The Nature of God–Part Two: Created in the Image of the One God (Resources & Notes)

[Note:  Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: el-o-heem’, Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:  – angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty.]

[Note:  The Septuagint (LXX) translates the transliterated Hebrew word Elohim (plural) into the transliterated Greek word theos (singular), which is translated into the Anglo-Saxon word “God” (singular) in the Authorized Version, with the understanding that the word “god” means “deity,” and it is not used as a personal name for God.  Elohim then is a designation and not a personal name, and we see this distinction in the first of the Ten Commandments:  “I am the Lord [YHWH] thy God [your Elohim], which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods [elohim] before me” (Ex. 20:2-3).]

[Note:  The “oneness” of God is at times challenged by the claim that “Elohim” is to be understood as a uni-plural or collective noun, and therefore it is incorrectly assumed that the word “God” may be reinterpreted as “Gods” when referring to the one God.]

[Note:  The Hebrew word אלהים, which is transliterated as ‘ĕlôhı̂ym, is a third person masculine plural noun that is by its grammatical structure plural in form, but when it is used with a singular verb it grammatically signals that Elohim is understood in the singular sense, as it is when God (Elohim) said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” noting also that the context reverts to the use of the singular pronouns respective to the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1-2).]

[Note:  The statement, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” is sometimes interpreted to mean that the one speaking is God, and God is speaking to an unknown number of beings who are assumed to be God.  Leaving those who accept this interpretive conclusion with a contradictory position, and an impassable statement spoken by Jesus, the son of God, who referred to God his father as the “only true God” (Jn. 17:3).  Thus by Jesus’ statement the God of the “New Testament” would then be the one who resurrected Jesus from the dead (Acts 5:30-32).]

[Note:  A reasonable context for explaining why humankind would be created in the image of God may be understood in the phrase:  “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion,” which would appear to establish a reasonable purpose for creating Adam and Eve in the image of God (Gen. 1:6).]

[Note:  “[Let us make] LXX ποιήσωμεν, Lat. faciamus.  The use of the 1st pers. plur. is a well-known crux of interpretation.  How are we to explain its occurrence in the utterance of the Almighty?  The only other passages in which it is found are (1) Gen_3:22, “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us”; (2) Gen_11:7, “Go to, and let us go down, and there confound their language”; (3) Isa_6:8, “And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Very different explanations have been given.

Until recently, the traditional Christian interpretation has seen in the 1st pers. plur. a reference to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.  The requirements of a sound historical exegesis render this view untenable: for it would read into the Book of Genesis the religious teaching which is based upon the Revelation of the New Testament.

  1. It has been regarded as a survival of polytheism, and has been compared with “Elohim,” a plural word for “God” which some regard as a relic of polytheism.  But “Elohim, in the present context, is always combined with a verb in the singular.  Why should “said” be in the singular, if “let us” indicates the plurality of Gods? Again, any departure from the strictest monotheism is unthinkable in the writing of the Priestly Code.  The explanation may safely be dismissed as improbable in the extreme.”  (“Genesis,” The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, General Editor for the Old Testament:—A. F. Kirkpatrick, D.D., Dean of Ely, “The Book of Genesis, In the Revised Version With Introduction and Notes,” by Herbert E. Ryle, D.D., Dean of Westminster, Sometime Bishop of Exeter and of Winchester, Fellow of the British Academy, Cambridge, University Press, 1921, First Edition 1914.)]

[Note:  The term Elohim is also applied to people of power and political influence and even despots who ruled in the pre-Flood world:  “when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God [Elohim] saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:1-2).  (See also, Gen. 3:5; Ex. 15:11.)]

[Note:  The Hebrew word transliterated as echad (meaning “one”) can, in some cases—a very few cases—be understood to mean “unity,” such as when echad is used to explain the unifying of two people in the fundamental and biblically ascribed structure of the marriage relationship:  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2:24).

