to have done the sending?
A: “He said (sg.), ‘Go, and tell this people…’”

      2. These passages, like Trinitarianism, teach us to believe that the words “Us” and “Our” are references to deity. This is evident from the following considerations:

      a) As above, we have already seen that the books in which these passages appear are loaded with plural phenomenon to which Deity is attributed. On top of what has already been gleaned regarding this, we may add the following simple observations: the authors of these texts freely use plural terms (other than the pronouns “Us” and “Our”) to refer to Deity. For example, the Hebrew terms for “God” and “Lord” – i.e., Elohim and Adonim[18] – are both plural nouns. The singular forms of these words are Eloah and Adon, respectively.[19] In addition, the literal Hebrew of the following verses call God our “Makers” (see Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2) and “Creators” (Ecc. 12:1). When all is said and done, the Old Testament uses plural nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives for God.[20] Consequently, the idea that because the words “Us” and “Our” are plural terms they cannot refer to Deity is an unjustified (i.e., unbiblical) assumption. 

      b) When it comes to the plural pronouns that are used in these passages, “they” are clearly called upon or are spoken to as divine agents, agents who have the right and ability to exercise divine prerogatives. This is seen in such facts as the following: in Genesis 1:26 “they” are called upon to engage in such divine works as creating man (even in their own image); in Genesis 3:22 “they” jointly deliberate to pass down judgment on fallen man (even to the point of dispatching cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life); in Genesis 11:7 “they” are called upon to overturn the plans of a united humanity (even confusing their language and dispersing them across the face of the earth); and in Isaiah 6:8 the prophet Isaiah is sent on “their” behalf. With respect to these things, the Old Testament is clear: God is the creator and judge of the whole world; cherubim and prophets are His servants. Consequently, the “Us” and the “Our” appear to share the same ontological status, possessing and exercising divine attributes and prerogatives.

      c) Although less significant than the strictly Biblical arguments given above, it is worth noting here, for its historical relevance if nothing else, that the translators of the New American Standard Version take the plural pronouns to be references to Deity, hence the utilization of capitals (“Us” and “Our”).[21] Other translations that employ this convention also recognize the pronouns as references to Deity, as can be seen at a glance. These include the following: the New King James Version, the New Authorized Version (1998), Green’s Literal Translation (1976), the Revised Berkley Version in Modern English (with the exceptions of Gen. 11:7 and Isa. 6:8), and Young’s Literal Translation (also with the exceptions of Gen. 11: 7 and Isa. 6:8).[22]

      3. These passages, like Trinitarianism, teach us to believe in a plurality of persons. This is evident from the following considerations:

      a) By means of what has come before, we have already seen that the book or corpus of books in which these passages appear are laden with Trinitarian texts, texts that underscore personal distinctions in the divine being. In fact, they specifically enumerate three persons – “the LORD,” “the Messenger/Word/Son of the LORD,” and “the Spirit of the LORD.” Beyond what has already been said regarding this, we may also add the following oft neglected fact: the Hebrew word that is sometimes translated “person” (e.g., in the KJV), and which literally means “face” or “presence,” is used in the plural form for God. It is written, “My persons shall go with you (Ex. 33:14),” and “he brought you out by His persons.” (Dt. 4:37; see also Job 13:8)[23] Consequently, the idea that these passages speak of “persons” in the Godhead cannot be ruled out here.

      b) The immediate contexts of these verses point up the fact that more than one Person is involved. In Genesis one, mention is made of God, by His Word, speaking all things into existence (vs. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, and 24) even as the Spirit Himself is actively hovering over it all (vs. 2). Harkening back to this, the Psalmist declared, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath [lit. Spirit] of His mouth all their host” (Ps. 33:6). In Genesis three it mentions “the voice of the Lord (KJV)” Who is heard walking in the Garden. This idea matriculates into the Old Testament teaching of the personal Word/Wisdom of God, i.e., a distinct divine person who reveals the Father. This is the Word of God that appeared to Abraham (Gen. 15:1), even the personified Wisdom of God Who was before Abraham: “When He established the heavens I [Wisdom] was there (Prov. 8:27).”

      c) The grammar of each of these verses, when taken at face value, bespeaks a plurality of persons.

  • Genesis 1:26

God (plural) said, ‘Let Us make (first person common plural) man in Our image (“image” is a first person common plural suffix), after Our likeness (“likeness” is a feminine singular noun with a first person common plural suffix).’

  • Genesis 3:22

God (plural) said, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of Us (first person common plural), to know good and evil.’

  • Genesis 11:7

‘Come, let Us go down (first person common plural) and there confound (first person common plural) their language.’

  • Isaiah 6:8

I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us (first person common plural)?’

Of further (possible) interest, there is also an interesting three-fold pattern to be found in some of these sections of Scripture. In Genesis 1:27, for example, the author engages in what some have referred to as “triple-speak.” Rather than simply saying that man was made in the divine image, we have this truth iterated and reiterated three times:

“So God created man in His own image,
in the image of God He created Him,
in the image of God He created them.”

Moreover, who could miss the three-fold cry of the Seraphim who surround God’s throne, saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy”? The trisagion, as it is called, becomes most significant in a context where God goes on to ask: “Who will go for us”. Furthermore, this is akin to many other triadic benedictions, invocations, and praises found in the Old and New Testaments.[24]

Confirmation of this Interpretation from Pre-Christian Jewish Literature

Confirmation for the interpretation set forth above can be found in various Jewish sources whose roots pre-date Christianity. These sources explode the much touted idea that the doctrine of the Trinity is a purely New Testament doctrine and the historically skewed view of non-Trinitarian sects that Trinitarianism reflects the intrusion of pagan categories into post-apostolic (usually Nicene) Christianity.

1. The Septuagint (LXX)[25]

Because of the Diaspora and the conquests of Alexander the Great, knowledge of Hebrew waned among Jews in the West, necessitating a translation of the Scriptures into the vernacular. Consequently, a Greek translation of the Pentateuch was made in Alexandria under Ptolemy II Philadelphus (circa 250 B.C.). Over a period of time, the rest of the Old Testament was translated into Greek as well. This translation was the Bible of Hellenistic Judaism, the early church, and is frequently quoted in the New Testament itself.

The relevance of the Septuagint on this matter is seen on a number of levels, a couple of which will be mentioned. In the first place, some have suggested that the Hebrew text is improperly translated by plural pronouns.[26] Although this is by no means a common argument, and although it is easily dispelled on the basis of Hebrew Grammar itself, the Septuagint confirms the standard reading, thereby reflecting how it was translated and read by Jews prior to the advent of the Messiah.

  • Genesis 1:26 (LXX)

And God said, Let us make man according to our image and likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the flying creatures of heaven, and over the cattle and all the earth, and over all the reptiles that creep on the earth.

  • Genesis 3:22 (LXX)

And God said, Behold, Adam is become as one of us, to know good and evil, and now lest at any time he stretch forth his hand, and take of the tree of life and eat, and so he shall live forever.

  • Genesis 11:7 (LXX)

Come, and having gone down let us there confound their tongue, that they may not understand each the voice of his neighbour.

Secondly, the fact that some have, contrary to the facts, said that the Septuagint – prone as the translators were to tone down all anthropomorphisms or anything apt to mislead the uninstructed – drops the plural pronouns, is an unwitting indication that such texts vex non-Trinitarians. The fact is, not only does the Septuagint not alter these passages of Genesis, as some wistfully hold, but it even goes out of its way and throws in another like them for good measure, one that does not appear in any extant Hebrew manuscript. In Genesis 2:18, the Septuagintal reading is:

And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone, let us make for him a help suitable to him.[27]

While it might be a source of disturbance for non-Trinitarians to find such terms used for God, evidently it caused no fracas among faithful Jews of Old Covenant times.

2. The Aramaic Bible/Targums[28]

Besides the well-known Greek translation of the Old Testament there are the lesser-known Aramaic translations of Diaspora Jews in the East. These are commonly referred to as Aramaic Targums. These versions often went beyond mere translation to include paraphrastic renderings and commentary on the text of the Old Testament. What they tell us is revealing, to say the least.

In the Fragmentary Targum, Exodus 12:42 reads,

The first night, when the Word [Heb. Dabar; Ar. Memra; Gr. Logos] of Jehovah was revealed to the world in order to create it, the world was desolate and void, and darkness spread over the face of the abyss and the Word of the Lord was bright and illuminating and He called it the first night.

More interesting and relevant is what can be found in the Fragmentary Targum at Gen. 1:26-27:

And the Word of Jehovah said: ‘Let us create the son of man in an image like us and let them have dominion over (all creatures).’ And the Word of Jehovah created Adam in his own image, in the image from before Jehovah he created them: he created them the male and his mate.

Equally of interest is what can be found in the Jerusalem Targum at Genesis 1:27,

And the Word of Jehovah created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yoke-fellow He created them.

In the Targum of Onkelos a relevant portion of Genesis 3 reads,

And they heard the voice of the Word of the Lord God walking in the garden in the evening of the day; and Adam and his wife hid themselves from before the Lord God among the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, Where art thou? And he said, The voice of Thy Word heard I in the garden, and I was afraid, because I (was) naked, and I would hide.

In the Targum of Pseudo Jonathan, Genesis 3:24 reads,

So he drove Adam out and set the Glory of his presence to the east of the Garden of Eden, between the two cherubim…The Torah is better than the fruit of the tree of life to one who observes it and walks in the paths of the Way of Life. For the Word of Jehovah prepared it for man to keep so that he may settle in the world to come.

