by Deborah Horscroft
We have a good friend who become a Christian and she asks the BEST questions. She decided to start reading the Bible from the beginning and called me when she reached Genesis 1:26 (NIV).
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
She asked, “Who is God talking to?”
Now, my immediate response is to want to say, “The rest of the Trinity: Jesus and the Holy Spirit”. John 1:1-18 places Jesus at the moment of creation (In the Beginning) and describes all things being made through him. But that isn’t and can not be the whole answer, because the writer of Genesis had no concept of the Trinity. So a full answer must look at the author’s purpose as well as our understanding in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Traditionally, both Jews and Christians believe that Genesis through to Deuteronomy, otherwise known as the Law or the Pentateuch, was written by Moses. In John 5:37-40 & 45-46 (NIV) Jesus claims that Moses wrote about him.
“And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life… But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?”
Moses had a unique education, first as a student in the Egyptian palace and then hearing directly from Yahweh and receiving His laws. The creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 is written not as a mere narrative, but to both stir the hearts of God’s people in reverent awe and to speak strongly against the alternative creation accounts of the surrounding nations-including the very powerful nation of Egypt, from under whose slavery the first intended audience had recently escaped.
In his helpful commentary “Salvation Begins: Reading Genesis Today”, Andrew Reid points out that unlike contemporary ancient accounts, in Genesis there is no story of a deity coming into existence, God simply is. God makes matter rather than being made out of it. While the surrounding nations have the sun, moon and stars as powerful deities in their creation myths, in Genesis these are created entities which display God’s power. Humans are not created as an afterthought or a whim, but are the pinnacle of God’s creation, placed in a world designed for their comfort and rule. (Aquila Press 2000, p6) Moses describes the King and Creator announcing his crowning work of creation. God makes two humans in His own image. He makes them intelligent, relational beings and He makes them rulers over the earth.
In this original context my NIV Study Bible notes tell me God is speaking as “Creator- King” to the members of His heavenly court, and indeed there are other examples in scripture of God speaking to the angels and including them in His actions. In Genesis 3:22 God laments that man has become “like one of us, knowing good and evil”. The prophet Isaiah saw a vision of Heaven and God speaking to the angels, asking “who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8) In the light of New Testament revelation, the doctrine of the Trinity adds a new dimension to this text, showing the involvement of the Son and Holy Spirit from the very beginning.
As for the implications of being made in God’s image for the sanctity of human life and believers being conformed to Christ’s likeness (Romans 8:29), those are questions for another day.