Apr 22, 2012

Angels or the Trinity?

Was Elohim addressing angels when he said - "let us make man in our image, after our likeness"?  (Gen. 1: 26)  Deniers of the Trinity (or of any plurality in God) argue one of three ways on this passage.  Some deniers of the Trinity assert that angels were addressed by Elohim.  Some assert that Jesus Christ was addressed, but that he is not addressed as God but as the highest and first of all created beings.  Some assert that the use of the plural pronouns are instances of the "royal we." 

We have already seen how the plural of majesty argument is totally untenable and was no doubt an invention by certain Unitarian Jews to "explain away" the uses of the plural pronouns.  Dr. Gill gave sound reasons for rejecting both the Unitarian interpretation (that says that angels are addressed) as well as of the majestic plural interpretation.  Further evidence was also later given to explode the majestic plural thesis. 

We do agree with the Arians who affirm that Christ and the Father are denoted by the pronouns "us" and "our."  However, we do not believe that the Word/Son of God is a creature.

The view that affirms that angels are included in the plural pronouns 1) makes the angels into joint creators with Elohim and 2) makes man to have been made in the image of both angels and Elohim.  Who can believe it?  Is it not a biased interpretation?  Is it not eisegesis rather than exegesis? 

Since Elohim is plural and literally means "gods" (there are no capitals in the Hebrew), it is the most natural interpretation to see the plural pronouns "us" and "our" as referring to the persons united in the Elohim

All revelation since Elohim originally spoke in the creation of man only enlarges upon the nature of Elohim.  Later revelation fully demonstrates that Elohim is the Father, the Word (Son), and the Spirit.

Sometimes singular verbs and modifiers are used with Elohim, and this is to show us the oneness of Elohim.  There are not two Elohim, but one Elohim.  All the heathen Elohim are not real.  On the other hand, plural verbs and modifiers are also sometimes used with Elohim, and this in order to show us the plurality of Elohim.  There are distinct persons composing Elohim.  Elohim is a Tri-Unity, or Trinity.  He is a plural one.  Elohim has more than one face, more than one persona, more than one person.  The Trinitarian accepts both formulas and reconciles them.  God is three persons, but one divine being.

Just as we use the singular verb "is" and also the plural verb "are" when referring to the United States, so do the scriptures use both singular and plural verbs when referring to Elohim.  Historians say that most people, prior to the Civil War, said "the United States are," but that after the Civil War most people said "the United States is."  Both are correct.  When the singular verb is used, the focus is on the unity of the United States.  When the plural verb is used, the focus is on the plurality.

The assertion that Elohim uses the plural pronouns "us" and "our" as royalty uses the plural "we," in reference to their singular persons, has already been shown to be invalid, and that it was invented by strict Unitarian Jews and apostate Judaism against such Trinitarian proofs. 

It is granted that these divine plurals are couched within a larger number of singular pronouns. But the question must be asked - Why are such plurals used only here and there, in a few cases, if it is the normative rule to use the "royal we"?  But even in the use of the plural "we" by royalty and editors, there is reason for doing so, as we have seen.  Neither the king nor editors speak only for themselves, but for those for whom they speak.

Obviously, the plural pronouns refer to more than one person.  All the attempts to deny this most basic rule of grammar by the Unitarians have proven to be futile.  Further, these plural pronouns are used by Elohim personally and also by the narrator Moses. 

The words "let us" are deliberative of counsel.  Elohim does not say "let me."  It is not one person talking to himself but one person talking to other persons.  It is the Elohim talking and consulting with themselves. 

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion..."  (Gen. 1: 26)

The two hortative expressions—“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” and “let them have dominion,” show that the persons denominated by the plural pronouns will be both the creators of man, and the grantors of authority to man. Those denominated by the plural pronouns are the creators and sovereigns of man.  They are his benefactors.

Further, those addressed are not called upon to be passive observers but to be active governing participants in the creation and destiny of man. 

Further, there is every reason to believe that those denoted by the plural pronouns are all equals, and that what is to be done is to be done jointly. 

That these words denote deliberation and decree is self evident. 

"And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."  (Gen. 3: 22-24)

In these words Yahweh Elohim is still addressing the same persons who are included in the divine "us" and "our" of Genesis 1: 26.  "And the LORD God said," that is, said to himself, to the "us" and the "our."  It is a continuation of the divine deliberations begun in Genesis 1: 26.  The words in Genesis 1: 26 were uttered before man's creation, but the words above were uttered after man's transgression and fall.  It is obvious that Elohim's deliberations and decrees involve not only the creation of man but his government, judgement, and destiny. 

The Elohim counsel agreed first to 1) create man in their own likeness and 2) to give man his authority and dominion.  After the fall of man, this counsel, deliberation, and agreement by Elohim concerned the judgment of man for his sin and rebellion.  It is not scriptural to think that Elohim has been in constant counsel and eternal deliberations with angels about the fate of man and the world. 