Many other things relevant to an overall case for the Trinity can be found in the Targums, but these are beyond the present thesis. What has been presented here ought to be more than adequate to dislodge one ever too common objection to a Trinitarian reading of the plural terms surveyed in this article: “A pre-Christian audience would not, indeed, they could not, have understood these texts in the way Trinitarians have historically understood them.” As long as there are Targums floating around, this argument is sunk, leaving those who are guilty at this point of shallow thinking in deep water without an argumentative life preserver.

IV. The New Testament Case for a Trinitarian Interpretation

A Preliminary Word About the Trinity in the New Testament

When we come to the witness of the New Testament, we do well to observe that the doctrine of the Trinity is presupposed rather than first revealed in its pages. The New Testament teaches and pours much light on this doctrine to be sure, but it does so in a striking manner.

…as we read the New Testament, we are not witnessing the birth of a new conception of God. What we meet with in its pages is a firmly established conception of God underlying and giving its tone to the whole fabric. It is not in a text here and there that the New Testament bears its testimony to the doctrine of the Trinity. The whole book is Trinitarian to the core; all its teaching is built on the assumption of the Trinity; and its allusions to the Trinity are frequent, cursory, easy and confident. It is with a view to the cursoriness of the allusions to it in the New Testament that it has been remarked that “the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much heard as overheard in the statements of Scripture.” It would surely be more exact to say that it is not so much inculcated as presupposed. The doctrine of the Trinity does not appear in the New Testament in the making, but as already made. It takes its place in its pages as Gunkel phrases it…already “in full completeness”…leaving no trace of its growth. “There is nothing more wonderful in the history of human thought,” says Sanday, with his eye on the appearance of the doctrine of the Trinity in the New Testament, “than the silent and imperceptible way in which this doctrine, to us so difficult, took its place without struggle – and without controversy – among accepted Christian truths.” The explanation of this remarkable phenomenon is, however, simple. Our New Testament is not a record of the development of the doctrine or of its assimilation. It everywhere presupposes the doctrine as the fixed possession of the Christian community; and the process by which it became the possession of the Christian community lies behind the New Testament.[29]

This is altogether different from the way many modern theologians and exegetes approach the matter; for them, the Trinity is purely a New Testament doctrine – i.e., of course, if they take it as a Biblical doctrine at all. Yet this raises the question, “When, if not in the New Testament, was the doctrine of the Trinity first given expression?” And to this we have a ready answer: “In the Old Testament.” The Old Testament witness to the doctrine of the Trinity – not to mention the growing recognition of this revelation as seen in pre-Christian Jewish writings like the Targums and other inter-testamental literature – accounts for the tacitly held Trinitarianism of the New Testament authors.

Aware of the above, we are driven to ask a further question: “Where does the Old Testament reveal the doctrine of the Trinity?” And to this, too, we have a ready answer: “It is found in such passages as Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8”. And when it comes to the notion that these passages are to be understood in a Trinitarian fashion, the New Testament likewise gives us reasons galore. With this said, let us now turn to the evidence supplied by the New Testament.

The “Us” and “Our” Passages of Genesis and Isaiah

1. The New Testament teaches us to ascribe the attributes, prerogatives, and works mentioned in these four passages, to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.

      a) In Genesis 1:26, as is generally admitted, God enters into counsel of some sort. Consistent with this, the New Testament clearly teaches that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit take counsel together or converse with one another (e.g., Mt. 11:25-27; 1 Cor. 2:11). Next, the work in view is that of creation – particularly, the creation of life – and the New Testament clearly ascribes the work of creation in general and of life in particular to the Father (e.g., Jn. 5:21; 1 Cor. 8:6), and to the Son (Jn. 1:4; 5:21, 25-29; Acts 3:14-15), and to the Holy Spirit (Jn. 3:6-8; 6:63; 2 Cor. 3:6). Finally, man is to be made not only by “Us” but also in “Our” image and according to “Our” likeness. Corresponding to this, we know from the New Testament that man was made after and is therefore renewed in the image of the Father (Jms. 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:7), and of the Son (Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:20-24; Col 1:15ff.), and of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17-18).

      b) In Genesis 3:22 the “Us” and the “Our” are addressed as equals, those whom man is said to have become like. Furthermore the “Us” and “Our” deliberate and pass down the sentence to bar man from the tree of life, lest he, now a sinner, eat and live forever. Consequently, “they” dispatch the cherubim and place the flaming sword to guard the way. From the New Testament we know that the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22-23), that the angels are Christ’s servants (Heb. 1:6-7), and that Jesus has opened once again the way to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7; 22:1-2).

      c) In Genesis 11:7 God confuses the tongues of men and scatters them across the earth as an act of judgment. We know from the New Testament that acts of judgment in general and of a linguistic and geographical sort in particular of this high order, are works of the Father (Acts 17:26), the Son (Acts 16:6-7), and the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 14:21-22).

      d) In Isaiah 6:8 the prerogative of sending the prophets is assumed by the speaker and the one or ones to whom He is speaking (“for Us”); conversely, in the New Testament, the ultimate prerogative of sending prophets and apostles rightly belongs to the Father (Heb. 1:1; Lk. 20:8-16), and to the Son (Matt. 23:34-35), and to the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:1-4).

2. The New Testament employs language of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that is both similar to and the same as that used by God in these passages.

      a) Many times in the New Testament we read of “both” the Father and the Son. “But now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well (Jn. 15:24b).” Again, “the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).” Similarly we frequently read of the Father “and” the Son “and” the Holy Spirit (e.g., Matt. 28:19-20; Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:14; Rev. 1:4-5).

      b) Elsewhere in the New Testament we read that the Father and the Son are “with” each other (Jn. 1:1; 1 Jn. 1:1-3; 2:1), and that the Son is, therefore, “not alone” (Jn. 8:16; 8:29; 16:32); indeed, there is the Father “also” (Jn. 8:19; 14:1, 7; 15:23). Not only that, besides the Father and the Son there is “another,” even the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16).  

      c) With reference to the Father and the Son we are told that they are “two” witnesses (Jn. 8:17-18), not one; with the addition of the Spirit they are “three” witnesses – namely, “the Son of God,” “the Spirit of Grace,” and “the living God” (Heb. 10:28-31). This latter passage renders superfluous the much disputed Comma Johanneum, 1 John 5:7: “For there are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one.” If this interpretation of Hebrews is disputed, it, too, is superfluous for anyone who can count, for if the Father and the Son constitute “two” witnesses as we have seen, and if the Spirit also bears “witness,” as it unquestionably reads in 1 John 5:6, then they are, in fact, “three” witnesses (see also Jn. 15:26 and Rom. 8:16).

      d) Finally, Jesus explains the future indwelling of the Spirit mentioned in John 14:15-17, in this way, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him (Jn. 14:23).” Here the terms “We” and “Our” are clearly references to the persons of the Trinity (see also Jn. 17:21). By now, this language ought to be conspicuous to the reader.

3. The New Testament interprets this phenomenon as involving the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

If what has come before proves to be momentous in deciding the matter, then what follows is a veritable hammer blow from which there can be no recovery. This point is made by observing the way the New Testament handles Isaiah 6, the fourth of our four passages. As a reminder, here is how the passage reads:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ He said, ‘Go and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.’ (Isa. 6:1-10).

There is a stark contrast drawn in this passage between the thrice-Holy God and all other creatures, for not only is Isaiah undone when he sees the Lord but the unfallen angels themselves must cover their faces from His resplendence. Not only are Jehovah’s eyes too pure than to look upon iniquity (Hab. 1:13), but the eyes of creatures are not up to the task of gazing directly at His glory. Simply: He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim. 6:15-16). It is God, the incomprehensible source of light, who makes it possible to see or know anything. He is the light of the world. 

It needs to be recognized that this portion of Scripture dealing with Isaiah’s vision of “the King,” “the Lord,” or “the LORD of hosts” is one that receives frequent mention in the New Testament. The words spoken by God on this occasion are repeatedly used to explain the negative response of some to the person, words, and works of Jesus (Matt. 13:14ff; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Jn. 12:40; Acts 28:26-27). On one of these occasions, one gospel writer makes what can only be a false claim from the perspective of those who hold a non-Trinitarian understanding of this passage. The apostle John writes,

These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke:

“Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again,

“He has blinded their eyes and He hardened their heart, so that they would not see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and be converted and I heal them.”

These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.’

Two quotes from Isaiah are put forward by the apostle John to explain the unbelief of the Jews. The first comes from Isaiah 53 (“Lord, who has believed our report”) and the second comes from Isaiah 6 (“He has blinded their eyes”). Of course, there are slight differences in the original of Isaiah and how John, under inspiration, quotes it: the latter passage is quoted in the past tense rather than in the future tense, something typical of the New Testament. This is because the New is the fulfillment of the Old. Nevertheless, the point is, John views these prophecies as references to Jesus: “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and He spoke of Him...because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him.”

The statement of Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord,” is paralleled by John’s statement that Isaiah saw “His glory,” i.e., the glory of Jesus. In fact, in place of the phrase “I saw the Lord…and the train of His robe filled the temple,” which is found in the Hebrew text, the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Old Testament, has the following rendering: “I saw the Lord…and the house was full of his glory”. The apostle was evidently relying on a version of the Septuagint here. John’s point is unavoidable: “the glory of the only begotten of the Father that I, John, saw (Jn. 1:14), the glory that Jesus said he shared with the Father before the world was (Jn. 17:5), this is that which appeared to Isaiah of old (paraphrase mine).”   

