Messianic Apologetics

Addressing the Theological and Spiritual Issues of the Broad Messianic Movement

Genesis 1:1, 26-27: “The Being of God at Creation” – Messiahship of Yeshua

“When God began to create heaven and earth…And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.’ And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (NJPS).

Genesis 1:1, 26-27

“When God began to create heaven and earth…And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.’ And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (NJPS).

reproduced from the forthcoming Salvation on the Line, Volume III

posted 03 October, 2019


“When God began to create heaven and earth…And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.’ And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (NJPS).

Historically there have been huge differences between Judaism and Christianity over the composition of God, Elohim, as the latter has stressed that God can exist as a compound unity and the former has stressed that God can only exist as a monolithic unity. Because the Apostolic Writings (New Testament) affirm that Yeshua of Nazareth came not only as Messiah, but God in the flesh, Judaism has historically considered Christian doctrine that affirms Yeshua as Divine to be in staunch error and incompatible with the Tanach. While those who affirm Yeshua as Divine have often strived to so in alignment with the Tanach’s monotheistic conviction that there is but One God—who happens to be manifest in multiple ways (i.e., Father, Son, Holy Spirit, etc.)—Jewish anti-missionaries have offered their own interpretations on Tanach passages commonly employed to support Yeshua’s Divinity.

Genesis 1:1 begins Holy Scripture with the steadfast word, “IN THE BEGINNING GOD created the heaven and the earth” (Jerusalem Bible-Koren). Frequently, evangelical interpreters will make light of how the Hebrew Elohim is plural, and that it is supportive of the Supreme Being existing as an internal plurality, and hence supportive of the premise that Yeshua can be integrated into the Divine Identity. In the view of Stuart Federow, however, “To be accurate, the word, ‘Eloheem’ comes from the root which means ‘power.’ The Bible uses the word ‘Eloheem’ to mean God, because God is the Ultimate Power, however when it does so, it uses a verb that is singular, not recognizing the subject, ‘Elohim’ as plural.”[1] The argument that Elohim being employed in the Hebrew Tanach as a plural, specifically along the lines of the royal “We” or “We of respect,” or to emphasize His supremacy, is seen across a spectrum of Jewish and Christian theology. Thus, simply because the underlying Hebrew Elohim is plural, does not automatically mean that God must be a plural unity. At the same time, though, there are various places within the Tanach, where God speaking with a plural “We” or “Us,” requires some further probing.

In Genesis 1:26, God speaks in the plural in describing the creation of human beings: “Let us make Man in Our image, after Our likeness. They shall rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and over the animal, the whole earth, and every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (ATS). Frequently, Christian examiners have taken this as evidence of God being a plural unity, and thus that Yeshua can be integrated into the Divine Identity. God is seen speaking to Himself as “Us.” Yet, other explanations have been offered, even by evangelical Protestants who would affirm Yeshua as Divine, with the “us” not being God speaking to Himself as an internal plurality, but instead God speaking to His celestial court of angels. Federow, in his anti-missionary deliberations, offers another view of Genesis 1:26 and God speaking with “us,” specifically involving how all living creatures possess not just Divine, but also terrestrial components of their being (Genesis 1:11-12, 24-25). Given how “God formed man from the dust of the earth” (Genesis 2:7, NJPS), God speaking as “us” is concluded to be God speaking to His Creation: “From the Jewish perspective, God was speaking to the Earth when He said ‘Let us make man…’ which is evidenced in the Biblical account.”[2]

While the view that God speaking as “us” involves God speaking to His Creation, as He prepares to form man and woman, textually the issue involves how to approach tzalmeinu and demuteinu, “our image” and “our likeness.” Are human beings made after the image and likeness of both God and the terrestrial elements? Psalm 8:5-6(6-7) answers this for us: “that You have made him little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty; you have made him master over Your handiwork, laying the world at his feet” (NJPS). Human beings were created m’at m’Elohim, “a little lower than God” (NASU, NRSV) or “little less than God” (RSV). Even with Jewish versions rendering m’at m’Elohim as “little less than divine” (NJPS), it is clear enough that the lot of humanity is cast with the Heavenly host, and not with the Earth.[3]

For many readers of Genesis 1:26-27, God speaking as “Us” is supportive of God speaking internally to a plural Elohim Godhead, and thus provides evidence of Yeshua the Son able to be integrated into the Divine Identity. This is confirmed by the fact that human beings are made in the image of said “Us,” that being that human beings are made in the image of God—not the image of the angels, and not the image of the terrestrial elements.[4]


[1] Federow, 151.

[2] Ibid., pp 152-153.

Federow does go on to indicate, “There are other, equally valid, Jewish interpretations of this verse from Genesis” (Ibid., 153).

[3] This has direct implications not only as they concern human dignity and uniqueness, but also the intermediate state between death and the resurrection. Consult the author’s publication To Be Absent From the Body.

[4] For a further review, consult the discussion provided on Genesis 1:26-28; 3:22-23; 11:7-8 in Salvation on the Line, Volume I, “God Speaking as ‘Us.’”