"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him?"  (Isa. 40: 12, 13)

Obviously Lord God did not take counsel with the angels but with himself alone.  The "us" and the "our" of Elohim cannot therefore include any created being, but refers to the divine being alone.  Angels, though they dwell in heaven, being a part of the "host of heaven," they are never called heaven's "counsellors."  God does not counsel with angels and men, nor any created beings, but only declares his counsel to them.  Let us notice these passages relative to the counsel of God.

"Also by watering he wearieth the thick cloud: he scattereth his bright cloud: And it is turned round about by his counsels: that they may do whatsoever he commandeth them upon the face of the world in the earth."  (Job 37: 11, 12)

"The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations."  (Psa. 33: 11)

"There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand."  (Prov. 19: 21)
"And the land of Judah shall be a terror unto Egypt, every one that maketh mention thereof shall be afraid in himself, because of the counsel of the LORD of hosts, which he hath determined against it."  (Isa. 9: 17)

"Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."  (Isa. 46: 10)

"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain."  (Acts 2: 23)

"For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done."  (Acts 4: 28)

"In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will."  (Eph. 1: 11)

"...the immutability of his counsel..." (Heb. 6: 17)

Obviously the "counsel of the Lord" refer to God's self deliberation and to the decrees which issue forth from such counsel.  This counsel concerns "all things," especially of God's purpose in redemption through Christ.  Nowhere is this divine counsel ascribed to angels.  Notice these rhetorical questions and the answers they imply.

"For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been his counsellor?" (Rom. 11:34)

"For who hath stood in the counsel of the LORD, and hath perceived and heard his word? who hath marked his word, and heard it?" (Jer. 23: 18)

But, if the view is correct that says Elohim is addressing angels in Genesis 1-3, then one would answer that the angels counseled the Lord and knew his mind.  They "stood in the counsel of the LORD," and they "heard his word." 

But, the only one who can be called a "counsellor" of Elohim is the Son of God, for the prophet says that Jesus Christ is named "Counsellor" (Isa. 9: 6).  He is not only so to men, but also so to the Father and Holy Spirit.  Certainly the Father took counsel with his Son and Spirit. 

"For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?...But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?"  (Heb. 1: 5, 13)

These verses make argument from silence.  God has never addressed angels in such a manner, is the premise of the argument of the Apostle.  God never addressed angels as his "only begotten Son" and never invited them to sit with him in counsel.  That place at the right hand of God, the place of a co-ruling counsellor, is reserved for the second person of the Trinity, not for angels.  Borrowing the language of the Apostle, we may well ask the Modalists - "where did God ever say to the angels, join me in counsel, creation, and sovereignty"?  Surely the angelic view of the plural pronouns of the Genesis creation story, if it were valid, could find supporting evidence in the rest of Scripture that shows that angels are joint creators and counsellors with Yahweh Elohim.

From the rest of Scripture we see that the only activity of the angels at the time of creation was to sing praise at the wonders of God, not join Him in His creative work.  (Job 38: 7)  Where do the Scriptures represent God addressing the angels as “us” and “our”?  Where do they say, “let us” do this or that divine work?  To which of the angels said he at any time - "let us create"? 

Genesis 1:27 – “So God (Elohim) created man in his own image...”
Genesis 9: 6 - "in the image of God (Elohim) made he man."

This is said by the narrator Moses.  Had Moses believed that the "us" and the "our" included angels, then he surely would have said so here.  He would have written - "so God and the angels created man in their own image."  "His own image" excludes angels.

There is also no mention in these passages of an image that is common to God and angels that served as the prototype for man.  If angels were co-creators with God, then surely Moses would have said - "So Elohim and the angels made man in their own image."  The angels are positively excluded from being part of the "us" and "our" of Elohim.  Notice the singular pronoun "his" and "he."  If the angels were included, "they" would have been used.   We have the same in these words of the Apostle - "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him." (Col. 3: 10)

In the Genesis narrative it is clear that it is an attribute of God to "know good and evil."

"For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods (Elohim), knowing good and evil...And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever."  (Gen. 3: 5, 22)

"You shall be as Elohim."  The Serpent did not tempt Eve with her becoming an angel and with her acquiring the attributes of an angel.  LORD God says - "the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil."  Obviously the temptation involved lust for being what only God is, to possess wisdom and knowledge that only God has. 

Further, there is no mention of angels in the narrative except after the fall when Elohim placed Cherubim (plural for angelic beings) at the entrance to Eden and the Tree of Life.  Thus, to read angels into the story and make them part of the divine "us" and "our" is not derived from the narrative itself.  And, when angels (Cherubim) are finally mentioned, it is in the context of LORD God ordering them, not consulting with them. 