And there is more. This same passage is quoted elsewhere and gives us more to marvel at. In the book of Acts, the words attributed by Isaiah to the LORD of hosts, the words spoken when Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory, are attributed to another.

Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe. And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word,

“The Holy Spirit rightly spoke through Isaiah the prophet to your fathers, saying, ‘Go to this people and say, You will keep on hearing but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them (Acts 28:24-27).’”

The person who sent Isaiah with the words, “Go to this people and say, ‘You will keep on hearing but will not understand,’” is the Holy Spirit Himself. He is the one who gave the message to Isaiah; He is the one who refused to allow the turning of reprobates, lest they would be healed by Him.

In summation of the divinely inspired apostolic interpretation of Isaiah 6, we are told that the Father is seen and revealed through Jesus (per John 12), and that the Holy Spirit speaks and sends their message through Isaiah (per Acts 28). Evidently, this phenomenon of plural words used by God is viewed by the authors of the New Testament as a reference to the one Triune God – the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Triune God is the “I” (sg. = One God) and the “Us” (pl. = three persons) of Isaiah 6:8. The Triune God said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us”.[30]

The words offered to us by the noted scholar and commentator, R. C. H. Lenski, form a fitting conclusion to the previous discussion:

And here is where the commentators do indeed reveal themselves! One thing seems settled with the moderns at least: in the plural there can and dare be no intimation of the Holy Trinity. Why not? There is no real answer. But if this is no intimation of the Trinity, what is the plural? .... The marginal references in our English Bible are far sounder than these learned commentators. They put this plural “for us” [found in Isaiah 6:8] in parallel with the same plural in Gen. 1, 26; 3, 22; 11, 7. For the Son to send Isaiah meant that God sent him, the Father as well as the Spirit. Lanu, “for us,” will thus stand as a reference to the Trinity, until a better solution is found – and there is none in sight after centuries of study. … As for the modern exegetical tradition that there is really no revelation of the Trinity in the Old Testament, a tradition often coupled in the New Testament with the denial of the two natures of Christ and similar errors, this stands condemned by the facts that lie before us in both Testaments.[31]

Who will believe this report, and to whom will the Lord, the Arm of the Lord and the Spirit be revealed?

Confirmation of this Interpretation from the Early Church

Even as confirmation for this thesis was found in Jewish writings, the roots of which pre-date the advent of the Messiah and the outpouring of the Spirit in the first century, so also confirmation is to be found in the writings of orthodox Christians since that time. In fact, there is nothing but confirmation for this thesis to be found in the early church; there is not a single example of any early Christian writer who advocated an understanding of these passages that is substantially different from that which has been presented already. The following quotes from twenty early Christian leaders are representative of this interpretation as it prevailed in the Church from the first to the fifth century.  More quotes could be given, none of them for anything but a Trinitarian reading.

1. Barnabas

For the Scripture says concerning us, while He speaks to the Son, ‘Let Us make man after our image and after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the beasts of the earth and the fowls of heaven and the fishes of the sea.’...These things were spoken to the Son.[32]

2. Ignatius

For Moses, the faithful servant of God, when he said, “The Lord thy God is one Lord,” and thus proclaimed that there was only one God, did yet forthwith confess also our Lord when he said, “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord.” And again, “And God said, Let Us make man after our image: and so God made man, after the image of God made He him.[33]

3. Justin Martyr

And that you may not change the force of the words just quoted, and repeat what your teachers assert, – either that God said to Himself, ‘Let Us make,’ just as we, when about to do something, oftentimes say to ourselves, ‘let us make;’ or that God spoke to the elements, to wit, the earth and other similar substances of which we believe man was formed, ‘Let Us make,’ – I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with some one who was numerically distinct from Himself and also a rational Being. These are the words: ‘And God said, Behold, Adam has become as one of us, to know good and evil.’ In saying therefore, ‘as one of us,’ [Moses] has declared that [there is a certain] number of persons associated with one another, and that they are at least two. For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels. But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him...”[34]

Again, when the Scripture records that God said in the beginning, ‘Behold, Adam has become like one of Us,’ this phrase, ‘like one of Us,’ is also indicative of number; and the words do not admit of a figurative meaning, as the sophists endeavor to affix on them, who are able neither to tell nor to understand the truth...When I repeated these words, I added: ‘You perceive, my hearers, if you bestow attention, that the Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets any one will admit.[35]

4. Irenaeus

Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and moulded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, ‘Let Us make man’.[36]

This is He of whom the Scripture says, ‘And God formed man, taking clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life.’ It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor anyone else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these beings, in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and likeness...’[37]

5. Clement of Alexandria

For the image of God is His Word, the genuine Son of Mind, the Divine Word, the archetypal light of light; and the image of the Word is the true man, the mind which is in man, who is therefore said to have been made ‘in the image and likeness of God,’ assimilated to the Divine Word in the affections of the soul, and therefore rational...[38]

6. Theophilus of Antioch

But as to what relates to the creation of man, his own creation cannot be explained by man, though it is a succinct account of it which holy Scripture gives. For when God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness," He first intimates the dignity of man. For God having made all things by His Word, and having reckoned them all mere bye-works, reckons the creation of man to be the only work worthy of His own hands. Moreover, God is found, as if needing help, to say, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." But to no one else than to His own Word and wisdom did He say, "Let Us make." And when He had made and blessed him, that he might increase and replenish the earth, He put all things under his dominion, and at his service; and He appointed from the first that he should find nutriment from the fruits of the earth, and from seeds, and herbs, and acorns, having at the same time appointed that the animals be of habits similar to man's, that they also might eat of an the seeds of the earth.[39]

7. Tertullian

In the first place...all things were made by the Word of God, and without Him was nothing made. Now the flesh, too, had its existence from the Word of God, because of the principle, that there should be nothing without the Word. ‘Let us make man,’ said He, before He created him, and added, ‘with our hand’ for the sake of his pre-eminence, that so he might not be compared with the rest of creation.[40]

If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, ‘Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness;’ whereas He ought to have said, ‘Let me make man in my own image, and after my own likeness,’ as being a unique and singular Being? In the following passage however, ‘Behold the man is become as one of us,’ He is either deceiving or amusing us in speaking plurally, if He is One only and singular? Or was it to the angels that He spoke, as the Jews interpret the passage, because these also acknowledge not the Son? Or was it because He was at once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that He spoke to Himself in plural terms, making Himself plural on that very account. Nay, it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word, that He purposely adopted the plural phrase, ‘Let us make;’ and ‘in our image;’ and ‘become as one of us.’ ...With these did He then speak, in the Unity of the Trinity.[41]

8. Novatian

For who does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second [in number] after the Father, when he reads that it was said by the Father, consequently to the Son, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and our likeness;’ and that after this it was related, “And God made man, in the image of God made He him...[42]

9. Origen

[Unlike the Egyptian Serapis] the Son of God, the ‘firstborn of all creation’, though he seemed to become man but recently, is not for that reason a ‘new God’. For the sacred Scriptures know that he is older than all created things; and that it was to him that God said, concerning the creation of man, ‘Let us make man after our image and likeness’.[43]

10. Athanasius

For the providence over all things belongs naturally to Him by Whom they were made; and who is this save the Word of God, concerning Whom in another psalm he says: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the Breath of His mouth.” For He tells us that all things were made in Him and through Him. Wherefore He also persuades us and says, “He spake and they were made, He commanded and they were created;” as the illustrious Moses also at the beginning of his account of Creation confirms what we say by his narrative, saying: and God said, “let us make man in our image and after our likeness:” for also when He was carrying out the creation of the heaven and earth and all things, the Father said to Him, “Let the heaven be made,” and “let the waters be gathered together and let the dry land appear,” and “let the earth bring forth herb” and “every green thing:” so that one must convict Jews also of not genuinely attending to the Scriptures. For one might ask them to whom was God speaking, to use the imperative mood? If He were commanding and addressing the things He was creating, the utterance would be redundant, for they were not yet in being, but were about to be made; but no one speaks to what does not exist, nor addresses to what is not yet made a command to be made. For if God were giving a command to the things that were to be, He must have said, “Be made, heaven, and be made, earth, and come forth, green herb, and be created, O man.” But in fact He did not do so; but He gives the command thus: “Let us make man,” and “let the green herb come forth.” By which God is proved to be speaking about them to some one at hand: it follows then that some one was with Him to Whom He spoke when He made all things. Who then could it be, save His Word?[44]

11. Chrysostom

In the beginning, God shaped man, and man was an image of both the Father and the Son. For God said: “Let us make man to our image and likeness.”[45]

When God was about to mold him, he said: “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” To whom did he say this: It is quite clear that he was speaking to his only begotten. God did not say, “Make.” He would not have you think that what he said was a command given to a slave or servant. He said, “Let us make,” so that, from the character of the consultation indicated by his words, he might reveal the equality of honor which belonged to him to whom he spoke. . . . Do you see that the words, “Do this” are the words of command spoken by a master to his servant? Therefore, “Let us make this” are the words spoken by one who is equal in honor with him to whom he speaks them. When a master speaks to his servant, he says, “Make this.” But when the Father speaks to the Son, he says, “Let us make.” . . .  Suppose Christ did make man but, in making him, he acted only as a subordinate. Enough of this quarrelsome dispute! For when God said: “Let us make man,” he did not add: “According to your image which is less than mine.” Nor did he say: “According to my image which is greater than yours.” What did God say? “According to our image and likeness.” And by speaking in this way, he showed that there is a single image of the Father and the Son. For he did not say “images” but “our image.” There are not two unequal images but one and the same equal image of the Son and the Father. This is why the Son is said to sit at the right hand of the Father – that you may learn that they are the same in honor and exactly alike in power. For a subordinate does not sit with his superior but stands alongside him.[46]

12. Ambrose

More might I set down from the Son's testimony; howbeit, lest He perchance appear to have asserted Himself overmuch let us enquire of the Father. For the Father said, ‘Let us make man in Our image and likeness.’ The Father saith to the Son ‘in Our image and likeness,’ and thou sayest that the Son of God is unlike the Father.