However, even though echad can mean “unity” in some cases, it is not so with the Shema, because in the Shema we do not have the unifying of two or more Gods, which is apparent in what is said:  “Hear [shama], O Israel: The Lord [YHWH] our God [our Elohim] is one [echad] Lord [YHWH]” (Deut. 6:4).  Therefore echad, respective to the Shema, is not used to express a unity of beings, but rather God (YHWH) was singled out for worship among all those who were perceived as gods by the people of ancient Israel.  (See also, Ex. 12:49; Neh. 8:1; Isa. 5:24).]

[Note:  Some translate the Shema to read that Yahweh is “God alone,” which is understood to loosely mean that God can still be understood as one among other gods, which leaves the door open for the belief that there can still be more than one person representing the Godhead.

However, such an exposition of Scripture may reflect some slight-of-hand interpretation that diminishes or slants the meaning of the Shema for the purpose of supporting the Binitarian or Trinitarian doctrines, which are paradigms that go beyond the reach of what is stated in Scripture.  Noting that the Apostle Paul gives us a context for explaining how the creator God is “one” in relationship to the those called gods or who are thought to be gods:  “For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (I Cor. 8:5-6).  (Scripture addresses the fact that Satan is called the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4).)  (See also, Jn. 10:34; Ps. 82:1-8.)]

[Note:  The people of ancient Israel came to understand the oneness and presence of God by his words and the voice of the words, and by his power that was manifested in his works, which is to say that they knew God by the miracles and by the utterance of God.  And this understanding is reflected in the prayer of Daniel.  Noting that Daniel speaks of how the people rebelled against God, and also how they did not obey “the voice of the Lord our God: “O Lord, to us belongeth confusion of face, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against thee.  To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgivenesses, though we have rebelled against him; Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets” (Dan. 9:8-10).]

[Note:  It was God (YHWH) who revealed himself to Moses and told him that he was “the Elohim” of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ex. 3:6).]

[Note:  God made Moses a representative Elohim before the Pharaoh: “See, I have made thee a god (Elohim) to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet” (Ex. 7:1).]

[Note:  Jesus was the one who “voiced” the thought of God, and he made it clear that this was how he had declared the Father:  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?  the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself:  but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (Jn. 14:10).  (Compare with Jn. 17:21-23; 14:11; I Jn. 4:10-13.)]

[Note:  Jesus often claimed to be the son of man, but he did not deny that he was the son of God, and this was apparent in his response to those who challenged his commission from God, when they accused Jesus of blasphemy against God.  Thus Jesus acknowledged to his detractors that they were accusing him for claiming to be “the Son of God”  (Jn. 10:36).  So we should consider then that Jesus called the creator God (YHWH) his father, and so it would have been understood by the Jews to mean that Jesus was claiming to be the living son of the invisible God.]

[Note:  Scripture addresses some of the characteristics or attributes of God with a sense of individuality, but these characteristics and attributes are not individualized as separate beings called God (Gen. 3:22; 6:3; Eze. 3:24; 11:5; Acts 8:29; 10:19.)]

[Note:  Expositors typically state that what is quoted from the book of Psalms in the book of Hebrews is a definitive statement that makes Jesus to be God.  With the quote in question being:  “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom” (Heb. 1:8).

However, such an isolating interpretation only serves to narrow the context of what was said by the psalmist as quoted in the book of Hebrews.  (Some consider the translation to read as:  “God is Thy throne for ever and ever,” which is not a solution to the interpretation that assumes Jesus is God.)

For the psalmist wrote about the king and his God, and he addresses how the king was anointed by God with the “oil of gladness above his fellows,” which tells us that the psalmist made a distinction between God, and the king who was anointed by God.  And so we read:  “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right scepter.  Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God [the king’s God], hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Ps.45:-6-7).

Therefore it is God who is on the throne, and he is the one who anoints the king, and he is the God of the king because the psalmist says:  “your God hath anointed you,” which means that two individuals are being addressed by the psalmist, the God of the king, and the king who was anointed by his God.

Therefore the authors of Hebrews associate Jesus with the king who was anointed, and this anointing is qualified by telling us that it is the one who sits on the throne who anoints Jesus.  Noting that what is said to the son is this:  “but unto the son he says, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:  a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; “therefore God, even thy God [Jesus’ God], hath anointed thee [Jesus] with the oil of gladness above thy fellows” (Heb. 1:8-9).

