it really “uni-plural”?
1:26 And God said, Let us
make man in our image after our likeness…
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb…
Trinitarians and others claim that the Hebrew
noun ‘Elohim’, rendered ‘God’ (Strong’s #430) in the first clause of
Genesis 1:26, denotes more than one God Person (typically thought of or
explained as “3 in 1” or “2 in 1” as in “one” family).
In support they point to the second clause of verse 26, "Let us
make man in our image", being plural. It is true that in both English and Hebrew this second clause
contains the plural subject ‘us’ and that this governs the plural verb
‘make’- But these are not governed by ‘Elohim’ (God) of the first
clause. What is not realized, or
otherwise mentioned in this issue is that in the first clause, “And God
said”, ‘Elohim’ governs the singular Hebrew verb ‘’amer’
(Strong’s # 559), which is rendered ‘said’ in English.
So linguistically there is no basis for claiming that ‘Elohim’
denotes, represents, or contains more than one God Person (entity).
is also claimed that the Hebrew ‘Elohim’ is a uniplural or collective noun
and that such nouns (e.g. the English noun ‘crowd’) often govern singular
verbs. This claim contradicts leading Hebrew grammars, which claim
that throughout the OT and when referring to the true God, the Hebrew noun 'Elohim'
behaves as a singular noun, and governs only singular verbs, singular adjectives and singular
pronouns. And only when 'elohim'
refers to a number of pagan gods or humans (e.g. judges), that it behaves as a
plural noun; and then governs plural verbs, plural adjectives and plural
pronouns. So grammatically
‘Elohim’ is never a collective
(uniplural) noun. That in reference
to the true God, the noun ‘Elohim’ is singular, is well illustrated in
Genesis 1:29, where this noun governs the singular pronoun ‘I’.
follows a selection of Hebrew grammars from which these claims may be further
verified: Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar
edited and enlarged by E. Kautzsch, 2nd English edition by A.E.
Cowley, paragraph 124 (g); Weingreen's Hebrew
Grammar under 'God' in its English-Hebrew vocabulary; C.L Seow's A
Grammar for Biblical Hebrew, 1992 printing, the vocabulary on page 19; James
D Martin's Davidson's Introductory Grammar, 27th edition, 1995
reprint, page 52.
grammatically, too, there is no justification for claiming that in Genesis 1:26
'God' (Elohim) denotes more than one God Person.
Indeed throughout the OT ‘Elohim’ always denotes just one God Person.
Let’s now examine the claim that in Genesis 1:26 ‘Elohim’ denotes
more than one God Person from a biblical basis.
From the Hebrew for verse 27 it may be seen
that the Hebrew noun 'Elohim' (God) again governs a singular Hebrew verb
('created'). But even more importantly, that ‘Elohim’ also governs the Hebrew
singular pronouns 'His' (that is God's) and 'He' (God).
Note that verse 27 does not say that 'they' created Adam in 'their'
image, but that ‘He’ created Adam in His image!
So verse 27 declares that one God created Adam and that He did so
in His image. Not two or
more Gods but only one God created Adam.
27, through the two singular clauses, “So God created man in His
own image” and “in the image of God created He him”, twice
states that one God created Adam. From
Genesis 41:32 it may be inferred that this repetition emphasizes certainty.
That only one God Person spoke in verse 26 and
created Adam in verse 27, is further confirmed by verse 29.
In verse 29 'God' (Elohim) uses the first person singular personal
pronoun "I", in the phrase, "And God said, 'Behold, I have
given you every herb…' ". Had
two or more God Persons created Adam, they might have said: “We have given you
every herb…”. Ignoring the
necessities of language rules of grammar some still say that this “God” is a
family of two and that as such only “one” of the two Gods actually did the
hands on creating, but at the bequest of the other- of the two Gods. Therefore,
it is reasoned, the use of a singular pronoun simply reflects the overall view
that there is still only “one” God, but with two distinct entities within
the one. The tragedy of this is the denial of the proper use of the language-
and specifically here in Genesis, along with the assumption that everything else
in scripture that does not lend itself to this premise must somehow bend and be
forced into compliance with this premise. There is no grammatical basis that can
be produced to support this premise, which nevertheless seems to flourish in the
minds of the adherents to this tenet of which I was once one, too. Without
scriptural basis, other than- that is the way it must be for this premise to
exist, the very premise is left to be nothing more than conjecture. If the
premise is true, then the “proof” must come from elsewhere, as nothing in
Genesis can provide this “proof.” Equivocation
may be the most culpable in the creation of this tenet, and yet be the least
recognized as such.
It has now been established
through the rules of language that just one God Person spoke in Gen 1:26,
and that this one God Person created Adam in His own image in verse 27
and that this one God Person then spoke to Adam using the singular pronoun
"I" in verse 29. So,
Why does it say, “us” and “our”?
Cohortative Mood of Genesis 1:26.