John saith, ‘Beloved, we are sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: we know that if He be revealed, we shall be like Him.’ O blind madness! O shameless obstinacy! We are men, and, so far as we may, we shall be in the likeness of God: dare we deny that the Son is like God?

Therefore the Father hath said: ‘Let us make man in Our image and likeness.’ At the beginning of the universe itself, as I read, the Father and the Son existed, and I see one creation. I hear Him that speaketh. I acknowledge Him that doeth: but it is of one image, one likeness, that I read. This likeness belongs not to diversity but to unity. What, therefore, thou claimest for thyself, thou takest from the Son of God, seeing, indeed, that thou canst not be in the image of God, save by help of the image of God.[47]

But if the Arians acknowledge not the Son's nature, if they believe not the Scriptures, let them at least believe the mighty works. To whom doth the Father say, "Let us make man?" save to Him Whom He knew to be His true Son? In Whom, save in one who was true, could He recognize His Image? The son by adoption is not the same as the true Son; nor would the Son say, "I and the Father are one," if He, being Himself not true, were measuring Himself with One Who is true. The Father, therefore, says, "Let us make." He Who spake is true; can He, then, Who made be not true? Shall the honour rendered to Him Who speaks be withheld from Him Who makes?[48]

13. Augustine

We might have supposed that the words uttered at the creation of man, ‘Let us,’ and not Let me, ‘make man,’ were addressed to the angels, had He not added ‘in our image;’ but as we cannot believe that man was made in the image of angels, or that the image of God is the same as that of angels, it is proper to refer this expression to the plurality of the Trinity. And yet this Trinity, being one God, even after saying ‘Let us make,’ goes on to say, ‘And God made man in His image,’ and not ‘Gods made,’ or ‘in their image’.[49]

For if the Father alone had made man without the Son, it would not have been written, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’.[50]

Sometimes the meaning is altogether latent, as in Genesis: ‘Let us make man after our image and likeness.’ Both let us make and our is said in the plural, and ought not to be received except as of relatives. For it was not that gods might make, or make after the image and likeness of gods; but that the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit might make after the image of the Father, and Son, and Holy Spirit, that man might subsist as the image of God. And God is the Trinity.[51]

For God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;’ and a little after it is said, ‘So God created man in the image of God.’ Certainly, in that it is of the plural number, the word ‘our’ would not be rightly used if man were made in the image of one person, whether of the Father, or of the Son, or of the Holy Spirit; but because he was made in the image of the Trinity, on that account it is said, ‘After our image.’ But again, lest we should think that three Gods were to be believed in the Trinity, whereas the same Trinity is one God, it is said, ‘So God created man in the image of God,’ instead of saying, ‘in His own image’.[52]

Later on there will be ample opportunity to treat more thoroughly of the nature of man. For the present, in concluding our investigation into the works of the six days, I must briefly point out the importance of the fact that in the case of the other works it is written, God said, “Let there be . . . ,” whereas here it is written, God said,Let Us make mankind to Our image and likeness.” Scripture would indicate by this the plurality of Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But the sacred writer immediately admonishes us to hold to the unity of the Godhead when he says, And God made man to the image of God. He does not say that the Father made man to the image of the Son, or the Son made him to the image of the Father; otherwise the expression to Our image would not be correct if man were made to the image of the Father alone or the Son alone. But Scripture says, God made man to the image of God, meaning that God made man to His own image. The fact that here Holy Scripture says to the image of God, whereas above it says to Our image, shows us that the plurality of Persons must not lead us into saying, believing, or understanding that there are many gods, but rather that we must accept the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God. Because of the three Persons, it is said to Our image; because of the one God, it is said to the image of God.[53]

14. Eusebius of Caeserea

This, too, the great Moses teaches, when, as the most ancient of all the prophets, he describes under the influence of the divine Spirit the creation and arrangement of the universe. He declares that the maker of the world and the creator of all things yielded to Christ himself, and to none other than his own clearly divine and first-born Word, the making of inferior things, and communed with him respecting the creation of man. Says he: "For God said, Let us make man in our image and in our likeness."[54]

15. Socrates Scholasticus

But we know him to be not simply the word of God by utterance or mental conception, but God the living Word subsisting of himself; and Son of God and Christ; and who did, not by presence only, co-exist and was conversant with his Father before the ages, and ministered to him at the creation of all things, whether visible or invisible, but was the substantial Word of the Father, and God of God: for this is he to whom the Father said, “Let us make man in our image, and according to our likeness:” who in his own person appeared to the fathers, gave the law, and spake by the prophets; and being at last made man, he manifested his Father to all men, and reigns to endless ages.[55]

16. Gregory of Nyssa

But what, I would ask, becomes of the heresy of the Anomoeans? What will they say to this utterance? How will they defend the vanity of their dogma in view of the words cited? Will they say that it is possible that one image should be made like to different forms? If the Son is in nature unlike the Father, how comes it that the likeness He forms of the different natures is one? For He Who said, “Let us make after our image,” and by the plural signification revealed the Holy Trinity, would not, if the archetypes were unlike one another, have mentioned the image in the singular: for it would be impossible that there should be one likeness displayed of things which do not agree with one another: if the natures were different he would assuredly have begun their images also differently, making the appropriate image for each: but since the image is one, while the archetype is not one, who is so far beyond the range of understanding as not to know that the things which are like the same thing, surely resemble one another? Therefore He says (the word, it may be, cutting short this wickedness at the very formation of human life), “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”[56]

We must, then, take up once more the Holy Scripture itself, if we may perhaps find some guidance in the question by means of what is written. After saying, “Let us make man in our image,” and for what purposes it was said “Let us make him,” it adds this saying: – “and God created man; in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.” We have already said in what precedes, that this saying was uttered for the destruction of heretical impiety, in order that being instructed that the Only-begotten God made man in the image of God, we should in no wise distinguish the Godhead of the Father and the Son, since Holy Scripture gives to each equally the name of God, – to Him Who made man, and to Him in Whose image he was made.[57]

17. Basil the Great

And God said “Let us make man.” Does not the light of theology shine, in these words, as through windows; and does not the second Person show Himself in a mystical way, without yet manifesting Himself until the great day? Where is the Jew who resisted the truth and pretended that God was speaking to Himself? It is He who spoke, it is said, and it is He who made. “Let there be light and there was light.” But then their words contain a manifest absurdity. Where is the smith, the carpenter, the shoemaker, who, without help and alone before the instruments of his trade, would say to himself; let us make the sword, let us put together the plough, let us make the boot? Does he not perform the work of his craft in silence? Strange folly to say that any one has seated himself to command himself, to watch over himself, to constrain himself, to hurry himself, with tones of a master! But the unhappy creatures are not afraid to calumniate the Lord Himself. What will they not say with a tongue so well practiced in lying? Here, however, words stop their mouth; “And God said let us make man.” Tell me; is there then only one Person? It is not written “Let man be made” but, “Let us make man.” O enemy of Christ, hear God speaking to His Co-operator, to Him by Whom also He made the worlds, Who upholds all things by the word of His power. But He does not leave the voice of true religion without answer. Thus the Jews, race hostile to truth, when they find themselves pressed, act like beasts enraged against man, who roar at the bars of their cage and show the cruelty and the ferocity of their nature, without being able to assuage their fury. God, they say, addresses Himself to several persons; it is to the angels before Him that He says, “Let us make man.” Jewish fiction! A fable whose frivolity shows whence it has come. To reject one person, they admit many. To reject the Son, they raise servants to the dignity of counselors; they make of our fellow slaves the agents in our creation. The perfect man attains the dignity of an angel; but what creature can be like the Creator? Listen to the continuation, “In our image.” What have you to reply? Is there one image of God and the angels? Father and Son have by absolute necessity the same form, but the form is here understood as becomes the divine, not in bodily shape, but in the proper qualities of Godhead. Hear also, you who belong to the new concision, and who, under the appearance of Christianity, strengthen the error of the Jews. To Whom does He say, “in our image,” to whom if it is not to Him who is “the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person,” “the image of the invisible God”? It is then to His living image, to Him Who has said “I and my Father are one,” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” that God says “Let us make man in our image.” Where is the unlikeness in these Beings who have only one image? “So God created man,” it is not “They made.” Here Scripture avoids the plurality of the Persons. After having enlightened the Jew, it dissipates the error of the Gentiles in putting itself under the shelter of unity, to make you understand the Son is with the Father, and guarding you from the danger of polytheism. He created him in the image of God. God still shows us His co-operator, because He does not say, in His image, but in the image of God.[58]