"So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life."  (Gen. 3: 24)

If LORD God acted in concert with angels, then surely the angels would have also been involved in evicting man from Eden and would have been involved in the placing of the Cherubim and flaming sword.  But, notice that God works alone and angels are the servants of God, not his partners in government.  They are doing his bidding, not counseling him in his bidding. 

In fact, if we view the decrees of Elohim as eternal decrees, as we ought, then there were in fact no angels in existence when Elohim ordained and decreed.  Dr. Gill says that the words "and the LORD God said" may be interpreted as "now the LORD God had said."  Certainly he said the words prior to man's creation, for he says "let us make man." 

It is true that angels were made prior to man, according to Scripture.  But, when did God first make such a decision?  Was if after the creation of angels but before the creation of man?  At a specific point in time, or was it not in eternity, when there was no creature?  But, to so view the decree and judgment of God is detrimental to the angelic view of the divine pronouns.  If God said "let us make man" before there were any angels, then angels obviously cannot be part of the "us" and the "our." 

Of course, there are other passages where Elohim speaks in the plural.

"And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the LORD said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city.  Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the LORD did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the LORD scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth."  (Gen. 11: 5-9)

To whom was Yahweh speaking when the text says "and the LORD said"?  To whom is he declaring the affairs of earth?  To whom does he exhort to "behold" and "go to" and "let us go down"?   Is he addressing angels?  Are they his counsellors?  Again, the whole scene is one of divine deliberation and counsel.  Is God deliberating with himself, in the plurality of his persons, or with his angelic creatures?  The whole of the divine imperatives may be summed up as - "let us go down and change history."  It is reasonable that the same "us" that created man is the same "us" who now are seen active in the affairs of man. 

Further, the text says "so the LORD scattered them."  But, if the angels were part of the "us," then the text would say "so the LORD and the angels scattered them."  It was the "us" who "confounded their language" but it was "the LORD" (Yahweh - singular) who "scattered them."  Obviously "the Lord" is the "us."  Thus, God is one in the three persons.  God is a tri-unity, or Trinity.  The Scripture teaches us to believe in the unity of the plurality and in the plurality of the unity. 

The text says "let us confound their language...the LORD did there confound the language."  Clearly "the LORD" is the same as the Elohim, or the "us" of creation and providence. 

"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me."  (Isa. 6: 8)

From the New Testament we discover that both Son and Spirit were here with the Father and thus the proper use again of Deity saying "us" and "our."

Further, as we have already seen, the "watchers" and "holy ones" of Daniel chapter four refer to the Deity. 

It is true that the word "maker" and "creator" are sometimes used in the plural in Scripture (Job 35:10; Ps. 149:2; Eccl. 12:1; Isa.. 54:5), but this is not because angels are such, but because Elohim is one God in three persons. 

Consider further what is involved in affirming that God is addressing angels when he speaks in the Genesis creation and says "let us create man." 

First, knowledge of what "man" is must first be possessed.  When God says "let us create man" it is acknowledged that those addressed know what the noun "man" denotes.  If God were addressing the angels, then such language implies that they know something about the blueprint, as it were, for such a creation called "man."  Without such prior knowledge, those addressed would naturally think - "man?  What is a man?"  Thus, if angels were addressed, it can only be supposed that Elohim had previously consulted with them about what to create and why.  Also, why would God call upon the angels to create man if they did not have Godlike knowledge of the effects of such a creative work?  Also, why would God be calling upon angels to share the responsibility for creating man?

Further, the words "let us create man" involves saying "let us give man life," "let us give man being and immortality," "let us give man soul and spirit," "let us give man holiness and righteousness," "let us decide man's fortunes and destiny," "let us provide for his redemption," etc.  Whoever creates man takes credit and responsibility for man, and such can never be reckoned to angels.

Further, God is said to have "made man a little lower than the angels."  (Psa. 8: 5; Heb. 2: 7, 9)  Is God consulting and deciding with angels to make man a little lower than they?  I find that untenable.

Is it not true, according to the angelic view, that God could not have said, at the creation of the angels, "let us make angels...?"

Did God make angels in his own image and likeness?  The Scriptures do not specifically say, although there is no objection to affirming so.  But, even if angels are created in the image of God, why would he not use the same original image of himself, in the creation of men, as he did in the creation of angels?  Obviously, in the creating of angels in the image of God, no other being other than God was the original.  Why would the creation of man not be after the same manner? 

Further, men are never said, in Scripture, to be made in the image and likeness of angels.  If the angels were intended by the plural creative pronouns "us" and "our," then surely there would be other Scripture that would also say so.  But, uniformly, the Scripture says that men are made in the image of God, and of him alone.

In conclusion we can positively say:

1. Scripture does not ascribe creation to angels but only to Deity.
2. Scripture never affirms that men are made in the image and likeness of angels.
3. Scripture never affirms that God takes counsel from angels.

1 comment:

Tejas said...

Thanks for this! I need to add this to my apologetics database for when the scoffers come. :) Much appreciated!