IT’S A COMMON QUESTION BUT ODD.
This Bible question, which comes from Tom Temple (email me Tom for a free book), is common because a lot of people ask it. But it’s odd because in the question, Tom gives some of the answers scholars suggest.
Here’s Tom’s question:
“Let us make man in our image.” What is meant by “our?” Was he talking to the angels? Was he referring to the Holy Trinity? Was he referring to other gods in other universes?
Let me cheat.
I’m going to give you a sneak peek at one verse in a project I’ve been working on in my spare time, without a commitment from a publisher. I actually think this particular book need to go straight to digital. Too many words and too much art.
Tom’s question comes from Genesis 1:26. Here’s how it reads in the New Living Translation:
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
Here’s the excerpt about that verse from my little pet project, which includes my own paraphrase of the verse:
Steve’s Bible commentary
1:26. God said, “Let’s make humans. They’ll resemble us. They’ll be in charge of the planet:
fish in the water, birds in the sky, animals on the ground. Sky high to ocean deep, they’ll make the call about what happens on the earth.
Let’s make humans. The “us” in “Let’s” could refer to the Trinity, some Christians say: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Many Jewish scholars suggest God was talking to others in his heavenly home: angelic beings.
But some scholars say God was talking to himself, in phrasing fit for majesty or a superstar. Maybe a bit like a quarterback saying, “Yessir, we sure enough threw that game-winning touchdown pass right on target. Cha ching!”
Others, too, say they consider this creation story a piece of fiction, a bit like a parable. So to them, focusing on a tiny detail like this becomes a distraction, like a gift shop at the Grand Canyon. It’s not where you want to spend your time. And this question of “us,” some scholars would argue, isn’t where the writer would have wanted us to spend our time—reading between his lines like we’d find a spooky coded message from the fifth dimension.
They’ll resemble us. How humans are like God—“in his image”—is anyone’s guess. A few educated guesses:
- We reign. In the very next sentence, God puts humans in charge of life on the planet. We’re the caretakers of his creation. See also 1:28, 2:15.
- We create. God gives us the ability to create. “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth” (1:28). It’s the one thing God asked us to do that we humans actually did quite well. Too well, many would say.
- We have character. We resemble God in some of our characteristics: we reason, we love, we’re inventive, and we have a sense of justice.
- We look like him. Adam had a son that resembled him, too: Seth, “who was just like him, his very spirit and image” (5:3).