18. Hilary of Potiers

You hear again, The Father in Me, and I in the Father. That this is true of Father and of Son is demonstrated by the Son’s works. Our science cannot envelope body in body, or pour one into another, as water into wine; but we confess that in Both is equivalence of power and fullness of the Godhead. For the Son has received all things from the Father; He is the Likeness of God, the Image of His substance. The words, Image of His substance, discriminate between Christ and Him from Whom He is, but only to establish Their distinct existence, not to teach a difference of nature; and the meaning of Father in Son and Son in Father is that there is the perfect fullness of the Godhead in Both. The Father is not impaired by the Son’s existence, nor is the Son a mutilated fragment of the Father. An image implies its original; likeness is a relative term. Now nothing can be like God unless it have its source in Him; a perfect likeness can be reflected only from that which it represents; an accurate resemblance forbids the assumption of any element of difference. Disturb not this likeness; make no separation where truth shews no variance, for He Who said, Let us make man after our image and likeness, by those words Our likeness revealed the existence of Beings, Each like the Other. Touch not, handle not, pervert not. Hold fast the Names which teach the truth, hold fast the Son’s declaration of Himself.[59]

When the world was complete and its inhabitant was to be created, the words spoken concerning him were, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness. I ask you, Do you suppose that God spoke those words to Himself? Is it not obvious that He was addressing not Himself, but Another? If you reply that He was alone, then out of His own mouth He confutes you, for He says, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness. God has spoken to us through the Lawgiver in the way which is intelligible to us; that is, He makes us acquainted with His action by means of language, the faculty with which He has been pleased to endow us. There is indeed, an indication of the Son of God, through Whom all things were made, in the words, And God said, Let there be a firmament, and in, And God made the firmament, which follows: but lest we should think these words of God were wasted and meaningless, supposing that He issued to Himself the command of creation, and Himself obeyed it, – for what notion could be further from the thought of a solitary God than that of giving a verbal order to Himself, when nothing was necessary except an exertion of His will? – He determined to give us a more perfect assurance that these words refer to Another beside Himself. When He said, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness, His indication of a Partner demolishes the theory of His isolation. For an isolated being cannot be partner to himself; and again, the words, Let Us make, are inconsistent with solitude, while Our cannot be used except to a companion. Both words, Us and Our, are inconsistent with the notion of a solitary God speaking to Himself, and equally inconsistent with that of the address being made to a stranger who has nothing in common with the Speaker. If you interpret the passage to mean that He is isolated, I ask you whether you suppose that He was speaking with Himself? If you do not understand that He was speaking with Himself, how can you assume that He was isolated? If He were isolated, we should find Him described as isolated; if He had a companion, then as not isolated. I and Mine would describe the former state; the latter is indicated by Us and Our. Thus, when we read, Let Us make man after Our image and likeness, these two words Us and Our reveal that there is neither one isolated God, nor yet one God in two dissimilar Persons; and our confession must be framed in harmony with the second as well as with the first truth. For the words our image – not our images – prove that there is one nature possessed by Both. But an argument from words is an insufficient proof, unless its result be confirmed by the evidence of facts; and accordingly it is written, And God made man; after the image of God made He him. If the words He spoke, I ask, were the soliloquy of an isolated God, what meaning shall we assign to this last statement? For in it I see a triple allusion, to the Maker, to the being made, and to the image. The being made is man; God made him, and made him in the image of God. If Genesis were speaking of an isolated God, it would certainly have been And made him after His own image. But since the book was foreshowing the Mystery of the Gospel, it spoke not of two Gods, but of God and God, for it speaks of man made through God in the image of God. Thus we find that God wrought man after an image and likeness common to Himself and to God; that the mention of an Agent forbids us to assume that He was isolated; and that the work, done after an image and likeness which was that of Both, proves that there is no difference in kind between the Godhead of the One and of the Other. [60]

19. Cyril of Alexandria

The divine and consubstantial Trinity is beyond all form and corporeal presentation, but we are to believe that the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father and one who has seen the Son has seen the Father. Now the Son is seen in the consubstantial Spirit, for it is written ‘The Lord is the Spirit.’ Where there is total identity of substance there can and must be no variation. Whatever you conceive the Father to be, the Son is too, apart only from being Father; and whatever you take the Son to be, the Spirit is too apart only from being Son. Each of those named has his own personal being and truly is what he is said to be, but the utter similarity of the holy Trinity is invariable. Therefore if man was made in the Son’s image he is by that token in God’s image. For the marks of the whole consubstantial Trinity shine out in him, inasmuch as there is a single natural Godhead in Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Inspired Moses writes indeed, ‘And God saidLet us make man in our image and likeness.”’ The word ‘our’, though, does not mean one person, because the fullness of the divine and ineffable nature exists in three hypostases. It is surely useless, therefore, to make the too subtle qualification that we are not images of God or of the archetype, so much as images of the image of God. It is enough to believe with simplicity that we are made in the divine image by receiving a natural formation in relation to God. One might also make the convincing point, that we who were destined to be called sons of God had to be created in the Son’s image so that the mark of sonship should be evident in us.[61]

20. The Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

Thou art blessed, O Lord, the king of ages, who by Christ hast made the whole world,…And at the conclusion of the creation Thou gavest direction to Thy Wisdom, and formedst a reasonable creature as the citizen of the world, saying, “Let us make man after our image, and after our likeness;”[62]

And Thou hast not only created the world itself, but hast also made man for a citizen of the world, exhibiting him as the ornament of the world; for Thou didst say to Thy Wisdom: “Let us make man according to our image, and according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowls of the heaven.”[63]

V. Common Objections/Alternative Interpretations

“Present your case,” the LORD says. “Bring forward your strong arguments,” the King of Jacob says. Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; As for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them and know or announce to us what is coming; declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.” (Isa. 41:21-24)

The positive case already given renders it unnecessary to debunk every alternative interpretation that has come or that will come down the pike. Nevertheless, as an illustration of the kind of responses that can be given to all of them, I submit the following refutation of the best and most popular non-Trinitarian interpretations, showing how they fail to do justice to these texts. It will be readily seen that these substitute views can offer nothing like the case that has been presented for the Trinitarian view, have any number of insurmountable problems, and often even tend to (unintentionally) support the truth of the pre-advental view of certain Jewish believers and the post-apostolic view of orthodox Christians.

Objection 1:  The Plural of Majesty

Perhaps the most commonly held unitarian view is what is known as “the Plural of Majesty” or “the Royal We.” This is a literary device employed by royalty where (supposedly) the plural has no reference beyond the speaker. Several things may be said in response to this view.

First, even if it were granted for the sake of argument that the Bible sometimes uses the "plural of majesty" as a literary device, that would not prove that God Himself ever employs this manner of speaking or that the passages in question are to be explained in this way. It would have to be demonstrated, not just asserted, that God employs such rhetoric and that He was doing so here. Just what evidence is there that God “mimics the manner and pomp of earthly royalty,” as Luther once quipped? And if God does sometimes imitate earthly royalty, what proof is there that He is doing that on this occasion? These questions must be answered by non-Trinitarians; to date, no unitarian ever has.

Second, there is, in fact, no example in the writings of Moses where royalty uses this convention of speech. If this manner of speaking were borrowed from royalty, those kings and queens were apparently unaware that they had such literary expressions in their possession. In making good this claim unitarians must also make good the (assumed) claim to know the customs of ancient kings better than those ancient rulers did.

Third, no king that arose in Israel after the time of Moses is recorded to have spoken this way of himself. In fact there is no clear evidence that even the uncircumcised kings of the surrounding pagan nations ever spoke this way (And if they did, to repeat the question, is it to be expected that God would look to them for the etiquette that is to govern his heavenly court?).[64] The point is simply this: to read a later practice back into these passages of the Old Testament is anachronistic and unacceptable from the standpoint of sound hermeneutics.

Fourth, if the “plural of majesty” is not a modern idiosyncrasy unrelated to ancient Hebrew, something seized upon as an apologetic move against Christianity, why does it first appear as an interpretation among Jews long after the advent, spread, and establishment of Christianity? The fact is that such an interpretation does not appear in the Babylonian and Palestinian Talmud, or any other Rabbinic or Jewish work before them or before the rise of Christianity.

Fifth, even when this practice of kings and queens did come into vogue, they were not always and perhaps were not even originally, contrary to popular ignorance, referring only to their own person. For example, when Queen Victoria once said, "we are not amused," she was not calling herself a “we,” but was speaking for the crown; or, as some have showed likely, she was referring to the offended ladies of the court. In other words, the word "we," as used by the Queen, countenanced more than one person. In this sense it is quite appropriate to grant that these passages of Scripture are examples of the “plural of majesty;” after all, God is a plurality and He is majestic.

Objection 2:  The Plural of Deliberation

Other unitarians have attempted to interpret these verses as instances of the “plural of deliberation,” something said to take place when an individual converses with himself,  or rouses himself, as it were, to this or that course of action.[65]

First, even if, as above, it were granted that the Biblical authors were aware of and sometimes utilized such a manner of speaking, this in itself would not prove that the passages in question are to be viewed in this light. It would have to be shown, not just asserted, that these specific passages are to be understood in this figurative way. It is also the case, after all, that a plurality of persons can deliberate with each other. Why should these passages be understood in a figurative sense rather than in the straightforward sense they seem to bear?