Simply, the authors of Hebrews quotes what the psalmist said in its entirety and associates it in context to Jesus, with the understanding that what is said pertains to both God and Jesus. Showing also that Jesus had a God, who was his father, which is in harmony with what we find in Scripture:

And so from the writings of Paul we read:

–“Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:  By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1-6).

–“Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (II Cor. 1:2-4).

–“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).

–“We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you” (Col. 1:3).

Adding the words of the Apostle Peter:

–“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (I Pt. 1:3-4).

–“For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together” (Acts 4:27).

–“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power:  who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).  (A conclusion in harmony with the witness and testimony of John the Baptist.)

Adding also the fact that the apostles preached Jesus to be a man and the messiah, but not God:

–“And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.  For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.  And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people” (Acts 3:20-23).

–“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.  And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.  For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them:  and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city” (Acts 8:5-8).

–“But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:22).

–“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:  Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:  Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death:  because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:22-24).

Adding also the words of Jesus:

–“Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father:  but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God” (Jn. 20:17).

–“He that overcometh, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and mine own new name” (Rev. 3:12).]

[Note:  Paul tells us that God had a purpose for humanity, and in this regard we see that God had a knowledge of us before we came into existence respective to his son Jesus.  With the understanding that Jesus was already chosen to be the firstborn of God and we are to conform to him.  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called:  and whom he called, them he also justified:  and whom he justified, them he also glorified” (Rom 8:28-30).]

[Note:  “We shall start with the title that has been most widely used of Jesus since his own time:  ‘Messiah’ or ‘Christ.’  For convenience I shall repeat the derivation of these words.  The English word ‘Messiah’ is an approximate transliteration of the Hebrew meshiah or the Aramaic mashiha, words that mean ‘anointed.’  In Greek the translation of meshiah is christos, from which we derive the English word ‘Christ.’  Thus ‘Messiah’ and ‘Christ’ are the same.  Most New Testament authors, who wrote in Greek, used christos, but sometimes they wrote messias, thus showing knowledge of the underlying Semitic word” (The Historical Figure of Jesus, “Jesus View of His Role,” E.P. Sanders, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 240).]

[Note:  We sometimes find expositors interpreting the identifying pronouncements made by Jesus in such a way as to make Jesus the “originator” of the creation of God, rather than accepting the context set by the Apostle John.  For John said that Jesus was the “faithful witness, and the first-begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5).  Thus John reaffirmed the context used by the Apostle Paul, making Jesus the actual beginning of the creation of God, and so Jesus said of himself that he was “the beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14, RV).  (Weymouth translation reads as “This is what the Amen says—the true and faithful witness, the Beginning and Lord of God’s Creation” (Rev. 3:14, WNT).)]

[Note:  John records that Jesus will make us “kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen” (Rev. 1:6).  Implying then that those born of God will be in an age to come, which age was created by God through Jesus, as Jesus was the firstborn from the dead.  And so we read that:  “God, who in ancient days spoke to our forefathers in many distinct messages and by various methods through the Prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us through a Son, who is the pre-destined Lord of the universe, and through whom He made the Ages [αἰών, aiōn, “age”].  He brightly reflects God’s glory and is the exact representation of His being, and upholds the universe by His all-powerful word.  After securing man’s purification from sin He took His seat at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as far superior to the angels as the Name He possesses by inheritance is more excellent than theirs” (Heb. 1:1-4, WNT).

