Who Is the “Us” in Genesis? By Dr. Nicholas J. Schaser
Before creating human beings, God states, “Let us make humanity in our image, and in our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). If God alone is Creator, then who is the “us”? Later Christian tradition posits that this divine declaration constitutes a conversation within the Trinity, in which Father, Son, and Holy Spirit deliberate together.
However, to import trinitarian theology into Genesis is to read post-New Testament Christian thought back into ancient Israel’s Scriptures. More, the Trinity would have no real need of this consultation, since Christian doctrine posits three divine persons as “one in being, essence, and nature.”
Instead of referring to a triune Godhead, the text preserves the Lord’s words to other divine beings in a heavenly council. In Genesis, the supreme God of Israel speaks with a celestial entourage that Scripture calls the “children of God.”
First, it is important to note that only the one God of Israel is Creator. While the Lord says, “Let us make (נעשׂה; na’aseh) humanity” in Genesis 1:26, the very next verse describes divine creation in the singular: “God created (ברא; bara) humanity in his image, in the image of God he created (ברא) it; male and female he created (ברא) them” (1:27). Although God may consult with other divine entities, only a single Creator makes human beings. Thus, Psalm 89 can say of God, “You have created (בראת; barata) all the children of humanity” (Ps 89:47).
Yet, Psalm 89 also offers a glimpse into the other (decidedly less powerful) deities that make up God’s heavenly congregation. The psalmist asks, “Who in the heavenly expanse can be compared to the Lord? Who among the children of God (בני אלים; benei elim) is like the Lord, a God greatly to be revered in the council of the holy ones, and awesome above all who are around him?” (Ps 89:6-7).
This biblical poetry parallels the “children of God” with those in the “heavenly expanse” (שׁחק; shahaq), which shows that the psalmist refers to other divine beings alongside God in the heavens. Indeed, these beings in Psalm 89 are the same “children of God” (בני האלהים; benei ha’elohim) who present themselves before God according to Job (1:6; 2:1; 38:7; cf. Gen 6:2-4).