Second, there is, in fact, no instance in the writings of Moses, Isaiah, or the entire Old Testament where such a literary device is employed. This is another example of anachronistically reading a later or foreign practice into the Bible. No text has ever been given from the Bible to show that the Biblical writers were even remotely aware of a supposed “plural of deliberation.” 

Third, if the deliberations involved in these passages are not seen to be those of the three persons of the Trinity, this figurative interpretation still would not cover the phenomena. For, unlike the other passages, Genesis 3:22 is not a deliberation at all; rather, it is an observation: “Behold, the man has now become like one of us.” Is there a “plural of observation” then? Furthermore this passage does not say that man has become “like us,” as it would if it were a true instance of the so-called “plural of deliberation,” but, “like one of us,” a phrase that stubbornly requires more than one personal referent.

Objection 3: The Editorial “We”

A third attempt says that these passages are examples of the well known “editorial we,” a literary convention often seen in newspapers. In such instances, when the author says “we” it is supposed to refer only to the author and not to others in addition to him.

First, like the previous two views, even if it were granted that the authors of Scripture sometimes seized upon this manner of communication, this in and of itself would not prove that they were doing that in the texts before us. Even non-Trinitarians must grant, from a literary stand point, that it is entirely possible that the prophets were using these terms in accordance with their usual meaning. What reason(s) can be given that they should be interpreted differently? Is it too much to ask for proof of these contentions?

Second, this interpretation suffers from another problem common to the first two, i.e., it is an anachronism, a reading back into the writings of Moses and Isaiah a relatively modern convention of speech.

Third, the anachronistic attempt to employ this device to obfuscate the clear teaching of these texts rests on further obfuscation: namely, the false idea that an “editorial we” refers to one person. This, however, is far from true. In newspapers, for example, the editor is a representative of others, i.e. he is giving the official view of those behind the paper’s production. As The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says,

Editorial we: The first-person plural pronoun used by an editorialist in expressing the opinion or point of view of a publication's management.

Or again, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage

The "editorial we," which has been on record for at least 1,000 years, is at least as old as the "royal we." It gets its name from the understanding that the "we" in newspaper editorials reflects a collective, not an individual, opinion. It's generally used to give writing a somewhat formal tone, one that says "We know what we're talking about." Sometimes we indicates that an author identifies with a particular group, and occasionally it's used playfully in casual writing, perhaps with overtones of the royal we.[66]

A fourth and final criticism of this argument is that these words were spoken by God Himself, and, at least in the case of the Genesis passages, before Moses (“the editor”) was even around; thus, the “editorial we” explanation is a day late and a dollar short.

Objection 4: The Heavenly Host

This view originated with and has been popular among certain strains of apostate Judaism (q.v., the book of Jubilees, the Palestinian Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud, et. al.), but it has also been surreptitiously picked up by a number of other groups and individuals.[67]

According to this view, since angels were present when God laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4,7), and since God is sometimes found to speak in their company (1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Chron. 18:18-22), quite possibly he was consulting them on this particular occasion. Many derive a moral from the story: “Scripture thereby informs us that the greater should always consult and receive permission of the lesser.”[68]

So long as one abstracts the plural terms from the context, it is easy to see how many can be satisfied with this explanation. As soon as we try to place these terms, so defined, back into the surrounding context however, we meet with several insuperable difficulties.

First, on such a view we would have to believe that the archetypical pattern after which man is made is that of God and the angels, a thought nowhere expressed in the sacred record. Note well: Genesis 1:26 does not say, “Let Us make man in My image,” but “Let Us make man in Our image.” If angels are elevated to this position, consistency requires that obedience and worship be accorded them as well. After all, a reason repeatedly given in Scripture for obedience to God is that we were created in His image (Gen. 9:6; Jms. 3:8-10; Eph. 4:24). As His image bearers, we are expected to image Him, to reflect His character, for His stamp is upon our nature. This is also an underlying assumption of many, many passages (e.g., Lev. 19:2; Matt. 5:48; 1 Pet. 1:15-16) Thus, if we accept the angelic host interpretation, the angels have such a claim upon us as well; we would not exclusively belong to and owe our ultimate obedience to God. And what is this but worship? No wonder the apostle Paul, in counteracting a view conducive to angel worship (see Col. 2:18), reminded the saints at Colosse that the archetypal image in which men were made is that of Lord Jesus Christ, not angels:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him (Col. 1:15-16).

Second, it is impossible on this reading to consistently avoid the conclusion that the angels are co-creators with God (contra Isa. 44:24 and countless passages), though some have tried. Usually, those who hold this view argue from Genesis 1:27 – “So God created man in His own image,” – that, though God spoke to the angels (ala vs. 26), He alone did the work (ala vs. 27). We noted already the peculiar three-fold repetition of “God created” in verse 27, but that curiosity aside, the hortative of verse 26 will not permit passivity on the part of those to whom God is speaking. Does anyone holding this view really want to say that God said to the angels “Let Us make,” yet, for all his “huffing and puffing,” the angels did nothing but watch? It doesn’t take a Trinitarian to observe that this attempt to negate verse 26 by calling attention to verse 27 is a mere makeshift.

Third, the idea that the only wise God sought counsel from angels is neither necessary nor possible. That this is not necessary most people will surely grant; that it is not even possible God Himself has declared through the prophet:

Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales? 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? ....To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

It is clear from this and other passages that God does not need or even seek counsel from any other, save for His own consubstantial Word and Spirit, for no one is like Him. The Triune God alone is the original, the pattern, the archetype of all who bear His image; that original image is not an image that is common to God and angels or any other creatures. No one is like Him. Even men only bear this image in a derivative, finite, and ectypal fashion. Even as man, so understood, cannot give counsel to or direct the most high, so can no other creature, heavenly or otherwise:

All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” (Dan. 4:35)

As for the passages suggested in favor of this view – those that speak of an angelic presence at the time of man’s creation and those that record God speaking, post-creation, in the presence of the angels – they can do nothing to overturn such considerations. Worse than this, they even lend support to the point here being made. Where mention is made in Job of the angels shouting for joy when God laid the cornerstone of the earth, the context of the passage is an indictment on Job, a creature, for presuming to insinuate Himself into God’s counsel. Though the angels were present at the time in question and Job was not, surely the principle obtains in their case, for they, too, are mere creatures. Who are the angels that they should venture to inform the Most High? It is much sounder to say with Paul, “He works all things after the counsel of His will.” (Eph. 1:11) Furthermore, the only activity of the angels at the time in question is to sing the wonders of God, not join Him in His creative work. There is also no mention in these passages of an image that is common to God and angels that could serve as the prototype for man; indeed, a vast gulf is assumed. And just where do these passages with all their passing allusions to angels, something that the passages in Genesis do not contain, have God referring to Himself and the angels as “Us” and “Our.” Where do they say, “Let Us” do this or that divine work? Nowhere! Isn’t this phenomenon what these passages were marshaled in to explain?

None of this is to deny that angels or prophets can have God’s counsel revealed to them. This, at least, is evident from those passages where God speaks to the angels, even eliciting certain responses from them (1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Chron. 18:18-22), or from those passages that speak of the prophets as those who “see and hear” the Lord’s counsel (Jer. 23:18). Ultimately, however, God’s counsel, as far as it is reflected in time, is the outworking or revelation of His own eternal decree, His sovereign will and determination of what shall be. Angels and man can only know of such counsel as God deigns to make it known to them; they cannot determine it, inform it, or otherwise participate in it; they can only be subject to it.

Objection 5: Islam/Mohammedanism

This view is just another version of the “Royal We” interpretation suggested earlier. The twist is that the Qu’ran speaks of Allah in the plural number but does not thereby imply, so we are told, any plurality in Allah. It is argued that because Arabic is a Semitic language, like Hebrew, we should read the Bible in the same way. This is often buttressed by the observation that (some) Jews have also explained such plural expressions as mere literary devices aimed at showing the majesty of God or the respect that He deserves (hence, it is also called the “plural of respect”).

First, we have already seen that no evidence exists that Moses or the prophets or any of the kings of Israel ever spoke in this manner. This has been pointed out by no less an authority than Gesenius, the father of all Hebrew lexicons: “The use of the plural as a form of respectful address is quite foreign to Hebrew…”[69] Some Jews after the time of Christ, as an apologetic move against Christianity, did come to speak this way, but this is immaterial to the original meaning or the ordinary usage of plural words in the Bible. In light of Muhammad’s interaction with certain Jewish groups in the 7th century after Christ, it is entirely possible that he picked up this ruse from them, unaware of its innovative and ad hoc nature. This would not be the first time that Muhammad picked up later Jewish ideas, mistaking them for the real thing.

Second, even if Mohammed did not pick up this late verbal convention directly from anti-Christian Jews, there is absolutely no ground for reading this post-Mosaic, non-Hebraic, pseudo-prophetic understanding back into the self-sufficient, self-interpreting Word of God. Muhammad wrote over two millennia after the time of Moses, in a different, even if quasi-related, language, and was born an Arab, a group of people outside the line through which God vouchsafed to raise up prophets to publish His truth to the world. The saving truth of God is for the world to be sure, but it was not to be through the world. As the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom Muslims pay lip-service, said, “We worship what we know,” and “salvation is of the Jews.” (John 4)

For more on this, see The Plural of Majesty: Allah is Neither Plural Nor Majestic.

It might appropriately be asked at this point why unitarians, Mohammedan or otherwise, believe plurality bespeaks majesty? What do unitarians implicitly assume about God, even His majesty, that moves them, even if unconsciously, to speak in this very Trinitarian way? What are unitarians groping after?