Adding the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote that:  “For I always beseech the God of our Lord Jesus Christ—the Father most glorious—to give you a spirit of wisdom and penetration through an intimate knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened so that you may know what is the hope which His call to you inspires, what the wealth of the glory of His inheritance in God’s people, and what the transcendent greatness of His power in us believers as seen in the working of His infinite might when He displayed it in Christ by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His own right hand in the heavenly realms, high above all other government and authority and power and dominion, and every title of sovereignty used either in this Age or in the Age to come.  God has put all things under His feet, and has appointed Him universal and supreme Head of the Church, which is His Body, the completeness of Him who everywhere fills the universe with Himself” (Eph. 1:17-23, WNT)]

[Note:  “Peter did not claim that Jesus of Nazareth was God.  He “was a man, commended to you by God by the miracles and portents and signs that God worked through him when he was among you.”  After his cruel death, God had raised him to life and had exalted him to a specially high status “by God’s right hand” (A History of God, The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, “Trinity: The Christian God,” by Karen Armstrong, Ballantine Books, 1993, p. 90.)]

[Note:  The doctrines of the Binity and Trinity are “models” or “paradigms” that are often used to interpretatively explain the writings of the Apostle John.]

[Note:  “‘Doing’ systematic theology has to be more than just collecting or systematizing what is in Scripture for a number of reasons.  First, because using a concordance does not produce theology.  The various comments in Scripture on virtually any issue do not say exactly the same things.  One of the primary tasks of the theologian is to find some coherence in the varied and sometimes seemingly contradictory teachings in Scripture on the matter under discussion.  Then second, because Scripture often does not directly answer a question asked in later generations, theologians have to extrapolate from what it does say.  For example, when the question arose in the fourth century, Was God the Son really one in divinity with God the Father?, the theologians at the Council of Nicea in 325 decided in favor.  To make clear that what they believed was implied in Scripture they decided to include in the creed of Nicea the Greek word homoousios, meaning one in being, to define the Father-Son relationship.  In doing this they went beyond what was explicitly stated in Scripture.  They made an objective advance in theological definition.  Third, systematic theology must be more than simply quoting Scripture, because often questions asked in later times are not answered by anything specifically in Scripture.  For example, the bible says nothing directly on abortion, euthanasia, or gambling, yet the Christian theologian has to direct Christian thinking on such matters.  In doing so deductions have to be made from texts that are thought to give the guidance needed” (Jesus and the Father, Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the doctrine of the Trinity, by Kevin Giles, Zondervan, 2006. P. 69).]

[Note: The Pharisees looked for ways to discredit Jesus by asking him trapping questions regarding the law, such as when Jesus was asked if a man could divorce his wife for any cause within the context of the law of Moses.  So in responding to their question, Jesus referenced the law of Moses and stated the context by which it was to be understood, and said:  “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mt. 19:4-6). Thus Jesus’ statement shows that it was God who “made them male and female,” while referring to God as “he” in the singular sense, and thereby confirming that it was not Jesus who created Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:26-27).]

[Note: The terms “made” and “became” when used to state that the word was “made” flesh does not convey the meaning of “born as,” or “transformed as,” but rather the meaning is better understood as “made apparent” in the context of the begotten son of God, Jesus. For John tells us that the “thought” of God was “made flesh,” and so we could say that God’s spoken thoughts were made apparent through Jesus.] 

Philo, John and Paul, New Perspectives on Judaism and Early Christianity, by Peter Borgen, Scholars Press, Brown University, 1987.

According to Saint John, by Lord Charnwood, Boston, Little, Brown and Co., 1926.

The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel, by C.H. Dodd, University Press, Cambridge, 1960.

The Fourth Gospel, by the late Edwyn Clement Hoskyns, edited by Francis Noel Davey, Faber and Faber Limited, London.

The Fourth Gospel, Its Significance and Environment, by R.H. Strachen D.D., Student Christian Movement Press, 3rd. Ed., 1st Ed., 1941.

The Gospel According to St. John, The Authorized Version with Introduction and Notes, by Brooke Foss Wescott D.D., D.C.L., James Clarke Co. Ltd., London 1958.

Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Supplement Series 124, Executive Editor, Stanley E. Porter, “‘I Am’ in John’s Gospel, Literary Function, Background and Theological Implications,” by David Mark Bell, Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.

Old Testament Quotations in the Gospel of John, by Edward D. Freed, Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1965.

Back to:  The Nature of God–Part Two:  Created in the Image of the One God

Also see:  What was the Testimony of John the Baptist?