Hebrew Grammar § 75 l, and from Owens’ Analytical
Key to the Old Testament, with James D. Martin’s Davidson’s Introductory Hebrew Grammar page 76, it may be seen
that the Genesis 1:26 verbal phrase, “Let
us make” is, in both Hebrew and English, the Cohortative or Voluntative
mood. This mood appears not
understood by commentators to Genesis 1:26; and readers unfamiliar with the
grammatical concept of the Cohortative
Mood, are referred to the explanation given at the end of this paper. (Could
this be due to preconceived notions in the minds of both the translators
commentators, and the affected readers?)
to say that the Cohortative mood is a
verbal mood for expressing a command from the 1st person (the
speaker) to the 1st person singular or plural.
It is a mood related to the Imperative
mood, which is the more common command mood for expressing commands from the
1st person to the 2nd person singular or plural – as in Sit
down!, or Present arms!.
the Cohortative mood found in Genesis 1:26, the singular speaker, God,
addresses Himself jointly with those present at the time.
Therefore in Genesis 1:26 God, and those present with Him, jointly make
up the plurality expressed by the pronoun ‘us’ in, “Let
particular the plurality of ‘us’ may not be taken to infer plurality to the
speaker God, or even to those God spoke to.
It has now been shown in different ways that linguistically there is no
justification for inferring from “And
God said, Let us make…”, that the plurality of ‘us’ extends back to
God. Rather the Cohortative
mood demands that God, as the speaker issuing a command, is singular!
This is also attested to by the singular Hebrew verb for ‘said’ (And
God said) and the singular pronouns and singular
verbs in subsequent verses, which refer back to God of Genesis 1:26.
This should help clarify past confusion
resulting from ungrammatical and unbiblical claims that the Hebrew 'Elohim’
(Strong #430 God) of Genesis 1:26 is a uniplural or is a collective noun or in
some other way points to there existing or not existing more than one God
Person. In truth nothing may be
concluded from Genesis 1:26 regarding the number of God Persons!
note # - Explanation of Cohortative
The reader needs to be first familiar with the
grammatical terms: 1st person,
2nd person and 3rd
person. The 1st person refers to the speaker(s) (I,
we). The 2nd
person refers to the person(s) spoken to (you
singular, you plural) by the 1st
person. And the 3rd
person refers to the person(s) spoken about (he, she, it, and they) by
the 1st person to the 2nd
person. As an example: I (1st
person) tell you (2nd
person.) that he (3rd
person) is tall.
1st, 2nd and 3rd person may be singular (I, you, he) or plural (we,
you, they). The 1st
person can only speak to the 2nd
person. In particular the 1st person can not speak to the 3rd person:
but can only speak about the 3rd
person to the 2nd person. This
last point is important for understanding the Jussive command mood. The
1st person can speak to the 1st person singular, namely,
when he speaks to himself. But when
the 1st person speaks to the 1st person plural, he
addresses himself and the one(s) with him.
This last point is important for understanding the Cohortative
are three verbal moods for expressing commands or strongly held wishes or
intentions. The Imperative
mood is the most commonly-used of the three command moods.
All three command moods are used by the 1st person (speaker);
but he may address them: (a) to the 1st person by using the Cohortative
mood; or (b) to the 2nd person by using the Imperative
mood; and (c) to the 3rd person(s) by using the Jussive mood.
Imperative mood is usually used by a superior to an subordinate; as
in: Stand!, and Present arms! In the Jussive
mood the 1st person gives a command for the 3rd person to
the 2nd person; as in: Don’t
let him go!, and Make him stay! Note
that grammatically it is impossible for the 1st person to address
directly the 3rd person; because the 3rd person is the one
spoken about to the 2nd person.
the Cohortative mood the 1st person commands the 1st
person singular or plural. When the
1st person commands the 1st person singular, the command
is to self, as in I shall guard.
But when the 1st person commands the 1st person
plural, the commands (1) himself and (2) the one(s) with him, as in Let
us make…. . For this last
case note in particular that the subject is singular.
That is the plurality of the ones commanded (us) does not transfer
backwards to the subject. This
point is generally overlooked by commentators to Genesis 1:26, “Ánd God
(singular) said, Let us (plural) make man in our image…”
that the English Jussive and Cohortative moods require auxiliary verbs (e.g. shall,
make and let). Also that in
neither the Imperative, nor the
Jussive mood, nor the Cohortative
mood a subject (speaker) is expressed. So
these commands are usually brief, as in: Sit!,
Don’t let him go!, and Let us make. The Subject
is simply understood.
further study into this far too often misunderstood subject please see:
The author of these articles listed below is an American now living in Israel.
He is fluent in English, Modern Hebrew, and Biblical Hebrew. He is
a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar and Semitic language expert.
Elohim: Plural or Singular? Part
Plural or Singular Part 2
Plurality and "Attraction" Part 3