The incongruity between what unitarians profess to believe and the words they use to express it is of signal worth: God is majestic, and His majesty is appropriately expressed in plural terms, but none of this comports with the underlying presuppositions espoused by unitarians. A “god” who is only one, a unity of nothing, is a blank and empty idea, and this is far from majestic.[70] As one writer put it:

Israel was monotheistic, though not unitarian. God is plural in His unity. "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1:26a). "Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language" (Gen. 11:7a). This language is dismissed by unitarians as a so-called "plural of majesty," meaning unitarian majesty. On the contrary, such language announced early and emphatically that God is plural, which is why He is majestic. The persons of the Trinity operate as the ultimate team.[71]

As for the many other attempts to explain these passages along non-Trinitarian lines, they, one and all, are abysmal failures.

VI. Conclusion

In conclusion, the Trinitarian understanding of these passages has been shown to be the teaching of the Old Testament and the teaching of the New Testament. We have looked at some of the more popular attempts to undermine this interpretation and have found such attempts more than wanting. Along with faithful Jews of pre-Christian times and all orthodox Christians since the time of the apostles, the church of the present day ought to return to its unanimous historic confession regarding these verses; there is no need to cower in the face of the modern shift – the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of a Trinitarian understanding. Those who reject this view do so in the face of an incredible body of evidence.

Having been created in the image of God, it is our responsibility to image God’s thoughts, i.e., we are to think God’s thoughts after him. And God’s thoughts on the plural pronouns surveyed in this article are Trinitarian through and through.


Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,

In council join again

To restore thine image, lost

By frail, apostate man.[72]



[1] See the Epistle of Barnabas, ch. VII; Ignatius, To the Antiochians, ch. II; Justin Martyr, Dialogue With Trypho, ch. LXII, CXXIX; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, preface, sec. 4; bk. 4, ch. XX, sec. 1; Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, ch. X; Tertullian, Resurrection of the Flesh, ch. V; and Against Praxeas, ch. XII; Novatian, Treatise Concerning the Trinity, ch. XXVI; Eusebius, Church History, Bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 4; Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 2, ch. 19; Athanasius, Against the Heathen, ch. 46, sec. 1-8; Four Discourses Against the Arians, ch. XVIII, sec. 31; ch. XXVI, sec. 29; Gregory of Nyssa, On the Making of Man, ch. VI, sec. 3; ch. XVI, sec. 5; Basil, Hexaemeron, homily IX, sec. 6; Augustine, City of God, Bk. XVI, ch. VI; and On the Trinity, Bk. I, ch. VII; Bk. VII, ch. VI, sec. XII; Bk. XII, ch. VI, sec. VI. These quotes (and others) appear in full later in this article.

[2] Peter Lombard, Book of Sentences, Bk. 1, ch. IV. An English translation of the Sentences is available at the following web site:

[3] Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5, as it appears in Luther’s Works, Vol. I (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958), p. 55-59, ed. by Jaroslav Pelikan; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), Bk. 1, Ch. XIII, sec. 24. This view is also reflected in the Geneva Bible of 1559 (cf. notes on Gen. 1:26 and 11:7) and even attained confessional status – q.v., the Belgic Confession, Article 9.

[4] Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), p. 273-274; Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of Thomas Boston, Vol. I. (Wheaton, Illinois: Richard Owen Roberts Pub., [1853], 1980); John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan, Vol. II (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, [1875], 1977), p. 594; Robert L. Dabney, Systematic Theology (The Banner of Truth Trust, [1871], 1985) p. 182; John Gill, A Body of Doctrinal Divinity, Bk. 1, ch. 27.

[5] J. Hastings D.D., ed., The Great Texts of the Bible (T&T Clark, 1911), 46-47; Driver, Plummer & Briggs, eds., International Critical Commentary (T&T Clark, 1969), p. 30-31; Gordon J. Wenham, Word Biblical Commentary on Genesis, Vol. 1 (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), p. 27-28; Herman Bavinck, The Doctrine of God (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: The Banner of Truth Trust, [1951], 1991), p. 258; Gerald Bray, The Doctrine of God: Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1993), p. 140; James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1998), p. 166; and Meredith Kline, Images of the Spirit, p. 22-23. See also the notes in the Oxford Annotated Bible, the NIV Study Bible, the Ryrie Study Bible, the Liberty Annotated Study Bible, as well as the notes in the yet to be published New English Translation.

Besides such as emphatically deny a Trinitarian understanding of these passages there are those who are either non-committal or who are favorably inclined but not settled on the matter. These include the following: Franz Delitzsch, New Commentary on Genesis, Vol. 1 (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock & Klock Christian Publishers, [1888], 1978), 98-99; Cook’s Commentary, Vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905), p. 35; Peter Toon, Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity (Wheaton, Illinois: Victory Books, 1996), p. 100-103; and Dr. Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998), p. 167, 207. See also the New Geneva Study Bible.

It should be noted that this about face or diffidence in modern commentators and theologians is far from unanimous, as can be seen from the following: Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1938, 1991), p. 86; Dr. H. Beets, The Compendium Explained (Grand Rapids, Michigan: WmB. Eerdman’s, 1941), p. 91-92; Lorraine Boettner, Studies in Theology (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1947), p. 98; Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966, 1985), p. 142; H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1942), 86-88; Ellicott’s Commentary on the Whole Bible (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1954), p. 17; Edward Bickersteth, The Trinity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1957), p. 145-146, 172; Carl Brumback, God in Three Persons (Cleveland Tennessee: Pathway Press, 1959), p. 36-42; Gordon Clark, The Trinity (Jefferson, Maryland: The Trinity Foundation, 1985, 1990), p. 3; Robert Morey, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues, p. 94-96; Millard J. Erickson, God In Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1995), p. 166-171; Gary North, Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory (Tyler, Texas: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), p. 18; Anthony Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), p. 12; and James A. Boreland,  Christ in the Old Testament: Old Testament Appearances of Christ in Human Form (Christian Focus Publications, 1999), p. 91. See also the Macarthur Study Bible and the Word In Life Study Bible.

[6] Commenting on the textual/translational issue this involves, R. J. Rushdoony said: “This change is justified [by JPSA] on the grounds that the Hebrew plural form[s] here are simply ‘plurals of majesty.’ But the fact remains that the Hebrew text gives a plural form and that Elohim, a plural noun for God, literally Gods, takes, when used for Jehovah, a singular verb. Many Christian scholars have rightly seen in this an evidence of the plurality of the Godhead and of its unity, a definite witness to Trinitarianism. Modern translators may disagree; but they have no right to mistranslate the text, which as admitted, reads, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ Such novel and unwarranted renderings of words can be destructive of meaning and of doctrine.” “Translation and Subversion,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1989.

[7] Genesis Rabbah, VIII. 9, p. 60

[8] The Woman’s Bible: Comments on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy (New York: European Publishing Company, 1898), p. 15. If the passage taught such a thing, it is not hard to see how it would support feminism: After all, like feminists, this postulated mother goddess shows herself to be quite the absentee in the rest of the Biblical record. Perhaps she is busy pursuing another career, climbing the divine corporate latter, or otherwise does not have time for her offspring. When feminists present such hokey nonsense as a viable interpretation they are really only cutting their own throats, giving further evidence to bigots who believe women lack the ability for logical thought. Thankfully, most women do not reason this way and therefore do not deserve to be painted with this feminist brush.

[9] Genesis Rabbah, VIII. 8, p. 59

[10] (London: Duncan & Malcolm, 1842), p. 15

[11] (New York, New York: Bantam Books, 1971), p. 34

[12] Tony Crisp, “Vision in the River of Dreams.” This article can be accessed at the following website: (as of April 28, 2004). “Interpretations” such as this are out of this world, and anyone who gets his theology from My Favorite Martian, Mork and Mindy or Third Rock from the Sun does not deserve a refutation. Bringing these views out into the open, for full public gaze, ought to prove embarrassing enough to those who hold such views. 

[13] Several examples of this could be given; the following comments on Genesis 1:26 should be sufficient to illustrate the point. “Certainly the NT sees Christ as active in creation with the Father, and this provided the foundation for the early Church to develop a Trinitarian interpretation. But such insights were certainly beyond the horizon of the editor of Genesis”, Gordon J. Wenham, ibid., p. 28; “The older Christian comm[entators] generally find in the expression an allusion to the Trinity (so even Calvin); but that doctrine is entirely unknown to the OT, and cannot be implied here”, Driver, Plummer & Briggs, eds., ibid., p. 30. “Needless to say, earlier Christian commentators were prone to see here a reference to the Trinity. But even if one grants that Moses was in some way responsible for Gen. 1, it is going too far to call Israel’s hero a Trinitarian monotheist!”, Victor P. Hamilton, NICOT: The Book of Genesis 1-17 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: WmB. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990), p. 132. “However, this position [the Trinity] can only be entertained as a possible ‘canonical’ reading of the text since the first audience could not have understood it in the sense of a trinitarian reference,” The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (NIV Text) – Genesis 1-11:26 (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 162-163.

[14] "Moses clearly teaches this [the Trinity] in the creation of the universe,” John Calvin, Institutes, Bk. 1, ch. XIII, sec. 7. "From the arguments adduced by us might be satisfactorily inferred that it [the Trinity] was revealed and known under the Old Testament... It therefore becomes necessary to establish...the truth of this mystery not only from the New, but also from the Old Testament", Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1992), p. 272. “…it evidentally appears that the doctrine of the Trinity was revealed under the Old Testament,” Thomas Boston, The Complete Works of Thomas Boston, Vol. 1 (Wheaton, Illinois: Richard Owen Roberts, Publishers, 1980 reprint), p. 144. “The doctrine of the Trinity is revealed in the Old Testament, in the same degree that the other truths of Christianity are; not with the clearness and fullness of the New Testament, yet really and plainly”, W. G. T. Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 1 (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Klock and Klock Christian Publishers, 1979) p. 261-266. “Thus the Old Testament contains a clear anticipation of the fuller revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament”, Berkhof, ibid, p. 86. “We expect the doctrine of the Trinity to be taught in the Old Testament but to be much more clearly taught in the New Testament”, Cornelius Van Til, Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974), p. 220.

[15] B. B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Banner of Truth Trust, 1929, 1988), p. 147. This statement, original to Warfield, is also quoted verbatim by Boettner, albeit without credit. See Studies in Theology (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1947), p. 91

[16] It should be noted that there is a third speaker in this Psalm – i.e., the narrator – who is not identified by name. The words of verse 6 are ascribed to the Father and those of verses 7-9 are ascribed to the Son, but we are not told who the speaker is at the beginning (vss. 1-5) or conclusion of this Psalm (vss. 10-12). To say that the speaker is David because he wrote this Psalm is to miss the point, for he also wrote the words above ascribed to the Father and the Son. All things considered, this third, unnamed person back of what David wrote in verses 1-5 and 10-12, must be none other than the Holy Spirit. So it is: “…the Holy Spirit, through the mouth of David Your servant, said…‘The Kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ’ (Acts 4:25-26).” Thus, the divine counsel of Psalm 2 is really a “trialogue” (not dialogue) back of which stands the Triune God.

[17] This agrees with what is expressed more fully in the next chapter about the creation of man: “Then the LORD God formed man of the dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Gen. 2:7) Again, “The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.” (Gen. 2:22)

[18] God is called “Adonim” in Malachi 1:6: “If I am Lord (plural), where is my fear?”

[19] Although the point here is only to establish that plural terms are used for God, however one might go on to understand them, when construed as proof for the plurality of the Trinity many aver the objection that they are always modified by singular words. But this is not true. For example, in Genesis 20:13 it is written, “…it came about, when God caused me to wander form my father’s house…” In Hebrew, the phrase “caused…to wander” is in the plural form and literally means – “they caused me to wander.” Similarly, Genesis 35:7 literally reads, “they revealed themselves to him”; and Deuteronomy 4:7 literally teaches, “they come near.”

[20] For more on this see Morey, The Trinity, p. 87-103.

[21] “…the revisers capitalized all personal pronouns when referring to God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit,” Bruce M. Metzger, The Bible in Translation: Ancient and English Versions (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2001), p. 150.

[22] The convention of capitalizing words when God is the referent is not utilized in all translations; hence, no inference can be drawn as to the view of the translators in those versions that do not employ this convention.

[23] See John Gill, Ibid., Bk. 1, ch. 27.

[24] See for example Genesis 48, Numbers 6:24-26, Psalm 86, Isaiah 33:22, Jeremiah 33:2, Daniel 9:19, 1 Corinthians 13:14, and Revelation 1:4-5 and 4:8.

[25] The English translation used here is that of Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton, as found in The Septuagint With Apocrypha: Greek and English (Hendrickson Publishers, 1986). If the reader wants to access the Greek text of these passages, the LXX is available online in many places (1, 2, 3)

[26] See Dr. Akiva G. Belk, “In Our Image, Like Our Likeness” [online]. As we have seen, some Jewish versions even translate the relevant terms as if they were singular, though they do acknowledge, at least sometimes and only in a footnote, that this is more of an interpretation than it is a faithful rendering of the Hebrew text. See The Torah, The Five Books of Moses: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures According to the Masoretic Text (The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962).

[27] Even apart from the use of the plural pronoun in the LXX version of Genesis 2:18, it is of interest that God declared that His image bearer was “not good” apart from another to complete him, apparently indicating that man, as God’s image bearer, requires a society of persons in which to find fulfillment. 

[28] The Aramaic Bible, Vol. I-XIV (Wilmington: Michael Glazier, 1988), is the most comprehensive English translation available to date.

[29] B. B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle, Pa: Banner of Truth Trust, 1929, 1988), p. 143-144. In the interest of full disclosure, it should be stated that Warfield sees the historical events themselves, i.e., the incarnation of the Son and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the source of this presupposition. The present writer believes it necessary, exegetically and epistemologically, to see the truth in this supposition and to press further for the recognition of a canonical foundation for this doctrine in the Old Testament. Furthermore, it is just as certain that the Son was sent, even if only temporarily, and that the Spirit was given, even if with less fullness, in the Old Testament as in the New Testament. The permanent and fuller nature of these realities that underlie the New Testament witness should only lead us to conclude that the latter revelation is fuller than the former, not that it alone intimates this truth. 

[30] In answer to question eleven of the Westminster Larger Catechism (“How doth it appear that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father?”), it says “The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are God equal with the Father, ascribing unto them such names, attributes, works, and worship, as are proper to God only.” The appended Scripture proofs include Isaiah 6 compared with John 12 and Acts 28.

[31] R. C. H. Lenski, Eisenach Old Testament Selections (Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1925), p. 641-642.

[32] The Epistle of Barnabas, ch. VI.

[33] The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians, ch. II

[34] Dialogue with Trypho, ch. LXII

[35] Dialogue with Trypho, ch. CXXIX

[36] Against Heresies, Preface, sec. 4

[37] Against Heresies, Bk. IV, ch. XX, sec. 1

[38] Exhortation to the Heathen, ch. X

[39] Theophilus to Autolycus, Bk. 2, ch. XVIII

[40] On the Resurrection of the Flesh, ch. V

[41] Against Praxeas, ch. XII

[42] Treatise Concerning the Trinity, ch. XXVI

[43] The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (Oxford University Press, 1956), edited and translated by Henry Bettenson, p. 334.

[44] Against the Heathen, ch. 46, sec. 3-6

[45] On the Incomprehensible Nature of God, Homily IX, sec. 15, as found in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 72 (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America, 1984), pg. 239

[46] Ibid, Homily XI, sec. 13-24, p. 275-279

[47] Exposition of the Faith, Bk. 1, ch. VII, sec. 51-53

[48] Ibid, Bk. 1, ch. XVII, sec. 111

[49] City of God, Bk. XVI, ch. VI

[50] On the Trinity, Bk. I, ch. VII

[51] Ibid., Bk. VII, ch. VI, sec. XII

[52] Ibid., Bk. XII, ch. VI, sec. VI

[53] The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Bk. 3, as found in the Ancient Christian Writers series, Vol. 41 (New York: Newman Press, 1982), p. 95

[54] Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 1, ch. 2, sec. 4

[55] Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 2, ch. 19

[56] On the Making of Man, ch. VI, Sec. 3

[57] Ibid, Ch. XVI, sec. 5

[58] The Hexameron, Homily IX, S. 6.

[59] On the Trinity, Bk. III, sec. 23

[60] Ibid, Bk. IV, sec. 17-18

[61] Cyril of Alexandria: Select Letters (Oxford University Press, 1983), p. 197-199

[62] Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Bk. VII, ch. XXXIV

[63] Ibid, bk. VIII, ch. XII

[64] Some have argued that there are instances of this in the case of Ahauserus, but the evidence is inconclusive. It is possible that Ahauserus was speaking on behalf of the country or the like. Whatever the case, the fact remains, these are post-mosaic, non-Hebraic, uncircumcised kings; hardly exemplars the Lord would seek to emulate. If it is averred that these pagans were actually imitating God, one needs only to ask, “Why didn’t Israelite kings, of all people, speak like this?” “Whence were these pagan kings aware of such divine mannerisms considering that the Jews were not, apparently, aware of them?” Were not the Jews entrusted with the oracles of God? (Rom. 3:2) Isn’t it the case that God revealed Himself to no other nation? (Ps. 147:19-20)

[65] An example of this can be seen in William D. Reyburn and Euan McG. Fry’s, Handbook on Genesis (New York: United Bible Societies, 1997), p. 49-50.

[66] Mark Twain reportedly said once, “Only presidents, editors and people with tapeworm have the right to use the editorial 'we.'”

[67] e.g., this view was advocated by the ignominious heretic Michael Servetus, as well as a thousand non-Jews before and since. See Michael Serveto alias Reves a Spaniard of Aragon, On the Errors of the Trinity (New York: Harvard University Press, 1932; Kraus Reprint, 1969), p. 103. The modern publication of this work first appeared as vol. XVI in Harvard Theological Studies. Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, D.D.

[68] Soncino Chumash (London: The Soncino Press, 1947), ed. A. Cohen, p. 6

[69] A. E. Cowley ed., Hebrew Grammar (Oxford, 1976), p. 398

[70] Alleluia, alleluia! Glory be to God on high;
Alleluia! To the Savior who has gained the victory;
Alleluia! To the Spirit, fount of love and sanctity:
Alleluia, alleluia! to the Triune Majesty.
“Hearts to Heaven and Voices Raise,”
by Christopher Wordsworth (1872).

[71] Gary North, An Economic Commentary on Deuteronomy, ch. XXX. Emphasis mine.

[72] Charles Wesley, A Collection of Hymns for a People Called Methodists, 357.4.14